A lot of people wonder what to buy as their first Nikon lens. Most people new to digital photography and DSLRs don’t bother reading about cameras and lenses as much since there is too much information and too many recommendations. They end up purchasing a kit lens that they use for a year or two and then they realize how bad their lens is and end up selling it to get something better. Yes, kit lenses are a good deal but are they worth the purchase? I personally don’t think so.
When I bought my D80 it came with a 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. Anything looked better compared to my crappy Sony Cybershot point and shoot, so I was very happy for about 6 months. Then I started getting into photography more and more. I was reading books and spending a lot of time testing the camera in different conditions. I really loved the pictures in daylight out of 18-135mm when there was enough light and aperture was high enough, but low light conditions kept on frustrating me and indoor photography without a flash was close to impossible. Any camera shake resulted in blurry photos which I wouldn’t even notice until seeing the picture on my computer monitor. I ended up selling the lens for a lot less and spent more money getting better gear. The gear was truly better (18-200mm VR) and I was quite happy for a while, but I started encountering other problems such as bad image quality on shorter focal lengths and shooting wide open. As I read more, I wanted to be able to shoot in low light, have better background rendering (bokeh) and sharper image quality, so I got 50mm f/1.4 next.
I’m sure a lot of people go through a similar experience, sometimes more or less painful. After doing an analysis of my lenses and borrowing/renting other lenses and testing them, I created my own list of must have lenses. Lenses that will serve you well for a long time.
I separated the list into two categories – low budget and high budget.
- Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 – great for portraits
- Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR – for everything else
- Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.4 or 70-200mm f/2.8 VR – sharp, excellent bokeh for portraits
- Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 – super sharp, professional lens for landscapes
I’m not taking into account special type of photography (such as macro or telephoto). The above lenses are good for most types of photography. I’m also not including rare lenses (such as the Nikon 28mm f/1.4) because they are expensive and hard to get. If you do not want to keep a lot of lenses and just want to buy a couple of excellent lenses, the above would definitely satisfy most of your needs.
So, what should be your first Nikon lens? Nikkor 50mm of course! (f/1.4 or f/1.8 depending on your budget) It’s a very inexpensive lens that produces exceptionally sharp images and great bokeh. You will learn a lot from this lens and transitioning to a zoom lens or other prime lenses will be easier later. Plus, you will not have to worry about selling this little jewel – it will last you forever.