Well, this is kind of embarrassing. Shortly after buying my spiffy new Nikon... I dropped it and damaged the zoom lens. I was out on a bike ride with it in the handlebar bag of my touring bike, and stopped to take a picture of fall foliage. As I've done many times in the past, I kept one foot clipped into a pedal, and planted my other foot, before reaching for the camera. Somewhere in the process, the front wheel flopped to one side and the bike started to fall over, with me still clipped to the pedal. In the scramble that ensued, the camera slipped from my grasp and landed on the front edge of the lens. I checked it out afterwards, and the zoom no longer zoomed the full range, and the autofocus mechanism seemed wonky too. Sigh. At least it's likely to be covered by one of those extended warranties that covers damage from drops and such.
In the meantime though, since the camera body itself escaped damage, I decided to buy an additional lens, so I can continue to use it and learn about it, while the kit lens is in the shop. With so many options, and limited funds, I was in a quandary... so I turned to the internet and found no shortage of advice on such things. One really good site for solid advice is Ken Rockwell's website, which gives all kinds of tips on buying and using camera gear. From Ken and others, the impression I got was that a "prime" lens (fixed focal length, not a zoom) with a wide aperture would be a very handy thing to have. So I bought myself a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens, and I have to say I'm glad I did. Basically, the 35mm on my D3100 is the equivalent of the 50mm I used for years on my film SLR, a Pentax K1000, and I used that one lens for everything back when I used that camera regularly.
So how do I like it so far? I love it... it's a very nice, sharp lens, and allows me to take pictures in lower light than a zoom would, with the wide aperture. Another plus about an f/1/8 lens is that it gives you a lot of opportunity to play with "depth of field"... so I can take photos where the foreground is very sharp but everything else is fuzzy, or vice versa. And with the various levels of control the camera itself gives me, I can do some fun things with it. Finally, it's a very light and compact lens, so if I was concerned about carrying the lightest bundle of camera gear with me (assuming using this D3100), I'd probably grab just the 35mm lens. While I'll admit a zoom is very handy, there's also something pure and simple about one focal length... it forces you to really think about composition and how to position yourself for a shot.
So despite my mishap, I'm still having fun with my new camera, and getting a better handle on how to use it with each time I shoot.
Some photos with the "prime" lens can be seen here:
Nikon D3100 35mm f/1.8 lens first shots