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When to use what lenses

edited February 2016 Posted in » Nikon D5200 Forum
When I purchased the Nikon D5200, I came home with the 18-55mm and the 55-300mm lenses (I just purchased the cheat sheets and realized it is for the 55-200mm lens). I take action shots during horse shows as well as the family photo ops that arise. My question is, when to use what lens and is there a better one I should use for closer up action shots at horse shows?


  • edited February 2016
    Basically you have a pair of lenses that cover the field of view range, without overlapping and without a great deal of difference in quality, so for the most part you should use whichever one gets you your desired field of view. There is, however, a small difference in that both lenses are fastest at their shortest settings, and slowest at their longest. For that reason, the 55-300mm is a little faster at 55mm than the 18-55mm is. Though the difference is small, it might be a little help when shooting action to use the longer lens at its shortest setting, rather than the shorter lens at its longest.

    If you must stay some distance away from the action but still want to get close in, then the 55-300mm will do it more easily. Needless to say, if you need width and very close coverage, the 18-55mm is right. The 55-300mm cannot get closer than about 41 inches from the subject, and while that gets you pretty good results when it's set long, it cannot get right up into macro range.

    Neither of these lenses is entirely ideal for fast action, because they are a little slow, but they can do it with practice and patience, especially if you learn to pan well (following movement with the camera). The 55-300mm is also a little slow in focusing sometimes, so it helps to pre-focus on something near to what you're going to need before the action happens. Faster lenses are of course more expensive. The 70-300mm, though not faster in aperture, is said to be quicker to focus, but I'd try with what you have first, because you can often do well, especially in bright light.

  • edited October 2016
    I am an absolutely new comer to the world of DSLR photography. I have recently joined a bird watching group and have made a few trips with successfully taken (to the extent permissible) birds and nature photographs with my existing point-and-shoot camera. But now that I have started realizing its limitations, I have decided to get a Nikon D5200, which suits my budget.

    The camera comes as usual with a 18-55mm kit lens. The experienced members of the group come with awe raising 80-400mm or 150-600mm lenses, which are to me at jaw-dropping prices. Within my limited budget, I find that 16-300mm, 18-300mm or 70-300mm by Nikon or Tamron is relatively affordable.

    My question is, is it advisable to have a single lens of 16-300mm or 18-300mm range, or to have two separate lenses - one 18-55mm (as kit lens) for wide shots and another 70-300mm for bird shooting? Because I have the option of buying the body-only of the DSLR, and in that case the price of the camera will be reduced by 3-4 thousand rupees, if I forego the kit lens. I am a bit confused, please help.
  • edited October 2016
    I would generally recommend against the super zooms such as the 18 to 300 for this. They're great for the tourist who wants a do-all lens and is willing to sacrifice some performance for the convenience. But the least distortion and best sharpness will come with a narrower zoom range, and you're better off with two lenses as long as you don't find yourself too often needing to change them.

    Sometimes the kit lens is so cheap as a kit that it is worthwhile to get that rather than the bare body, and then get an added telephoto. Depends on the deals and the dealers, of course. The kit 18-55 is a decent all around lens for non-bird use, with the advantage of being light and portable where an all purpose super zoom can be rather bulky.

    As to what is best, I'm not sure, but 70-300 is a nice range, as is the Nikon's 55-300. The Nikon 55-300 is not bad, and can be a good bargain especially if you luck into a rebate. It's a bit slow of aperture, and not blindingly sharp at 300, but decent, and very portable. I have one of these, and it's a good traveling lens, and grabs birds pretty well.

    Then again, Nikon's 18-300 is said to be not all that bad, and it certainly simplifies matters.

    Here in the States, there are numerous options, including used kit lenses that are very cheap, which might not be available to you. If you were in the US, I'd suggest getting the bare body with a 70-300 or the like, and then getting a cheap used 18-55 or similar from KEH.Com, where they can be had for well under $100. But if you're in India things are undoubtedly more complicated, so all my suggestions are of a general, philosophical sort and my be overruled by the practicalities.

    If you get the D5200 or another DSLR with 24 megapixel sensor, you have a good chance if your lens is basically sharp to crop in a fair amount without losing much detail, and that very dense sensor gives you a little leeway where focal length is concerned.

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