Jason answers your special Christmas queries, such as which beginner D-SLR to buy
I’m planning on buying my first Nikon SLR but can’t decide between the D3400 and D5500. Which would you recommend for a beginner? Tim Jeffries, via email
Jason says... The recently launched D3400 (£409/$498 with 18-55mm kit lens) is very beginner-friendly, not least because – like the D3300 – it boasts an interactive Guide mode to help you learn. But apart from the addition of Bluetooth, not much has changed from the D3300, which has the same image sensor and processor, and is currently £70 cheaper (in the UK) when bought with the same kit lens. The D5500 is more advanced, but despite not having a Guide mode, it’s arguably more intuitive to use, and its pivoting screen is a real boon when it comes to adjusting settings and menu options. For our money, it’s a better buy.
Is there something I could buy to help get more accurate white balance when mixing indoor lighting with daylight coming through windows? George Battle, via email Jason says...
This is a really common situation at Christmas time. Try the Lastolite 30cm EzyBalance Grey/White Card (£20/$33). It works really well for creating a custom white balance setting and folds up really small.
My partner has offered to buy me a portrait lens for Christmas, for taking photos of our kids. What’s the best value option to use with a D3200? Kate Larkin, via email Jason says...
A so-called ‘nifty fifty’ fast 50mm lens with a wide maximum aperture would be great. This gives an effective focal length of 75mm on your D3200 and other DX format Nikon bodies, which is ideal for portraiture, while also enabling you to blur the background with a tight depth of field. The Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G is a cracking lens but quite pricey, with current market prices from about £350/$450. We’d go for the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G, at around £170/$215. It’s two-thirds of an f/stop slower, but the minimum depth of field is nearly as tight. Avoid the older and cheaper D-type Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D lens – it won’t autofocus on your D3200.
Should I stick with an own-brand Nikon flashgun or buy one from an independent supplier for my D7200? Steve Harper, via email
Jason says... For high-end performance at a reasonable price, the Nikon SB-700 (£239/$327) is an excellent buy. It has a full range of wireless master/ slave functions built in, for shooting with off-camera flash. It also comes with a useful set of accessories, including a carrying pouch, freestanding foot, diffusion dome and colour filters for matching tungsten and fluorescent lighting.
However, there’s no reason why you have to stick with a Nikon flashgun. One of our current favourites, the Metz Mecablitz 64 AF-1 (£310/ $480), is a fabulous flash that adds a secondary flash tube for fill-light in bounce mode, a programmable multi-burst (repeat) mode, and a colour touchscreen. Or if you’d rather keep your outlay to a minimum, the Metz 36 AF-5 (£75/$140) is exceptional value for money.
I want to extend the telephoto reach of my D5500. Should I replace the kit lens with a Nikon 18-300mm, or buy an additional telephoto lens? Harry Kramer, via email
Jason says... Superzoom lenses enable you to stretch from wide-angle to telephoto without an additional lens, but they’re relatively big and heavy. Image quality from superzoom lenses generally suffers from increased colour fringing, distortion and edge softness, too.
We’d supplement the kit lens with a telephoto zoom. The new DX-format Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 VR (£349/$397) has the same style of stepping motor autofocus system as your kit lens, so autofocus is fast, quiet and smooth. The Nikon AF-S 70300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR (£429/$497) is a great conventional telephoto zoom, and it’s full-frame compatible.
With numerous additional features and custom functions, the D5500 is more able to keep pace with you as you learn new skills and techniques
The Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is conveniently small and lightweight, yet delivers good image quality for portraiture
At around £310/$480, the Metz 64 AF-1 is pricier than the Nikon SB-700 but it’s sensational, with all the features you could wish for
The reasonably lightweight new DX-format AF-P 70-300mm VR telephoto zoom is an excellent match for the D5500 body