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Megapixels to Extend Zoom Range of Prime and High Quality Lenses
DSLR world survived Megapixel revolution pretty good. Unlike new compact cameras where more and more megapixels do not add to picture quality, in DSLR world new models usually came with at least comparable quality to their older brothers.

These days we have 6MP DSLRs very standard and with this huge amount of megapixels, you have another creative way to use the camera.

This article is about that buying few, but only high quality lenses fixes many issues you might have and saves you purchase of huge low quality zoom of questionable manufacturers.

Since I started with photography, I was saying that wide angle is the only one you cannot fake. You can rarely walk away in room, you cannot shoot wedding outside church and you often cannot shoot street from crossroad. Prime lenses are not less important than they were in age of film phootgraphy and as well working with cropped image is nothing new and was done before.

Practical part of this article shows what you can expect from print when using high quality lens to avoid cheap low quality zoom.

Following picture was taken with 24mm lens from about 400 meter distance. Picture is resized from 12MP, red rectangle shows, what 120mm (this would equal to 5x zoom) sees.
24 to 120mm compared

Following image was taken with 120mm zoom and resized down. 10x15cm print would have nonsense 720dpi at this resolution.

24 to 120mm compared

Following image is downsized crop marked by red rectangle in first image it represents view of 120mm lens as seen by 24mm lens. Such image have still 150dpi at 15x10cm size, good enough for magazine shots. For web use or posters (100dpi) it is over 20cm size.

24 to 120mm compared

This demonstrates that excellent 24mm lens can replace low quality 120mm zoom for any web or small print uses.

To further demonstrate this issue

Following image is crop from the two shots above. One from high quality 24mm and one captured with mediocre lens at 120mm. Upper half is resized twice, left part simple bicubic (lower resolution) right part with professional resizing filter. While lower half is downsized about 2,5 times (higher resolution). In this case, we are talking about 50 vs >250dpi resolution but while amount of details in lower picture is higher, it hardly shows 5x more details and on print both would look rather fine. In this case, the used 120mm lens yet wasn't all that bad. For example 55-200 kit lens would give even worse results.

24 to 120mm compared

Of course I am not suggesting you to start hunting wild animals with 24mm primes - I am talking about extremes in this case, such as 5 times zoom is. In 50mm prime You would be discussing 250 tele zooms and in case of high quality 85mm prime 425mm lens which for crop DSLRs equals to almost 650mm.
What I am trying to say is, that with good DSLR camera paired with yet better lens You can achieve amazing prints even outside of original purpose of the lens. If you will spend moneys on low quality zoom lenses, you will get slow glass with mediocre details even at 250dpi.

85mm prime will always make better prints than 200mm kit lens and high quality 80-200mm zoom will make better wild animal pictures than entry level 400mm monster including the cases where you will frame your picture so bad, that you have to throw out 75% of it.


- use your zoom lenses at level they work best (you have to try it or read reviews by other lens users). Kit lens 55-200 might be ok for 100mm but at 200mm is bad, shoot at 100mm and crop your images.

- buy only quality lenses even if it would mean to have less of them or only wider part of offerings

- you do not need to zoom in and out like crazy. By walking few steps forward or backward you can avoid even more than 200mm of lens.

- learn to properly frame image before you take the image. It saves you cropping and gives you advantages of higher resolution in case you need it. Take more images (DSLRs and cheap flash cards made it so easy) from more perspectives and distances rather then expecting to fix it in Photoshop.

- it makes no sense to buy expensive camera and cheap lens.

- it have sense to buy entry level camera from good brand with huge second hand market (such as Nikon or Canon) and equip your self with high quality lenses. In SLR market was always truth that photographer is 60%, lens is 30% and camer is about the remaining 10% of influence to final image. In DSLR world it is valid twice.

Cheap Recommended Lenses to Buy:

For Nikon:

Nikon AF 2,8/28 D (about 250Eur), should cover you from most wide angle needs - up to about 120mm with cropping. Wider shots than 28mm are usually more distorted and are not so often needed for many daily photographers.
Primes are not bad, good family photos are not made from chair behind the eating table and good sport photos are not made from seats, 28mm is excellent for full frame and on border but still start lens for crop cameras.

Nikon AF 1,8/50 D (about 120Eur), very good and flattering for portrait shooting, will cover you in most daily tasks, very good for street photography. Needs only about 4meter distance for full body shots (on crop camera) so usefull also in interior and produces images worth of sub 300Eur 200mm lenses with ease on long end. F22 understands the sun and night shots like not many more lenses.

Nikon AF 1,8/85 D (about 350 Eur), one of the best Nikon lenses ever made. While cheap, it is miracle for portrait photography. 85mm equals 120mm on film cameras, this is already tele lens by all definitions. With its quality you can make awesome 80x60cm posters at 60dpi equaling lenght of 240mm film tele lens.

Other lenses also worth to look in longer ends:

Nikon AF-S 2,8/105 G IF-ED VR Micro (about 760Eur) This lens is better than all sub 1000Eur 200 or 300mm lenses period. It is mirracle with 62mm filter size and will solve to common humans all tele needs. It have even Vibration Reduction (but this time not paired with too slow glass) which helps you (and the fact it is only 105mm) to take so sharp photos handheld you would need really really good tripod and yet better lens to make 200mm or 300mm looking better. If you can, grab the older f2 version (about 200Eur more) which is superior in most cases and have defocus control.

I skipped the 180mm prime becuase good old Nikon AF 2,8/80-200 D ED can be now get for about 1000Eur. This lens is not better than the 105mm one above, even not for 200mm shots, but it is very good lens for those who need to shoot fast moving objects at long distance. It's 200mm is sharp enough to beat many even more expensive 300-400mm lens including the Nikon's F4 1300Eur 300mm prime.

Nikon AF-S 2/200 VR IF-ED about 3600Eur. I had this lens rented for two weeks and it is probably the another one i would consider to buy if i would need 200-800mm lens. From wild 10cm big bird up on the tree to moon there is nothing which you cannot use this lens for. It renders all high end zooms and primes I have seen from Nikon and Canon completely useless. If you ever thought about lens above 300mm, consider this one in your calculations. It might be the one and only tele lens you will ever need for Nikon and is safe for any camera upgrades (including new 20 and more Mpixel fullframes). It even have VR which paired with exceptionally sharp F2 lets you shoot handheld even in late evening or church.
Posted on 17 Feb 2008 by fkh
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