It is often said that the best lenses are more important than the best cameras. And while it’s not a revelation, it’s something I experienced firsthand when I bought my first “serious” camera and was forced to buy lenses from used camera.
I had decided that I was too big for my entry-level DSLR, but in reality, I was too big for my single lens. I saved and saved and eventually spent all my funds on a used Nikon D800, which I still use today. It wooed me with its big sensor and beefy body, and when I held it up to a mirror and looked through the viewfinder (which I did) there was no doubt about it, I looked like a professional photographer.
I spent the next few months waiting for a creative renaissance that never happened. It soon became apparent that despite the incredible improvement in resolution and functionality of my camera, any attempt to expand my photographic horizons was stifled because I still only had one lens; a nifty fifty full frame that I had to borrow from a friend.
Choosing to shoot with one lens is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s often said that limitations can spur creativity, and when you’re just starting out, there are probably several goals that can keep you from focusing on the fundamentals. But when the time is right, lifting the lid on lenses is like stepping into a whole new realm of creativity – we don’t call them interchangeable lens cameras for nothing!
An ideal place to start is to acquire a ‘holy trinity’ – three zoom lenses that cover focal lengths from ultra-wide to telephoto – so you can try your hand at almost any genre of photography. However, opting for the latest and greatest glass may not be viable if you are on a tight budget or are always finding your photography feet. My economical solution was to turn to the second-hand market.
One of the huge advantages of Nikon shooting is the seemingly endless selection of F-mount lenses used. And while older optics may lack the smooth AF, advanced coatings and incredible stabilization of newer lenses, these features aren’t essential. The trick is to identify what you can do without.
After all, AF is not imperative for astro or macro. You don’t need stabilization to shoot landscapes. And fast lenses aren’t crucial for photographing architecture. Nikon arguably makes its best lenses, but it has always made premium glass. Many used fan favorites are still lauded for their image quality, allowing you to expand your creative possibilities without breaking the bank.
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