with Courtney Slazinik
Everything You Want to Know About Camera Lenses: Part 2-What Lens Should I Buy?

As we are learning all about lenses this month on Click It Up A Notch, hopefully you can make more informed decisions on which ones best suit your needs. For those of you who want someone to tell you straight up what lens to buy, this post is for you!

What lens to buy?

Before I get to the list of favorite and most popular lenses, I wanted to share with you a little about my journey with lenses. Keep in mind that I am a Canon shooter, so the lenses I will discuss are Canon. However, I have listed both Canon and Nikon lenses on the favorites list. Also, I shoot mainly portraits, events, and food, so my recommendations of what lens to buy are based on lenses for those types of photography.

Moving Beyond the kit lens

When I got my first dslr camera it came with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. After feeling unsatisfied and doing research, I discovered variable aperture lenses are generally of lower quality than fixed aperture lenses. They are fine for beginners and casual amateurs, but as my photography skills were improving I wanted a more sophisticated lens. After asking other photographers a lot of questions, I learned what it meant to have a “fast” lens. Check out Laurie’s post, Understanding the writing on the lens, for more on variable aperture and fast lenses. Since I was shooting a lot indoors and in low light, as well as portraits where I wanted to isolate the subject from the background, I knew I needed faster lenses.

Prime vs. Zoom

My next consideration was whether I should get a prime lens (fixed focal length) and/or a zoom lens. Generally, you are going to get the very best optical quality and sharpness in a prime lens. The greatest value to me personally with a prime is the nice background blur and less distortion for shooting portraits, products or food.

A good place to start when choosing your first prime lens is with one of the “nifty fifty’s” (50mm lenses). I have the Canon 50mm f1.4 lens and it captures stunning portraits! The low aperture creates the shallow depth of field that makes your subject pop off the page and softens skin nicely too. The f/1.4 also comes in handy when you have little available light to work with.

Before I owned the f/1.4 version, I started out by purchasing the super affordable Canon 50mm f/1.8. It was actually a nice, sharp lens for the $119 price! If you are on a budget and want to experiment with a 50mm lens, I would start with the f/1.8, then upgrade later once you decide whether or not you like the 50mm focal length. To keep you smiling…a shot taken with my 50mm of my son getting caught red-handed cutting barbie’s hair.

Courtney will do a detailed post in a few weeks comparing two different versions of the 50mm lens. Also, check out her previous post on comparing the 20mm, the 35mm, and the 50mm primes for further insight.

The trade off with a prime is obviously that you have to do the footwork closer or further from your subject, rather than conveniently zooming in and out.  And you may miss out on that shot-of-a-lifetime if you can’t zoom to the proper focal length to capture it!

There are some excellent zooms out there too, like the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L that I own. It’s extremely popular among professionals as an “essential” lens to own.  It’s considered a wide-angle lens, so it’s great in tight spaces, when shooting large groups, or for architecture and interiors.  I have this lens on my camera 90% of the time because it’s a multipurpose, every day lens with superb image quality. The f/2.8 capabilities coupled with the convenient zoom range make it a very desirable lens for various types of photography.

Here’s a shot I took with my 24-70 this week of my kids for their daddy’s Birthday.

Often compared with the Canon 24-70mm and a more affordable option is the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. I owned this lens for a year until I saved up enough for my Canon 24-70. I was very happy with the image quality and light that the f/2.8 brought in…and it is SHARP! It has the ideal focal length for taking natural-looking portraits. It’s a great lens to own until you are ready to make the jump to pro level glass.

So, if your wallet allows, I recommend getting one of each…a prime and a zoom to start out with. It’s nice to have the option to choose a mid-range zoom when you are in tight spaces or chasing toddlers, but also have that 50mm when you simply want to create a fabulous portrait of a friend or an artistic shot of your dinner plate.

Something to keep in mind

When considering what lenses to buy, remember also to take into account the crop factor that will apply to your camera.  Read your manual or research what crop factor you camera has. The impact of the crop factor on the Canon 50D camera, for example, is that all Canon lenses act as if their focal length has been increased by 1.6x or 60%. So for example, a 70-200mm lens will act more like a 112-320mm. Melissa will talk more about the differences between crop and full frame sensors next week.

Beyond the Basics

Once I owned both a prime and a mid range zoom, I still felt like I needed a telephoto zoom lens with a longer reach. I mainly needed it for capturing my kids in sports, while boating, or to make it easier to get close in the moment, but not disturb the moment. Telephoto lenses are great storytelling lenses.

I decided I wanted the popular Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L, but wasn’t ready to break the bank to get it! So I purchased the slightly more affordable version of that lens, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L, which worked for me since I was only planning on using it outside where there was plenty of light. This lens is still a highly rated zoom and one of the cheapest “L” series Canon lenses. It is also much lighter to carry around, which is what I wanted for travel and street photography. This lens has served my needs perfectly, but I do plan to upgrade to that f/2.8 when I’m ready to make the financial leap. Here’s a wedding shot I took using my 70-200mm on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale. I was quite a ways away from the bride & groom, so I was able to capture a natural moment without disturbing them.

So, my advice to you is…when considering what lens to buy, keep in mind your own goals, abilities and budget. If you can’t bring yourself to purchase a $2000 lens, either save up for awhile until you can get the one you want, or look for a comparable lens within the same focal length that you need. And remember to always look for lenses with the lowest number f/stop possible. I prefer f/2.8 or smaller in most cases. Lenses hold their value quite well. So you should be able to sell them once you “outgrow” them with no problem.

The last non-essential, but “fun” lens that I purchased was the Canon 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro. I will talk more about this lens in an upcoming post next week where each of us will share one of our favorite lenses and why! Macros are fun to experiment with when capturing fine details, texture, and even portraits. I use mine to magnify things like eye lashes, skin texture and hair on newborns.

As much as I would like to continue talking about different lenses, I won’t bore you with all my “nerdy-ness”. OK, here’s the list….

THE List

Below is a list (broken down according to price) of some of the most recommended Canon and Nikon lenses, according to my research.  I didn’t list any third party lenses (except the Tamron 28-75) because I don’t know enough about them. I tried to include the top lenses for each type i.e. primes, zooms, macros within each price range if there was a good one.

Canon (Price no object)

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L USM Wide Angle Lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens

Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Lens

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro Lens

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Telephoto Zoom

Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS Lens


Canon (Around $600 or less)

Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Wide Angle Lens

Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens


Canon (Around $300 or less)

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Wide Angle Lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens

Canon 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens

Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM Standard Zoom Lens

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens


Nikon (Price no object)

Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S RF SWM Prime Wide-Angle Nikkor Lens

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor Lens

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Lens

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor Lens


Nikon (Around $600 or less)

Nikon 20mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor Lens

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G SIC SW Prime Nikkor Lens

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens

Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S DX ED VR Micro Nikkor Lens

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR Nikkor Wide-Angle Telephoto Zoom Lens

Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens


Nikon (Around $300 or less)

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens

Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR Lens

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I hope this has helped you decide what to buy. Always read the reviews before you buy! And as a recap on the lenses I own, here they are in the order that I purchased them:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens
Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS

Read the whole series: Everything you want to know about camera lenses
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

Disclaimer: These are affiliate links. What does that mean? Basically, if you loved the information and decide to purchase anything through the link that the author of this post will receive a small percentage of money from the company at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance if you do decide to make a purchase :)

  • Dan
    March 1, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Great Article! I am looking forward to this series re: lens.
    One quick ?
    If I don’t have a macro or not planning to purchase one, wouldn’t I be able to “crop” (in Lightroom or PS) to get the same effect?

    Thank You

    • March 2, 2012 at 6:39 AM

      No. When you crop a photo you are just cropping the frame tighter. A macro lens actually magnifies detail that would otherwise be impossible to detect with the naked eye. The macro lens I have is a “compact” macro, meaning it focuses down to one-half life size, whereas most macros are 1:1 magnification. The picture of the eyelashes in this post is probably not the best example of a macro shot. They are magnified a little with my lens, but not as much as they would be if you had a 1 to 1 macro like the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro that’s on my wish list :)

  • March 1, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    So awesome – you were beyond thorough! Wish I had had this when I started :)

  • March 1, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    This iis such a great article covers so much I’ve wanted to know more about. I own a 50mm 1.8 and I am ready to soon buy my second lens and I was having trouble deciding which to go with either 1. upgrading my 50mm or 2. buying the 24-70mm, still a little undecided. But this helps better my decision thanks for all the info!

    • March 2, 2012 at 7:23 AM

      I would get the 24-70 as your next lens. You won’t regret it! I use that lens sooo much, even more than my 50. You will love the versatility of a zoom. Canon actually just came out with a new version of the 24-70 that you might look into. I know it’s lighter weight than the old version, which would be awesome since my only negative thing I can say about that lens is that it’s heavy.

      • March 2, 2012 at 11:07 AM

        I am really leaning more towards that one. I tried it out at the camera store, and it was just AMAZING! :) Thanks again.

  • March 1, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    Great article! I own a 50mm 1.8 and I just got the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. I might be ready to upgrade to the 50 mm1.2 by the end of the year! We’ll see!

  • Jen
    March 1, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    Thanks for this! I’m so glad I found you over at STIS. I got the cheaper Canon 50mm lens for Christmas and I can’t believe I haven’t used it yet. I really want to experiment with the Bokeh effect and after reading a lot came to the conclusion this was the best for the price. I took an all day photography class in the fall that helped explain all the basics. I then realized with not enough light the shutter speed was just too slow and I got frustrated with certain shots. I do have a great zoom lens that I bought a few years ago to take to horse shows. I needed something that would allow me to get in fairly close while being far away. I’ve taken some awesome photos at shows with this one.

  • Amy
    March 1, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    Thank you so much for posting this series! Do you recommend not buying the kit lens when you get a camera?

    • March 2, 2012 at 7:27 AM

      Yes, do not buy the kit lens if you have a choice. Just get the camera body by itself and a nice prime or zoom. The kit lenses aren’t good quality and they are harder to sell because they are not desirable by most.

      • Amy
        March 2, 2012 at 7:50 AM

        Okay, thanks! Now I’ll just continue reading the series and try to decide on which lens to get instead. :-D

  • Debbie Panton
    March 2, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    Thank you for this. Very clear and very easy to understand. I think I would follow a similar path in choosing lens. I would like to have the versatility of the prime, macro, and telephoto. Still undecided between about the Tamron AF 28-75 and the Canon 24-70. I’ll be choosing the most cost effective options. Right now I only have the kit lens. I feel I’ve gotten some nice shots with that… but it would be nice to see if my photography would improve if I tried some these options without breaking the bank. It’s fun learning. I’ve had my Canon Rebel XTi for a few years years now. What would you suggest as the next step up from that for a camera body,and will the lenses I’m looking at work with that camera body… or should I think upgrading camera before lenses. I was looking at a sight yesterday that was talking about the new Canon… now sure if it’s out now or coming soon… OMG it sounded so amazing… completely over my head and would probably have to have just won the lottery to justify the price ( close to $7000.00) but it sounded nice….this is the way guys are about cars isn’t it????

    • March 2, 2012 at 7:42 AM

      Yes I have officially turned into a photo nerd… like guys are with cars! My husband tunes out when I start talking technical lens jargon…ha ha. I would upgrade your lenses before you upgrade your camera. Rebels are good cameras. You will see a huge difference in brightness and clarity in your photos when you shoot with a better lens. That Tamron lens sounds like a good option for you since you are cost conscious. You will see an even better improvement in your photos once you can shoot in manual too:) Not sure if you know how to do that? A good camera that is known for bridging the gap between amateur and professional is the Canon 7D if you are looking to upgrade. Or if you want a full frame camera, the one I have (more professional level) which is the 5D Mark II. The lenses you have will work with the 7D, and all the ones in this article as well I believe.

      • Debbie Panton
        March 2, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        Thank you. Just learning the manual settings. Looking forward to learning more. Reading these posts and blogs are great and even reading others question and comments is informative. Still haven’t read much on the differences with photos from the cropped sensor to the full frame other than what you mentioned in your post. I usually just shot in ” P” mode. I started doing that quite awhile ago… to get rid of the flash but than I had other issues with blur and colour but it didn’t occur to me to adjust WB or ISO… and I knew nothing about aperture. It’s like pieces of a puzzle… and a lot of trial and error probably. Thanks again.

  • March 2, 2012 at 5:43 AM

    So, so helpful for me. When I go to buy my lens I am going to review this whole series again.

  • March 2, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    I just wrote up a novel and my daughter deleted it right when I was getting ready to hit send. Perhaps she spared you. ;) With that… Thank you for this post!!

    I am looking for new glass for my Rebel T2i. I own the 50mm f/1.8 and am happy with that for now. I also own the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 – but it’s heavy and bulky and I’m not ‘amazed’ with the quality (which could still a learning curve issue, I won’t rule that out.) The question is by already owning that and being in the ‘under $600 budget’ catergory – do you think the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 is an upgrade and a good replacement?

    • March 3, 2012 at 12:48 AM

      After reading your comment and doing a little more research on the 18-135 lens, I decided to take it off the list. Reason being that (you are correct) if you are looking for a zoom in the under $600 price range, you should just get the Tamron 28-75 lens. It far outperforms any of the variable aperture zoom lenses. You will love the f/2.8 on that lens too. Brings in a lot of light. Generally, zoom lenses with a broad focal range like the 18-135 aren’t the greatest. It’s best to get a mid-range zoom and a telephoto zoom separate in my opinion. Hope that helps!

      • March 3, 2012 at 1:36 AM

        Wonderful! Thanks! Very much looking forward to grabbing a new lens. Going to package up my 18-135 today and do a little research on the best price I should get for it. :)

  • March 3, 2012 at 6:21 AM

    Awesome job Jen! Lot so great information :)

  • March 3, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    So helpful! Needing some advice however. I am an amateur photographer with a canon 1100D. Basic, I know, but am loads of fun with it even with my kit lens and my recent acquisition, the 50mm f/1.8. Do you think I should just stick with what I have or invest in another lens…say a Wide angle or a telephoto?

    • March 4, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      I think you should upgrade your kit lens first. You will be amazed at the difference in your photos once you get a good lens. The Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 that I mentioned in this post sounds like a good option for you. It’s a great walk around lens and for use indoors. Then I would look into a telephoto zoom lens or wide angle.

      • March 4, 2012 at 11:32 AM

        Thanks! I will definitely look into it. The 28-75 mm refer to zoom OUT and zoom IN, right? And will a Tamron do as good a job as a canon lens?

  • March 3, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    So helpful! Needing some advice however. I am an amateur photographer with a canon 1100D. Basic, I know, but am loads of fun with it even with my kit lens and my recent acquisition, the 50mm f/1.8. Do you think I should just stick with what I have or invest in another lens…say a Wide angle or a telephoto? Can’t decide which one!

  • Kira
    March 5, 2012 at 3:59 AM

    Thank you for this post series! I have been so lost when it comes to lenses, having no idea what most of the numbers mean, and these two posts have helped a ton! I bought a Canon Rebel T2i and the 50mm f/1.8 a few months ago. I love the pictures I have been able to get with it, and am learning to shoot in manual, but it’s limiting when I’m trying to shoot pictures of my kids in the house. (I’m often standing on top of the couch, a chair, or in the far corner of the room to get far enough away to get all of them in the picture). I’m looking at the Tamron lenses because of price, and the big range of the 18-270 sounds awesome. But the Tamron 18-75 has the lower aperture (2.8)…and I like having that option. Which lens would you suggest buying first?

    • March 5, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      Ya, I have a hard time with my 50 in tight spaces as well. Although the focal range of the 18-270 sounds appealing, you will be limited with the variable aperture and it’s harder to learn manual. Generally, a large focal length lens like that isn’t going to give you the best quality/sharpness either. The focal range of the 28-75 is perfect for indoors. You will love being able to keep the f/2.8 across the whole focal range of the lens too. And the f/2.8 will come in handy in low light more than you know! I would recommend getting the 28-75 first, then a larger telephoto zoom after that.

      • Kira
        March 6, 2012 at 2:16 AM

        Thanks for your suggestion Jen, I really appreciate that you took the time to reply. It sounds like the 28-75 will be better for me right now.

  • rachel
    March 8, 2012 at 1:58 AM

    thank you! thank you! wonderful and helpful post! i am SO in love with that birthday photo! super cute idea…. now what could i possibly spell with my 7 month old’s cute little footsies? hi? or should i make it a selfie and pick a 4 letter word? hmmm… this is getting worse. i’ll get back to you! :)

    i am bulking up my wish list and excited to keep expanding. i have a cheapo 50 that i love and hope to upgrade. can you speak to the difference in the 85mm and the 50mm 1.4? i am having trouble finding good comparisons.

  • March 10, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    Wow! This series is AMAZINGLY helpful. I saved my pennies and recently I got a 50mm 1.4. Still saving pennies for my next lens. Having lists broken down by price range is extremely helpful. I felt like I was just going around in circles, and my head was getting ready to explode trying to understand all of the options when I was trying to figure this stuff out on my own. You explain things so clearly. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • April 24, 2012 at 1:46 AM

    So excited to find this site today!! All the tips and information has been extremely helpful for me considering it is all a foreign language to me but I’m still a little confused about what lens would be the perfect fit for me. I currently have a Nikon D3000. I’m not a professional photographer just a wanna be photographer. I just enjoy taking pictures of the family and tutorials for my blog. I currently have a 55-200 mm f/4-5.6 lens and was looking for something that would allow me to get closer to my subjects. What would you recommend?

    • April 26, 2012 at 3:42 AM

      Glad you have found this site too! Courtney has some great learning resources here. I would recommend the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 if you want a zoom/good walk around lens at an affordable price. The f/2.8 will come in handy for low light indoors. It’s a great range for everyday and in tight spots when there’s not a lot of room. Hope this helps!

  • April 26, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    Great post! I love my Canon EF 50 f/1.4 lens. I own others but keep comming back to that one quite a bit. May look into buying the compact macro later this year.

  • Cassie Treuil
    August 15, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    This is such an informative post! I currently own prime lenses, Canon EF 50mm f1.4, Canon EF 85mm f/1.8,Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro, and they all are great for what I’m currently needing them for, kids, families, lifestyle. I am wanting a nice zoom lense for a few weddings I have coming up but don’t have enough for the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L :( Both weddings will be at sunset, can you PLEASE lead me in a direction as to what would be best for now, until I save up enough for a nicer lense?

    • August 16, 2012 at 12:41 AM

      I would recommend a mid-range zoom like the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 for weddings. It’s around $400. I owned that lens before I got my 24-70 and it’s a great lens. The f/2.8 comes in handy for low light and it’s a great walk around lens for events and travel. It will also work well for you at sunset. Hope this helps. Best of luck to you at your weddings!

  • December 5, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    I am looking for a wide angle in the $300 range for my Canon. The one listed in this post isn’t really available as a new item, so I was wondering if there was something else you would suggest. Thanks!

  • Yang
    January 18, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Hi! Great article. Love the detailed explanations. I own a Canon Rebel T2i and currently have:
    50mm f1.8
    18-55 kit

    I was thinking about selling the kit 18-55mm and buying the tamron 28-75. Some of my friends say get teh 18-55 f2.8 because my camera is cropped. Do you think the tamron 28-75 is a good choice to replace my 18-55? i love my prime, but i hate bringing it to some events because it’s hard to capture the whole scene. Thanks!!

    • January 23, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      I would recommend getting the Tamron 28-75. It’s a great everyday lens and serves MANY purposes.

  • Julie
    February 6, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    I enjoyed reading your article too–it was very informative. Thank you! I recently bought the 5D mark iii (I’m still an amateur) and I bought it w the kit lens, partly bc I’d been looking at the lens anyway–24-105 f4 L. I’ve been pretty happy w it, but I have also been thinking about getting a prime lens. My question is since my camera already takes incredible pictures in low light, would a prime with f2.8 or lower make much difference? My other lenses are the 70-300 f4-5.6 L and the 28-135 f3.5-5.6 IS, so I’ve never used a lens lower than f3.5.

    One other question if you don’t mind–I was concerned that since the 24-70 that you have doesn’t have IS, I would have camera shake, especially w a heavier camera. Is that a problem? I don’t like the hassle of using a tripod. Thanks so much!

  • This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me.
    Thank you!

  • May 29, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Thank you for this post!! It is the most helpful and concise post I have found while looking for this exact information. I’m about to buy my second lens (I only have my kit lens right now) for my trip through Europe this summer. I think the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 will be my best option for the versatility of the lens, and I have seen tons of great reviews. However, I noticed that it does not have image stabilization. Did you notice this to be a problem for you at all? I’m also swayed by the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and really want that one too, but I’ve never had a prime lens and I’m not sure if it would be good for walking the streets of Europe. If you have any thoughts or pointers, I’d really appreciate it!! Thanks!

  • January 26, 2014 at 6:47 AM


    It was great information i have read here.I am new to this and i am a indoor and out door potriate shooter I just want to ask you if I shoud buy me the tamron 24 70 f 2.8 or the 70 200 f4 L lens? please advice me and mail me.

    Thank you

  • Holly Taylor
    February 26, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    Hey Courtney,
    I own a Nikon D3100 with the Kit Lens I just recently read your Article about how you should first buy the Body and then the Lense Second! I wish I would have seen this a few months ago anyway I was just wondering what Nikon Lens I should Upgrade too??? I only shoot in Manual I’m still learning my Setting Though. Also do you think I should keep my Kit Lens or Try and Sell it???

  • Holly Taylor
    February 26, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    Hey Courtney,
    I own a Nikon D3100 with the Kit Lens I just recently read your Article about how you should first buy the Body and then the Lense Second! I wish I would have seen this a few months ago anyway I was just wondering what Nikon Lens I should Upgrade too??? I only shoot in Manual I’m still learning my Setting Though. Also do you think I should keep my Kit Lens or Try and Sell it??? Thanks!

  • Katie
    March 26, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    Hi Courtney,
    Thank you so much for putting together this post. The whole series has been so helpful. I own a Canon 60d and currently shoot with the kit lens. I own a 50mm already that I love, however I am looking to upgrade my kit lens to an all around, good for traveling lens. I’m always on the road traveling and would love to have a lens that has a reasonable wide angle for landscape shots (nothing too extreme) but still able to take group photos and portraits. Do you have any suggestions? I have been looking at the ef-s 15-85 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, ef-s 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM, ef-s 17-85 f/4-5.6 IS USM. I know it would be best to travel with multiple lenses but I want to keep it to 2, as I just won’t switch them on and off! Thank you so much for any insight you could provide!

  • May 30, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    I can’t stop reading on your page, I go from article to article and love what i’m ready and learning.


  • May 30, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    I can’t stop reading on your page, I go from article to article and love what i’m ready and learning.


  • Jen
    July 18, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Which lense is best for an active toddler and an amateur photographer mama with a Rebel T 3i?

  • Julia
    September 21, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    Hello! Thank you so much for this site its amazing! I am looking at getting the Nikon D3300 or 5300 and would love a prime and zoom lens. I am thinking the 35mm/1.8 for the prime so I can capture a bit more in the image easier but not sure what a good, cheap zoom lens would be, since as a mom of 2 under 2 sometimes I just cannot zoom in with my feet ;) I would love to look into a macro after that as well. Any recommendations would be fantastic!

  • November 13, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    Hi there :)

    I love this blog and have found it so beneficial..

    I am a newborn/baby photographer and I am going to buy a 24-70mm f/2.8 :)
    I am using a canon 50mm 1.4 & canon 100mm f2.8 at the moment but don’t want to keep changing lenses so feel that the 24-70 would suit me perfectly :)

    BUT I cannot decide between the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 MKII or the Tamron version which is half price… I am swaying slightly more towards the canon version but then I look at some reviews and doubt my decision as the Tamron seems to get some really great reviews… Soooo confused. I feel like the canon might be the better investment but then again if the Tamron is much the same, maybe I should go for that??

    Have you had experience with both or any advice pretty please?

    Many thanks in advance
    Susanne :)

    • November 13, 2014 at 6:30 PM

      Both lenses will give you great results. Maybe you could rent both before you buy and do a comparison. I’ve owned both and I can’t remember the specific difference to be honest. I started with the Tamron and saved up for the Canon. In my opinion, nothing compares to Canon pro lenses. They are the best! The Canon 24-70 is worth every penny if you can afford it. Maybe after renting both you can differentiate whether or not the price jump is worth it to you.

  • Kristin
    December 17, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    Thank you for this great info! I have a Canon Rebel T4i so I know I need to be mindful of crop factor. I am interested in a 50 or 35mm for photographing mostly my toddler and baby on the way as well as our whole family at times. I will be taking lots of pictures inside of the kids but enjoy outdoor photos too. Knowing my camera and primary purpose, what do you think is best? Thank you!!

    • December 18, 2014 at 1:12 AM

      Congrats on baby on the way! If you will be shooting primarily indoors in your home I would recommend the 35mm. I do all my lifestyle sessions in homes with my 35. I found that I needed more room to shoot with the 50 indoors, which was difficult to find in a small bedroom, for example. I use my 50 mainly for outdoor portraits. It will give you a more compressed background than your 35, which gives those nice creamy backgrounds. You could always rent both and see what you like better before you buy…

  • Lex
    January 21, 2015 at 3:46 PM

    I’ve just bought a canon 6D and I’m pretty new to DSLRs. I’ve bought a 50mm prime lens and a 24-110 lens.
    However I’m going to AFRICA and want a longer telephoto for the trip. I’m not going to use this lens much, so don’t want to spend too much.
    I’m considering the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Camera Lens and the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Camera Lens. I realise the L series lens is the better lens, but I’m worried about it not having image stabilisation. I’ll mostly be in a vehicle I think, though probably stationary. I don’t really want to have to use a tripod.
    Any opinions appreciated.

  • Neelam vyas
    June 9, 2015 at 2:28 PM

    I m neelam vyas kids photographer I have canon 600D with kit lens 18-55mm 50mm f1.8 and 85mm f1.8 recently bought it’s very nice fast lens … Now want to upgrade .. Confused between 50mm 1.4 or 35mm or tamron 28-75 kindly guide me..

  • Tom
    August 5, 2015 at 1:46 PM

    It is useful to have some information about lenses, but the most important thing the photographer has to get clear is what subjects they intend to shoot, and what conditions they intend to shoot them in. Your camera also matters. A recent camera that has low noise at high ISO settings might be able to get by with a slower (i.e. smaller maximum aperture) lens that is cheaper and/or lighter than the alternatives.

    There are lots of people fascinated by cameras and lenses who then look around for something to photograph.

    That might not be an issue for a professional “camera for hire” The professional just makes the best job he can of whatever the client wants.

    But for an amateur to buy a camera and lenses with no clear idea of what to photograph is getting things back to front.

    When you have a practical need for a photographic record (like recording the dismantling of an engine to help in re-assembly) or a passionate interest that you want to capture in photographs (e.g. birds in flight) it will be very easy to decide what range of focal lengths you need, what sort of technical quality will be good enough, whether or not you need a wide aperture, zoom or prime (or both) , if image stabilisation is any use to you, whether you need tilt or shift capability and so on … and then you can see how close you can get to your ideal within your budget.

    And here is another tip … if you cannot afford the lens you really want it is often a good idea to wait until you can, rather than buying a cheaper alternative, finding it does not do the job, or is not nice to use, selling it at a loss, and buying the lens you really wanted after all.

    Finally, there are many excellent lenses available second-hand for a fraction of their original price, yet they are still superb performers.

  • heidi
    September 26, 2015 at 11:44 PM

    hi, i would appreciate if someone can respond. I am traveling to the Swiss mountains and am looking to suggestions on lens to rent/purchase. I have Canon 18-135mm , 50 1.8 and Tamron 28-75.
    i am assuming a wide angle lens would be appropriate. I’m an amateur but would love to take the best possible with my current ability. My camera is Rebel 2Ti thanks for your help

  • susan
    October 21, 2015 at 9:04 PM

    Is there a Sigma lens comparable to the Tamron 24-70?

    • October 23, 2015 at 9:58 AM

      I’m not familiar with Sigma lenses but I don’t think they have a zoom like that.

  • Per-Arne Larsen
    January 1, 2016 at 10:36 AM

    Hi you have a great page. I se you only mention Canon and Nikon lenses, I think It`s time to take Sigma Art series seriusly Sigma Art seie killing most of the other lenses to a owrcoming price, And I se you say Sigma May not have Zoom like that, but the true is thay have. It is now 24-105 Art lens from Sigma as are great opsion to any other lenses, and It have stabilisator to and wether seiling. But It allso on place to say the Prime lens from Sigma dont have wether seiling, and the prise is not that low longer as Sigma was for some years ago.
    But the lens killing all other lens as allso cost det dobbel…
    And Carl Zeiss have coming right now with a new series of prime lens for them as only want the best no mather what, The name of the new Zeiss seies is MILUS and are made for Canon and Nikon only. but her you have only manuel fucus, but them have now wether seiling for first time on 100 year :) I have as one of the first the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 and for me manuel focus working great, but I se it not doing that for all. But I will only say It is big difrends to us a lens as are made to work only as manuel fucus then at tray to fucus manuel with a lens as are ment to be a auto focus, The Zeiss are bild to work manuel and the zoom have a great long fucus turning so you dont miss the focus, I think it most been traying for understand :)

    Thanks for a nice page. And happy new Year from Norway :) I hope all can read my english lol :)

  • Tom
    January 3, 2016 at 7:30 AM

    “when considering what lens to buy, keep in mind your own goals, abilities and budget”

    What great advice, and such a nice change from so many other web sites that are pushing the authors own preferences (and prejudices) as if they were right for everyone.

  • Magdalena
    March 14, 2016 at 2:41 AM

    I`m a newbie and use a Canon 70D with the 18-135mm starter lens and want to get wide angle lens. I`m a bit confused because I`ve read reviews on how great the canon ef 50mm f/1.8 is, but if its 50mm, isn`t the same if I were to zoom in my current lens to that number? I also dont understand photography lingo (im slowly teaching myself a few terms) and don`t knw what f/1.8 is. I live in Japan and travel around the country a lot and every time I photograph a temple or shrine I have to move so far back to capture the whole thing and I just want a lens that will allow me to capture the entire shrine and temple without having to walk so many feet away. I hope my question makes sense :)

    • April 5, 2016 at 2:41 PM

      Yes, the 50mm is great and is the same focal length as if you were at 50mm on your 18-135 but it is a fixed aperture and goes wider than the starter lens.

  • kevin
    October 24, 2016 at 9:36 AM

    Hello Courtney:
    Your website has helped me a lot and I am able to take nice portraits because of that.
    I am trying to understand if it is better to buy 35mm instead of 50mm lens since it gives wider field of view and is able to take pictures of group? I bought 50mm/1.8 but I am thinking 35mm may be better?
    I will wait for your feedback.

    Thanks a lot..

  • TS
    January 19, 2017 at 7:16 PM

    Would you use a prime lens to take family pictures at the beach?

  • Mohan Imran ansari
    May 20, 2017 at 11:49 AM

    I want to purchase canan 80dslr which lance is good for that

  • Helen Morse
    August 7, 2017 at 7:54 AM

    Hi, I have owned a Canon 40D for 10 years now & have taken some lovely shots. I want to step up & take low light portrait shots, dark st photos & macro shots mainly but also zoom shots if needed.
    All whilst global travelling for a year. Should I invest in a totally new camera & lenses or new lenses for my canon in your opinion?! Trying to keep the weight down as well!

    • Jennifer Bacher
      August 9, 2017 at 1:35 AM

      For low light it’s nice to have a camera that has high ISO/low noise capabilities. Your camera only goes up to 3400 ISO, which may limit you in low light. The newer Canons can go up to 12,800 ISO, which gives you the ability to shoot hand holding your camera in almost darkness! I don’t know which lenses you already own, so I can’t make any recommendation on lenses. Global traveling sounds like a dream!

  • Craig Reynolds
    November 28, 2017 at 2:03 AM

    I bought my first Canon DLSR, and am in the market for new lenses. It came with a couple of basic lenses, but with everything I’m learning, I think it’s time to upgrade. I bought the Canon T6 / EOS 1300D. The 3 lenses I’m looking at are:

    Canon Advanced Two Lens Kit with 50mm f/1.4 and 17-40mm f/4L Lenses
    Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom

    Are these a good choice to start with? Now that I’m learning more about photography, after upgrading my lens, I’d like to upgrade to a full frame camera, next…


    Craig R.

    December 11, 2017 at 1:22 PM

    Hi Jennifer,

    I am not sure why lens should i get is it Sigma 35mm better than Canon 35mm F1.4 L II USM. Please share your thoughts. thanks

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