Exactly what Lens to Buy? A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Lenses

When there is one ‘holy grail’ that will everyone talks about in pictures, it has to be lenses. Beginner or professional, photographers have been obsessed with glass. At a specific level, there is a valid reason at the rear of the infamous glass infatuation. Other than lighting equipment, lens are the camera gear with the biggest impact on making a good picture. In this article, I’ll deal with the basics a beginner has to know when buying a brand new lens. Before you read this informative article, I highly recommend reading Knowing Camera Lenses: A Beginner’s Guide by Spencer.

Desk of Contents

Where to begin?

Of all things that confuse a beginner, lens choice certainly is near the top of list. Even seasoned experts aren’t spared. With the kind of Youtube channels and web sites that endlessly compare lens, it has only gotten a lot more confusing when it comes to choosing lenses. Photography Life is no exception in this regard, as we have reviewed tons of lenses in detail along with their Imatest outcomes.

Let me rather go through the more basic factors that most photographers should think about when buying a lens, especially as a beginner.

one Budget

If budget were not a factor, I guess everybody would be holding a 400mm f/2. 8 or a 600mm f/4 in their camera luggage right away. Inevitably, budget ends up being the primary factor that will decides which gear ends up in one’s camera bag.

Undeniably, the 400mm and the 600mm fluorite primes are the sharpest, fastest and the meanest glasses out there. Yet how many of us are ready to shell out $12, 000+ on them? Most photographers start out with entry-level gear and upgrade their gear progressively.

second . Crop body kit lens

Entry level crop body (DX) are the choice for most beginners, and such camera body almost always come with a kit lens. In most cases, beginners choose a double lens kit that addresses 18mm to some longer focal length like 55mm, 105mm, or even 200mm and beyond, depending upon the brand.

Practically, none of us are going to stay with our first camera and lens permanently. As we start taking better pictures, we start feeling how the gear we own turns into inadequate. Eventually, some photographers will decide to get a full frame camera instead, whether it is a DSLR or mirrorless. At that point, any crop-sensor lens will be sold because they no more fit the current system.

Unlike camera systems, lenses stay with photographers to get long. It is quite possible, also likely, that you will jump in order to full frame at some point in the future (assuming you shoot with Nikon, Canon, or Sony which offer full frame cameras). So , I recommend that any kind of upgrade to your kit lenses should be a full frame zoom lens. It is true that all producers have some pro or semi-pro grade crop lenses. But even though these are good lens, they will need to be replaced on moving to full body. If you spend a bit more to purchase full-frame compatible glass from the beginning, you will save money eventually by not needing to replace your own full kit of lenses when you get a full body camera.

3. Sharpness

Sharpness clearly is what the fuss is all about. Is not it? Let me consider that I buy the sharpest lens on earth. Does that guarantee the best pictures every time? The answer is not any. It will boil down to how much of that sharpness I would have the ability to harness.

Photographers have always debated about which is the sharpest lens. A lens that one professional photographer considers razor sharp would appear to be junk for another. For example , hands holding a Nikon 300mm f/4 PF ED VR over a full day of photography would result in much better pictures than hand holding a Nikon 300mm f/2. 8 ED VR within the same situation. Even though the last mentioned is certainly better in terms of clarity, bokeh, and AF speed/accuracy, its sheer weight helps it be difficult to handhold for hours on end.

Male Khaleej Pheasant | NIKON D750 @ 440mm, ISO 3200, 1/125, f/5. 6

That’s why you have to appearance beyond just the measurements of a lens and think about real-world usage. A sharp lens might not necessarily be the best lens. There are factors beyond sharpness that also matter. Everything from the build quality to the bokeh, close focusing distance, bodyweight, filter compatibility, and many other effects remain important. For the wildlife photography, I would go for a lens with “average” sharpness but incredibly fast AF speed any day.

4. Autofocus

You will find two attributes one needs to comprehend about autofocus in a lens: AF accuracy and AF speed.

Let me compare two lenses that are pretty close when it comes to clarity. The Nikon 200-500mm f/5. 6 ED VR is almost as sharp as its Nikon 500mm f/5. 6 PF ED VR prime aunty. But one thing, other than weight, that makes the prime superior is definitely its autofocus speed. Each lenses might perform similar when photographing perched parrots. But the prime definitely out-performs the zoom while photographing birds in flight. Check out Prime Vs Zoom article for more.

NIKON D750 @ 500mm, ISO eight hundred, 1/4000, f/8. 0

Naturally , AF performance also depends on the camera. A professional lens installed on an entry level camera or even vice versa isn’t likely to work as intended. But in general, you’ll find that some lenses focus faster than other people no matter the camera, therefore it remains an important consideration.

5. Prime or zoom?

When it comes to outright overall performance, prime lenses – those that have only one focal size and cannot zoom – are definitely the choice. But for several photographers, the factors below make zooms a better option than prime lenses.

  • Immaterial of how things appear on paper, it is going to take time for a budding photographer to notice, let alone capture, any differences in real world images. In photography terms, it takes practice to -pixel peep.
  • Primes demand “zooming with your feet” to get the desired composition. It means that you’ll need to be constantly moving closer or far from your subject. Particularly for beginners, who are already focused on finding the right settings, this additional factor with prime lenses may lead them to take worse pictures. Whereas with a zoom in hand, it is easier to just distort the lens and try out different compositions.
  • In recent years, lens technology has progressed by a great deal. Some decades ago, the gap between primes and zooms were exponential. But that will gap has been bridged to a great extent.

6. Weight

Check out the image of a Himalayan blue sheep below. The picture was shot at an altitude of over 14, 500 ft after a strenuous hike of about 10 miles. It was shot with a D750 along with a 200-500 f/5. 6 set. I certainly am never going to be able to carry a D5 with a 500 or a 600mm f/4 all the way. Not to mention the of a suitable tripod the above mentioned combo demands. In fact , I actually wish I had a Nikon Z6 and the 500mm f/5. 6 PF ED VR instead!

Photo with Nikon D750+Nikon 200-500 f/5. 6

Together gets more serious in picture taking, the need to bring down weight gets increasingly important. Dragging equipment all day long becomes increasingly more tense on the shoulder as the day time goes by.

That’s why a clear idea of exactly what one wants to shoot gets mandatory even before thinking about buying new lenses. It is not the very best lens out there that is very likely to help us get better pictures. It is the one that suits all of us the best that does.

7. Weather sealing

Photographers who are into styles like landscapes, wildlife and street photography that include outdoor shooting are constantly exposed to moisture and dirt. Weather sealing is a big-deal for such genres. For instance , weather sealing becomes almost mandatory while photographing waterfalls. It is practically impossible to keep your own gear dry in such conditions. The humidity is almost close to 100% not to mention the small droplets that keep wetting the gear constantly.

Captured with NIKON D750 @ 200mm Focal Length, ISO 100, Shutter Rate: 3/1, Aperture: f/8. 0

Most modern lenses come with vibration reduction. When moisture settles or humidity condenses in the VR elements, it is very tricky to clean all of them later. Too much of condensation because of prolonged exposure to moisture can damage the electronics. The majority of weather sealed lenses are internal focusing ones many always more expensive than the types that have barrels popping out and retracting in while zooming or focusing.

Lens Recommendations for Nikon

Based on the above criteria, below are the lens recommendations for someone that is looking at upgrading from kit lenses. All the recommendations listed below are full frame zooms, and because I am a Nikon shooter, that’s what I’ll be recommending. Even if you use some other brand like Canon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Pentax, or Panasonic, chances are good that there are similar lenses available for you.

Best value lenses for a $1000 budget

Nikon 24-85mm f/3. 5-4. 5G VR

For $500 at the time of writing this article, this lens is one of the best options if one seeks a great all round performing lens at an affordable budget. If you are not as well keen on low light efficiency or blistering AF velocity, the Nikon 24-85 is really a pretty sharp lens. If you are shooting in well lit conditions, where you can stop down the lens to f/5. six or possibly f/8, you have to pixel peep to find any difference in sharpness between this particular and a professional lens like the Nikon 24-120 f/4 or the Nikon 24-70 f/2. 6. The saturation and colour rendition of this lens will be something that I have enjoyed over the years. For more, read our in-depth review about this lens.

Its light weight design, weighing a little less than five hundred grams makes it a great choice regarding travel photography. Its focal range makes it a great choice intended for landscape photography. Even though it offers slow AF when compared to pro-grade lenses like the Nikon 24-70 f/2. 8, the AF is reasonably accurate in good light conditions. I have used this particular lens extensively for landscape purposes. The focal variety makes it a good choice for family portrait and street photography as well.

The disadvantages of this lens are exactly what one expects from any kind of so called ‘pro-sumer’ lens. The first drawback I experienced while using the this lens is the autofocus speed. In lower light conditions, the zoom lens hunts for focus consistently. Secondly, it isn’t weather conditions sealed, which means it is susceptible to dust and moisture that further leads to the much-dreaded fungus. I have had to send out this lens for cleaning more than once as a result. Thirdly, your invisalign aligner construction isn’t as durable as most other professional lenses.

NIKON 24-85mm f/3. 5-4. 5G VR @ 48mm, ISO 400, 1/320, f/5. 6
Black and white mountaintop converted in Photoshop
Shot with NIKON 24-85mm f/3. 5-4. 5G VR @ 62mm, ISO one hundred, 1/400, f/5. 6

Nikon 70-300mm f/4. 5-5. 6E VR AF-P

Now that you’ve got spent $500 to get in between 24mm and 85mm, the particular Nikon 70-300 is the best affordability lens (costing $600) that could get you to 300mm. Its aged iteration, the Nikon 70-300mm f/4. 5-5. 6G VR , has also been a popular choice among amateurs plus enthusiasts who were on a budget, and you could want to consider buying that one used to save a bit of cash.

The Nikon 70-300mm VR is a quite sharp lens. With a full frame camera, some might feel the extreme corners to become a bit soft, but with a DX camera like the Nikon D500, the loss of sharpness with this particular lens is almost negligible.

NIKON D7000 & Nikon 70-300 f/4. 5-5. 6 G VR @ 300mm, ISO 1000, 1/400, f/5. 6

This particular lens’s light weight makes it the ideal choice for travel photography. If you are looking to travel light, a two-lens combo of the 70-300 along with the 24-85 would be a great combo. This lens is a popular option for enthusiasts looking for a reasonable lens to photograph wildlife.

Snow Partridge | NIKON D7000+Nikon 70-300 VR @ 300mm, INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 800, 1/4000, f/5. six

Of course , it’s not a perfect lens. The first limitation I noticed with the 70-300mm is its slow autofocus. Also, on 300mm, this lens might possibly not have quite enough reach to photograph small birds in the distance.

However it sure is a good choice regarding someone who is getting into wildlife photography. Mounted on an FX body, the 70-300mm becomes a great choice to shoot landscapes as well.

Mt. Chaukamha NIKON D7000+Nikon 70-300mm @ 70mm, INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 100, 1/200, f/8. 0

For more information on this lens, please go through Photographing Animals with the Nikon 70-300mm f/4. 5-5. 6 VR plus Nikon 70-300mm f/4. 5-5. 6G VR Review

It should be noted that Nikon has various 70-300mm lenses. The one I am talking about is the complete frame VR lens but not the DX ones, that i don’t recommend, for the reasons of future-proofing discussed previously in this article.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3. 5-5. 6G ED VR Zoom lens

If you have $1000 budget and want to carry only one zoom lens, the Nikon 28-300 has become the best choice for you. With an incredible 10. 7x zoom variety, this lens lets you take anything from landscapes to portraits and wildlife. Installed on a DX body this particular lens yields an effective field of view of 42mm-450mm.

Weighing a measely 800 grams, this certainly is the go-to lens just for photographers who have ease of use and weight as their top priorities. In spite of being a consumer quality lens with its limitations with regards to loss of sharpness at edges and above 200mm, this lens has been the choice associated with quite a lot of professionals. The loss of clarity can be handled by halting the lens down to f/8, at which point there is a substantial improvement in sharpness. Whenever “getting the shot” is your most important criteria, the 28-300mm is a great choice.

For more details on this zoom lens, read the indepth review simply by Nasim.

Best value lenses for a budget of $2500

Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR

When I recommended the Nikon 24-85, a few of you would have wondered why I actually hadn’t recommended the 24-120mm f/4 instead. Budget was the only reason. If you do not seek to photograph wildlife (at 200mm) and still have $1000 to spend on one lens, then the Nikon 24-120mm would certainly become the lens of choice. In fact , if you are a travel photographer that is bent on traveling light, this lens is close to ideal.

The Nikon 24-120 has a 5x move ratio as compared to the 24-85’s 3. 5x zoom ratio. The 24-120 also has a constant maximum aperture of 4 as compared to the 24-85’s several. 5-4. 5 variable optimum aperture, not to mention the former can be slightly sharper than the last mentioned, especially between 24mm to about 55mm. For more info, look at Nasim’s in-depth review .

Nikon 200-500mm f/5. 6E VR

The Nikon 200-500 needs no introduction among wildlife photographers. If you are an aspiring wildlife photographer on a budget, yet seeking to shoot uncompromising photographs, this lens certainly is the greatest choice.

Costing about $1400 at the time of writing this short article, this lens is razor-sharp enough to be compared to various other professional grade lenses. The focal range of this lens is capable of shooting anything from big cats in order to tiny birds. With a fairly fast AF, thanks to the quiet wave motor, this lens is capable of shooting parrots in flight. The constant optimum aperture of 5. six is the icing on the dessert. Since its release within 2015, this lens has been holding the title of being the cheapest lens to take you to definitely 500mm at f/5. 6.

Shot with Nikon 200-500 f/5. 6

Mounted on any full frame digital camera or the D500, the AF is spot on. The Nikon 200-500 mounted on a D500 is a match made in heaven, taking you to an FX equivalent of 750mm.

NIKON D750+Nikon 200-500mm f/5. six @ 500mm, ISO a thousand, 1/1600, f/5. 6

Even though this lens can take a teleconverter, it virtually cannot be used. Even in decent light, the AF retains hunting indefinitely despite being coupled with a f/8 capable body like the D500. Nonetheless, we have to be realistic, and most of us are aware of the fact that TCs are best used with primes.

This lens also weighs about more than some comparable prime lenses, like the 500mm f/5. 6 PF, or the 300mm f/4 PF when used with a 1 . 4x teleconverter. If you are planning to do long hikes or handhold your camera all day for wildlife picture taking, getting a lighter lens may be your better option.

I have also realized that this particular lens sucks in dust like a magnet while zooming in and out. Using a rain cover becomes almost required. For more information on this lens, please go through Nasim’s in-depth evaluation or how it even comes close with the Tamron 150-600 plus Sigma 150-600.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2. 6 Di VC USD G2

Some of you may have pondered about the 80mm gap between the 24-120 and the 200-500. It might sound like a huge gap, but in reality, a gap like that isn’t as important as you may think. However , if you care more about the range from about 100mm to 200mm instead of 200mm and beyond, the Tamron 70-200 f/2. eight would be a good option. This lens is a great choice if you are a budding portrait photographer on a budget.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2. 8 Di VC USD G2

Costing $1200 and being able to take you to f/2. 7 throughout its focal range, this lens places alone as an alternate option for people who are hesitant to spend another $1100 on the Nikon 70-200 f/2. 8 FL ED VR . Unless pixel peeped or going for a large print, one could not find much distinction between the Tamron and Nikon f/2. 8 glasses. Even with a 100% crop see, visible loss of sharpness might be seen only around intense corners.

With one extra low distribution element and five reduced dispersion elements, the Tamron certainly is a professional grade lens. It comes with both BBAR and eBAND coating which is Tamron’s equivalent to Nikon’s Nano crystal coating works very much in reducing ghosting and flair. Tamron claims a five stop advantage using its Vibration Control. The Ultrasonic silent wave motor will a great job in focus tracking. Obviously the f/2. 8 seldom hunts even in low light conditions. The particular Tamron is an IF (Internal focussing) lens which is climate sealed. The front element offers fluorine coating that resists dust and avoids covering.

Other Lenses

I feel like I could create a similar list with many various other lenses for Nikon, and almost a limitless list when you consider all the other brands out there. The particular lenses above are meant to demonstrate some examples of what to think about when buying a lens, and of course there are many good options over and above the six I mentioned here. There is a reason why Nikon has dozens of lenses and perhaps even hundreds when you consider all of the third-party options. So , choose something that works for you, and don’t look back!

Bottom line

In this article I have covered most of the prominent features to look for when one is looking to update from kit lenses, together with examples of lenses that satisfy these characteristics. Even though there are several higher quality lenses out there such as Nikon’s “trinity” lenses plus f/1. 4 primes, I desired to show that lower cost lenses can still be used successfully to get photography.

Are you experiencing any suggested lenses that will Nikon or other brand name photographers should use? Particularly lenses that are low cost plus high value. If so please include them in the comments area so that our viewers will benefit from them.

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