The most popular question I get asked is “What lens should I buy first?”. Most people purchase the camera as a kit. This means you buy the body and the kit lens that comes with it, normally a 18-55mm zoom lens. I recommend skipping the kit lens and buying the camera body only. This leaves the question, what lens should I buy first?
There are so many lenses on the market and it can be quiet daunting to shift through them all to figure out which one will help you achieve the look you want.
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What lens should I buy first?
I tell everyone the same thing my photography mentor told me, the 50mm 1.8. This lens does it all for an affordable cost.
I still remember the day I got my 50mm 1.8. I fell madly in love with it. I was pretty sure that all my images from this lens were frame worthy. What a difference in the image quality in this lens and my kit lens I had been using. I still love my 50mm but I have since upgraded to the 50mm 1.4. You can read more about the difference between the 50mm 1.8 vs 50mm 1.4 here.
I took this photo the first day I got my 50mm 1.8. What a difference I noticed right away in my images.
4 Reason Why You Should Get the 50mm 1.8 first
- No.01Blurry backgrounds.
Who doesn’t want those sharp photos of your subject with the cool blurry background? Lenses with a lower number aperture like f/1.8 will help you achieve that look. This is not to say a lens with a f/2.8 aperture will not also yield the same affect.
Yes, it’s around $125 now for this lens. And if you are like me, I almost fell over when I first found out the price. Why are lenses so expensive, I thought. Little did I know that now a normal conversation in my house is, can I get this lens? It’s ONLY $500? ha ha This lens is called the “nifty fifty” for a reason. It has a lot of bang for the buck.
- No.03Fixed aperture
This is one of the most important features when trying to learn manual mode. Nothing is more frustrating than when you get your settings correct and then you zoom a little on a variable lens. Once you zoom the aperture typically changes depending on your focal point and then your settings are messed up again. It’s a vicious cycle.
- No.04Focus on one part of the frame
I love being able to focus on one aspect of the image. Shooting with a lens that goes as wide as f/1.8 helps you achieve this look.
All the following images were taken with my 50mm 1.8.
Some people find that the 50mm 1.8 is too tight in small spaces. Remember this is a prime lens which means it does not zoom. The only focal length is 50mm. If you are worried about the 50mm being to tight then you may want to look into the 35mm 1.8. I never had this lens but I know several friends loved it. It is a bit more than the 50mm 1.8 so your budget may be a deciding factor as well. This lens has all the same features as the 50mm 1.8 but a different focal length.
If at all possible, I always suggest people go to their local camera store to see if they can play around with the lenses to see if they like the look and feel of the lens.
Keep in mind
If you shoot with a Nikon, the 50mm 1.8D will not auto focus on all cameras. Check out this post to find out if you need to purchase the 50mm 1.8D or 50mm 1.8G.
We did a whole series on lenses last year. Be sure to check it out!
Part 1: Understanding the writing on the lens
Part 2: What lens should I buy next?
Part 3: Our Favorite Lenses
Part 4: Lens on crop vs. full frame sensor
Part 5: Comparing different lenses
Part 6: 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4