Manic Mother and I get asked quite frequently what lenses we use, or what are the best lenses to buy, so we thought we would do a post on what we have learned so far about DSLR lenses. And believe me, we’ve spent lots of time drooling over researching the best DSLR lenses!
I know when I first started looking into buying lenses I was so overwhelmed! There are so many choices and so many brands.
Things to take into consideration when buying a lens:
Lenses come in different focal lengths. You can see this written on the the lens in terms of “mm” (millimeters). The “mm” number represents the length or distance from the front of the lens to the camera’s sensor.
This also means that depending on the focal length of the lens, your subject is going to need to be a certain distance from your lens in order for the lens to focus. The smaller the “mm” number (for instance, 28mm) the closer your subject can be to your lens. If there is a larger mm number your subject will have to be farther away in order for the lens to focus.
Low mm numbers (ie: 18mm or 24mm) = “WIDE” angle = less magnification of the object and a wider field of view
Middle mm numbers (ie: 50mm) = “NORMAL” angle = produces about the same image as the human eye would see with no magnification
High mm numbers (ie: 100mm or 300mm) = “TELEPHOTO” = longer focal length than normal, which produces greater magnification of the object and creates a narrower field of view
The aperture of the lens will also be written on the outside of the lens. If the lens is a zoom lens you will see something like this 1: 4 – 5.6. This number refers to the widest aperture available for that lens. The lens in the example above can be opened up to f/4 at the widest end but only f/5.6 at the longest end.
Generally speaking, you want to purchase a lens with the largest aperture (smallest number) possible. This will allow you to take pictures in low light situations without the use of a flash.
However you should be prepared, larger aperture lenses mean more glass in the lens, which means more dollars you will spend! They also tend to be heavier.
Other things to consider:
- Does the lens have image stabilization?
- Do you want a fixed focal length or a zoom lens?
- How much are you willing to invest?
- Does the lens have auto-focus?
Wide Angle Lenses
Most DSLR cameras come with what is called a “kit lens” (generally a 18-55mm lens). The kit lens tends to be of cheaper quality and comes with a cheaper price, but it can yield decent pictures, especially for the beginner. While I wouldn’t recommend buying this lens by itself, it’s definitely worth keeping it around once you’ve purchased the kit.
My 18-55mm is also known as a wide angle (zoom) lens. Wide angle lenses are great for capturing a whole landscape scene.
These 2 pictures were taken with my kit lens, at a focal length of 18mm.
This is the Canon kit lens (Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) that I have:
I also have Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8:
I bought this lens as a general use lens. It is the easiest lens for me to keep on my camera because it works with the majority of my photo needs. With this lens I don’t have to be really far away from my subject in order to get it to focus, nor do I need a lot of light.
* TIP: You do have to be careful with wide angle lenses, especially when doing portraits. They can distort peoples faces if not shot properly.
Fixed Length Lenses
Otherwise known as “prime” lenses. This means that the lens has one focal length, and there is no “zoom” to it. You are the zoom! (ie–you get to move closer or farther away from your subject).
I have a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 (I’ve actually got the metal mount, which is no longer available new). It is one of the cheapest and tried-and-true lenses you can own. I love the shallow depth of field I am able to obtain with it, as well as the bokeh.
This picture was taken with that lens:
I have found and read that usually prime lenses deliver crisper images than zoom lenses. Beware: it is a lot more work to be the zoom, especially when photographing young kids!
Telephoto lenses are great for when you want to to take pictures and not be seen! They are great for catching wildlife, weddings, sports, or when you don’t want your kids to know you are taking their picture.
I have the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L.
I took this picture with it on Sunday (one of my new favorites!):
I would love to upgrade to the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS but its just a tad expensive! It’s also heavy!
We could go on and on about lenses, but we just wanted to cover the basics in this post.
This weeks challenge is to make the most of a lens that you own. So if you have a wide angle lens, try a landscape shot. If you have a fixed lens with a large aperture, try a shallow depth of field picture. If you have a telephoto zoom lens, see what you can get a picture of in the wild. And then come back next Tuesday to show us what you’ve captured!
* Disclosure: Some of the links included in this post lead to affiliate Amazon listings. In other words, if you decide to buy something form Amazon through my links, you would be helping to feed my kids!
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