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Which Lens to Buy

Most experts will tell you to put your money into your lenses rather than your camera.  And that’s true.  They don’t become obsolete.  They have a great effect on image quality.  They even hold their value.

But the top lenses can cost upwards of $2,500, and that’s just for wide and mid-range lenses.  The long telephotos can get completely insane (upwards of $10,000).  So we have to be a little bit reasonable here.

I’m all about bang for the buck.  My guess is that you want high quality lenses, but you don’t want to pay double for a lens that is only a tiny bit better.  So, with those thoughts in mind, here are my top lens recommendations:

Best Lens Banner

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6
$1,149.00 $1,046.95
You may never take this lens off your camera. You get some wide angle, mid-ranges, portrait lengths, and even a little zoom. It is a well-built L-Series lens. An all-around great lens for a relatively reasonable price. The focal length of this lens is insane, especially considering the price and quality. Covers all ranges, with a great deal of telephoto. Get it and leave it on your camera.  The price is right too.

Wide Angle Lens Banner

Nikon 16-35 f/4
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens
Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR II AF-S IF SWM Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens
$ 839.00 $1,256.95
A great, well-built L-Series lens for under $1,000. A premium stabilized lens that works for full-frame and DX sensors.

50 mm Lens

Canon 50 mm Nikon 50mm
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Lens
Nikon 50 f/1.8 Lens
$110.00 $119.95
Cheap, sharp, fast. A great introduction into the world of prime lenses. Ditto.

Telephoto Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
$1,449.00 $1,396.95
A sharp, fast, well-built 70-200. Aperture opens up to 2.8 for maximum light. Note that this is the older version – the newer model costs $1000 more! A reasonably priced, well-made 70-200 from Nikon.

But times are tough!  What’s a kit lens solution?

The Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6, while not a kit lens, is actually a nice, highly rated lens.  It gets you a nice wide-angle all the way up through the portrait lengths.  It is cheaper than any of my recommendations, but it will still set you back $800.

If that is too much, just go with the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for now.  Same is true of Nikon.  Start with that and add lenses as additional funds are available to be devoted to your frivolous photography pastime.

Money is no object! What are the best lenses available?

None of my picks are the most expensive lenses available, or even the absolute best lenses on the market.  But they are the best for the money.  I don’t think anybody is looking for me to tell them how to spend $2,000 for a lens.

The absolute best lenses will all cost twice what my recommendations cost, with only marginal improvements in quality.  But if you have the extra money to burn for the best available, I recommend you go with the following lenses:

For Canon make your wide-angle the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, the mid-range the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, and make your telephoto the current model Canon 70-200mm f/2.8.

For Nikon the best wide angle is the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, the mid-range is Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, and the telephoto is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8.

Either the Canon or Nikon set-up will cost you almost $7,000 for all three lenses.  But your Death Star will be complete.

 What Next?

Once you have your camera and a lens or two picked out, here are some suggestions for you:

  • take a look at some other gear you might need to get started
  • or if you are done spending money, start learning the basics of exposure

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