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Photography Tips: The Best All Purpose Lens

If you could only have one lens for the rest of your life which lens would you choose?

 It would have to be a lens that could handle a variety of different types of photography.  For me that would mean a lens that could handle macro, nature, and model photography. These three very different types of photography require shooting at a variety of distances from the subject.  That means a fixed lens would not be able to handle the work.

A zoom lens narrows the field of available lens dramatically.  We can only have one lens in this discussion so what length of zoom would we want?

I argue Nikon’s 28 – 300 mm is the most useful of all lens and if I could only have one lens it would be the 28 – 300 mm.  Now I am not stuck on Nikon.  Nikon just happened to be the first camera brand I purchased and have way too much money in Nikon gadgets to change brands now.  However, all of the major camera manufacturers offer a similar sized lens.

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The 28 -300 mm does a fair job on macro work.  Extension tubes can be added help the lens.  I would take my 100 mm macro lens any day for this type of work, but the criteria is only one lens for the rest of our lives and a good macro lens is not very useful on nature and has limited use in model photography. So in a pinch the 28 -300 mm can be used decently for macro photography. 

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On the long end the 300 mm gives the photographer a pretty good reach.  Throw on a teleconverter and the 300 mm’s range can be pushed even further. Sure there are better lenses on the market for long-range work, but the longer the range the heavier, bulkier, and more expensive the lens becomes.  For model photography and macro photography anything over 300 mm gets to be too much. 

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Model photographers often use zoom lenses as their go to lens.  Generally speaking not many model photographers use a 300 mm in the studio.  The 18 – 200 mm is commonly used.  The 300 mm is an overkill and a bit bulky, but still usable.  In fact most of my model photography has been done with a 28 – 300 mm.  However, I am a bigger guy and can handle the weight of this lens.  After a three-hour model shoot my arms do start to get shaky and I start thinking about attaching a smaller fixed lens to my camera.

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So in my opinion the 28 – 300 mm is the best lens if a photographer can only have one lens.  There are a variety of f-stop options in lenses around this size.  Personally I like the f3.5 – 5.6. Sure there are times especially in model photography that I have wished for a faster lens.  In model photography there never seems to be enough light. However, in most cases the f3.5 at 28 mm is very usable. Throw in a flash or some studio lighting and the f3.5 works just fine. 


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Generally speaking the 28 – 300 mm f3.5 – 5.6 Nikon lens can be purchased for around $1,000 USD. A photographer can find a good used lens of this size for around $800 USD.  Considering the usefulness of this lens that seems like a bargain to me.  Several manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma make a very similar lens for less money. The 28 -300 mm spans the workload of a lot of different lenses. 

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I would highly recommend the 28 -300 mm for the beginning photographer.  Once a photographer has decided that they want to advance to a DSLR they understand that it is going to be a pricey jump.  The 28 -300 mm allows the beginning photographer a lot of usefulness across a variety of photography genres.

When photographers start out it will take some time for them to get a feel for the type of photography that they want to devote most of their time.  For example I started out as mainly a nature photographer, started dabbling in macro photography and now almost exclusively partake in model photography.  Through this entire metamorphosis I bought several lenses to specialize in a specific photography genre, but I still primarily use the 28 – 300 mm.

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One comment

  1. Great article. I am a Nikon fan and I like what i am hearing about this lens.

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