It can be overwhelming when you don’t know where to start. One of the things I wish I had known when I first started out in photography is: how to say no to the kit lens.
Chances are, when you buy your first SLR, you don’t necessarily know which lens you want or need. So it’s very easy to fall into the “kit lens trap”. It means that some retailers will sell the camera body combined with a zoom lens and that lens comes at a reduced price. The rookie believes they’re getting a bargain and that the lens must be optimal as per the retailer’s recommendation.
Ask yourself some questions: Is the lens simply for taking pictures when out and about with the family and for holidays? Then the kit lens may be just right for your purpose. Do you want to become a portrait or wedding photographer? In which case you may consider a fixed focal lens.
Once you know what style of photography you want to pursue, you can start deciding. A good resource are other photographers whose style you like. It is one of the most commonly questions asked and a lot of photographers have a blog post dedicated to their gear. Go to their site and use the search function. If you can’t find any information, don’t be afraid to ask. You might be the 127th person to pose this question and prompt them to write that blog post if they haven’t already 😉
Having worked with various lenses over the past few years, I have come to prefer fixed focal over zoom. Why, you ask?
- prime lenses offer large apertures such as 1.2 and 1.4 which are great for low light situations. This means low ISO and therefore less noise in your images.
- depth of field. Ever wonder about that beautiful background blur created in images, making the subject stand out? The larger the aperture, the more shallow becomes the depth of field.
- sharper images. It’s surprising but the Canon 50mm 1.8 which is available for under £100, creates sharper images than the 24-70mm 2.8 for £1000.
Let’s say you like the look of images created with the 50mm focal range. This particular one has three models: 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8. Look at your budget and then rent the lens you contemplate buying to see how it fits your style. For more in depth information about each lens, check out The Digital Picture. That site is my gear bible, I consult it each time before I buy a new body or lens.
My current lineup:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM – my bff, I could do an entire shoot with just this lens.
Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM – the perfect portrait lens. So much glass. Beautiful background blur.
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM – together we take dreamy details shots and since I use it on my crop sensor body, it’s effectively a 95mm.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM – such a cool wide angle lens though I very rarely use it.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II – built from plastic, I call it my toy lens. It’s perfect for light travel.
Wishlist: Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM – this will make my
life lineup complete.
Have fun, building your lens collection! Disclaimer: it’s terribly addictive 😉