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Thread: Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

  1. #1
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    Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

    Hi - this is a question about purchasing a new lens. I understand the technical differences and pros and cons of the lenses, my question is more about the practicality and I was hoping some people with experience in travel and on location portraiture might be able to offer their opinions as what will suit my needs best.

    I am going to a refugee camp in Thailand to undertake my elective as part of my medical training. I am a reasonably experienced amateur photographer and as part of my elective I hope to talk to and photograph people I come into contact with, as part of an artistic/journalistic reflection (may be presented with writing/interviews) on the trip. This will hopefully mean taking some planned portraits but in situations where I am not in control of lighting. I will not be taking a flash. I will also be taking general travel shots - some candid portraits, landscapes, village scenes etc.

    I will mostly be working staying in/around a particular clinic but will be going on an odd work.

    I also do love shooting local wildlife when I get free time, i'll be taking my 70-300mm Nikkor which I'll be able to use for that kind of thing but it is big and heavy and not suitable for the odd walk on which I might spot an animal.

    I currently mostly use my Nikon 35mm 1.8 on my D60 and I love it. My choice is between buying the:

    1)Nikon 50mm 1.4
    2)Nikon 18-200 VR
    3)Not buying anything

    My thoughts are:

    50mm
    + Better for head/shoulders portraits, Good for low light (especially considering my old D60 sensor) Small/portable, Really nice glass, Will be useable on full frame camera i may buy in 2-3yrs
    + May really give a professional edge on portraits
    - Don't know how useful it will be with the 1.6 crop factor - not likely to do low light close up portraits

    18 - 200mm
    ++++ Versatility. Really great for walks, picking out details in places visited, candid portraits and wildlife
    ----- 'Jack of all trades' - may leave it on may camera and end up using it when I would have used beloved 35mm resulting in less lovely photos, particularly as I hate carrying extra lenses around. (I am bothered more about the contrast, quality of light and aperture than distortion and other technical imperfections).

    None
    + I love my 35mm and use it for everything. I will also have 18-55 and 70-300 with me should I desperately need them (but prob won't carry them around)
    + I hate carrying extra gear around, portability and discreetness are important
    + I will be £300 richer (could even buy a new body with video)
    - Bad for group shots, landscapes and wildlife/candid portraits

    I guess my main questions are - will i end up neglecting my 35mm if I buy an 18-200? How useful is the 50mm 1.4 on a crop sensor? Are the images beautiful enough to justify carrying it around/changing when needed?

    Thanks very much for reading, any advice appreciated

    (I'd buy whatever I get second hand)

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

    Hello Rich and a very warm welcome to CiC. I hope this is the start of a long involvement with the forum.

    First up - You've maybe seen that most of us tend to use our real names on here. It makes communication more friendly and CiC is that sort of site. Did you know you can go to Edit Profile and enter your proper name under 'Real Name'. Then it will appear underneath your Username in all your posts. You can also enter your location so that it does the same, just as in my details alongside this message. Then we all know where everyone is in the world.

    As for your question, the statement that jumped out to me was:
    Quote Originally Posted by RichBrown View Post
    This will hopefully mean taking some planned portraits but in situations where I am not in control of lighting. I will not be taking a flash. I will also be taking general travel shots - some candid portraits, landscapes, village scenes etc.
    And what that said to me was 'fast lens'.

    You've set out quite a varied 'needs list'. I suppose what's required is that those needs/wants are prioritised. My interpretation of what you wrote is that the possibility of low light portraiture is at, or close to, the top of your list. Hence the very prompt arrival at the idea of a fast lens.

    The 35mm is a bit too wide to think of in terms of portraiture. The 50mm on your D60 is not. I'm not a Nikon user and don't know the 18-200mm. What's its maximum aperture at the 50mm - 85mm type of range?

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    Re: Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

    Thanks for the speedy reply Donald. I will change the name thing.

    The zoom lens is 3.5-5.6 and I think it is about 4.6 max at the 50mm mark. So not good.

    I realise that i'm pretty much asking for advice on a question that only I know the answer to, but any advice is great.

    Another concern is that I might often be at close quarters (inside peoples houses etc) and so 35mm on my 1.6x sensor will probably be more suitable than 50mm, especially as I will be often intending to show some context (rather than just a face).

    My 35mm is 1.8, although I know 1.4 would really have the edge in a dark indoors situation.


    How distorting is 35mm for head an shoulders shots? Do you know if 50mm will yield much more flattering photos of the face, or is the difference small?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by RichBrown View Post
    How distorting is 35mm for head an shoulders shots? Do you know if 50mm will yield much more flattering photos of the face, or is the difference small?
    We'd really need the portrait shooters (which I am not) to come in with comments on that, but my understanding is that, even on the crop sensor, 35mm is pretty wide for head and shoulders work. Ideal for greater distance/more journalistic style; e.g. people in their environment sort-of shots. But portraits ................?

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    Re: Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

    Chris: I think you need to do some homework, 1 the crop on the Nikon is 1.5 not 1.6 Cannon, the D60 is a DX camera, your 35mm is a DX len, the 18-200 you want is a DX len, the 18-55mm you have is DX, and the 70-300 is FX and the 50MM you want is FX. You say in a couple of years you want to up to a FX camera so why spend money on DX lens', 18-200, if going to FX, buy the 28-300mm. Choose a lens that if you are going in future to FX format than get a len that will work on both FX and DX formats for now, DX do not really work on FX size cameras waste of spend money. If you stay with DX then look at D7000 in future if staying with DX lens. You really need to think this over, of what is your final goal.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

    Hi rich, i'm not really a big portrait shooter, take alot of family photos. I have both a 35mm prime and an 85mm prime. They match up very well together. The 35 starts to show some distortion of facial features, if you get too close.(half body shots or wider, are just fine with the 35) Anything tighter than that, i use the 85.

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    Re: Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

    I like a lens that is longer than 35mm for portraits - even when using a crop camera. However, you might very well also need a lens wider than 35mm for groups and interiors.

    It seems that, although photography is important to you, it is not your main reason for taking the trip. In this case, the 18-200mm VR lens might be just what you need for the majority of your photogaphy.

    Granted, the aperture is slower than your 35mm f/1.8 lens (it should be just about the same as your 18-55mm kit lens) but, the addition of a hotshoe flash will allow you to use the lens in lower light conditions and will be great for fill flash work outdoors.

    A hotshoe flash bounced using a Joe Demb Flash iffuser Pro (www.dembflashproducts.com) will provide very good light and your images will not scream FLASH WAS USED!

  8. #8
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Travel/Portrait Lens Advice Needed

    I’d buy a P&S capable of high ISO – you do not mention any back up camera: of your D60 goes down you are SNAFU.

    FL = 35mm on APS-C is fine for a Tight Half Shot Portrait: the trick is to keep BOTH axes of the camera reasonably perpendicular to the axes of the Subject’s Face.

    If you really want the exact Perspective that a 50mm lens on the D60 would give, (if it were framed to a Tight Half Shot), then all you need to do is step back 3ft (0.9metre) and then crop the image in Post Production: you'll lose about 50% of the frame – but quite doable at reasonable ISO.

    WW

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