Prelude: This week I will be making some equipment recommendations for people who are looking to set up a nice kit. It’s something I get asked about often, so today I’ve prepared some general thoughts, with more specific recommendations to come.
There are many people who have decided they “want to take better pictures” and go out and buy their first DSLR. A lot of people will be happy with the basic DSLR and 18-55mm lens they have bought, but very often people really get into photography and find they want to try a few different things. Here’s my top 5 purchases for a beginner user.
1) 50mm f1.8 prime lens. The Nikon and Canon 50mm prime lenses are cheap (approx $150-$220 new) and have excellent image quality. Great for portraits and experimenting with shallow depth of field photography. You could also spend a little more ($570) and get the Tamron 60mm f2, which also doubles as a macro lens.
2) Standard prime lens. The human eye focal length sees at the equivalent of 35mm on most DSLRs. The Nikon 35mm f1.8 is superb, and relatively cheap ($270)
3) External flash. The ability to light up a large room or illuminate people without shadows in bright daylight is very useful, especially for weddings and people photos. I’m of the “Go Big or Go Home” school. You can never have too much lighting capabilities. Stick to the brand that your camera is for best results. (Nikon SB-900 - $550, Nikon SB-700 - $380)
4) Macro prime lens or macro accessories. Definitely a Macro lens will work better, and I prefer 90mm macros for the extra working distance ($500-$800), but a 60mm also works fine ($400-$600). These lenses also double as nice portrait lenses. Macro accessories such as extension rings are useful too, but harder to use.
5) Ultra wide angle zoom or telephoto zoom. It really depends which way your photography is going. Most people go the telephoto route, and there are plenty of 55-200mm, or 70-300mm zooms out there. These are great for shooting wild animals and sports, but not really for much else. Ultra wides, such as the Sigma 10-20mm, are great for panoramas, very useful for travel photography (especially indoors) and creating unusual angles of view.
|Nikon D90 with Nikkor 18-200mm VR II|
Just a thought......How about upgrading your basic 18-55mm lens to an all round super-zoom. Depending if you prefer a bias towards wide angle or telephoto will determine which route you go. There are lots of telephoto biased 18-200mm lenses out there, and the Nikon 18-200mm is awesome, but pricey ($800); however you will never need a separate telephoto lens. Stepping down to a 18-105/135mm type focal range will be much less costly, and look after most of your telephoto needs.
For wider angle bias, there are less options. The Nikon 16-85mm is excellent, but there are few competitors to choose from. The Canon equivalent 15-85mm is also very good. These lenses offer a nice taste of wide angle, but are certainly not as deliciously wide as the 10-20mm lenses out there.