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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    2

    good lens for Nikon D40 for (non-professional) portraits?

    I have a Nikon D40. I would like to buy another lens that would allow me to take better portraits of my daughter (3 years old). Right now, I just have the lens that came with the camera (18-55mm). I would probably use the lens mostly outdoors, in early-evening light. I might also use it for photos of her outfits (my mom has a small online business making children's clothes, and my daughter ends up modeling for most of the pictures).

    I've been looking at a 50mm lens and a 55-200mm lens but am unsure what would be best. I'd really, really appreciate any advice. The AF-S lenses for the D40 are so expensive, and I'm nervous about making the right decision. (As you can tell, my photography skills are very limited, and many of the features of my camera are wasted on me. I hope to take a photography class at some point, when my daughter is a little older.)

    I guess a related question would be -- if I got a regular, less-expensive AF lens (instead of the AF-S lens that allows for autofocusing on the D40), is it very hard to manually focus on the D40? I haven't used a camera with manual focus since I was a teen and was using my mom's old Yashica.

    Thank you for any suggestions/advice!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    So Calif
    Posts
    3,226
    Many people will be recommending a "fast fifty" also known as a "nifty fifty" which is a 50mm lens with a large maximum aperture, such as f1.4 (remember, smaller number is a bigger aperture). It can be handy in low light because that larger aperture lets in more light and allows either a lower ISO setting for a smoother look, or a faster shutter speed to freeze action. Also you will be able to isolate the subject from the background easier using a larger aperture. This type of lens is pretty cheap, even when new. However, in a controlled setting where the subject is fairly static (a posing person) you might be using a tripod, so the faster shutter speed is less of an issue.

    Additionally, many people will recommend some lens because it is "really sharp" meaning it shows a lot of fine detail, which is great - unless that detail is skin blemishes...Many classic portrait photographers use certain methods to soften the lens for a more flattering result.

    Regardless of the speed or sharpness of a lens, for portraits you are normally in the 50-80mm range. So, that 55-200mm lens is in the right ballpark, and also has the benefit of the longer length for a bit more distant subjects.
    Pentax K20D/K5/15/21/40/70/10-17/12-24, Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.5/150-500, Tamron 90 Macro/70-200 2.8, Canon SX20 IS/Elph 500HS
    (formerly Pentax 50 1.4/50-200/55-300/K100D, Sigma 18-50 2.8/70-300 APO, Tamron 28-75, Viv 800, Tele-Tokina 800, Canon S3 IS, Samsung L210)
    http://s133.photobucket.com/albums/q78/KylePix/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Wisconsin
    Posts
    2,929
    Quote Originally Posted by Lilahall View Post
    I have a Nikon D40. I would like to buy another lens that would allow me to take better portraits of my daughter (3 years old). Right now, I just have the lens that came with the camera (18-55mm). I would probably use the lens mostly outdoors, in early-evening light. I might also use it for photos of her outfits (my mom has a small online business making children's clothes, and my daughter ends up modeling for most of the pictures).
    A new lens wont automatically provide you with "better" images. The lens you havent isnt that bad of a lens, and for your specified use, you dont need an F2.8 expensive lens to get excellent results. Id concentrate on mastering the D40 and your skills before you lay down your money on upgrades.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lilahall View Post
    I guess a related question would be -- if I got a regular, less-expensive AF lens (instead of the AF-S lens that allows for autofocusing on the D40), is it very hard to manually focus on the D40? I haven't used a camera with manual focus since I was a teen and was using my mom's old Yashica.
    Thank you for any suggestions/advice!
    I dont recall but doesnt the D40 body have a focus switch that can be switched from auto to manual? If so, then just practice manually focussing that way and see how it works out for you.
    Jason

    "A coward dies a thousand deaths, a soldier dies but once."-2Pac


    A bunch of Nikon stuff!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Terra Australis Incognita
    Posts
    3,877
    Digital SLR's don't have that fancy visual focus aid (whatever it was called) that old film SLR's used to have. You instead need to judge focus by how your subject looks. It's not rocket science and many people have no problems.

    A cheap way to get a portrait lens is to buy a 50mm 1.8 lens (around $100-$150). Many Nikon shooters here bought one and many people don't use it very much (I almost never do). This lens would be manual focus on your camera (it's autofocus on my camera but I still tend to use it manually to be more accurate)

    Your zoom lens can take nice portraits, just keep an eye on what's in your background and having a nice even light (eg from a big window but not directly shining on the subject). Try and use a wider apperture too so the background is blurry compared to your subject. Focus on your subjects eye's.
    D800, D300, D90, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200VR f2.8, 300 F4, 105 micro, 16-85VR, 50mm 1.8, Tammy 90 macro, 70-300VR, SB900, 2xSB600, MB-D10, 055XPROB 322RC2. New computers to run photoshop faster. C&C always appreciated. PhotoGallery
    Pressing the shutter is the start of the process - Joe McNally ... Buying the body is the start of the process - Dread Pirate

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    God's Country - Australia
    Posts
    10,424
    dont do it. a MF lens will simply frustrate you to death. for a 3yo you will need to have a lens that has AF.

    there are a number of options which of course depend on your budget. for portraits where you want to isolate her face and get real close then the 50/1.4afs is hard to beat. if you cant afford that then grab the 35/1.8AFS and never look back.

    if you dont want a prime lens and prefer some versatility then perhaps the tamron 17-50/2.8 lens is a good option. (yes there is a version that AF's on the d40)
    D800e l V3 l AW1 l 16-35 l 35 l 50 l 85 l 105 l EM1 l 7.5 l 12-40 l 14 l 17 l 25 l 45 l 60 l 75
    flickr

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    2
    Thanks to all of you for the extremely helpful and practical advice. (I also appreciate that all of you managed to make the information clear and understandable for someone like me.)

    I've been very happy with the D40 and the standard lens so far. The main thing I've really wanted to improve on has been getting the backgrounds more blurry and smooth -- I guess the whole bokeh thing -- when taking photographs of my family. It sounds like any of the lenses suggested here would help with that.

    So, thanks again for sharing your expertise with me.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    285
    Also a D40 user. While not outright stated - use aperature priority. Obviously, the 1.4 or 1.8 is going to give the shallowest depth of field - and the 50 1.8 is cheap at around $100, I think you would gain more from the 55-200, even with the f4. The range that it will give you with an active 3y/o will more than offset bokeh issue. Further when appropriate, the 200 will let you stand further away so you are not part of the interaction. As you gain more experience, you may want to progress to the prime lens but give yourself time.
    Digital: Nikon D40; Nikon D90; Nikon D7000 Nikkor 18-55; Nikkor 55-200VR; Sigma 10-20; Tamron 17-50; SB-600; SB-900; Pocket Wizards
    Film: Canon AE-1; T70; FD 28mm 2.8; FD 50mm 1.8; FD 135mm 3.5
    Wish List: Unlimited! Let's not go there.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    667
    Quote Originally Posted by tizeye View Post
    Also a D40 user. While not outright stated - use aperature priority.
    To add to this, be prepared to switch to manual due to some blown highlights that come up here and there

    About AF-S versus non autofocus on the D40, you will want the convenience of autofocus when, as Rooz mentioned, your 3-year old is running around, and when you start fiddling with flash controls (as did mention early evening light, which often will lead to flash usage).
    Nikon D40|Nikon D5100|AF-S 50mm f/1.4|AF-S 18-105mm DX|SB 900|SB 400|AF-S 35mm f/1.8 DX|AF-S 10-24mm DX

    Canon A610

    Flickr

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Omaha, NE (soon to change!)
    Posts
    4
    I'd agree with a fast 50 for portraits, especially since you'll get some background-blurring capability that really makes the subject stand out

    on b&h you can find a nikon 50mm f/1.8 for under $150.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    10
    I would think the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S ($200, less with discounts) would be perfect for you. Good low light, decently priced, and it auto-focuses on the D40.

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