How to Choose a Digital SLR Camera Lens

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how to choose a dslr lens

"Canon Rules" captured by Tareq AlObaid (Click Image to See More From Tareq AlObaid)

When it comes to DSLR photography sometimes things can get a little complicated, this is especially true when it comes to making the first purchase after your kit lens. Do you choose a zoom lens, a wide angle lens, a prime lens or even a fixed aperture lens? Well don’t worry yourself to much because this article is here to help you.

Zoom Vs Prime

A zoom lens will allow the photographer to zoom which isn’t to surprising. The advantage of a zoom lens is the ability to zoom in and out on your subject to create the perfect composition. Zoom lenses are favored by most photographers because of this function, however zoom lenses usually have higher f-stops than prime lenses, and this means that they usually leave less light into a photo which will affect the shutter speed being used.

A prime lens on the other hand doesn’t allow you to zoom at all, your limited to one focal length. You may think this sounds rubbish, however there are many advantages to using a prime lens over a zoom. First of all prime lenses usually have lower aperture values and some of them go right down to f1.2 this means that a lot of light can enter the camera lens this is especially useful for low light situations.

Fixed aperture or non fixed

The f stop numbers were briefly discussed above, but just in case you didn’t understand let me explain in a little more detail. The lower the F-stop the more light can get into your camera while the higher the f stop the least amount of light can enter, both ranges have their uses.

Some lenses for example the canon 70-200mm 2.8 has a fixed value of 2.8 through its entire zoom range, this means that a constant aperture can be achieved through out. This is very useful when shooting studio photography for the simple reason that the aperture controls the power of the flash, if the aperture of the lens was to change for example the canon 18-55mm 3.5 to 5.6 then the strength of the flash would constantly change giving you inconsistent results. If you can afford a lens with a constant aperture get it.

Image Stabilization

Some lenses and some camera bodies such as the Sony Alpha A350 have built in image stabilization. Image stabilization allows you to a certain degree to shoot at lower shutter speeds without motion blur. Image Stabilization is useful in certain situations but it can also be a waste of money. If your shooting fast moving images then chances are you won’t need image stabilization, the same applies if you use a tripod.

Different focal lengths

There are also focal lengths that you will need to take into account when purchasing a new lens. If you shoot nightclub photography or wildlife photography then chances are you will need something wider than 50mm. So below I will explain the best type of lens for different situations.

Wide angle lenses

As discussed above wide angle lenses are mostly used for landscape photography but they can also be used for nightclub photography where there’s not too much room to move around. If money is no object then the Canon 16-35mm 2.8 lens is an excellent choice which retails for around £1200. However if money is an object then the Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 lens is an excellent alternative. The Tamron lacks the build quality of the canon and also the autofocus speed, however I personally own this lens and the image quality is excellent. The Tamron can be picked up online for around £300-£400.

Medium Range lenses

A medium range is not too short and not too long; it’s in the middle, hence the name medium. Medium range lenses are excellent for portraits, model shoots and even wedding photography. The best lens in this range is the Canon 24-70 2.8 which is a favorite lens among many professional photographers. The canon 24-70 is an excellent lens that has an excellent build quality, however the lens is very heavy and is very expensive, however if your thinking of shooting weddings then this is a must have bit of kit.

An excellent alternative is the sigma 24-70 2.8. The sigma offers the same focal length while being a lot cheaper. The image quality one again on the sigma is excellent, however some owners have experienced focusing problems, this can be fixed by sigma but it is worth mentioning just in case you do get this lens.

Telephoto Zooms

If you’re looking to shoot wildlife, sports or even glamour photography then a telephoto lens is something you will want to invest in. Generally these types of lenses are very expensive but when we are talking about photography most things are. If money is no object then you will want to get the canon 70-200mm 2.8 telephoto lens.

The canon 70-200 2.8 is an expensive lens used by most pro photographers, it offers an impressive autofocus system and excellent build quality but once again this lens is pretty heavy. If you don’t need the quickness of the 2.8 then you could go for the canon 70-200mm f4 lens. This lens isn’t as heavy and creates sharper images in my opinion than the 2.8.

If both of the above lenses are too expensive then a good alternative is the sigma 70-200 2.8 lens, it’s a fast lens with excellent image quality and is more affordable than the above two lenses.

Other lenses

There are many other types of lenses which include macro, tilt and shift, fish eye and many more; however as a beginner you will more than likely only be interested in the lens types mentioned above.

Choosing your lens

Overall choosing a lens doesn’t have to be a difficult experience. To help you choose simply think of what you will be using your camera for, will it be for wildlife pictures, sports, portraits or even close up photography, and this can then help you choose the required lens. If you can afford a fixed aperture lens then go for it, I would also recommend getting the lowest aperture that you can afford, not only will this leave in more light but it will also give your images the blurry background effect that you see on most professional photographs.

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3 Comments

  1. Ben says:

    I was excited to read your article, but I wish you had put the Nikon equivalent in you examples of must-have lenses.

  2. Ashraf says:

    Good information, but I would like to know if these can be apply to both Full Frame & APS-C format?

  3. bobbyjoseph says:

    Its great informations, I am expecting more from you in the future… thank you very much..and keep continuing..

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