Choosing a new lens for D5100

Mandlan

Novice Member
I've been considering getting a new lens for a while now and with my birthday coming up in a couple of weeks I've managed to narrow my options down to three(ish). I've read amateur and expert reviews but I'm finding it difficult to make the final decision. So, as well as annoying myself with my indecisiveness, I thought I'd see if anyone here has any advice.

My camera is a D5100 and current lenses I own are a Nikon 35mm 1.8, Nikon 55-200mm, Nikon 18-55mm (old non-VR version) and Sigma 10-20mm. I get a reasonable amount of use out of the 35mm 1.8, the Sigma and the 55-200mm but the old kit lens from my D40 is basically gathering dust.

My options:-

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Lens (around £415)

Pros: I've heard a lot of good things about this lens and I've been impressed with the the sharpness and bokeh of images taken with it when browsing Flickr. I'm interested in getting more into portraiture and it seems this might be a good choice even for DX.
Cons: I'm not sure how useful it would be as a general walkaround lens given the focal length. No macro.

Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8 Di SP A/M 1:1 Macro (around £350)

Not sure if this comes with autofocus on lower-end Nikon bodies like the D5100 (haven't been able to find out from reviews).

Pros: This is apparently a very good macro lens and more than usable for portraits as well. It's slightly cheaper than my other two options.
Cons: Although I'm keen to try my hand at macro photography, I'm aware there's more to it than simply having the lens. My only flash is an SB400 which from what I've read isn't ideal for macro. It's not as fast as the Nikon 1.8. I'm also not sure how much use I'd get from a macro lens.

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM OS lens (around £475)

Pros: Seems quite a highly rated lens (with the usual caveat regarding Sigma's quality control). More versatile than the other two options as it can zoom and the fixed 2.8 aperture means it's faster than the other lenses I own apart from my 35mm. Would be a good replacement for my old kit lens.
Cons: Good for general use but I already have a faster lens in the 35mm 1.8, I already have a better landscape lens (I think) in the Sigma 10-20mm and it wouldn't be as good a portrait lens (as far as I'm aware) as my other two options. Not sure if the Sigma is better than the Tamron 17-50mm.

Does anyone who owns (or knows about) one or more of these lenses have any advice?
 

Strobe

Well-known Member
You are quite correct in that you have lots of overlap but the Sigma 17-50 is a very good lens in its own right and, from general hearsay, does not suffer as badly from Sigma's well reported sample variance. If you wanted a walkabout lens then you wouldn't go far wrong (other options would be the Tamron equivalent 17-50 F2.8 and the Nikon 16-85 VR). I was in a similar situation, kit lens + 35/1.8 + UWA + telephoto zoom, and in the end I opted for the 16-85 VR for its longer zoom range and I always carry the 35/1.8 in my bag anyway for low-light / narrow depth of field. The other lenses you have considered have specific uses (portraits and macros) and are not designed as walkabout lenses. The Tamron 90mm is well regarded as a macro lens and is the de facto go to macro lens but also consider the newish Nikon 85mm F3.5 VR Macro which is similar money (£400 ish) but adds VR and does a good turn at portraits as well. Edit: The Nikon version of the Tamron 90mm Macro has an AF motor for use on the lower end Nikon DX bodies.
 
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Tbh I would choose the much cheaper Tamron 17-50 over the Sigma any day. I tried them both and couldn't tell the difference notably except for money int your pocket. However if you are willing to spend the kind of money for the sigma new I would prefer a second hand Nikon 17-55 f2.8. Now there is a notable difference.

In my opinion os/vc/vr at those focal lengths are overrated.
 

Mandlan

Novice Member
You are quite correct in that you have lots of overlap but the Sigma 17-50 is a very good lens in its own right and, from general hearsay, does not suffer as badly from Sigma's well reported sample variance. If you wanted a walkabout lens then you wouldn't go far wrong (other options would be the Tamron equivalent 17-50 F2.8 and the Nikon 16-85 VR). I was in a similar situation, kit lens + 35/1.8 + UWA + telephoto zoom, and in the end I opted for the 16-85 VR for its longer zoom range and I always carry the 35/1.8 in my bag anyway for low-light / narrow depth of field. The other lenses you have considered have specific uses (portraits and macros) and are not designed as walkabout lenses. The Tamron 90mm is well regarded as a macro lens and is the de facto go to macro lens but also consider the newish Nikon 85mm F3.5 VR Macro which is similar money (£400 ish) but adds VR and does a good turn at portraits as well. Edit: The Nikon version of the Tamron 90mm Macro has an AF motor for use on the lower end Nikon DX bodies.

I think you've summed up well my decision, which is to either go for the general purpose lens or decide if I want to spend more of my time on a specific type of photography like portraiture and/or macro.

Hadn't heard of the Nikon 85mm VR Macro but having now read a couple of comparisons with the Tamron online, I think if I do get a macro it'll be the Tamron, especially now knowing I can get it with AF (cheers).

I've decided to rule out the Nikon 85mm 1.8 for now as well - maybe way down the line it might be one to look at.

Tbh I would choose the much cheaper Tamron 17-50 over the Sigma any day. I tried them both and couldn't tell the difference notably except for money int your pocket. However if you are willing to spend the kind of money for the sigma new I would prefer a second hand Nikon 17-55 f2.8. Now there is a notable difference.

In my opinion os/vc/vr at those focal lengths are overrated.

The Sigma 17-50 seems to have a (very slight) edge over the Tamron 17-50 in reviews I've read but I think you're right in saying the price difference is likely far greater than any noticable (at least for me) difference in quality. The option of a second hand Nokia hadn't even occurred to me (I just ruled it out as soon as I looked at the price for a new one), although I've heard it's quite a hefty piece of glass to carry about on a small body like the D5100. Still definitely worth considering.

Thanks for the advice both, I've got a bit more thinking/procrastinating to do. :thumbsup:
 

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