The first question someone might have after reading a title such as “The Best Multipurpose Lens for the Nikon D800″ is “who is this guy,” and “how can someone make such a broad recommendation?” First off, I don’t own a photography studio or have a room full of thousands of dollars worth of cameras and gear. Every piece of photographic equipment in my collection was obtained the hard way, by scrimping and saving for it over a long period of time. When I want to buy something that costs more than a couple hundred dollars, I ask a lot of questions, wait a while, and then ask some more before finally making a purchase. I am a semi-professional photographer with about thirty years of experience using film and digital. In the last 10 years or so I’ve used both Canon and Nikon DSLR’s, (A Canon 40D, Nikon D700 and more recently a Nikon D800.) I shoot nature photography, landscapes, occasionally sports and a few portraits. I have owned a Nikon D700 for couple years, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the early recipients of the new Nikon D800. It is far and away the best camera I’ve ever had the chance to use, although it’s so feature-rich that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by it, sort of like I felt when I first began learning how to sail a boat a few years ago. Although a good photographer can take great photos with almost any good quality SLR camera, the D800′s incredible 36.3 MP resolution and versatility make it the perfect camera for me. Anyway, I’m just a guy with a camera and an opinion on what might be the best overall “walking around” or multipurpose lens for the Nikon D800 camera.
I apologize for the “semi-deceptive” title, since there is really no one single best lens for the Nikon D 800 that will suit the needs of every photographer. I actually own three lenses that I use with my Nikon. Those lenses are a Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G prime lens, a Nikkor AF-S 28-300 f/3.5-5.6G ED VR and a Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR 2, that I sometimes use with a Nikon 1.7X teleconverter. The 50mm f/1.4 is the lens I use most for low light, indoor photography and the 70-200mm f/2.8 is my preferred choice for landscape and wildlife photography. The photo of the Javelina or collared peccary mother and baby was taken with the Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. (Hopefully I have not butchered any lens model numbers too badly, there are a lot of characters!)
OK, here it is, if I had to grab one lens that I was going to take on vacation or out on a long walking photo trip, and use it solely, I would have to say that the best choice for overall versatility would be the Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t miss the ability of the 50mm prime to take great indoor photos without a flash, or the 70-200mm f/2.8′s ability to use for action shots in lower light, or its ability to still take great daytime wildlife photos when teleconverted to a f/4.0 340mm. I know that real professional photographers will always have a bag of lenses available for every situation, but sometimes to get the shot that you want, you have to leave the goodie bag behind. My wife and I hiked around Chaco Culture National Historical Monument this past summer when it was well over 100°. Carrying enough water to stay hydrated, along with my camera, tripod and one lens proved to be all that I could manage.
Some may find that the Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR 2 lens’ counterpart, the Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED lens to be a better choice. This lens is on my Christmas wish list. (Yes I know that it’s April.) This is a very nice lens, but since I would invariably come across something that I needed to zoom in on when taking my “one lens walking photo safari”, I would miss the 300mm capability. That being said, this is my next lens and she WILL be mine!
I would have say that in my humble opinion, for those just getting the camera and whose credit card is already maxed out after the $3,000 price tag of the D800, the overall best lens for the Nikon D800 in terms of versatility would be the Nikkor 28-300 AF-S f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR. Unfortunately this lens is in such high demand that is on back-order at most photo sites and camera shops. According to one local camera shop in Austin, Texas that I spoke to, the single biggest reason that this lens is currently hard-to-find is that so many new Nikon D800 buyers are pairing this lens with that particular camera. Hopefully Nikon will step up production and shipping to solve this problem.
The Nikkor 28-300 AF-S f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR can take decent low light photos when hand held, if you bump up the ISO, as I did in this one of ducks on a high line wire in the early morning.
Thanks for reading my article. I hope it was useful. Nolan Hart