I recently posted an article discussing the dilemma many new photographers have – purchasing a new camera or better lenses. In many cases, the better choice is to keep your camera and look into upgrading your lenses. Adding new lenses to your kit is a long-term investment and one that will give rewards in better quality photographs for years to come. I also discussed 35mm or 50mm lenses in an earlier article. These basic prime lenses are not an expensive investment and provide a huge leap in the ability to shoot in low-light situations. What lens to buy next?
Most amateur photographers jump into the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) realm with a camera-kit purchase. A kit is a great ways to start into DSLR photography. You have a good entry-level DSLR camera and generally an 18-55mm F/4.5 or a variation of this lens. If your next purchase is a good quality 35mm or 50mm prime lens, you have greatly increased your camera’s capabilities to capture family events and these are also great “walking around” lenses. I loaned a 35mm lens to a friend recently and his comment was that he had to zoom with his shoes and it caused him to consider the composition a little more since he couldn’t just twist the lens and zoom. This is one of the side benefits of a prime lens – you need to think more when composing the shot. The result is better photographs, but more importantly, a better photographer.
What lens to buy next?
That depends on how you use your camera. Do you want to take photos of your kids at sports events? Do you want to take photos of birds in your back yard? Do you want to capture Yosemite Valley from the ridge? Once you think about what you want to do with your camera, you can start to build your lens collection that meets your needs. For me to tell you that you must have an 85mm, a 60mm Macro and a 70-300mm zoom in your bag is crazy. How do I know how you want to use your camera.
Most people buy a DSLR to give them the ability to change lenses, and a zoom lens is a primary reason for this. There are two focal length zoom lenses you want to look at. Both Canon and Nikon offer lenses in the 55-250mm (Canon) / 55-200mm (Nikon) and the 70-300mm (Both) ranges. I shoot Nikon, and have used both the 55-200mm and the 70-300mm lenses and like both of them – for different reasons.
These are great starting points for adding in zoom capabilities to your camera. At the lower price points, what you give up is lens speed. The lenses I’m covering here have a maximum f/stop of f/4.5 at the 55mm end and it goes up to about f/5.6 at the 200-300mm end. These lenses start in the $150 dollar range and go up if you add in the vibration reduction systems. Adorama has refurbished Nikon lenses in stock from time to time – often a great buy. We will buy refurbished equipment. Both Canon and Nikon make excellent 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses, but the price is in the $2,000 plus range and designed for portrait and wedding photographers.
The 55-200/250mm lenses will give you a good reach with your camera, allowing you to bring your subject in closer and still capture the action. I have used this range to shoot many baseball games with good results. This is the lens I took on an African Safari and had some amazing photos from the trip. These lenses also are lighter and more compact than the 70-300mm lenses. Do not under-estimate this factor. When I put the 70-300mm on a camera body, the weight and size of the camera almost triples. The newer versions of these 55-200/250mm lenses have vibration reduction systems that helps to compensate for the normal movement of the photographer when shooting with longer lenses. These systems make a difference and allow you to shoot a slower shutter speeds. Nikon still offers this lens without the vibration reduction at a lower price-point.
The 70-300mm lenses provide more reach and with the great vibration reduction systems installed in the newer versions, allows you to capture some amazing images. This lens has replaced the 55-200mm in my bag. It weighs more and is much larger, but, the trade-off in capability is worth it to me. I enjoy shooting with it and use it quite a bit.
What lens to buy next? I hope you think about how you use your camera before you go buy a lens recommended by a friend or blog. A good lens is an investment that can move with you if you decide to later upgrade your camera body. One of these zoom lenses may be a good addition to your camera bag.
Where to buy?
We purchase most of our lenses from Adorama, if you decide to purchase one, please consider using the links below as it helps us to fund this blog.
Have you used any of these lenses? What are your thoughts?