This is a rough list of the equipment I like to use on my daily shenanigans. I will keep adding more lenses and other toys as I try them.
When I learned how to take pictures, back in the days, I started using my father’s vintage Nikon FM. Later on, when I was old enough to get my own camera I got a state-of-the-art Nikon F65. After years travelling around I kind of got tired of carrying all that glass and took an SLR break, shooting mostly with digital compacts, but I kind of missed the unmistakable sound of the shutter… and so I went for the Nikon D90 that I currently use most of the time.
When I decided to go down the DSLR road, for me Nikon was a clear choice as I already had quite a few lenses lingering around. I would love to join in one of these heated-up discussions Nikon-vs-Canon, but I am ashamed to admit for me the Nikon choice was an inherited one.
Anyway, so far my brand of choice since childhood hasn’t let me down, so I have never have any thoughts about leaving them.
The D90 has everything an enthusiastic amateur photographer could hope for in a camera. This is as good as a DSLR gets before going into the pro range. Right now it fulfills most of my daily needs and I will most likely keep it around until it is time to upgrade to a full-frame camera. Hopefully when that time comes the D800 will already be around :-D
As of now, I don’t own a spare DSLR, so my backup camera is a well beaten-up ultra-compact Pentax Optio S5i. Not the best camera out there, but it was good value-for-money at the time. I keep it around mostly because it is 120 grams and fits inside any pocket, plus it has a kind of decent macro mode. There are certainly many more up-to-date and reasonably cheap compact cameras nowadays, but I didn’t really have a reason to replace this one while it still works. Even though this is not a camera for serious photo-taking, it serves as an example that nice pictures can be also taken with modest gear. My pictures from Japan (like this one) were taken with this camera.
Anyone who has been shooting around with a variety of cameras ends up accumulating quite a few pieces of glass. The ones below are the ones I find myself using most of the time.
Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 prime lens
A fast prime lens is an absolute must-have, and the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D is a well stablished classic. With manual aperture ring (which comes handy if you want to play around with lens reversal adapters), light and extremely sharp, for right under 100 quid is the best value for money one can get. One can go even wider and aim for the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, but it only gives an extra 2/3 of a stop and costs more than twice the money. Unless you have some wicked need for the super-shallow depth of field coming at f/1.4, my advise is to go for the f/1.8.
If you have one of the lower-end Nikkon bodies (D60, D3000, D3100, D5000) you should beware that this lenses don’t have an built-in focus motor, so the autofocus will not work with your camera. If you want to keep the autofocus working you will need to go for the more expensive Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G, which is essentially the same lens but with the built-in focus motor (and without the manual aperture ring). I’d recommend going for the cheaper D lens and using manual focus, but whatever floats your boat… These lenses, in all their flavors, use 52mm wide filters and caps.
Nikkor R715 (18-105mm, f/3.5-5.6)
The Nikkor R715 is the lens that came with my D90 body when I got it. It behaves quite decently for a kit lens, the 18-105 range suits most daily needs, making it a safe “by-default” choice to leave mounted on the camera. 18mm is ok for most landscapes (although for close shots of big buildings you’ll want to go wider than that) and 105 makes an alright zoom for portrait photography with a nicely compressed background. It features silent autofocus and vibration reduction and comes at a reasonable prize, so all in all is not a bad lens.
Now the cons. It is a kit lens, and one can feel it. It is made for DX sensors (mid-range Nikkon sensor) so if put on a higher end full frame cameras (D700, D3X, D3S) there will be some serious cropping going on there. In spite of the one-stop you can get from the vibration reduction, it is not an extremely fast lens (f/3.5 at 18mm), particularly at zoom distances (f/5.6 at 105mm) so every so often I find myself wishing for some quicker, sharper glass. At the wide-angle lengths there is some barreling and vignetting, with a bit of softening in the corner areas, although the effect is so mild you have to be looking for it to see it.
This lenses uses 67mm wide filters and caps.