Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why I love a cheap lens...

Okay, I admit to some pixel peeping now and then. I get asked sometimes what lens I shoot with, and the surprising answer is that one of my favorites is the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AFS DX. It's cheap, it's plastic, it was the second string kit lens two years ago, it's slow variable aperture, yadda yadda yadda.

It's damn sharp, it's a great range, and it does almost everything for me. I've used it everywhere, I flung it from a ceiling fan (long story) and it just lets me make images.

The eye above belongs to my son, it's an unsharpened 100% crop of a portrait I shot in the living room an hour ago. Lighting was a small softbox overhead with an SB-800 in it, f/14 at ISO 100. Take this picture, drop it in Photoshop, and put a touch of sharpening on it. See what you think. Not bad for a $250 lump of 7.5x super-zoom consumer plastic.

Somehow I think that this lens will still have a place in my bag once the 2.8's and such move in in a few weeks here. According to Lightroom, over 60,000 images with it in the last 18 months.

Thanks Nikon for a great little piece of glass.


Jason said...

I've been thinking about that lens for some travel photography. I have the kit lens that came with my D70 and sprung for the 70-200 vr (which is incredible if you don't already have) but i dislike having to choose one or the other when I'm sight seeing on vacation. Anyway, I'm trying myself to get into the professional photography business and love what you've done with the blog here. Any advice you can give with those first baby steps would be appreciated...thanks man and good to see you posting again.

Nick Davis said...

Hey Jason, good as always to hear from my readers (both of you :-)) I would recommend the 18-135 without any hesitation as an excellent all around lens. It isn't going to do anything magical that your 18-70 doesn't, but mine has always impressed me. It has it's limitations, certainly, not so great in low light, occasionally slow to focus, etc, but for consumer grade lenses some of this is to be expected. I would also take a look at the 16-85vr, but I tend to shoot wide angle a lot, which is why moving to FX will be so good for me.
As far as beginning steps, I would spend a lot of time shooting. Always have your camera with you. Shoot everything. Shoot everybody. Once you've done that, find a dozen different ways to shoot an egg, or something similar. Shoot until everybody makes jokes about it and calls you over when they see dog poop on the sidewalk and ask you if you want to take a picture of it.
Or maybe that's just my family.
Get involved with community, activities, schools, theater groups, whoever and whatever you're interested in. If you want to be a photographer, introduce yoursewlf as one. Nobody ever asks for a diploma. Hell, show up with a 70-200 and 90% of the people will assume you're a pro. Then it's up to you to say yes a lot, and back it up with great images.

And that's about it for baby step #1

Larry Eiss said...

OK, wow. Good lesson. I was just sitting here thinking about all the 2.8 or faster lenses I "ought" to buy for my shiny new D300 and along comes this post.

Very nice. You may have saved me hundreds of dollars.