The choice of purchasing a new lens shows that you are interested in diving a little deeper into photography. So with so many choices on lenses how do you decide on what would be the best next lens? Well there are a few things we need to think about before we venture into specifics.

Ask yourself these questions:

What do I want to be able to do with my camera?

Find photos that you really appreciate and ask yourself, how did they get that shot? If I were to recreate this shot what would I need, how would I do it? If possible speak with the photographer.

Do I want to be able to shoot things far away?

Do I want to capture a large amount of a scene?

Do I want to shoot things that are really small?

What will the majority of my shooting situations look like? Will it be low light, fast moving subjects, or perhaps studio portraits?

Through the answer to these and similar questions you will find the answer to what lens will make a perfect companion to your photographic expeditions. Lets look at some lenses and see how the different types can relate to the different answers we get from these questions.

The Macro

Macro lenses are specialty lenses aimed at people who desire to shoot the very small. With a very shallow depth of field they can sometimes be difficult to get the hang of at first but with some practice and creativity you can produce some very impressive photographs. If you are looking to get up close and personal with the small of this world than this is the lens for you. Even within the category of macro there are a myriad of choices, you will again need to think about what you will be shooting. For instance if your subject is a stationary object then a shorter lens such as the Canon EF 50mm may work great for you, but as some of the reviews say and a factor of the shorter zoom living moving subjects could be scared off since you must get closer in to photograph them. In these cases one of the telephoto macro combination lenses may be an appropriate investment.

70-300mm Telephoto/Macro Lens

70-300mm Telephoto/Macro Lens

In fact in my opinion, apart from perhaps a prime lens (which we will get to later), a macro/telephoto combination lens can be one of the best initial lens investments for a beginner photographer. I say this for multiple reasons, first it allows the photographer to experiment with a couple different types of photography, helping them to shoot the very far, and also the very small. Second, these lens combination’s are often cheaper to purchase, allowing the beginner photographer on a budget to get involved in something different.

The Telephoto

800mm Canon Super Telephoto

800mm Canon Super Telephoto

The telephoto lens is the ultimate zoom. We discussed how the telephoto, within the cheaper models, often gets combined with a macro function. These titans of zoom more often, especially when talking professional model lenses, are single function zooms allowing you to capture the very far. Telephoto lenses come in a variety of zoom distances, from the popular 70-300mm model to the super telephoto 800mm. These super telephoto dedicated zoom lenses are most often used by professional sports and nature photographers. Remember when looking at purchasing a telephoto, well really any lens, always consider the f/stop as this will effect the use of the lens under certain light situations and you should take into account your shooting habits.

Finally a quick note for those looking to photograph other solar systems perhaps consider the Opteka 650-2600mm. As the one reviewer on amazon points out, this lens is more a just for fun (and really only if you’re looking to blow a few hundred dollars) as from what the reviewer states the lens produces grainy images, but not much more should be expected from a lens of this size at this price point.

The Wide-Angle

17-40mm Super Wide-Angle

17-40mm Super Wide-Angle

The wide angle lens is another specialty lens allowing you to capture a greater amount of the scene within your photograph having a broad viewing angle. These lenses can be a lot of fun to play with and offer a lot of creative opportunity. These also let you get pictures in tight spaces where it would not normally be possible to capture the image. Wide angle lenses, like every other lens type, have a variety of choices from the economic to the professional. With macro lenses you will often get image distortion such as larger proportions or lens warping, what looks like the image bending around a spherical object. This phenomenon occurs because the lens uses spherical glass, which is increased with the shorter focal length, but the sensors in the camera are flat. This distortion is much greater within the cheaper models of the lens, but that is to be expected, when one spends five times as much for a lens it should produce better photographs.

The Prime

Nikon 50mm f/1.4

Nikon 50mm f/1.4

The final lens type we will talk about is the prime lens. This lens is called a prime because it sees the world, at it’s fixed 50mm focal length, as your eye sees it. The lens comes with a large aperture, ranging between a 1.8 and the super rare 1.0 f/stops, allowing for great photographs in low light situations. These lenses are also called the prime lens because many photographers will keep this lens attached to the camera since it offers a great amount of creative control and versatility.

Digital Lens Line

One other factor in lens decision I want to discuss is the digital line of lenses, canon ef-s and nikkor af-s. These lenses are specially made for the consumer digital slr market (think canon rebel xts and Nikon DX cameras). As many of you may be using these camera systems and are wondering if you should invest in these lenses, my initial response is no. The reason I do not recommend investing in these lenses is that since they are specially manufactured for cameras with smaller sensors they will not work on a camera system that includes a full frame sensor, so you are limited on your upgradability.

There is one exception where I would say to go ahead and pick up the digital lens line and that is if you are absolutely certain you will not be upgrading your camera system to a full frame sensor. The digital line does have it’s advantage for those using the smaller sensors. To be simple and brief they effectively eliminate the crop factor of the smaller lenses, which often amounts to about 1.6x. So for example if you purchase a 10mm ef-s lens your effective focal length is 16mm (10 x 1.6) giving you a fantastic wide angle lens.

To conclude, I hope this article has helped you in the decision making process or just in understanding the different types of lenses. Remember while shopping for a lens that the old adage is often true “you get what you pay for”. This is particularly true for lens. Though often you can scour the internet and come across a fantastic deal or, better yet, find that product that works great and is also at a steal of a price; but more often than not, price and quality go hand in hand. Assess your needs and your budget, than go for that lens that will help take your photography to the next level, and always remember to enjoy! Though equippment helps us to achieve better results and be more efficient, photography is about the experience of capturing a moment in time and not just the newest and best.