The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your Next Camera Lens: Things to Consider for Your Next Lens Purchase
Right, so you’ve got a camera, and you’re itching to take your photography up a notch. The lens you choose can make a world of difference. This guide is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about buying a lens. From focal lengths to the ins and outs of zoom and prime lenses, we’ve got you covered. Stick around, and you’ll be a lens whizz in no time.
Why Should I Buy a Lens?
The Importance of the Lens Over the Camera Body
You might think that the camera body is the be-all and end-all, but let me tell you, the lens is where the magic happens. A good lens can make an average camera sing, while a poor lens can make even the fanciest camera look like a dud.
Expanding Your Photography Range
Getting a new lens isn’t just about replacing what you’ve got; it’s about expanding your creative horizons. Fancy capturing the minute details of a flower or the grandeur of a mountain range? Different lenses can help you do just that.
What is Focal Length Camera Lens Should I Buy and Why Does It Matter?
Explanation of Focal Length
Focal length, measured in millimetres, is basically the distance between the lens and the sensor when your subject is in focus. It’s a big deal because it determines how ‘zoomed in’ your photos will appear. Shorter focal lengths (like 18mm) give you a wider view, great for landscapes. Longer focal lengths (like 200mm) let you zoom in on distant objects, making them ideal for wildlife or sports photography.
How Focal Length Affects Your Photography
Understanding focal length is crucial for choosing the right lens for your needs. For instance, a 50mm lens is often considered a ‘standard’ lens, mimicking the field of view of the human eye. It’s versatile but won’t give you the intimate close-ups of a telephoto lens or the expansive views of a wide-angle lens. So, when you’re pondering which lens to buy next, think about the focal lengths you’ll use most often.
Type of Lens: Zoom Lens vs Prime Lens: Which Lens Should I Buy Next?
Pros and Cons of Each
Right, let’s talk about zoom lenses first. These chaps let you change focal lengths on the fly, going from wide to telephoto without swapping out the lens. Handy, right? But there’s a trade-off. Zoom lenses tend to have smaller maximum apertures, which can limit your low-light performance.
Now, prime lenses. These have a fixed focal length, meaning what you see is what you get. No zooming in or out here. But they often come with wider apertures, letting in more light and giving you that lovely blurred background, known as ‘depth of field’.
Scenarios Where Each Shines
If you’re into wildlife or sports photography, a zoom lens is your best mate. It lets you adapt to changing conditions without fumbling around changing lenses. On the other hand, if you’re into portraits or low-light photography, a prime lens with a wide aperture will serve you well.
So, when you’re scratching your head over which lens to buy next, consider what you’ll be shooting most. A zoom lens offers versatility, while a prime lens excels in specific scenarios.
Lens Type: Understanding Aperture: Wide vs Small
What is Aperture?
The aperture is the size of the opening in the lens through which light passes. It’s measured in f-stops, like f/1.8 or f/16. A smaller f-number means a wider aperture, letting in more light. A larger f-number means a smaller aperture, letting in less light but giving you a greater depth of field.
How Aperture Impacts Low-Light Photography and Depth of Field
If you’re shooting in low-light conditions, a lens with a wide aperture (small f-number) is your best friend. It allows more light to hit the sensor, reducing the need for slower shutter speeds or higher ISO settings, which can introduce noise into your photos.
On the flip side, if you’re shooting landscapes and want everything from the foreground to the background in sharp focus, you’ll want a smaller aperture (higher f-number). This gives you a greater depth of field, making sure all elements in your frame are in focus.
So, when you’re deciding which lens to buy next, consider the aperture range it offers. If you’re a night owl or love shooting in dim conditions, go for a lens with a wider maximum aperture. If you’re more into landscapes and architectural shots, a lens with a smaller maximum aperture will do the trick.
The Kit Lens: A Good Starting Point? Things to Consider
What is a Kit Lens?
A kit lens is usually the first lens you get when you buy a new camera, often bundled in as part of the deal. These lenses are generally versatile but not specialised, offering a moderate zoom range like 18-55mm. While they’re not going to win any awards for optical brilliance, they’re a decent starting point for beginners.
When to Move Beyond the Kit Lens
So you’ve been shooting with your kit lens for a while, and you’re starting to see its limitations. Maybe it struggles in low light, or perhaps you’re craving the creamy depth of field that a prime lens can offer. That’s when you know it’s time to move on.
If you find yourself constantly zooming in, you might want to consider a telephoto lens. If you’re always zooming out to capture as much of the scene as possible, a wide-angle lens could be your next move. The key is to identify what your kit lens can’t do and find a lens that fills that gap.
Telephoto Lenses Buying Guide: Capturing the Distant
What is a Telephoto Lens?
A telephoto lens has a long focal length, usually starting at around 70mm and going up into the hundreds. These lenses let you get up close and personal with subjects that are far away. They’re the go-to choice for wildlife photographers, sports enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to capture detail from a distance.
Best Uses: Wildlife, Sports, etc.
If you’re keen on capturing that elusive bird in flight or the expressions of footballers from across the pitch, a telephoto lens is what you need. These lenses are great for isolating subjects and bringing them into sharp focus while blurring out the background. However, keep in mind that telephoto lenses tend to be bulkier and may require a tripod to counteract camera shake.
So, if you’re wondering which lens to buy next and you have a penchant for distant subjects, a telephoto lens should be high on your list. Just remember, they’re not ideal for tight spaces or wide scenes, so they won’t replace your kit or wide-angle lens.
Wide-Angle Lenses: The Big Picture
What is a Wide-Angle Lens?
A wide-angle lens has a short focal length, usually less than 35mm, which allows you to capture more of the scene in your frame. These lenses are the opposite of telephoto lenses; they’re all about getting as much as possible into the shot rather than zooming in on specific details.
Best Uses: Landscapes, Architecture, etc.
If you’re the sort who loves capturing sweeping landscapes, grand buildings, or cramped interiors, then a wide-angle lens is your ticket. These lenses are fantastic for making spaces look even more expansive than they are. But be cautious; wide-angle lenses can distort features, making them look unnatural if you’re not careful.
So, if you’re pondering your next lens purchase and you find yourself yearning to capture the grandeur of a scene, a wide-angle lens could be just what the doctor ordered. They’re not great for close-ups or portraits, but for big scenes, they’re hard to beat.
The Normal Lens: One Lens To Use For Everyone?
What is a Normal Lens?
A normal lens, often around the 50mm mark for full-frame cameras, aims to replicate the field of view of the human eye. These lenses offer a natural perspective, neither compressing nor expanding the space in the frame. They’re often prime lenses, meaning they have a fixed focal length but usually boast a wide aperture.
Versatility and Limitations
The beauty of a normal lens is its versatility. It’s a fantastic all-rounder, equally capable of capturing portraits, landscapes, and everything in between. However, it’s not specialized, so while it can do many things well, it may not excel in any particular area. For example, it won’t give you the reach of a telephoto lens or the expansive view of a wide-angle lens.
So, if you’re pondering which lens to buy next and you want something versatile, a normal lens is a solid choice. It’s especially useful for beginners who are still exploring different styles of photography or for more experienced photographers looking for a “jack-of-all-trades” lens.
Full-Frame vs APS-C Cameras: Does It Matter?
Explanation of Sensor Sizes
In the world of digital cameras, you’ll often hear terms like “full-frame”, mirrorless camera and “APS-C” thrown around. These refer to the size of the camera’s sensor. A full-frame camera has a larger sensor, roughly the same size as a 35mm film frame. APS-C cameras have smaller sensors, which means they have a “crop factor” that effectively multiplies the focal length of your lens.
How It Impacts Lens Choice
The size of your camera’s sensor plays a big role in how a lens performs. On a full frame camera, a 50mm lens will give you a standard field of view. But slap that same lens on an APS-C camera, and due to the crop factor, it’ll behave more like an 80mm lens.
So, when you’re mulling over which lens to buy next, consider your camera’s sensor size. If you’re using an APS-C camera but plan to upgrade to full-frame in the future, you might want to invest in lenses that are compatible with both.
Macro Lenses: The Small World in Big Detail
What is a Macro Lens?
A macro lens lets you get up close and personal with your subject, capturing intricate details that you’d miss with other lenses. These lenses are perfect for photographing small objects like insects, flowers, or even the texture of fabrics.
When Would You Want a Macro Lens?
If you’re fascinated by the smaller things in life and want to capture them in all their glory, a macro lens should be on your shopping list. They’re not just for nature photographers; product photographers often use them to highlight features of items like jewellery or tech gadgets.
Third-Party Lenses: A Worthy Alternative?
What Are Third-Party Lenses?
Third-party lenses are made by companies other than the camera manufacturer. Brands like Sigma and Tamron offer a range of lenses compatible with camera systems from Canon, Sony, and others.
Should You Consider Third-Party Lenses?
If you’re on a budget or looking for a lens with specific features that the camera manufacturer doesn’t offer, third-party lenses can be a great option. Just make sure to check compatibility and read reviews to ensure you’re getting a quality lens.
DSLR vs Mirrorless: Does the Camera System Matter?
The DSLR Camera System
DSLRs, or Digital Single-Lens Reflex cameras, have been around for a while and offer a wide range of lens options. They’re known for their optical viewfinders and generally larger size.
The Mirrorless Camera System
Mirrorless cameras are the new kids on the block, offering the advantage of a smaller body and often more advanced tech. The lens options are growing, and adapters are available for using DSLR lenses on many mirrorless systems.
Which System for Which Lens?
Your choice of camera system can affect your lens options. While DSLRs offer a wide range of available lenses, mirrorless systems are catching up and often offer more compact lens options.
Buying Used Lenses: Yay or Nay?
What to Look For
Buying a used lens can be a bit like a treasure hunt. You can snag a great deal, but you’ve got to know what you’re looking for. Always check for signs of wear and tear, like scratches on the lens elements or a loose lens mount. If possible, give the lens a test run to make sure the autofocus and aperture rings are working smoothly.
Risks and Rewards
The upside of buying used is obvious: you can save a pretty penny. But there are risks involved. Unlike new lenses, used ones usually don’t come with warranties. Plus, if you’re not careful, you could end up with a lens that has issues like fungus or dust inside the elements, which can be a right pain to fix.
So, if you’re contemplating which lens to buy next and you’re on a budget, a used lens could be a viable option. Just be sure to do your homework and maybe bring along a more experienced mate when making the purchase.
The 70-200mm Lens: A Versatile Choice
What is a 70-200mm Lens?
The 70-200mm lens is a telephoto zoom lens that offers a range of focal lengths, making it incredibly versatile. It’s a favourite among sports and wildlife photographers but is also handy for portraits and events.
Why Choose a 70-200mm Lens?
If you’re looking for a lens that can do a bit of everything, the 70-200mm lens would be a great addition to your kit. It offers the flexibility to capture both close-up and distant subjects without needing to swap lenses.
Quality Over Quantity: Investing in the Best Glass
What Does ‘Best Glass’ Mean?
When photographers talk about the ‘best glass,’ they’re referring to high-quality lenses that offer superior optical performance. These lenses produce sharp, clear images with minimal distortion and are often built to last.
Why Invest in Quality?
While it might be tempting to buy a cheaper lens, investing in quality glass can make a significant difference in your photography. A quality lens will not only perform better but will also hold its value longer, making it a wise long-term investment.
Interchangeable Lens Cameras: The Freedom to Choose
What is an Interchangeable Lens Camera?
An interchangeable lens camera allows you to swap out lenses, giving you the flexibility to choose the best lens for each shooting scenario. This is in contrast to fixed-lens cameras, where you’re stuck with whatever lens is built into the camera.
If you have a DSLR of mirrorless system, you have interchangeable lenses
Why Go for an Interchangeable Lens System?
The ability to change lenses gives you creative freedom and the opportunity to expand your photography skills. Whether you’re shooting landscapes, portraits, or macro subjects, you can select the lens that best suits your needs.
The Right Lens for the Right Job
Matching Lens Types to Photography Styles
Choosing a lens isn’t just about the specs; it’s about what you love to shoot. If you’re into portraits, a fast prime lens with a wide aperture will help you capture stunning shots with beautiful background blur. If you’re a travel photographer, a versatile zoom lens might be your go-to, allowing you to capture everything from landscapes to close-ups without lugging around multiple lenses.
Consider Your Most Common Scenarios
Think about where you’ll be using your new lens the most. Will you be indoors or outdoors? Will you have the luxury of time to switch lenses, or do you need something versatile for quick changes? Answering these questions can guide you toward the right lens for your specific needs.
So, when you’re scratching your head over which lens to buy next, think about your style and what you love to shoot. There’s a lens for every job, and the right one can elevate your photography to new heights.
The Lens Mount Matters
What is a Lens Mount?
The lens mount is the interface where the lens attaches to the camera body. Different manufacturers have their own types of mounts, like Canon’s EF mount and Sony’s E-mount.
Why Lens Mounts Are Important
When you’re buying a new lens, it’s crucial to make sure it’s compatible with your camera’s lens mount. Some third-party lenses offer versions for multiple mounts, but always double-check to avoid any costly mistakes.
Canon currently have
Check you have the right one for your camera!
The Front of the Lens: Filters and More
What Goes on the Front?
The front of the lens is where you can attach various filters, like UV or polarising filters, to enhance your photography. Some lenses also have a focus ring at the front for manual focusing.
Why It Matters
The type of filters you can use and the ease of manual focusing can depend on the design of the front of the lens. Before buying, consider what additional accessories you might want to use and whether they’re compatible with the lens in question.
Most of my L Lenses have 77mm threads, so when looking for a lens, I’d err towards 77mm so I can use my existing filters
The Lens Barrel: More Than Just a Tube
What is the Lens Barrel?
The lens barrel is the body of the lens, housing the glass elements and often featuring controls like zoom and focus rings.
Quality and Features
A well-designed lens barrel will be sturdy and ergonomic, making the lens easier to handle. Some even come with features like weather sealing for outdoor photography. When choosing a lens, don’t overlook the quality and features of the lens barrel. Metal is stronger and robust, but heavy for travel…
The Ring on the Lens: Focus and Aperture Control
What is the Ring on the Lens?
Many lenses feature one or more rings on the barrel that allow you to manually adjust focus and sometimes aperture. These rings give you tactile control over your lens settings, offering a different experience than using camera buttons or dials. The new Canon R series lenses have a “control ring” which you can assign to any setting you like – handy for instantly accessing those deep dive menu items.
Why Manual Control Can Be Useful
While autofocus is handy, there are situations where manual focus is preferable. The focus ring allows for precise adjustments, especially useful in macro photography or when shooting video. Some lenses also feature an aperture ring, letting you change f-stops without taking your eye off the viewfinder.
Focusing Speed: USM vs Non-USM in Canon Lenses
What is USM?
USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor, a feature in many Canon lenses that allows for faster and quieter autofocus. If you’re shooting in situations where speed is of the essence, like sports or wildlife photography, a lens with USM can be a game-changer.
Not all Canon lenses come with USM, and these non-USM lenses generally have slower autofocus speeds. They can be more affordable and might be perfectly adequate for photography styles that don’t require rapid focusing, like landscape or still life.
Why Focusing Speed Matters
The speed at which a lens can focus can make or break a shot. If you’re capturing fast-moving subjects, a lens with quick focusing is essential. On the flip side, if you’re into more leisurely types of photography, you might not need the fastest focusing lens on the market.
Tilt-Shift Lenses: The Architects’ and Artists’ Dream
What is a Tilt-Shift Lens?
A tilt-shift lens allows you to control the plane of focus and correct perspective, features not found in your standard lenses. These lenses are often used in architectural photography to keep vertical lines straight, but they’re also popular for creating miniature or selective focus effects.
The 17mm, 24mm, and 90mm Variants
You’ve got three common focal lengths for tilt-shift lenses:
- 17mm: Ideal for wide-angle architectural shots where you need to capture a lot of the scene.
- 24mm: A bit narrower but still excellent for architecture and landscapes.
- 90mm: Great for product photography or any situation where you need a longer focal length with tilt-shift capabilities.
When to Use Tilt-Shift Lenses
If you’re into architectural photography or enjoy playing with selective focus, a tilt-shift lens can be a fantastic tool. They’re not the most versatile lenses out there, but for specific tasks, they’re unbeatable.
Conclusion: Your Guide to Buying the Right Lens
Bullet-Point Summary of Key Takeaways
- The lens often matters more than the camera body for image quality.
- Focal length is crucial for determining your field of view.
- Zoom lenses offer versatility but may compromise on aperture size.
- Prime lenses excel in specific scenarios and often have wider apertures.
- Kit lenses are a good starting point but have their limitations.
- Telephoto lenses are ideal for capturing distant subjects like wildlife and sports.
- Wide-angle lenses are great for landscapes and architecture.
- Sensor size impacts how a lens performs, so consider compatibility.
- Buying used lenses can save money but comes with risks.
- Always match the lens to your preferred style of photography.
And there we have it, a comprehensive guide to buying your next lens. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, I hope this guide has shed some light on the ins and outs of lens buying. Remember, the right lens can make all the difference, so choose wisely!