What Lenses Do I Need? Photography Friday, Week 4

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When I first broached the idea of Photography Friday, I asked readers to submit photography-related questions they'd like to see answered.  One question I saw, repeatedly, concerned what lenses to buy.

It's a tough question because the lenses you need are determined by what type of photos you plan to take.  Really, only you can answer the question for yourself.

In addition, you could possibly ask five photographers their opinion on this same question and come away with five different answers.

Nonetheless, with that disclaimer, I will give you my thoughts and opinions on lenses today and you can take them or ignore leave them.

To start with, you should know (if you don't already), a few lens basics.  There are two categories of lenses:  zoom and prime.  A zoom lens offers a range of focal lengths in a single lens.  A prime lens has a single, or fixed, focal length.  

Within the two categories of lenses, you will find lenses grouped by their focal length:  wide angle, normal, or telephoto.  The focal length determines how much is captured within the frame of your photo.  (There are also macro lenses which have macro capability and also do double duty with either normal or telephoto abilities.)

Confused yet?

What makes a lens "high quality" vs. average?

In brief, a high quality lens is fast (a maximum aperture of 2.8 or faster), has great optics, and delivers a sharp photo with excellent contrast.

I could do several posts just on the variations in lenses, but the above basics should be enough to help with today's Photography Friday question.

You should also know, many lenses are interchangeable between Nikon and Canon these days.  Also, both companies make very similar sized lenses.

Good lenses are expensive.  Some of you might be in a position to buy every lens your heart dreams of right off the bat, but most people have to accumulate them on a more gradual basis as their budget allows.  I have many years of photography behind me, and at this point I've settled into a few lenses which seem to cover most of my needs.  If you are a "little bit of everything" type of photographer like I am, you might have similar needs.

As an aside, I buy lenses with Image Stabilization whenever possible.  I'm a one-working-arm photographer.  I need all the help I can get.

These are the five lenses I would have on my wish list if I were starting out, but with the exception of the first one, they aren't necessarily listed in the order of importance.  Also, keep in mind, most of us have to acquire our lenses gradually over time.  

Think about how you use your camera and prioritize your needs accordingly.

1.  A high quality every day lens.  I use a 24-105mm.  This is the lens I walk around with on my camera on a day-in and day-out basis.  I end up taking more photos with this lens than any other, so I felt it was worthwhile to invest in high quality glass.  (However, when I was just starting off, I couldn't afford high quality.  I went with the best I could afford at the time.  Later, I sold my average lenses and upgraded them as my budget allowed.)

2.  A telephoto lens.  I use a 70-200mm.  (I eventually added a 2x extender to my collection too, which allows me to go up to 400 when I need to.)  This is the lens I've used time and again for years at sporting events for my kids, or when trying to bring mother nature a little closer.  It's a fantastic lens, but it's also very heavy.  This is probably not a factor for you but I'm, for all intents and purposes, a one-armed photographer now.  It's very difficult for me to use this lens except for short periods of time.

** If you only had the two lenses listed above you could capture the majority of the shots you will (most likely) want.  You would have coverage from 24-200mm with the two lenses combined. **

3.  A wide angle lens.  I use a 10-22mm.  As lenses go, this one wasn't as expensive but I absolutely love it.  Looooooove it.  A wide angle is great for groups of people, cityscapes, landscape photography, shots of clouds and the sky.  It's also the lens I go to when I want a different perspective on what would otherwise be an every day shot.

** The three lenses above are capable of covering a very wide range of distances (10-200mm) and most of your every day needs.  And yes, you can use the telephoto lens for great close-up shots which means purchasing a macro lens is not as critical right off the bat. **

4.  A multi-purpose lens.  I have an 18-200 mm.  I know some of you will disagree with me, but if you can only afford one lens this is the one I would recommend.  Why?  It does just about everything from wide angle to long distance.  No, it isn't the highest quality, sharpest, glass out there, but the average person on the street won't notice a difference.  It also isn't as expensive as many lenses are.  This is a great go-to lens when you can't, or don't want to, lug a bunch of camera gear with you.  (Think about the times you have to travel and simply can't take a lot of gear with you … this one lens can do it all when those situations arise.)  

** This will most likely be the only lens I'll take with me on my upcoming (very likely) trip to Cambodia. **

5.  A macro lens.  I have a 100mm.  Not all of you would want, or use, a macro lens.  If you want to concentrate on close-up photography, however, this is the lens for you.  A lot of flowers, bugs, and food shots are taken with macro lenses.  Macro lenses can also be used for portrait photography.

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Do I have any other lenses?

Yes, I do but the ones listed above are the lenses I return to time and time again.  Your needs might be different, but hopefully this list helps many of you.

Remember, you can join in with other Twenty Four At Heart readers and share your photos on Flickr by clicking here.

© Twenty Four At Heart

33 Responses to “What Lenses Do I Need? Photography Friday, Week 4”

  1. Jan

    I’m working on my lens collection – I have an all-purpose zoom (18-115mm) that I use mostly for landscapes, a 50mm prime that I use mostly for portraits, and a macro that I use for food and flower photography. Next on my list is a good telephoto and then a wide angle – unfortunately, good quality glass ain’t cheap and it’s going to be awhile. *sigh*

  2. Jan

    I’m working on my lens collection – I have an all-purpose zoom (18-115mm) that I use mostly for landscapes, a 50mm prime that I use mostly for portraits, and a macro that I use for food and flower photography. Next on my list is a good telephoto and then a wide angle – unfortunately, good quality glass ain’t cheap and it’s going to be awhile. *sigh*

  3. Jan

    I’m working on my lens collection – I have an all-purpose zoom (18-115mm) that I use mostly for landscapes, a 50mm prime that I use mostly for portraits, and a macro that I use for food and flower photography. Next on my list is a good telephoto and then a wide angle – unfortunately, good quality glass ain’t cheap and it’s going to be awhile. *sigh*

  4. di

    Great list and I agree with your choices. I’m in the process of determining the lens I want next.
    Di
    The Blue Ridge Gal

  5. di

    Great list and I agree with your choices. I’m in the process of determining the lens I want next.
    Di
    The Blue Ridge Gal

  6. di

    Great list and I agree with your choices. I’m in the process of determining the lens I want next.
    Di
    The Blue Ridge Gal

  7. Michelle Pixie

    Great stuff! I love my 50mm lens and I really, really, really want a macro but it just isn’t in the budget for me right now so I am going with the extension tubes for my 50mm. I too have to go with the IS whenever possible since I have tremors and at times can really make getting the “shot” frustrating. 😉

  8. Michelle Pixie

    Great stuff! I love my 50mm lens and I really, really, really want a macro but it just isn’t in the budget for me right now so I am going with the extension tubes for my 50mm. I too have to go with the IS whenever possible since I have tremors and at times can really make getting the “shot” frustrating. 😉

  9. Michelle Pixie

    Great stuff! I love my 50mm lens and I really, really, really want a macro but it just isn’t in the budget for me right now so I am going with the extension tubes for my 50mm. I too have to go with the IS whenever possible since I have tremors and at times can really make getting the “shot” frustrating. 😉

  10. Cathi

    THANK YOU
    Of course, now my wish list has really grown but at least I feel like I know where to start.

  11. Cathi

    THANK YOU
    Of course, now my wish list has really grown but at least I feel like I know where to start.

  12. Cathi

    THANK YOU
    Of course, now my wish list has really grown but at least I feel like I know where to start.

  13. Kelly

    I have the first two coverred. Now wondering if I should get a wide angle or multi purpose next. A lot of times I have to bring just one lens and its hard to choose. A multipurpose would solve that wouldn’t it? good idea!

  14. Kelly

    I have the first two coverred. Now wondering if I should get a wide angle or multi purpose next. A lot of times I have to bring just one lens and its hard to choose. A multipurpose would solve that wouldn’t it? good idea!

  15. Kelly

    I have the first two coverred. Now wondering if I should get a wide angle or multi purpose next. A lot of times I have to bring just one lens and its hard to choose. A multipurpose would solve that wouldn’t it? good idea!

  16. MontanaMom

    Great info for us budding photographers….thank you!!

  17. MontanaMom

    Great info for us budding photographers….thank you!!

  18. MontanaMom

    Great info for us budding photographers….thank you!!

  19. Tami

    You are really giving me the photography bug in a big way!

  20. Tami

    You are really giving me the photography bug in a big way!

  21. Tami

    You are really giving me the photography bug in a big way!

  22. middle-aged-woman

    I would love your take on color in composition, as well as color v. B&W. The lenses don’t concern me currently, as I am working with a point and shoot, but it is nice to know what some of those buttons and adjustments are supposed to be emulating.

  23. middle-aged-woman

    I would love your take on color in composition, as well as color v. B&W. The lenses don’t concern me currently, as I am working with a point and shoot, but it is nice to know what some of those buttons and adjustments are supposed to be emulating.

  24. middle-aged-woman

    I would love your take on color in composition, as well as color v. B&W. The lenses don’t concern me currently, as I am working with a point and shoot, but it is nice to know what some of those buttons and adjustments are supposed to be emulating.

  25. Denise

    Just arrived home from a trip into town. While driving down the road I had the misfortune to look into my rear view mirror and catch my image, which we will say, was harshly lit by the sunshine pouring in the window…….
    I need the cream. 🙁

  26. Denise

    Just arrived home from a trip into town. While driving down the road I had the misfortune to look into my rear view mirror and catch my image, which we will say, was harshly lit by the sunshine pouring in the window…….
    I need the cream. 🙁

  27. Denise

    Just arrived home from a trip into town. While driving down the road I had the misfortune to look into my rear view mirror and catch my image, which we will say, was harshly lit by the sunshine pouring in the window…….
    I need the cream. 🙁

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