Can you suggest some good lenses for my Nikon D40?

Hello all, After using my Nikon D40 with the kit lens for about two years now, I think I'm ready to buy some extra lenses for it.  I have two primary needs that I hope to satisfy with no more than two lenses, and hopefully just one.

1.  Macro photography.  For my work on Instructables I take a lot of macro shots, and I find the kit lens (or is it the camera?) difficult to use for this.  When the minimum focal length is 8 inches or more it's just really hard to get a good shot.  For this need I'd be happy with a manual focus lens since I'd be the only one using it.  But, I really need tighter macro shots than the kit lens - whether this lens can get physically closer or whether it needs to be telephoto I don't really care.

2.  Low Light.  My wife and I often find ourselves in situations where we'd like to take photos of people (and especially children!) in low light, without a flash.  Obviously, this leads to lots of blurring and other undesirable mistakes.  I think a nice, fast lens on the order of f/1.8 or f/1.4 would do the trick, and Nikon makes a nice AF-S model for less than $200.  The trouble is the lack of zoom - I think I could deal with it, but my wife uses the whole range of 18-55mm on the kit lens and would probably throw her hands up in despair if that ability were missing.  So what's the solution here?

Thanks for any suggestions you folks can provide, especially when it comes to older lenses.  Apparently the D40 can mount old non-AI Nikon lenses which is good news I guess, because it opens up a whole world of used lenses.  Beyond that I must plead ignorance...


EDIT:  I'm somewhat leaning towards the fast 35mm f/1.8 AF-S prime lens and an extension tube set for macro.  Still researching, though....

EDIT 2:  Still liking the looks of the 35mm prime, but now considering a Nikon 3T or 4T diopter macro filter, if I can find one...


EDIT 3:  SOLUTION:  I ended up buying the 35mm f1.8 prime lens and a 10x achromatic macro filter (I didn't manage to find a Nikon filter, but I did find one that claimed to be a true achromat lens setup.  We'll see when it arrives!)


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gmoon7 years ago
I have these Nikkor lenses, if you have any questions about any, let me know...

-- 80-200mm F/2.8 (the slightly older one, before the 70-200VR)
-- 17-35mm F/2.8
-- 10.5mm F/2.8
-- 50mm, f/1.4
-- 24-120 VR, variable aperture
(that last one is a crappy lens, but It's my "crowd" lens, and I rarely use it without a flash.)

I also use an old Tamron 300mm F/2.8 I used to use for my film cameras. It lacks autofocus, tho.

There is a real dearth of fast zoom lenses, unfortunately. Nikon doesn't seem to make many.

Of I need macro, I just use supplementary lenses. They aren't great optically, but they work for my needs, which are infrequent.
gmoon gmoon7 years ago
Umm, incidentally, the VR lenses may lend a 2-3 shutterstop advantage for hand-holding stability, but they don't stabilize the subject ;-)

I.E., if you're photographing a moving child, they motion-blur just like non-VR lenses...
jeff-o (author)  gmoon7 years ago
Ha, yes, I came upon that bit of clarity in my searches!  As nice as the extra zoom would be, the VR won't fix my problem.

Looks like the prime lens is winning...
gmoon jeff-o7 years ago
I went for years as a pro photog without using zooms at all. I've only acquired some since I went digital (in 2002.)

I've noticed some peculiarities with autofocus on the 50/1.4, but only with my D2X. It's an older technology lens, though I bought it new. I'm mostly using a D700 now, and don't see the focusing problem with the newer body. If you get a chance to test the lens, it might be wise.

The D40 should have the same CCD multiplier as the D2X, correct? So a 50mm is effectively the viewing angle of a 75mm, compared to a full-frame 35mm sensor or film.

Fixed focal-length lenses in the range of 85mm-135mm used to be some of my favorites in the film days--and they are almost always one stop faster than the zooms. Great for portraits and indoor sports (BBall, etc.) Not cheap, though.

I still have all my Canon bodies and lenses--85mm, 135mm, etc. But Canon went to a different lens mount; hence my migration to Nikon...

(Jeff--I have a package here I promised to send that's long overdo--sorry about that...)
jeff-o (author)  gmoon7 years ago
I'll have to visit some photography stores.  Hopefully, one of them will have one to try out.  Though I haven't read about any autofocus issues with this particular lens on DX bodies so it should be fine.

According to the specs the 35mm is equivalent to a 52.5mm.
gmoon jeff-o7 years ago
Sounds pretty close. I think "test driving" is a good plan.

Here's a couple images from my "library"-- closeups with the 50mm together with "supplementary" lenses... I bounced a strobe off the ceiling for lighting. Supp. lenses introduce some chromatic aberration, but stopping down the lens helps.
image0022.jpgimage0017.jpg
jeff-o (author)  gmoon7 years ago
The Nikon 3T and 4T macro filters (lenses) are actually dual-element achromatic lenses, designed to minimize chromatic aberration.  If I can get ahold of one, it should provide results that are good enough for my purposes.
gmoon jeff-o7 years ago
Yes, I think those might offer an improvement over my old set of generics...

You mentioned extension tubes, too. There's an associated loss of light transmission with those--you probably already know that. But they do use the lens optics, as-is.

Just remember that the resolving power of any particular lens is based on it's use in a "normal" context. Using extension tubes narrows the viewing angle, so it's using a smaller amount of it's working area for creating the image. This can begin to matter if you're using a non-DX lens, because you've already discarded a good chuck of it's original working area (due to the CCD being smaller than a 35mm frame.)

For most of us, that hardly matters--especially for "web quality."
jeff-o (author)  gmoon7 years ago
That's part of the reason why I rejected extension tubes as a possibility.  They're about as expensive as a dedicated used manual focus lens.  Since I'd be stuck with manual focus with the extension tubes too, I saw no benefit.

The macro filters, on the other hand, are much cheaper than a macro lens or the extension tubes, and allow me to use the zoom lens I already have with full metering.
Joe Martin7 years ago
The 18-200 VR is a good all rounder but not practical for all situations
jeff-o (author)  Joe Martin7 years ago
It's probably what I'll get once the kit lens has been dropped once too often - I've had to snap it back into place countless times so far.  I've got to say though, it really is a sturdy piece of equipment.
Re-design7 years ago
For macro work you're in luck.  You can get an adapter that will adapt almost any lens to this camera.  It will end up being a manual lens but you don't care about that.  There are some tremendous macro lenses out there that are made for film slr cameras that are going for 10% or less of their original value.  You could add extention rings to any lens and make it focus closer.  Or go with a bellows unit and get really close.  G00gle macro photography for more background.

Low light is a different story.  if it's going to be a zoom lens then you're going to have to pay for it.  Large aperature and zoom means money.
jeff-o (author)  Re-design7 years ago
For the second point, I'm looking at one of Nikon's VR lenses, which I totally forgot about when I wrote my question.  Apparently it'll give me 2-3 stops, which might be enough.

But, keep the suggestions coming!