What lens should I buy!

Boy, that’s a tough question. And I get it a lot.

Today, student Dave asks:


Michael – I have been researching lens for my D800. I currently own three FX lenses – 60mm 2.8 Macro (we used this for the portraits on my D90) , 105mm 2.8 macro, 70-200 2.8. My other lenses are DX – I will end up selling some of these. Is Kijiji the best?? I have a great 12-24 F4 G DX lens.

I am debating between (1) a mid-range zoom and (2) a good wide-angle zoom and a fast 50mm prime. I am thinking about going with (2) – getting the Nikon 16-35 F4 G with VR (gets great reviews) and a 50mm 1.4 G. The 24-70 2.8 would be about the same price in Nikon as the two other lenses. However, the Nikon lens does not have VR. Tokina has just announced a forthcoming 24-70 with their version of VR. It won’t be available for a while I think.

Also, some commentators say that mid-range zooms aren’t that useful – use your primes, and wide-angle and tele-zooms (and your legs if you need to!). However, I must admit I find I use my mid-range for my DX quite a bit.

So, a little confused. Advice?

So. First, like many pros I do like the mid-range zoom. In a shoot yesterday with talented Make-Up Artist (MUA) Anastasia, as so often I used my 24-70 f/2.8L lens.

It goes wide-ish like this:

And it goes longish like this:

So that makes it very versatile for “I’m not quite what I am expecting” shoots.

Both the Nikon and the third-party 24-70s are fine, and you do not really need VR/IS on a widish lens like that. On a long lens (the 70-200 range) it is essential but on wider lenses you can easily live without it.

So the idea of “the Nikon 16-35 F4 G with VR (gets great reviews) and a 50mm 1.4 G.” is a good one. My 16-35 f/2.8L lens is a lens I totally love, as is a fast 50.  So: my vote is for the wide lens and the fast 50, and keep your existing 24-70 lens.

That said – these are personal choices, I love the wide lens for newspaper work, for travel, for landscapes. My six lenses, by the way, are:

  • 16-35 2.8 zoom
  • 24-70 2.8 zoom
  • 70-200 2.8 zoom
  • 100mm f/2.8 macro prime
  • 50mm f/1.2 prime
  • 35mm f/1.4 prime

All are EF lenses, meaning they fit on any Canon body (none are EF-S lenses, which are like Nikon’s DX lenses).

So if you shoot a lot of things that need wide, I strongly recommend it – a wide wide lens (10-20 for crop bodies; 16-35 for full frame sensor bodies) is my strong recommendation for everyone. IS/VR is not that important until you get beyond 70mm.

But whatever you choose will be right – just tune your shots to the lens you have at hand (eg do not do headshots with a 16-35mm lens).  And remember to shoot prime whenever you can: quality, consistency and speed will thank you.

Does that help?


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