From general purpose lenses to telephoto zoom lenses, the type of lens you use on your camera will have a huge effect on how your photos look. In fact, the lens your camera is equipped with generally has a gar bigger effect than the camera itself.
In this guide, we’ll cover the three most important lenses for digital photographers that would like to expand their photographic capabilities. Read on for camera lens reviews and recommendations that will lead to stunning, incredible photos.
Before we begin, it’s important to have a DSLR camera and a basic knowledge of photography. Enroll in our EasyDSLR Digital Photography Course for Beginners, which teaches the fundamentals of digital photography, before you get started.
The all-purpose lens: 18-55mm
Have you just bought your first DSLR camera? If you bought the camera and lens together, you probably have an 18-55mm lens already. This is a great lens for all-purpose photography, from portraits and macro shots to incredible landscapes.
Think of the 11-55mm lens as your all-purpose tool – it’s the lens you should pick when you’re not sure which other lens to use. It’s also the lens you should use for general photography; after all, it’s suitable for everything from fashion to travel.
The kit lens included with most DSLR cameras is more than enough for beginner photography. However, once you get more advanced, you might want to upgrade your 18-55mm lens for additional clarity and more focused, sharp photos.
Which all-purpose lens is best? If you use a Canon digital SLR, the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is a great choice. For larger-sensor cameras, the EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II USM is a fantastic choice for crisp, clear, and beautiful all-purpose photography.
If you use a Nikon camera, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX lens is an excellent choice for all-purpose photography. Learn more about Nikon’s product range in our blog post on the Nikon DSLR lineup.
Do you want to master all-purpose photography with your DSLR camera? Enroll in our course, Become a Better Photographer – Part 1, to learn the basics of shooting amazing photos with your DSLR camera in manual mode.
The telephoto zoom lens: up to 300mm
Enter the telephoto zoom lens. The standard kit lens included with most DSLRs will provide a maximum 55mm focal length. In contrast, most telephoto zoom lenses are designed to provide a focal length of 200mm or more.
Most telephoto zoom lenses are fairly affordable, since they’re the most popular lens most photographers purchase, aside from their 18-55mm kit lens. Canon and Nikon, the two largest DSLR camera brands, both offer telephoto lenses for under $250.
Do you use a Canon DSLR camera? Good telephoto lenses for beginners include the EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II, which fits on all EF-S cameras, and the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III, which is ideal for owners of Canon EF series DSLR cameras.
Do you use a Nikon DSLR camera? Good choices include the 70-300mm f4-5.6G AF Nikkor lens, which offers a focal length of up to 300mm. Another excellent choice is the 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR lens, which offers vibration reduction.
Want to improve your digital photography and become an expert? Enroll in Become a Better Photographer – Part II to learn how to improve your photography using the exposure options on your camera, photo editing software, and more.
The ‘normal’ lens: 50mm f/1.8
Think your kit lens is normal? Not quite. There’s only one camera lens that’s normal, at least by historical standards: the 50mm f/1.8. This lens is known as a normal lens because it became the photographic standard back in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Some photographers call the normal lens a portrait lens. This is because it’s the ideal lens for shooting portraits of individuals and groups. The 50mm f/1.8 lens offers the most realistic, natural look of any type of lens available for modern DSLR cameras.
Since the 50mm f/1.8 lens isn’t adjustable, it’s a quick lens that you can use for any occasion. It’s suitable for use in low light, and with a wide enough aperture, it’s the perfect choice for taking detailed yet artistic photos of faces and human figures.
Think of the 50mm f/1.8 lens as your go-to lens for shooting people, especially in an outdoor setting. The 18-55mm lens is ideal for general photography, and a telephoto lens is perfect for long-range shots, but the 50mm f/1.8 is perfect for personal snaps.
Do you use a Canon DSLR camera? The EF 50mm f/1.8 II is the perfect camera lens for snapping sharp, stylish, perfectly focused portrait shots. This versatile lens can focus as close to 18 inches from your target, whether it’s a face or a product shot.
Do you use a Nikon DSLR camera? Try the 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor lens, which has auto-focus for simple shooting. Compatible with Nikon FX and DX cameras, it’s one of the most affordable choices on the market for shooting crisp portrait photos.
Want to learn how to shoot amazing portrait photos? Enroll in our course, Portrait Photography with Simple Gear, to master the art of portrait photography with your DSLR camera, some basic lighting equipment, and intermediate photography skills.
Getting the most from your lenses
There’s a saying among photographers: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” All three of the lenses above can take stunning photographs, but only if they are used in the right situations.
Keep your 18-55mm lens on your DSLR camera most of the time, since it’s the best lens of all for general photography. While it excels at nothing, it’s versatile enough for shooting portraits, landscapes, products, and much more.
As you become more comfortable with your camera, start to use your other lenses when the right situation arises. When you’re going hiking, bring a wide angle lens with you; when you’re at the stadium, make sure you pack your telephoto lens.
Learn more about using the right lens for the occasion and taking amazing photos with your DSLR camera by enrolling in our course, Amazing Photography Secrets.