Readers question: Which flash and lens?

Are you good at something? Then you absolutely recognize this: people asking you alot of questions about your passion. In that same way, I also get alot of questions, and I gladly respond to them!
In the future, I will try to post these questions, and my repies to them here on the website, as they might be useful to other people too.
The question:

Hello Bjorn,

As you might remember, my oldest daughter has recently bought an entry level DSLR, a Nikon D3200. Currently, she has two lenses: 55-300 and 18-55. She certainly has a feeling for photography, and would now like to buy some new gear.

So we welcome your advice!Nikon D3200

Flash

I received a whole explanation about the immense advantages of an external flash compared to an internal flash. Shadows coming from left, above and below,… I honestly don’t understand most of it. Anyway. She mentioned a Godox TT680C. Do you know that flash? Does it seem like a decent investment? Or is it adviced to spend a little more, and buy a (much) beter flash? Apparently the flash can swivle horizontally and vertically, but which other criteria are important to choose an external flash?
Or would you prefer to stick to a Nikon external flash (even though they are twice the price at least apparently)?

New lens

Nikon SB-5000 AF Speedlight FlashShe’s talking about a Nikon AF-S 50 mm / 1.8 G, to take pictures with Bokeh effect. I have gotten a whole explanation about the “fuzzy background effect”. The two lenses she owns now, don’t allow for a ‘large’ diafragm (minimal 3.4-4.5 for one and 4.5-5.6 for the other lens). Apparently the body recognizes the lens that is attached, and doesn’t allow for just any diafragm to be selected (I learned something new here).

What do you think? Is this a good investment? Is this lens good for this? Is to expensive, or too cheap? Would you buy something else? Are there many choices?

Many thanks in advance, your professional feedback is really appreciated!

Cheers

PS. My daughter was really impressed that you got to photograph the wedding of a celebrity as Toby Alderweireld.

The Answer:

Well, looking at her wishlist, I can only say that your daughter is going in the right direction! 😉

The Flash:
Her arguments for an external flash are totally correct. There is a good reason why the “pro” camera’s don’t even have an internal flash. Actually, the internal flash is something you can only use if there’s really really really no other way of taking the picture. And even then alot of photographers will still opt not to take the picture at all, rather than using the internal flash!

So, an external flash: really a good choice! But only if the flashhead can swivle in all directions (it is needed to “bounce” 😉 ).
Next choice to make is between a manual only flash, or a TTL-flash.
Since most TTL-flashes (TTL = Through The Lens = measurement of the available light, which allows the flash to set it is own flash intensity, together with the camerabody) can also be used manually, the choice there is easy.

Next up is the choice between an aftermarket flash, or a brand flash.
This one is also easy: the brand flash is almost always a better buy. But, it does cost nearly double, or even much more. I myself, work with over 10 flashes, and the ratio is 4 brand flashes (Canon, in my case)), and 6 (manual) Chinese aftermarket flashes.
Which ones I choose depends on the what I want/have to do. So,if money is no issue: go for Nikon, especially if your daughter is really bitten by the photography bug.
But that certainly does not mean that the Godox flash will be a bad buy! Alot depends on the way she photographs and experiments with photography.

As for these Chinese brands (like Godox or Yonguo) you have a choice: buy online via eBay and such, where they are often incredibly cheap. However, when there is a problem with the flash (which does happen from time to time) it might be hard to get a replacement. In a reputable shop you will probably pay a bit more, but in case of problems, you will get a replacement fairly easy.

The lens:
Super choice 🙂 The 50mm 1.8 is considered to be a “learning lens”. In many photography classes it is a standard assignment, go out with the just the 50mm lens, and get me a full portfolio. This is a lens that awakens creativity, that learns to “see”. It helps to go from “taking pictures” to “creating pictures”. It is the one lens you NEED to own.
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens
The explanation she gave you about the diafragm and the bokeh are also correct 🙂 The lower the f-number (the diafragm), the more expensive, the harder, the more special, more beautiful,.. the lens is too. And the prices can range from 250€ for a 1.8, via 500€ for a 1.4 all the way up to 2000€ for a 1.2 lens. The quality of the pictures taken with these lensen often also increment with the price.
The lens she proposes seems to be a good model (the 50mm 1.8 is very often offered in different version, and by different brands. Here too it is so that the own brand (Nikon in this case) is the best option, but in the case of lenses it is not always as simpel and straightforward as it is with flashes).

If I’m correct, this lens is compatible with the Full Frame bodies. Which is kind of a big issue, because chanes are that if she becomes really photocrazy, she will want a Full Frame body later on. And it is always nice that the lenses you already own are still useable. In case of this lens, on a Full Frame it would become a “real 50mm”, meaning the field of view corresponds more or less with the view of the human eye.

With regards to lenses, I can only say, if in doubt, and having the possibilities: always invest more in the lens than in the rest of the photography gear. If you have 1000€ to spend, use 200€ for the body, 100€ for the flash, and 700€ for the lens. A lens devaluates much slower than a body, and, in essence, the lens creates the photograph, the body only captures it.

I hope this already brought a little clarity in the dark woods of photography-shopping 🙂

2 Comments

  1. Dimitri on March 10, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Bjorn,

    If the lens mentioned is Full Frame compatible, then it is *not* a big issue, but instead lucky, right?

    Thanks for this nice article!

    • admin on March 16, 2017 at 6:08 am

      True 🙂
      In fact, of given the option, I always recommend to choose the full frame compatible version of a lens!
      And thanks! Glad you liked the article! More will follow…

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