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Deval
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So my fiancée surprised me with a Nikon D3100 with stock 18-55mm lens. This is the first DSLR I have ever owned, and I want to learn how to make the most of it.

 

Does anyone have experience with DSLRs that can give me some guidance and tips/tricks?

 

Everyone I have spoken with suggests replacing the 18-55mm lens with a 35mm fixed focus lens, to better learn to "frame" pictures. 

 

I'm a total novice shooter, and will be taking pictures of general scenery, people, etc.  

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Get the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens. It's a perfect low-light "prime" lens and will give you great subject isolation and has amazing sharpness and great "bokeh". On a crop sensor DX camera like the D3100, you have to multiply the focal length by 1.5 to get the actual focal length in DX crop sensor terms. This makes a 35mm lens around 52mm, which is considered a "standard" focal length in 35mm film or full-frame (FX) terms. 35mm film and full-frame FX cameras do not have a multiplier.

 

The next lens you decide to get is up to you, depending on what kind of photography you're interested in. The world is your oyster!

 

I'm actually a professional Nikon photographer and was a writer/gear reviewer for Nikon Rumors.

 

Good luck!

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The best tip I give to people who buy them from me(Target) is to take to time to get to know your camera, play around with it,understand what this function does, compared to another. Equipment wise my Mom got one awhile back and always recommend to get a UV filter pretty quick.

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I shot professionally for nearly a decade. Initially landscapes and sports, moving onto events \ weddings \ portraits etc. I am far from an expert, mostly self taught but I would be happy to offer some thoughts.

 

As regards lenses, a prime may be a good buy but I would suggest using what you have just for now and see what you are missing. Photography can be very expensive and I would caution against GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) which usually leads to sleeping in your car. Buying budget lenses can often be a false economy though as pro grade kit can last a lot longer and deliver higher performance, just something to bear in mind, cheaper lenses can make great sense, and you can also end up replacing them a lot as they can be fragile and quickly cost more than more expensive lenses. (Touch wood I have never ever had a canon L lens or a mamiya prime break down on me, I have thrown away a lot of cheaper glass). I would suggest playing with it then deciding which focal lengths you will use most. I find 50mm (35mm on a crop, a little bit weird, not wide enough or long enough, but your style of shooting will show you this), I would pickup an 85mm for portraits and maybe a 24mm for landscapes. 

 

Right now your lens will deliver most of the fields of view you will want. What it won't do is work too well in low light, deliver a shallow depth of field or see 'far away'. You mention pictures of people, I would play with shooting people with your current lens in different poses, (sitting, full body, waist up, 1/4, head shot) and see what focal lengths you end up using. I tend to use a 70-200mm lens for portraits (and landscapes but I am more than a little weird) taking a lot of portraits around the 135mm length (on a full frame camera, on your camera the same field of view would need a ~90mm lens). This should give you an idea of how focal length works and how it affects depth of field. 

 

DOF is basically how much is sharp. A shallow DOF (usually favored for portraits unless the background is important) will be hard for you to get with that lens, a cheap F1.8 prime would do the job for you, basically means you get a nice tack sharp subject and a creamy background. You use the DOF to isolate the subject, make sure the person is what peoples eyes are drawn to. A wide DOF, (easily done with your kit lens) is typically used for landscapes (although weirdos like me sometimes do the opposite), you want to capture the whole scene. Now theres two primary methods for controlling DOF, the first is the F stop, it's a little confusing as it's rarely written properly, people say F1.8 when in reality its F1/1.8  so the 'bigger' the number the less light it lets in (which can affect shutter speed) and the deeper the dof. You can also control DOF by changing your distance to the subject which changes your focal length for the same framing, the wider the angle the deeper the DOF for a given F stop. This probably sounds like gibberish, go play with a scene in your house or garden and take shots and compare and it will slowly make sense :)

 

Some quick terms, google rule of thirds and the five eyes rule (the latter specifically for portraits). They aren't tough to understand and they should help you start off with basic composition. Composition is seriously important, once you understand what moves you on from a snapshot to an actual photograph, the ability to adopt a pose other than "70's Japanese tourist" you will start rocking! 

 

You should have a local camera club that can help, also find photographers you like, find pictures you like and try to copy them. Theres no shame in it, its how many folks learn. It doesn't mean your shots will always look like theirs, it's just a way of mastering the controls and the techniques. 

 

It's hard to know where to start to be honest as theres a lot to learn, you never really stop learning :) Please feel free to ask any questions :)

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Deval, by a "fixed focus lens," what you actually mean is a fixed focal length lens.  A fixed focus lens, for example, would be found on a disposable point and shoot camera.  But a fixed focal length lens is what CaryTheLabelGuy references as a "prime" lens, since that differentiates it from a "zoom" lens, which has variable focal length.

 

I also agree with CaryTheLabelGuy.  A beginning photographer should typically start out with a 50 mm equivalent lens.  Back when 35 mm film SLRs ruled the photography world, the 50 mm lens was the most ubiquitous because it was neither wide angle nor telephoto.  Its field of view was most similar to that of human vision.

 

Additionally, if you want to improve your photographic acumen and not let the in camera auto exposure system control everything, learn to use the aperture priority mode so that you can understand how depth of field affects composition.

 

AJ

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So my fiancée surprised me with a Nikon D3100 with stock 18-55mm lens. This is the first DSLR I have ever owned, and I want to learn how to make the most of it.

 

Does anyone have experience with DSLRs that can give me some guidance and tips/tricks?

 

Everyone I have spoken with suggests replacing the 18-55mm lens with a 35mm fixed focus lens, to better learn to "frame" pictures.

 

I'm a total novice shooter, and will be taking pictures of general scenery, people, etc.

I don't agree on the 35, BTW. Get the 55-300, which can be found for under 400. Get the 50mm /1.8. do not get the 55-200. While great optically, the 55-200 is not a durable lens. The 55-300 is weather sealed I'm case you get a higher end camera.

 

if you want to practice framing by moving around, the 50mm will give you more of a workout. Either way, I suggest you $hitcan the 18-55 in favor of 10-105 as an every day lens. It is sharper at every length and its implementation of VR is better. Until you are ready to spend $1000 on a walk around lens, you can't get better than the 18-105.

 

Just never forget to play with settings. Your brst learning will happen with the least guidance. Also remember that there is always a reset option if you really screw something up.

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I don't agree on the 35, BTW. Get the 55-300, which can be found for under 400. Get the 50mm /1.8. do not get the 55-200. While great optically, the 55-200 is not a durable lens. The 55-300 is weather sealed I'm case you get a higher end camera.

 

if you want to practice framing by moving around, the 50mm will give you more of a workout. Either way, I suggest you $hitcan the 18-55 in favor of 10-105 as an every day lens. It is sharper at every length and its implementation of VR is better. Until you are ready to spend $1000 on a walk around lens, you can't get better than the 18-105.

 

Just never forget to play with settings. Your brst learning will happen with the least guidance. Also remember that there is always a reset option if you really screw something up.

Whilst the 50 1.8G is a full-frame lens (for future upgrade to full-frame), is optically amazing and is cheap, it is 75mm equivalent on a 1.5 crop sensor (DX). This puts it in the "telephoto" range on his camera and is a very awkward focal length on DX for a lot of photographers. I stand behind my recommendation for the even cheaper DX 35mm 1.8G. It's just as sharp as the 50 1.8 and will give him much better FoV on DX, especially for the beginner. The 35mm 1.8G also has a closer focus distance than the 50mm 1.8G. The 35mm 1.8G DX lens is much more versatile on DX.

 

Once he's ready to step up to a true telephoto lens, there are much better options.

 

Also, while the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DX VR lens is cheaply made, it is actually very sharp at most focal lengths. Yes, the 18-105mm (Nikon D7000/D7100 kit lens) is a better choice, he'd be better off just saving his money and skipping the 18-105 altogether and making his 18-55mm kit lens work for now. Especially since none of us would actually be able to tell if he used either at 18-55mm (as long as he has two decent copies). I especially don't recommend the "all-in-one" lenses like the 18-200mm lenses. They compromise too much on either end. There is NO free lunch.

 

Once he gets comfortable with that (and with very little money spent on additional kit), then he can decide on where he wants to go next. There are so many great choices out there. I have over $56k in lenses alone. It can get crazy expensive.

 

For the OP, if you are ever planning on eventually going full-frame one day (like the Nikon D800, D610, D3, D700, D4....etc), don't waste too much money on incompatible Nikon DX lenses. You won't be able to use them on FX (full-frame). The FX lenses work on both DX and FX, just keep in mind the multiplier factor (1.5x), when doing your focal length calculations for your D3100. FX lenses do cost more, but they're made better, usually always have weather sealing and can be used on any DSLR camera Nikon makes. That being said, there are a few DX lenses that are really worth it and the 35mm 1.8G DX is one of the only DX lenses I'd recommend buying. You can also use it on full-frame as well (one of the ONLY DX lenses than can be used on FX), although it will vignette in the corners, especially when stopped down (higher aperture F-number) and at hyperfocal lengths.

 

There is a lot to learn, so take your time! AJ gave you great advice about keeping your camera in Aperture Priority so that you can see how everything interacts and works together.

 

Google "Sunny 16", "rule of thirds" "aperture", "ISO", "Shutter speed" "Depth of Field", "Field of View" "Circle of Confusion" and just start putting the puzzle pieces together. That should get you going for now.

 

Again, GL!

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oh and some relatively cheap things to get if you want to do landscapes would be a semi decent tripod, a circular polarizing filter and some neutral density grad filters. I'd pickup something like the cokin P series holder and filters. Depending on who you listen to a UV filter can be a good idea, it can help protect the front element of the lens from getting scratched \ broken, the flip side is just as many people say it's just another layer of glass or resin screwing up image quality so it's pretty much a toss up. I use them most of the time but plenty of others dont. 

The polarizing filter is good for cutting out reflections on water and deepening blues in sky's etc, it can get a little zany on wider angles (there are exceptions but it's not worth covering them). The grad filters help balance the difference in brightness between the sky and the ground so you don't either have a dark foreground and a blue sky or a well exposed foreground and a white sky. Normal (non graduated) ND filters can also be used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens allowing you to (for example) take those long exposure waterfall shots in the middle of the day or even make people and cars completely disappear :) I would stay away from any coloured filters, I know the temptation to pickup a tobacco filter is nearly irresistible but fight it!! If you insist on that kind of colour treatment its easier to do it in photoshop :)

 

This place do filters for a sane price.

http://2filter.com/cokin/cokinp.html

I have a cokin z pro kit buried somewhere for when I need nd grads. The p series is smaller but cheaper and more likely to be in stock. They're resin filters rather than glass but good enough. 

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Whilst the 50 1.8G is a full-frame lens (for future upgrade to full-frame), is optically amazing and is cheap, it is 75mm equivalent on a 1.5 crop sensor (DX). This puts it in the "telephoto" range on his camera and is a very awkward focal length on DX for a lot of photographers. I stand behind my recommendation for the even cheaper DX 35mm 1.8G. It's just as sharp as the 50 1.8 and will give him much better FoV on DX, especially for the beginner. The 35mm 1.8G also has a closer focus distance than the 50mm 1.8G. The 35mm 1.8G DX lens is much more versatile on DX. Once he's ready to step up to a true telephoto lens, there are much better options. Also, while the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DX VR lens is cheaply made, it is actually very sharp at most focal lengths. Yes, the 18-105mm (Nikon D7000/D7100 kit lens) is a better choice, he'd be better off just saving his money and skipping the 18-105 altogether and making his 18-55mm kit lens work for now. Especially since none of us would actually be able to tell if he used either at 18-55mm (as long as he has two decent copies). I especially don't recommend the "all-in-one" lenses like the 18-200mm lenses. They compromise too much on either end. There is NO free lunch. Once he gets comfortable with that (and with very little money spent on additional kit), then he can decide on where he wants to go next. There are so many great choices out there. I have over $56k in lenses alone. It can get crazy expensive. For the OP, if you are ever planning on eventually going full-frame one day (like the Nikon D800, D610, D3, D700, D4....etc), don't waste too much money on incompatible Nikon DX lenses. You won't be able to use them on FX (full-frame). The FX lenses work on both DX and FX, just keep in mind the multiplier factor (1.5x), when doing your focal length calculations for your D3100. FX lenses do cost more, but they're made better, usually always have weather sealing and can be used on any DSLR camera Nikon makes. That being said, there are a few DX lenses that are really worth it and the 35mm 1.8G DX is one of the only DX lenses I'd recommend buying. You can also use it on full-frame as well (one of the ONLY DX lenses than can be used on FX), although it will vignette in the corners, especially when stopped down (higher aperture F-number) and at hyperfocal lengths. There is a lot to learn, so take your time! AJ gave you great advice about keeping your camera in Aperture Priority so that you can see how everything interacts and works together. Google "Sunny 16", "rule of thirds" "aperture", "ISO", "Shutter speed" "Depth of Field", "Field of View" "Circle of Confusion" and just start putting the puzzle pieces together. That should get you going for now. Again, GL!

While I agree on the bit about excessive zoom ratios, 28-300 comes to mind, being too good to be true, I would suggest you get a few inexpensive DX lenses and decide if you will really go far with this. I'll put my D7100 against a D700 any day of the week, so don't think that FX is the do all end all. I have a D800 as well and have to say that in decent lighting, the 7100 always comes out ahead of a similarly sized crop from the 800. Remember that the subject should dictate the camera to a point. I do so much long telephoto stuff that the reduction in size and weight that the DX gear allows is amazingly nice.

 

As far as that 1.55 crop factor goes, 24MP vs about 15MP center crop is a huge difference in decent conditions.

 

Now, there's nothing wrong with using FX lenses on a DX body, the reverse will be less than impressive, generally leading to either an automatic crop to the center of the sensor area or a significant vignette. I still stand behind my suggestion to get a few decent but inexpensive DX lenses, however, as they will prove a valuable learning tool and be very easy to sell if you ever make the switch to FX.

 

Incidentally, the 50/1.8 is sharper than the 35. Not much, but it is. You will notice it more on modern DX bodies due to the pixel density. It is true that it is getting a bit into tele territory, however.

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oh and some relatively cheap things to get if you want to do landscapes would be a semi decent tripod, a circular polarizing filter and some neutral density grad filters. I'd pickup something like the cokin P series holder and filters. Depending on who you listen to a UV filter can be a good idea, it can help protect the front element of the lens from getting scratched \ broken, the flip side is just as many people say it's just another layer of glass or resin screwing up image quality so it's pretty much a toss up. I use them most of the time but plenty of others dont.

The polarizing filter is good for cutting out reflections on water and deepening blues in sky's etc, it can get a little zany on wider angles (there are exceptions but it's not worth covering them). The grad filters help balance the difference in brightness between the sky and the ground so you don't either have a dark foreground and a blue sky or a well exposed foreground and a white sky. Normal (non graduated) ND filters can also be used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens allowing you to (for example) take those long exposure waterfall shots in the middle of the day or even make people and cars completely disappear :) I would stay away from any coloured filters, I know the temptation to pickup a tobacco filter is nearly irresistible but fight it!! If you insist on that kind of colour treatment its easier to do it in photoshop :)

 

This place do filters for a sane price.

http://2filter.com/cokin/cokinp.html

I have a cokin z pro kit buried somewhere for when I need nd grads. The p series is smaller but cheaper and more likely to be in stock. They're resin filters rather than glass but good enough.

don't use UV filters where they might shatter. You can get a pack of cheap Plexi/policarb protectors for that. The broken glass will do more damage to the front element of your lens than any environmental consideration will, and the reduction in quality from the plastic guard isn't bad of it's clean and unscratched (they come in a multipack for a reason).
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I would ignore what everyone says about buying gear and go take pictures.  Find out what you like shooting, and find out what your limitations are with shooting those things.  I also don't see anything wrong with your lens, so I wouldn't rush into buying a lens that may very well be worse than what you already have for what you end up shooting.  Get to know your camera and its settings.  I would advise against using any auto or scene modes, but unfortunately on your camera changing settings quickly is difficult since you have to go through menus a lot.  The only thing I would initially buy if you don't have it is a cheap tripod.  If you end up liking shooting things indoors but there's not enough light, you may end up getting a cheap flash (make sure it rotates up at the least though).  If you end up liking taking portraits but your depth of field is too deep, you may end up needing a prime lens (35, 50, or 85 depending on how you like shooting them).  If you find you like shooting things far away, you may need a longer lens like the 55-200.  If you want to try shooting insects or other things up close, you may end up needing a macro lens.  If you do buy any lenses or flashes I'd recommend buying used.  You take a big hit when you buy new, and there's tons of beginner to intermediate level gear available at great prices used from people who have upgraded to more expensive gear. 

 

I'd also read up on the basics, like what shutter speed, aperture, and ISO do, and good holding and framing techniques.  Learn the different focus modes on your camera.  Once you find out better what you like to shoot, read up on the specifics of whatever that requires (be it flash use, tracking moving subjects, post processing, panning, or whatever).  There are several members here with a lot of experience shooting and a lot of gear and we can guide you to good sources of information for whatever you end up liking. 

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I bought my wife a Canon 7D a few years back along with a 50mm prime, a sigma 17-55 zoom and a Tamron 70-300. She loves the camera. She didn't have any idea how to use it, either. Really, once she went to the park and shot about 1000 pictures, she learned a lot about how to use it. I recommend getting Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, too. Also, there are a lot of web courses, videos and even courses at local colleges that teach basic and advanced photography skills. If you are really into learning to shoot like a pro, I would say that is a worthy investment.

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While I agree on the bit about excessive zoom ratios, 28-300 comes to mind, being too good to be true, I would suggest you get a few inexpensive DX lenses and decide if you will really go far with this. I'll put my D7100 against a D700 any day of the week, so don't think that FX is the do all end all. I have a D800 as well and have to say that in decent lighting, the 7100 always comes out ahead of a similarly sized crop from the 800. Remember that the subject should dictate the camera to a point. I do so much long telephoto stuff that the reduction in size and weight that the DX gear allows is amazingly nice.

 

As far as that 1.55 crop factor goes, 24MP vs about 15MP center crop is a huge difference in decent conditions.

 

Now, there's nothing wrong with using FX lenses on a DX body, the reverse will be less than impressive, generally leading to either an automatic crop to the center of the sensor area or a significant vignette. I still stand behind my suggestion to get a few decent but inexpensive DX lenses, however, as they will prove a valuable learning tool and be very easy to sell if you ever make the switch to FX.

 

Incidentally, the 50/1.8 is sharper than the 35. Not much, but it is. You will notice it more on modern DX bodies due to the pixel density. It is true that it is getting a bit into tele territory, however.

Lots of hair splitting going on.

 

If you've ever read Nikon Rumors, you've seen my work. I was the only other guy who worked at NR besides Peter (the owner of the site). I did extensive gear reviews for NR. That being said, I've tested just about every single lens Nikon makes as well as every single body. I've done extensive comparisons, as well. I stopped writing for NR due to my schedule, about a year ago.

 

I own several APS-C Nikon DSLRs in addition to several full-frame DSLRs. Each has it's purpose. If I spent an hour explaining all of the possible scenarios between the two and which format that would be better suited for a given situation, the OP would be no further along in his quest and he'd most likely be very confused. It's a waste of time to debate this with you, here or elsewhere. Full-frame is a tool, just as APS-C is a tool. Sometimes you need a Philips-head screw driver and sometimes a regular screw driver. Either way, they're both screwdrivers and both a just as useful, depending on the job at hand.

 

Also, the crop factor for your D7100 is actually 1.52, not 1.55. The OP's D3100 is actually 1.57. We usually just tell people to multiply by 1.5 across the board for Nikons, so to not create even more confusion. Canon APS-C is 1.62 (1.6 rounded).

 

I'm afraid we're giving the OP a little too much to chew on. He needs to just go out and take some pictures using the kit he already has. Maybe pick up the $200 35mm 1.8G DX as a second lens and just keep shooting. This is a minimal investment on his part and will give him a lot of movement for the future.

 

I may not be a wireless expert, but camera tech is right in my wheelhouse. ;)

 

P.s. The auto DX crop on full-frame when mounting a DX lens on an FX camera can always be turned off. There are a few DX lenses that will work decently well on FX. The 35mm 1.8G DX is one of them. Lots of photographers use them on FX as long as they're used within their limits for Full-frame. Lots of vignette, but it can be tasteful, if done right. I use the 35mm DX lens on my full-frame cameras all the time, at close focus distances and wide-open.

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I would ignore what everyone says about buying gear and go take pictures. Find out what you like shooting, and find out what your limitations are with shooting those things. I also don't see anything wrong with your lens, so I wouldn't rush into buying a lens that may very well be worse than what you already have for what you end up shooting. Get to know your camera and its settings. I would advise against using any auto or scene modes, but unfortunately on your camera changing settings quickly is difficult since you have to go through menus a lot. The only thing I would initially buy if you don't have it is a cheap tripod. If you end up liking shooting things indoors but there's not enough light, you may end up getting a cheap flash (make sure it rotates up at the least though). If you end up liking taking portraits but your depth of field is too deep, you may end up needing a prime lens (35, 50, or 85 depending on how you like shooting them). If you find you like shooting things far away, you may need a longer lens like the 55-200. If you want to try shooting insects or other things up close, you may end up needing a macro lens. If you do buy any lenses or flashes I'd recommend buying used. You take a big hit when you buy new, and there's tons of beginner to intermediate level gear available at great prices used from people who have upgraded to more expensive gear.

 

I'd also read up on the basics, like what shutter speed, aperture, and ISO do, and good holding and framing techniques. Learn the different focus modes on your camera. Once you find out better what you like to shoot, read up on the specifics of whatever that requires (be it flash use, tracking moving subjects, post processing, panning, or whatever). There are several members here with a lot of experience shooting and a lot of gear and we can guide you to good sources of information for whatever you end up liking.

I totally agree, with the exception of him buying a $200 35mm 1.8G DX lens to go along with what he already has. He will be somewhat limited by the 18-55mm kit lens and if he ever wants to take low-light shots, he's gonna need a faster lens (to the OP, "faster lens" is referring to the larger max aperture, giving the ability to increase shutter speeds in low-light, over the smaller variable max aperture of your kit lens). The 35mm (52mm equivalent) will also help to teach the OP how to frame a subject better as well as how to understand Depth of Field better, for a fixed focal length. The 35mm 1.8G should be one of the first lenses any DX shooter should purchase.

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I agree with the last few posts. I spent way too much time getting deep into the technicalities of lenses, features, etc. It can be extremely overwhelming. The best thing to do is just use the camera and have fun.

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Interesting. I assumed the D7100's crop factor was the same as the D300's, which my old D300's manual listed as 1.55.

 

As for the auto crop, I wasn't so much referring to that as to the simple situation of pixel count on APS-C vs APS-C sized crop on FX whether it is in body or not. I've been quite impressed with my D7100 with decent lenses.

 

One thing I have noticed is that using the 28-300 on a DX body does a great deal to hide some of its issues. It came with my D800 as a special deal but I am not find of it.

 

Incidentally, I saw a mention of a 55-200 up there. I have to honestly say that I don't care for it. Yes it's cheap, yes it's sharp. It's also extremely fragile and has no mount seals. The focus mechanism is particularly prone to breaking, too. My first 55-200 I bought as a mid tele for my old D100 (first digital Nikon and a camera I still quite like). It developed a problem where 9/10 times it would not lock focus, but instead rapidly oscillate the focus back and forth by about 2 degrees for as long as AF was active. The 55-300 can be found sometimes for as little as $300, and although quite a bit larger and heavier (the 55-200 is absolutely dinky for the reach it has) it has substantially better build quality, better AF mechanism, better VR, and has seals.

 

I also quite like some of the older Nikon lenses which will unfortunately not focus automatically on the 3100 due to using the screw mechanish on a body which lacks a focus motor. If you ever do upgrade, D7x00, D300s (not sure why anyone would buy that anymore), and all FX bodies to date, do have internal focus motors. Some of those old lenses can be found quite inexpensively and have great optical quality.

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Call me old fashioned, but I do not think a zoom is an appropriate first lens for a beginner.  Variable focal length and speed add, well, too many additional variables for a student trying to understand the craft.  A 50 mm equivalent prime is the place to start.  Learn how to use it in all of its facets and limitations, then move on to a longer/shorter prime or a zoom.

 

Otherwise, I agree with much of the recent sentiment.  This thread has likely become technical overload for Deval, who just wants to take better photos.

 

AJ

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I have been thinking about a few other tips :)

 

- Tripods sometimes come with a hook on the bottom of the central column, you can use this to hang a camera bag or something heavy off to lend stability to your tripod without having to carry a heavy tripod. It makes for sharper shots.

 

- You camera will have a timer mode, use this with tripod shots as your finger press can cause vibrations which can blur a shot slightly. If you get to using longer focal lengths and want advice on long lens technique give me a shout.

 

- You will also have a mirror lock up, this basically stops the mirror slap from causing a blurred image on longer exposures. It's just good practice to use this is conjunction with a timer when shooting landscapes on a tripod. Don't forget to turn it back off :)

 

- You may have noticed that shots taken with a flash can be a bit harsh. You can mitigate this affect even with the on camera flash with something as simple as a piece of tissue and an elastic band over the flash. You can also use some card to bounce it off a wall although the built in flash likely wont have the power to do that very well. Cheap 3rd party flashes can be bought or even cheaper nikon speedlights, somewhere like keh.com does great used kit. 

 

AJ mentioned aperture priority mode above (sage words). On the top of your camera theres a dial with PASM and a bunch of pictures on it. 

P mode is program mode, it basically guesses at what you want and sets the shutter speed and aperture for you (I'm assuming you would have it on auto iso). This is a decent fall back but the camera has virtually no idea what kind of picture you are taking so it will often guess wrong and a fast moving object will be blurred or you will have too much background in focus in a portrait.

A mode is where you select the aperture and the camera selects the shutter speed for you to get the right exposure. This is pretty much the best mode to use most of the time. You control how much you want in focus and assuming you don't have anything moving too fast you should be golden. 

S mode is pretty much the reverse of A, you set the shutter speed and the camera sets the aperture. This is useful for panning shots, the ones where a car going round a corner is perfectly in focus and the background has the nice sideways blur. It's also pretty useful in sports and when shooting on a moving platform like a boat as you can force the shutter speed higher than the camera thinks it should be.

M mode is where you set the shutter speed and the aperture. Very useful when shooting flash, at least I found that. It's also sometimes quicker to use M mode in a situation where the cameras auto exposure is easily fooled. Dappled light or where the subject needs to be exposed differently, like a bride on a dancefloor under a spotlight etc. It might help you just to play with tis mode and start to see what happens when you over and under expose shots, sometimes the camera is wrong :)

 

The pictures are pretty self explanatory, they help the camera understand what type of shot you are taking, i.e. the face is for portraits which will go for a lower iso, wide aperture and not care much about the shutter speed (other than to avoid shake) so you get a clean image with a nice blurred background. The mountain tells it landscape so it will be low iso, narrow aperture and again not so much conern about the shutter speed. The guy running will tell it sod the iso, crank up the shutter speed and widen the aperture so you minimise the chance of blur. It's no sin to use them :) The point is to have fun and learn as you go. 

 

Some people learned the hard way, fully manual cameras and souping our own film, that doesn't mean its the best way but it does have benefits. Challenging yourself can cause you to make leaps in your knowledge, but it shouldn't ever be at the expense of having fun. AJ's point about getting out there is entirely correct, you have a lens and a camera, go have fun then come back and show us a shot and tell us how you want it to look better and we can help. 

 

Oh and Google 'golden hours'.

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When I was looking at lens the guy behind the counter asked me this..." would you buy a set of snap on tools to use once a year? Buy the best you can afford based on your anticipated use. If you can afford snap on to use once a year good for you. I think the best advice has been to start using it to see how much you enjoy it and then start making those choices. There has already been a ton of great technical feedback I'm sure if you have more questions you'll get lots of good answers and viewpoints! ! What a great site!!

 

Sent from my CoziBlurred4.3 gN2

 

 

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I love you guys. Thank you so much for the good advice. I'm a total novice, and do definitely want to avoid purchasing a million accessories.

 

I actually try and shoot at 35mm now, and physically move to better frame my picture. Once the weather gets warmer, I'll spend more time on weekends going out and making the most of the camera. It is a little challenging to figure it all out, but I'm glad there are folks like yourselves on here who can give me some guidance.

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One of the big things I'd suggest doing right away is setting the Auto ISO mode on and setting the max ISO to whatever you feel comfortable with (probably 1600 or 3200, maybe even 6400). That will give you a bit more flexibility with shutter speeds.

 

Honestly even the 18-55 kit lens is a pretty good lens, although I don't even carry mine around anymore now that I have the 35mm f/1.8 prime. Now if you're going to go tower hunting, a long zoom lens is definitely something you'll want; I've been happy with the 55-300mm, although you probably can get away with the less bulky 55-200mm.

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One of the big things I'd suggest doing right away is setting the Auto ISO mode on and setting the max ISO to whatever you feel comfortable with (probably 1600 or 3200, maybe even 6400). That will give you a bit more flexibility with shutter speeds.

 

Honestly even the 18-55 kit lens is a pretty good lens, although I don't even carry mine around anymore now that I have the 35mm f/1.8 prime. Now if you're going to go tower hunting, a long zoom lens is definitely something you'll want; I've been happy with the 55-300mm, although you probably can get away with the less bulky 55-200mm.

 

I'll play around with that next. Thank you!

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One thing to remember with high ISO settings is the amount of noise that you will get with them.  I try and shoot around 100-800 ISO on my Canon 50D.  That range is typically pretty good for keeping the image clean of sensor noise.  That said, you can use those higher ISO settings to introduce a bit of artistic flare in your photos to make them look a little grainy.

 

All part of the fun.

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