Recently, I have been asked by my readers to suggest what Nikon DLSR camera and lens to get for someone who is switching over from a point and shoot camera. Since I spent a considerable amount of time responding to the emails, I decided to write a quick post on what DSLR and lenses I suggest to buy.
1) For a budget below $1,000 USD, I recommend buying the Nikon D3100 camera with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens. The Nikon D3100 DSLR is a great DSLR to begin your photography journey and its image quality is outstanding. The 18-55mm kit lens will cover the wide-angles and will give you the zoom flexibility, while the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX lens is a very inexpensive (only $200), sharp lens that will deliver great results when shooting portraits and in low light.
2) For a budget above $1,000 and between $1,500 USD, I recommend buying the Nikon D7000 camera with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens. The Nikon D7000 is a phenomenal weather-sealed camera (see my Nikon D7000 Review) that can command external flashes, has a bigger viewfinder, dual SD cards and works with older lenses that do not have an autofocus motor. It has an excellent 16 megapixel sensor that can deliver practically noise-free images. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens is a very lightweight and sharp lens that can produce beautiful images with good-looking bokeh and its focal length is perfect on DX sensors. If you want an even better lens for portraits and beautiful bokeh, check out the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G. See my Nikon 50mm f/1.8G Review for details.
Lenses with fixed focal lengths are called “prime” lenses, while variable focal length lenses are called “zoom” lenses. Why do I recommend a prime lens over a zoom lens? Because prime lenses are cheaper, lighter, sharper, faster (in low-light conditions), more resistant to dust and are generally less prone to optical distortions. Prime lenses are simpler to make than zoom lenses, which is why they are so much smaller and lighter than zoom lenses.
What about the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-f/5.6 VRII lens? Another reader asked me if he should get the Nikon 18-200mm as the first lens for his camera, because everyone keeps telling him it is a very good lens. While the Nikon 18-200mm might sound like a “Jack of all trades”, you cannot even compare it to a prime lens such as the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G. It is slow, not as sharp, has distortion and other optical issues at higher focal lengths. I, too, used to have this lens and I ended up selling it, because it was not good enough when compared to even some of the worst prime lenses. The bokeh on 18-200mm is disappointing, to say the least.
Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.