Camera Gear

My Top 5 Recommended Nikon Lenses (Under $800)!

So you've had a Nikon camera for some time now and you're getting a little bored with the kit lens it came with. You want a new lens or two, but where do you even start? Today I'd like to get you headed in the right direction with some lens recommendations that hopefully won't cost much more than you paid for your camera body. It can definitely be a SHOCK to discover how expensive lenses can be.

Check out my top five lenses (okay, I mentioned seven :) for APS-C sensor cameras, or DX-format lenses, under $800. If you aren't sure what kind of camera you have, do a quick google search to find out if it's a crop sensor (DX) or a full-frame (FX). If you want to learn more about the difference between a crop vs full frame camera, read my article here. It's VERY important to know the difference when buying a lens.  

  • 1. Nikon's Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 or Nikkor AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8. I grouped these two lenses together because they are similar focal lengths and are perform similarly. Both are very sharp and allow you to shoot in low light. The 35mm lens will allow you to get closer to your subject (about a foot) and the 50mm requires about a foot and a half from your subject, so not quite as close. I like having a little more distance from my subject with my 50mm; it also gives me a little more bokeh (blurry background). The 50mm lens will be compatible on a full-frame camera, should you choose to upgrade your camera body, but the 35mm is not. Both are very affordable! Get the 35mm for $197 on Amazon. Get the 50mm for $216 on Amazon.

Best Nikon Lenses Under $800 - Top DX Lenses -
  • 2. For a telephoto/zoom lens I recommend the Nikkor VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6. This lens will give you a great range to zoom for wildlife, your kids sporting events, distant landmarks or landscapes while traveling. This lens is more affordable because it doesn't have a really low maximum aperture, but the Vibration Reduction will help you shoot at lower shutter speeds (to let in more light) without having blurry images. Other zoom lenses with a lower maximum aperture (such as f/2.8) can be $1,400 or more! Get this zoom lens for $497 on Amazon.

Best Affordable Nikon Lenses - Top Nikon Lenses for DX - W
  • 3. Wide angle lens - Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 is a great choice! I own this lens and have loved it; for landscapes and interiors it has been awesome. Distortion is common among wide-angle lenses, and this one handles it well; distortion is minimal. Having the constant f/3.5 aperture lets you shoot wide open in low-lit settings, even zoomed in. It is well built and a good price for $449 on Amazon

Best Affordable Nikon Lenses - Top Nikon Lenses for DX - W
  • 4. A great all-around walk-around lens is the Nikkor 18-200mm AF-S VR II. This lens is great for everyday photography, travel and will give you the right amount of zoom you need in those scenarios. The Vibration Reduction also helps create sharper images. Get it for $596 on Amazon. If it's in your budget and you don't need quite as much zoom, the fast Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM lens is a great replacer for your 18-55 kit lens. It has much better quality and can shoot in low light very well. Get that lower f/stop to let in more light on this lens for $799 on Amazon

Best Affordable Nikon Lenses - Top Nikon Lenses for DX - W
  • 5. If you are serious about portraits, the 85mm f/1.8 lens is beautiful. It is a fast lens to let you shoot in low light, and you'll get that great bokeh (blurry soft backgrounds). This somewhat telephoto fixed lens puts your subject farther away from you, but fills the frame and blurs the background. Get it for $477 on Amazon

Best Affordable Nikon Lenses - Top Nikon Lenses for DX - W

Once again, consider your subject matter and what you'll be photographing most. If you want to start simple and cheap, get a sharp fixed lens! You can't go wrong with one of those. If you have a Nikon lens you love, comment below and let us know!


Think More About Lenses, not Just Your Camera Body

Are you still confused about which lens to buy and why it matters so much? Is it hard to stop thinking about that brand new Canon camera body you want to badly? Stop for a minute, read my article and hopefully you'll understand why it's the lens that matters most when taking photos. 

Which Lens Should You Buy? Understand Lens Selection -

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I've said it probably more than once, but I'm going to say it again; DSLR camera bodies these days are SO GREAT. You could spin in a circle and point to one at the store and be happy with it! Even bodies that were new 2-3 years ago are still GREAT. The difference is made when you are using a good lens. What do you need to consider when choosing a new lens? 



The focal length of your lens is the mm of length it offers. For example, the 18-55mm kit lens your camera most likely came with, zooms in and out from 18mm - 55mm. A 50mm lens is FIXED; it offers one focal length, doesn't zoom and that's that.

The maximum aperture means the lowest your f/stop # will go on your lens. Every lens has a limit to how 'wide' it can open up to let in light. For example, on that 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, at 18mm (zoomed all the way out) your f/stop will not go past f/3.5. At 55mm (zoomed in) your f/stop can only go to f/5.6. Lenses that offer larger maximum apertures, such as f/2.8 or f/1.4 will be more expensive, because they let in more light and are more versatile. If your budget can afford it, a lens with a larger maximum aperture is always a good choice! Unfortunately, they can get quite expensive. 

Something to Think About: 

  • Fixed lenses are good quality and offer SHARP images and a lot of the time, let in more light allowing you to take photos in lower-lit settings. About that budget? You can get a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens for only $125! The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is $216.95

  • Zoom lenses will allow you to zoom in and out on subjects without physically moving, but have moving parts so they aren't quite as sharp as FIXED lenses. 

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. What do spend most of my time photographing? What is my subject matter? 

  2. Which is more important, image quality or having an all-around lens with the ability to zoom? 

  3. What is my budget for gear? 

Once you determine what style or look you are going for, what you will be shooting and how much you have to spend, you will be ready to narrow down your lens selection and find one that works great for you! If you photograph products, food or take portraits, the 50mm fixed lenses mentioned above are an AWESOME addition to your camera bag, at a low price. Having that lower maximum aperture will change your photography! 

If you want MORE about understanding lenses, head to my article here about understanding lens selection!


Understanding a Full-Frame vs. a Cropped-Sensor Camera

Lately I have been asked a lot of questions about cameras, which one to buy and what the difference is between a full-frame camera vs. a crop-sensor camera. SO I decided to spell it out simply so you can understand the difference between cameras that have a full-frame sensor and a crop-frame sensor. 

On a full-frame camera (a camera with a full-frame sensor) this is referring to a sensor-size that is equal to 35mm film. In other words, the rectangular sensor that captures your image will record the same area as 35mm film will (roughly 24mm x 36mm). 

A cropped-sensor refers to any camera that has a smaller sensor than that of a full-frame camera. Most entry-level cameras have this cropped sensor. If you were to take the same photo with a full-frame camera, using the same lens from the same distance as a crop-frame camera, the cropped-frame camera would capture a smaller field of view; this means a smaller piece of the scene projected by your lens. The full-frame camera will get more of the edges of the same scene, or more 'real-estate'. 

You can see the difference in the example below. The image on the left was taken with a Canon 5D Mark III and the image on the right, a Nikon D7000. Both cameras had a 50mm lens, shot with an aperture of f/2.8 and were taken from the same spot (the same distance from the dog). 

Understanding the Difference Between a Full-Frame Sensor Camera vs. a Cropped-Sensor Camera -

Every cropped-sensor camera has a crop factor of either 1.3 x, 1.5x or 1.6x (the field of view gets smaller). This means your sensor will be a smaller version of a full-frame sensor. 

Let's take a look at what each option has to offer to figure out which one is right for you. 


A full frame sensor will give you better performance in low light scenarios, allowing you to have a better ISO performance at high ISO numbers. They also give you a little better image quality than a crop sensor. This is why they are considered "professional camera bodies" and most professional photographers pick full-frame cameras over cropped. Full-frame also allows a wider-angle of view which can be helpful for things like landscape or architectural photography. A full-frame DSLR will also give you a slightly more shallow depth-of-field than a crop sensor DSLR. 


  • Better low light performance

  • Shallower depth of field

  • Better dynamic range

  • Wider angle of view


Having a cropped sensor will lose that extra 'real-estate' in your photo. With a wide-angle lens on a crop-sensor camera, you won't get the widest field of view like you would with a full-frame camera. On the other hand, a crop-sensor DSLR paired with a telephoto lens will give you more distance from this smaller field of view. For example, if you have a 200mm lens on a crop-sensor camera, you apply the 1.5x crop factor to the lens (200 x 1.5 = 300). This would really get you 300mm focal length for the subject you are shooting, or in other words, FREE ZOOM! This can be very beneficial for shooting subjects that are far away, such as getting closer shots of an athlete in a sporting event or for wildlife photography. We'll talk more about the crop factor and lenses later on. 


  • More affordable

  • Wider range of lens selection

  • Increased focal length

  • Lighter and smaller 

For most people, the decision is based upon cost. Think about the advantages of both, how they apply to what you photograph and what your budget for photography is in order to make the best decision.

In my next post I will teach you how to understand the way lenses work with both full-frame and crop sensor cameras. This can be confusing to understand so hopefully I can make it more simple for you!


Best Beginner DSLR Cameras

It's November! Black Friday is approaching quickly, as well as Christmas. For a lot of people, this means thinking about upgrading or investing in a DSLR camera. It can be overwhelming sometimes to try and decide which DSLR camera to buy. Nikon and Canon are leading the industry, even though some companies such as Sony are quickly catching up. When it comes down to it, both Nikon and Canon have great technology, design and functions. Canon seems to be a little more popular as far as sales goes. You really can't go wrong with either brand, and if you are just starting out, you can almost close your eyes and point to one of their camera bodies from the last two years to present, and absolutely love it.

It is important to remember that camera bodies are remarkable now-a-days. Investing in a good lens is where you will notice the difference in image quality. Prime or fixed lenses have great glass and create sharper images than zoom lenses that have moving parts. Think about what kind of photography you plan to do in the future, and what kind of lens/lenses you might need to save up for to get you the best results. If you already have a lens or two from a certain brand, it would be smart to go with that brand. I highly recommend adding on a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens to begin with. These retail for around $100 with canon, $200 for nikon. This is an extremely affordable lens that can take great portrait, product and food shots. The low aperture on this lens will give you a more shallow depth of field that people love. Also think if family members or friends have gear you might want to share with; it would be beneficial to get the same brand as them. Most friends and family I know usually pick between Canon and Nikon, so my recommendations are based between these two brands.

Here is my guide for the best DSLR cameras for beginners. All of these are under $1,000.

Best DSLR Cameras for Beginners -

1. Nikon D3300 - Price $446.95 (with kit lens on amazon)

  • 24.2 Megapixel CMOS DX-format sensor

  • 5 frames per second

  • 11 Auto Focus points with 3D tracking

  • ISO 100-12800 +

  • 1080 HD video / 3" LCD screen

  • Easy panorama mode & a beginner friendly guide mode on camera

  • Wi-Fi enabled (send photos wirelessly to your phone or tablet)

With the built-in beginner guide (on screen instructions/descriptions of settings), superior image and video quality and access to hundreds of Nikon lenses at that kind of price - this is a great pick. This camera controls the noise/grain in photos taken at a higher ISO very well (find out why ISO directly relates to image quality in my previous post Understanding ISO). It is also light-weight and pretty small for those looking to lighten their load. 

2. Canon EOS Rebel SL1 - Price $499.00 (with kit lens on amazon)

  • 18 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor

  • 4 frames per second continuous shooting

  • 9 point Autofocus system

  • ISO 100-12800 + 

  • 1080 HD video

  • 3" touch panel LCD screen

  • Movie Servo AF (continuous focus tracking while recording video)

If you're searching for a smaller DSLR body, this is also great pick. This canon offers auto focusing while recording video which is awesome, and an improved live-view mode. 

3. Canon T5i - Price $649.00 (with kit lens on amazon)

  • 18 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor

  • 5 frames per second continuous shooting

  • 9 point Autofocus system

  • ISO 100-12800 +

  • 1080 HD video

  • 3" articulating touch panel LCD screen

  • Movie Servo AF (continuous focus tracking while recording video)

This is a great Canon if you're going to take photography further than just a basic first-step DSLR. There is a T6i out, but the battery life is weaker and it struggles to track movement (no AF in live view). I'm not sure the extra Megapixels would make the T6i worth the extra money. The T5i comes with an upgraded kit lens, which is well worth buying this model over the T4i (which had some issues with the grip, otherwise almost identical to the T5i). 

4. Nikon D5500 - Price $796.95 (with kit lens on amazon)

  • 24.2 Megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor

  • 39-point Autofocus system

  • 5 frames per second continuous shooting

  • ISO 100-25,600

  • High resolution, fully articulated 3.2" LCD touch screen

  • Wi-Fi (share images to phone/tablet wirelessly) 

The D5500 is comparable to the D3300 when it comes to image quality, but boasts some of the newer features such as the tilting LCD screen, a more expansive Autofocus system, longer battery life and Wi-Fi if those are important to you. It also has a better grip making it easier to hold. If you want to save a couple hundred bucks, check out the Nikon D5300. The D5500 is almost the same camera, it just basically adds the touch screen and a longer battery life. 

If you're hoping to save a little more on a DSLR, you can always look into the predecessors of some of these models or look into buying used gear. It can be a risk, but you can also luck out and get great deals from others wanting to upgrade. If you can't decide between the lower priced Nikon D3300 vs. the Canon SL1, I'd recommend the D3300. Not just because I'm a Nikon shooter :) read more about that comparison here.

If you're willing to spend a little more, I also love the Nikon D7000 (now just around $500 for the body) and the D7100 is the more expensive upgrade (around $800 for the body), with the newest model the D7200 (around $1100 for the body) if you are wanting a step closer to the professional DSLR cameras. All three of these are great options. The Canon 70D is also a great option on this level (around $1200 with an 18-55mm kit lens).

Feel free to visit my contact page if you have any further questions about which camera is right for you!

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