Tip Tuesday: Choosing a lens for beginners

A question I get asked quite often is, “What lens would you recommend?” That’s actually a tough question because the answer depends on so many factors. What type of things will you be primarily shooting (people, landscape, macro, events, etc.)? Where do you do most of your shooting (indoor, outdoor, etc.)? What is your skill level (beginner, semi-pro, pro)? In most cases, those who are asking have just recently purchased or are planning to purchase their first DSLR camera and are wanting the best lens for the most affordable price, so today’s tip is going to be for that audience. Keep in mind that I use only Canon equipment, so my answers are going to be about Canon equipment. I don’t have enough experience with other brands to recommend their products.

The #1 lens I recommend to most beginner photographers is the 50mm 1.8. This lens is often referred to as the “nifty fifty.” It’s super affordable at around $100 and produces sharp, beautiful images (if the photographer uses it correctly!). If you are going to be using your lens for shooting mostly portraits, this is the lens for you. I especially love that it opens up to a 1.8 aperture which is important if you are hoping to produce images with the subject in focus and the rest of the photo a beautiful blur (often referred to as “bokeh”). It’s also great for shooting in low light situations (like in your house). Keep in mind that this is a fixed lens, meaning that it doesn’t zoom. If you want to get closer or further from your subject, you have to move your feet! The plus side to using fixed or prime lens, as it is properly called, is that it tends to produce sharper images than a zoom lens. (Sidenote: I shoot mostly with prime lenses. I have two zoom lenses, which are great, but I LOVE my primes).

If you do want a zoom lens, I would recommend the 55-250mm. I have never personally shot with this lens, but it has received great reviews. With such a large focal range, you could use this lens in almost any situation. Keep in mind that you do sacrifice some sharpness and clarity when shooting with a zoom lens, as stated earlier, but it also eliminates the need to carry several lenses at different focal lengths.

One final thought: Don’t expect your images to suddenly be incredible and amazing just because you have nicer gear. The performance of these lenses and your camera is largely dependent on your knowledge of how to use them. Study, take classes, practice, practice, practice, and don’t be afraid to¬†ask questions!

  1. Rachael Charles

    April 10th, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Thank you, Meredith! I was going to ask you about primes, specifically if you thought getting an f1.4 was worth the extra cost over a 1.8. Is there that much of a difference? I’ve had a Nikkor 50mm 1.8 in my Amazon wish list for a little while :-). Keep the tips coming! Love that you’re doing this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *