You will end up paying more for your lenses than your cameras

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Buying Lenses

I bought a lot of lenses, definitely much more than I should have. On the off chance that you are like me, let me remind you better equipment does not make you a better photographer, something I experienced with every equipment I have bought.

Some things to keep in mind

  • For most non-professionals a kit lens will cover all needs
  • You do not need to cover every focal length. Get either a 20mm, 24mm or a 28mm wide angle, you do not need all three for example. See also prime lenses for an example how I end up using a zoom lens, most of the pictures I took with a Nikon 70-300 ended up being either 70mm or 300mm.
  • Very wide (< 24mm) and very long (> 180mm) lenses are special and they are not well suited for every situation. If you buy lenses in these ranges, you will most probably need a second lens (probably on a second camera to switch quickly). That adds a lot of weight.
  • Faster lenses (f/2.8 and less) are big, heavy and expensive. Modern digital cameras (i.e. pretty much everything manufactured after 2010) will allow you to work with slower lenses without too many issues. See more a discussion and examples on ISO.
  • There are some excellent lenses you can get used for very good prices.

Pros and Cons

Why to buy
  • Universal zooms: You can pretty much only buy one lens and be done with it.
  • Wide angle primes: Specialized lenses, good for interiors, cityscapes. There are certain things only a wide angle will be able to capture.
  • Wide angle zooms: A wide angle is actually quite tricky to use. A zoom usually gives you an upper focal length (28-35mm) that allow you to use it in everyday life better, makes the lens stay longer on the camera.
  • Macro lenses: If you like to take pictures of objects 1-3 cm in size that you can get close to, this is what you need.
  • Primes 35-50: These are light, fast and very versatile lenses that will make you like photography.
  • Mid-range zooms: Lazy photographer's lens, you do not need to move as much as with a prime.
  • Long primes 85-180: Good for portraits, architecture and landscape shots, both lighter and faster than a zoom. These are very rewarding lenses once you get things right.
  • Really long primes (200+): This is for things that you can not get close to for example sports and nature/wildlife photography. When I say expensive these are among the most expensive lenses you can buy.
  • Long zooms: Very practical to use, most have a vibration reduction system which helps a lot with these focal lengths. There are some very cost efficient ones, good for Architecture, details, landscapes, wildlife
  • Really long zooms (400+): These are speciality lenses, you want to take pictures of things that are really far like wildlife and sports, but lack the funds to buy the primes.
Why NOT to buy
  • Universal zooms: If you have one, buying another lens is not really necessary.
  • Wide angle primes: It is a speciality lens, harder to make good use of it.
  • Wide angle zooms: You do not need many wide focal lengths. One decently wide (20-24mm) lens will for most cases be what you need. the zooms are expensive, heavy and usually have issues with distortion.
  • Macro lenses: Only needed if you take pictures of small (1-3) cm things and can get really close (<<1 meter). If you are taking pictures of things that are a meter or more away, a long lens is what you need.
  • Primes 35-50: If you own any zoom you have probably something that will cover what these lenses offer.
  • Mid-range zooms: I am not sure anyone needs these. They can be practical but unless you earn your money with photography you will only use the extremes of the zoom, why not get a lighter, faster, cheaper prime?
  • Long primes 85-180: Speciality lenses, you will need something else with you, as these have a very narrow field of view. They are also a bit more difficult to use.
  • Really long primes (200+): Very heavy and very expensive, no amateur photographer would really need these.
  • Long zooms: These can be quite heavy and bulky to carry around. The need for focal lengths more than 200mm is really limited.
  • Really long zooms (400+): Very heavy and very expensive, no amateur photographer would really need these. They would mostly stay at home or in your car.

See also




These pages are for Amateur Photographers and not really for seasoned photographers and professionals. I have no affiliation or commercial interest with any brand/make. I write from my own experience. I ended up using mainly Nikon, so I am more familiar with this brand than others. See price for notes on pricing as well as photography related links.