Camera Lens Buying Guide

By: Cheryl Lynne Azarraga

If you’re a noob photographer, chances are you’re quite confused about when to use which lens, and what types you should even have in your camera bag. DSLR cameras have a wide range of lenses. There are zoom lenses, fisheye, primes, macro, telephoto, tilt-shift and some more. 

To start to figure out which one is right for you, you need to determine what you want to shoot. Is it sports? Wildlife? Portraits? Landscape? Architecture? Pay attention to the range of distance between you and the subject.

Next is to figure out your budget. The cost of the lens depends on several factors. Less expensive lenses will generally have variable apertures, meaning as you zoom, the maximum aperture gets smaller. More expensive lenses have a fixed aperture.

The good news is that all major camera and lens manufacturers offer a variety of focal lengths to satisfy most budgets.

Here’s a list of basic lenses for your photography needs:

1. Prime lens

Primes have a fixed lens focal length, making them faster and sharper. Prime lenses force you to be more creative with your composition and exposure. While prime lenses are less flexible due to the fixed focal length, they are also fast and lightweight, making them the perfect lens for travel. 


2. Zoom lens

Zoom lenses cover a wide range of focal lengths and allow you to adjust that focal length within a specific range. You can change the angle of view and make it narrower (zoom in), or wider (zoom out). What we love about the zoom lens is that it’s very handy. You don’t have to carry a lot of prime lenses, which is perfect when you’re traveling and have limited space.


3. Telephoto lens

Telephoto lenses are a type of zoom lens with multiple focal points as it is used for focusing on distant objects. It’s perfect for isolating a subject that’s far away. Many sports photographers use telephoto lenses to provide a sense of intimacy with players on the field while standing on the sidelines or in the bleachers. Some models of telephoto lenses can be large, heavy, and expensive, so take some time in choosing the right one for your kit. 


4. Wide angle lens. 

Wide angle lenses are best for landscape photography, street photography or anything that requires the photographer to include more background information in the resulting image.

With wide angle lenses, almost everything is in focus, unless your subject is very close to the lens. It also allows the camera to capture much more of the scene than a “normal” lens can.


5. Standard lens

Standard lenses are what most photographers call “the normal lens.” These lenses make great all-purpose lenses. They can be used to photograph anything from portraits to landscape, street photography, and product photography. It’s perfect for a beginner. Their focal lengths fall somewhere in the middle, usually between 35mm and 85mm. The scenes that you capture with a standard lens will feel the most life-like to the viewer.


6. Fisheye lens

Fisheye lenses have a very short focal length. This gives them an extremely wide viewing angle, which means that the image becomes exceptionally wide, wider than is actually possible for the human eye, hence why it is called the “fisheye.” It distorts the edges of the captured image, making the photo spherical. Everything that's close by becomes super large and everything in the distance becomes very small.

There’s no denying that getting into photography can seem a bit daunting. A common challenge for any photographer starting to build their kit is affordability. You simply can’t buy all of these lenses at once (unless you can), but more importantly you need proper time with each one to really learn how to use it. No matter which purpose you choose your lens for, make sure to take your time to master it. Being good at one is better than messing around with a bunch. 

To get started on building your arsenal today, steer your viewfinder here:

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