Need help with finding the best lens to buy!

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#1 Blood_Sword on 5 years ago

Hello everyone!

I'm a cosplayer but I also have a growing passion for photography. :)
I own a Nikon D5100 (it's my first SLR camera) with the usual default lens that it comes with, but lately I've been feeling like I need something better and quick. The problem is that I barely know anything about what camera lenses does what and which one I need for the purpose that I want to use it for.

I'm looking for a lens that I could use mainly for photographing cosplayers/people. I want something that I won't grow out of instantly, something that lets in a lot of light and does this pro-looking effect that the model is in focus and the background is really blurred in this beautiful way. Sorry for my lack of proper terms, I don't know camera vocabulary in English. xD I guess it's called "portrait lens" or something? If there are some other factors that are important I probably don't know/remember them so feel free to suggest additional lens functions that are of use for getting the best cosplay photos!
Oh, and some image stabilization option would be nice too -if even possible- but not necessary. I don't have a huge budget but I'm willing to spend a bit more on something with good qualities.

Please help me out guys!

#2 Av4rice on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=Blood_Sword;4945838]something that lets in a lot of light and does this pro-looking effect that the model is in focus and the background is really blurred in this beautiful way.[/QUOTE]

You can probably already do that to some extent with what you have. A wider aperture (lower f-number) and longer focal length / closer distance to subject will decrease depth of field, which is the range of distances in focus. Anything outside the depth of field will be thrown out of focus.

A lens with a wider maximum aperture can help you achieve an even shallower depth of field and make the effect more pronounced.

[QUOTE=Blood_Sword;4945838]I guess it's called "portrait lens" or something?[/QUOTE]

Portrait lenses are primarily defined by a longer focal length. A longer focal length gives you a tighter field of view, which means you have to shoot from further away to achieve a particular framing, and shooting from a greater distance creates more flattering perspective distortion.

But yeah, I guess most people expect a wider maximum aperture in portrait lenses as well.

[QUOTE=Blood_Sword;4945838]feel free to suggest additional lens functions that are of use for getting the best cosplay photos![/QUOTE]

Well you already mentioned image stabilization. Image quality and bokeh appearance vary between lenses but that's more a matter of comparing reviews and samples as opposed to quantifying features.

[QUOTE=Blood_Sword;4945838]I don't have a huge budget but I'm willing to spend a bit more on something with good qualities.[/QUOTE]

That can mean a lot of different things to different people. Recommendations are a lot easier to make if I have a solid number to work with. If I'm not sure what exactly you can afford, I'm not really sure what to recommend.

Among zooms, the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 comes to mind. Or the Sigma or Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 as a cheaper alternative.

Among primes, 50mm or 85mm would be the traditional portrait lengths, with good options from Nikon and Sigma. If you go Nikon you want an AF-S G lens as opposed to AF D, because the former will autofocus with your camera body while the latter won't.

A 30mm or 35mm might be more appropriate for hall shots at a con. If you have an 18-55mm lens currently, you can check the EXIF data of your favorite shots and see the types of focal lengths you tend to prefer.

#3 Access on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=Blood_Sword;4945838]something that lets in a lot of light and does this pro-looking effect that the model is in focus and the background is really blurred in this beautiful way. [/QUOTE]
What you want then is a wide-aperture prime lens like an 85mm, 100mm, or 135mm (with an aperture around f/2 or wider). This makes it easiest to blur the background while keeping the subject in relative focus.

Keep in mind the working distance you prefer and decide the focal length around that. You can use a focal length calculator online if you are uncertain about working distances that you could expect with different lenses. The 85mm (or equivalent 50mm for a crop camera) is a good one to start with as it gets you reasonably close to your subjects -- around 8-10 feet for a full body shot. Not so close that facial features are distorted and not so far away that you can't interact with the subject.

Longer focal lengths can make it easier to isolate individual subjects and can achieve more background blur, but they can also be hard to work with in a convention environment because of the distances. Also, be aware of backgrounds, blurring out the background is not an excuse to ignore it, and learn what aperture ranges work depending on the relative depth of the subject, or just quickly shoot a bunch of photos of varying aperture and choose the ones to use after the fact.

#4 Blood_Sword on 5 years ago

Thank you for the replies and suggestions so far, I take everything into account!

The lens that I currently have is 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 and I tend to prefer to work in a distance where I can still communicate with the model, although I'm fine with being a bit farther away if it's needed.

For now I'm focusing on finding a lens that works best in planned outdoor photoshooting (most likely with only one cosplayer, although I would photograph groups too), not necessarily hall photos.
Sometimes I like to have the background not too blurred (if it's relevant to the show's settings, adds to the costume etc) but for the moment I am indeed looking for something that does the blur effect better than what I already have, especially for close-up and half-body photos.

Oh and my budget is around 250 dollars max, I don't have an income right now so I can't pay more than what I have in my savings currently.

Just tell me if there's any other relevant information that I forgot to tell that makes it easier to suggest what lens would fit. :)

#5 nathancarter on 5 years ago

Backing up a little bit:
If you want to get better with your DSLR, your first order of business should be to understand the exposure triangle: The relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

To that end, I suggest the book [URL=""]Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson[/URL].

There's also this thread which is pretty useful. While the post is a bit dated, all the information in the first post is still quite relevant (though, maybe for now you can skip the last bit about the crop factor, IMO that's much less important than the exposure triangle).

Practice shooting and understanding what settings influence what parts of the photo. If you're in the automatic modes, understand why the camera is choosing the settings for you; then gradually start choosing some settings yourself using the semi-automatic or fully automatic modes.

You generally don't need image stabilization for portraiture, unless you have really shaky hands. Proper camera-holding technique and an appropriate shutter speed will eliminate the need for image stabilization for portraits. Even when shooting still/posed subjects, you need a relatively fast shutter speed to stop tiny movements of the subject; image stabilization will reduce blur due to camera shake, but will NOT reduce blur due to subject movement.

If the lens has IS, great - but don't rule out a good portrait lens just because it doesn't have IS.

Opinion 2:
Get the 50mm f/1.8.

#6 Blood_Sword on 5 years ago

I've actually gone a basic photography course in school (in which I was taught how to use an SLR etc) and I got the highest grade on it so yeah, I actually know the basics about shutter speed, aperture and how they affect your photos etc. But I didn't know about ISO so thanks a lot for the link, nathancarter! The post is also very easy to understand. :)

I do shoot on auto when I can't be bothered to put settings manually, or when I'm taking hall photos etc. But for photoshoots I tend to go manual so that I can choose more what I want.

Oh and I do think that I have quite shaky hands at times but IS is not necessary to the point that I'd rule out a good lens option just because IS isn't available.

#7 Access on 5 years ago

Oh and my budget is around 250 dollars max, I don't have an income right now so I can't pay more than what I have in my savings currently.
Then basically what nathancarter said, the 50mm f/1.8 lenses tend to be in the $100 to $200 range.

Also the problem with 'auto' settings is that cosplay tends to be unusual (bright, dark, or very colorful scenes) that can give the camera problems. You want to be using at least Av mode so you can control the aperture, beyond that shoot raw and learn manual mode for when the auto modes don't work or when you want to use a flash.

#8 nathancarter on 5 years ago

If you let the camera choose what settings to use, it will try to make every picture average.
That's fine if you're shooting in average conditions, and you're OK with results that are just average and ho-hum.

If you want better-than-average results, you'll need to be smarter than the camera.

When you start getting into more advanced techniques, such as off-camera lighting, you must have a solid understanding of the manual mode(s).

#9 PanS on 5 years ago

35mm f/1.8 - More useful overall, best bang for buck Nikon DX lens
50mm f/1.8 - Better for portraits (background blur & compression) but not useful in small rooms unless taking head/torso shots.

Set that kit lens to 35 and 50mm and see what ya like more.
But either one,
Set the to A (aperture priority mode) and then your Aperture to 1.8, shoot away. Enjoy. Want less blur? Raise your Aperture to 2.8 or 4.0~5.6!
- Depth of field aka background blur
- Sharp images
- Camera does most the work
- Does well in low light.
What's not to like?
Got 25$ left over? Buy a cheap 5 in one reflector for lighting and light up your subjects face! Looks natural, pleasant!

A mode is better than Auto because it will give you the blur you want. Professionals use it, I use it when I'm not using manual flashes or strobes. Reflector will do well with it because continuous light works well with your built in camera's light meter.

#10 Blood_Sword on 5 years ago

Thank you so much for all the replies, you're the best!
I have a good idea now of what lens to get. :) Thanks!

#11 sukotsuto on 5 years ago

I'd also suggest the Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8g lens. I use it on a full-frame camera and it works beautifully, which means you will have a lens available if you ever decide to upgrade the camera itself to the bigger format. It's probably one of the best cost per quality lenses around. While you cover 50mm in your kit lens, the larger aperture range will be useful in a lot of situations. You might find out later that your style fits better in a different focal length, but it's a really good starting point.