If you are like most people with a DSLR you are itching for your next new lens. This is one of the most commonly asked questions that I get at my workshops or when people see me out shooting. My answer is always the same “It depends”.
Maybe not the most helpful answer but this question is like me asking you “What car should I buy”. Hopefully you will tell me “It depends”.
Next I ask the person the following:
What is your budget -I find that most people are either just looking for cheaper is better, best bang for the buck, or the sky is the limit.
For the person looking for cheaper is better I recommend the off brand lens or the very consumer oriented lens from the camera manufacturer.
For the best bang for the buck I recommend the mid-range priced lens and that they check out sites like fredmiranda.com which has a great lens review site and will allow you to see what other photographers think about most of the lens available. You will find a few inexpensively priced gems in each manufacturers line that are not the cheapest but also not the high flying top of the line lens but offer great performance.
Sky is the limit is easy if it is expensive buy it!
What are you looking for – Do you want to go wider than you already have which is generally the people that want to do landscape or outdoor shoots, more telephoto so they can get closer to the action, or a faster lens for shooting in low light. These are the 3 most basic types of lens request that people are looking to fill.
Most people have the “Kit lens” on their cameras today which gives them a Field of View (FoV) equivalent to ~24mm to 85mm on a full frame 35mm camera.
If they are looking for wider generally there is a wide angle lens available for their camera mount from both off brand vendors as well as the manufacturer of the camera body. These generally have a FoV of about 16mm to 18mm equivalent.
For the telephoto lens to get more reach there are a number of lens such as 55-250 and 70-300. If your budget allows look at the f4.0 and f2.8 lens with Image Stabilization. These lens are quite expensive but are a great investment if you are serious about photography and your overall image quality.
For the person that is looking for the “fast” glass the f2.8 is what you are looking for in a zoom lens. These lens offer several great benefits that help justify their lofty price tags. First they are 1 to 2 stops faster them most other lens in the same FoV consumer and pro-sumer zooms. Where this pay off is in two places, first your camera will be able to shoot images at a faster shutter speed (1/500 versus 1/125 for a f2.8 vs a f5.6 lens) which is great for stopping action when shooting indoor sports, second your camera will be able to focus better and faster with the f2.8 lens due tot eh fact that 4 times the light is hitting the auto focus sensor and most cameras add in additional “cross” type focus sensors when used with f2.8 or faster lenses.
What are your long term goals with your camera - Generally this falls into 3 categories, hobby, enthusiast, and semi-professional pursuits.
For the hobbyist I recommend the consumer grade lenses since they are generally just looking for great snapshots.
For the enthusiast I recommend the pro-sumer lenses such as a f4.0 constant aperture zoom lens. Not nearly as expensive as the f2.8 lenses but offer the constant aperture and improved optics.
For the semi-professional person looking to really get serious and/or start making money with their camera I recommned the best lenses that they can buy.
Another question I get asked a lot is what I shoot with. First off I am a Canon shooter so this list is based off of that but also realize that there are equivalents for each with all the other camera bodies.
Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS - I have the “Version I” of this lens and have had it for about 6 years now. The fast f2.8 aperture is the big plus with the lens. That combined with the Image Stabilization (IS) allows me to shot stationary or slow moving objects a lower shutter speeds and still get good clear results. The 70-200 range is a great range and allows me a lot of choices in image size with out having to move much.
Canon 24-70 f2.8 – Great companion to the 70-200 lens as there is no overlap and both use 77mm filters. This is my second most used lens in my bag.
Canon 50 and 85 f1.8 – I love these lens! They are 1.5 stops faster than the f2.8 lenses and really allow me to shoot in much lower light and get really shallow depth of field when I shoot. They are also not that expensive.
Canon 100-400 f4-5.6 – This is a great zoom lens that has really served me well when shooting sports outdoors.
Canon EF-s 10-22 – This lens is for the canon “crop” bodies so I use it for wide angle shots on my 20D or 60D. This is one of those lens that delivers great results for the price and a must have if you want to shoot landscapes with a Canon crop body.
I hope this was a helpful for pointing you in the right direction when you get ready to purchase your next lens.