edited August 2016 Posted in » Nikon D3300 Forum
Hello all,
I've really enjoyed reading this blog and the tremendous information - so much reading to do still! I'm just getting into photography and have been inspired by Duchess of Cambridge's own photos of her children. I'd like to be able to take similar photos. I've been researching cameras that I can afford and have settled (though I'm open to changes) on the D3300. Nikon, simply because my dad has a D40 which he does not use and has said I can sell and have the lenses.
My questions:
1. Would this camera be a good place to start to learn photography to gain skills like the Duchess has please?
2. Would the D40's lenses (I have an 18-55mm which came with the D40 and I expect to sell with it, and a 55-200mm which mum bought for dad at considerable cost) work with the D3300? I don't even know what it does!
3. I'll be flying through duty free shortly and plan to purchase the camera there. Is the first lens that is recommended on this site (30mm) worth purchasing along with the wifi connectivity?

In brief, will the 55-200mm for the D40 work for the D3300, and is this a suitable first camera to hone my own skills for beautiful shots of children and, of our flight and holidays etc?

Thank you all, for any feedback. I'm excited!


  • edited August 2016
    The D40 is not all that bad, and for learning photography one could do worse. The D3300 is newer, better, and capable of fully supporting the latest electronic aperture lenses. In particular, high ISO performance is greatly increased, and you should find it easier to get sharp pictures without digital noise in difficult light. Don't expect to get very much for the D40 - they go pretty cheaply these days.

    Any of the D40's lenses will work with the D3300. The D3300 will work at least in some degree with nearly every Nikon F mount lens ever made. It will work fully with any AFS lens - that is an auto focus lens with its own AF motor in it. But any lens that functioned fully with a D40 will do so seamlessly on a D3300.

    The 55-200mm is a zoom lens that covers the telephoto range from slight (55mm) to considerable (200mm). For normal use you'll want a shorter focal length lens. The 18-55mm kit lens is a good normal range. If the new camera comes with its own kit lens, it will likely be an updated 18-55mm, which you should keep. If it does not, check prices on newer lenses, and consider waiting to sell the D40 kit until your trip is over, so you can borrow its kit lens.

    The 50mm prime lens suggested is a fine lens, and a great bargain, but if you are traveling and not sure what your preferences are, you might do better initially to keep the 18-55mm or a similar range zoom for the wider coverage. On the DX format here, a 50mm is a slight telephoto with a somewhat narrow angle of view, grand for portraits and many other things, but limiting for wide scenic shots. A35mm prime is closer to what would be considered normal width for this.

    "Prime" lenses - that is, lenses that cover only one focal length - are usually faster (aperture opens wider), and optically superior to zooms, giving less distortion, more contrast, and better sharpness. It's hard to top even an inexpensive prime lens, but the zooms are quite decent, and more versatile, and convenient especially when you have less time and latitude to choose where to stand.

    The main thing that you may find about the older D40 lenses is that they probably lack VR - vibration reduction, although the 55-200mm might be VR depending on its age. VR will help you to make shots at slower shutter speeds without camera shake. It's nice to have but not essential. As you go to the longer end of the telephoto, you'll need to use pretty fast shutter speeds or a tripod to avoid blur. Fortunately, the D3300 has good high ISO performance, and you should not have much problem here.

    As for WiFi, that I don't know. If you need it you need it. I generally use a computer with a card reader and don't bother with WiFi. You can also download photos through a USB cord from the camera. WiFi is, of course, very handy, and may be needed for smartphones or tablets, but that's something I don't know about.

    I do not know what your duty free deal might be, but remember that in the US at least Nikon USA will not support and repair a "gray market" model that is not imported by Nikon USA. If you're not in the USA double check for warranty and repair issues. That issue may not occur at all in the UK or elsewhere, but it's good to know.
  • edited August 2016
    Thank you ever so much for your reply - it's very helpful!
    I'm looking at duty free Heathrow now for Nikon and they have two 50mm lenses. One is standard prime f/1.4g and the other is affordable standard f/1.8g The 1.4 is twice the price. The other lens available at a reasonable price point for me right now is the 35mm.
    Would you go for the 35mm for photos of young children like those the Duchess took, or would the cheaper of the 50mm work? I'm trying to keep costs down but also get something that will last me a long time. I'm only just starting out!
    I appreciate all your help. Thank you!
  • edited August 2016
    Looking at the Duchess's photographs (for us Americans, you might have heard of her as Kate Middleton, by the way), they're very nice, and aside from the skillful composition, it appears that they are well lit, using considerable ambient light, and probably no flash. Some appear to utilize the shallow depth of field one is likely to get with a fast prime lens. My first guess on most of these would be a full frame DSLR with a fast 50mm. I don't think she's going with a lens much longer than this, judging from the perspective. She's pretty good at this, and of course in addition to experience she likely has plenty of help and no shortage of resources. Note among other things that she favors a relatively bright composition, very little shadow, and light colors in both clothing and background, all of which produce a soft and high key image. A few key elements of color and contrast, such as piping on a suit, shoes and socks, preserve the appearance of detail. The exposures are right at the cliff's edge of overexposure - a few unneeded highlights may be blown out but not many. Her pictures have an optimistic, light and happy look.

    I would not get the 50mm f/1.4 lens, which is very well made, very fast, very expensive, and in terms of image quality probably no better than the much cheaper 1.8, and according to some, not as good. The 1.8, with its recessed front element, can be used outdoors without a shade most of the time too. The 50mm f/1.8 is an FX lens, which means it will work on a full frame DSLR as well, and is entirely suitable to the D3300's DX format. The 35mm f/1.8 is made only for DX. Most of the reviews I've seen of both agree that they're both about as good as it gets optically.

    I think either of those would likely give you good results. The 50mm will shoot a somewhat narrower field, allowing a closer viewpoint, often very good for portraits, and a slightly shallower depth of field, also nice for portraits. The 35mm will be a bit more versatile, with its wider field of view. In terms of field of view at a given distance, the 35mm is closer to what you'd get with a 50mm on full frame, but the depth of field and perspective will differ even if shots with the two are duplicated as much as can be.

    Some time ago I made a quick and dirty comparison of the two formats on a DX format (mine being a D3200). In the shot referenced, I am about 3 feet from "the bus" in the right hand 50mm shot, and closer to 2 feet on the left 35mm shot. This would be a close head shot for a regular human subject. Both shots were made with prime lenses at f/2.8 (that's the fastest my 35mm goes to). As you can see, although the 35mm shot is closer, which decreases depth of field, the 50mm shot still has less depth of field owing to its longer focal length. The perspective also varies: the background objects in the 35mm shot are smaller and further away in appearance, as well as sharper. The decreased perspective of the 50mm can aid in making unwanted background items less distinguishable and more abstract.

    Note also that both the lenses used were older manual lenses, which means I manually focused and guessed the exposure, which is in ambient lightbulb light only. So they are not killingly sharp or perfectly exposed, but you will see that the contrast and general image quality of a good prime lens is rather pleasant.

    Reiterating, I think if you also have the 18-55mm kit lens, I'd be inclined to go with the 50mm as slightly better for portraits. If the only other lens you're bringing to the party is the 55-200mm, I'd go for the 35mm for its overall versatility. You could leave just that lens on, and rarely need another. When you need shallower depth of field than the 35mm gives, you can put on the 55-200mm, and if you can stand far enough back you'll find that it's a very pleasing portrait lens when you get to 70mm or longer, even with its small aperture. For outdoor shots, you'll be surprised how good that zoom can be when you zoom it in to 85mm or so.
  • This has been so helpful, thank you very much for all of this.
  • edited May 2017
    Been using your Cheat Sheets for a little over a year now. They are great. I have the Nikon D3300 kit with the 55-200mm and 18-55mm lenses.
    I'm going to Yosemite in late August, and I'm looking for a lens to capture the grandeur of the park. Also hoping for some bad weather. Wanting to shoot monsoons, sunset/sunrise through the clouds and lighting. Any thoughts on a lens or multiple lens would be greatly appreciated.
    Do you sell the coffee mug?

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