D800 Email question

For the past four weeks I’ve been on the road, traveling in parts of the world where there has either not been any Internet connection at all, or only a dialup connection which was so slow and flaky that I could barely check for email, let alone post to this blog.  Yes, to all you digitally connected and addicted people, there really are many such locations around this planet.

Now I’m home for a short while, and in the backlog of emails I’ve discovered several (five, to be precise) almost identical messages.  Let me quote part of one:

I’m going to purchase a Nikon D800E.  What lens should I buy?  I want to purchase the best all-around lens.

Wow!  I would stongly suggest that if you have to ask that question about a lens, you should definitely first think twice about the camera purchase.  The D800/800E bodies are, in my opinion, specialized cameras for specialized applications.  They are not general purpose bodies.  Why do you need so many megapixels?  Tell me the truth, do you really make large prints?  How large and how often?  Do you always use a tripod?  Do you own a tripod?  Are you shooting RAW?  Or do you primarily post images to the Web, where a “large” image is around 800 pixels in the long dimension?  Before you purchase the camera body, you need to define exactly why that particular body, of all cameras, is the best choice for you.  What are your criteria?  Specifically, how will a D800 make you a better photographer?

Asking me what lens to buy is a pointless question.  How am I supposed to know what subjects you want to photograph, what your budget is, what lenses you already own (or if you indeed do already own any lenses)?  And I have no idea what an “all-around lens” is, let along which one is the best.  The best lens for wildlife is certainly not the best lens for architecture, while the best lens for architecture is probably not the best lens for portraiture, and the best lens for portraiture is most likely not the best lens for macro work.  Actually only one lens fits the “best all-around” bill, the mythical Nikon 15-600mm f/2.8 eight stop VR, macro focusing, levitating, voice activated, postitive AF…you know, the one with a $5 list price.  Oh, wait a moment, I just heard it was being replaced with an improved 12-800mm version which will be free.  Yeah, right.


  1. James Doyle November 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Well said John!!!! It is amazing how many people just want the latest and greatest equipment but don’t want to learn the craft of photography first and then wonder why their photos never get any better.


  2. Kuryan Thomas November 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    I believe too many folks are attracted to photography as a hobby (as opposed to a profession) by the gadgetry. As an amateur, when I shoot in the field, I’m often approached by other amateurs – who rarely want to discuss the light, or share interesting subjects in the vicinity. It’s all about the lens, the body, or sometimes even the tripod head.

  3. Mehran November 12, 2012 at 4:25 am #

    you’re funny and smart, john! i’ve enjoyed every single one of your books and i’m really happy that you’ve started to blog.

    i wish you’d write some kind of memoir. or maybe Sontag-esque essays on photography and life. i’ve read probably all the interviews with you that i’ve seen posted, but only in one of them did i find a hint of past existential anguish. the one where you talk [paraphrasing here] about almost becoming an academic intellectual but in an instant of despair you decided you had to pursue art with all your soul. that was a beautiful line that i think resonates with a lot of young artists today who doubt if they can “make it”

  4. Dave Spindle November 12, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    That 12-800 lens sounds great. I think I’ll wait for the 10-800 and hope the price comes down to $4.

  5. Jay Gosdin November 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    To answer the question of what is the best overall one lense to carry for a D800/E, one can simply look at John’s own lenses. He owns the Nikon 24-120f4 lense. I think John would admit this “walking around lense” is what most people would consider the best one lense!

  6. Leonardo January 19, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    Hahaha, great. This is an answer suitable for… well, many, many, many “want-to-be-a-photographer”.
    John, what about the next 6(fisheye)-1000 that will hit the market in the next future? Lol.
    You’re the top 😉

  7. Zelph February 6, 2013 at 4:54 am #

    Why not a Panasonic DMC Fz200. A 25-600mm f/2.8 lens (equivalent)
    I refer folks to this when they aren’t sure but want pictures of their kids playing sports. Surprisingly good camera for them and the f/2.8 aperture stays constant all the way out to 600 tele setting.