One of the exciting facets of DSLR photography is the ability to change lenses. Getting a handle on the different type of lenses available and what each one does will open up a whole new world of photography for you. In this post, I will show you the essential lenses and filters you need.
*** This guide has been updated with more practical tips on December 30th, 2014.
Chances are if this is your first DSLR camera, the concept of interchanging lenses seems complicated. Names assigned to lenses include an array of numbers and letters that can appear confusing, but don’t let that intimidate you. It really isn’t that hard to figure out. Once you become familiar with each lens and how best to use it, it will be like having different cameras for different subjects, and interchanging them will soon become second nature.
First of all, remember there is no limit to the types of lenses that are suitable for your personal use. When you consider using or purchasing a new lens, think about the type of photography you most enjoy and what you find lacking for it with your current lens.
Do you feel limited by the amount of subject material you can fit into your image? Or maybe you want a lens that offers better quality on far away objects. Perhaps you want a lens that focuses faster and more efficiently or works superior in low light.
Actually, with all the makes and models available there is probably more than one lens that will give you the quality of photos that you are looking for. To get an idea, consider the following lenses and which would be a good investment for the photos you like to shoot.
If you like to know what are the best lenses for beginners at the moment, be sure to check out our list of the popular DSLR lenses.
Before introducing you to the common lenses for beginner DSLR photographers, it is good to keep a term, crop factor, in mind.
Without going into details with the crop factor in this guide, it is important to know that the crop sensor size affects on how close the subject appears to you.
In other words, if you buy a 50 mm lens it would be close to what the human eye sees on a full frame high-end DSLR camera. However, when you use the 50 mm lens with a low to mid-end DSLR camera which has 1.6 crop factor, everything seem to be bigger.
The main thing why I really like DSLR cameras is the ability to change the lens. When you buy your first digital SLR camera, it will probably come with a single lens with moderate zoom capability. These are called “kit” lenses.
There are many different kinds of lenses you can buy for your camera, but it is good to stick with your “kit” lens before you learn what kind of photos you mostly take and what are the limitations with your current lens.
Here are the most common ones that are typically recommended for the beginners.
50mm prime lens
A standard lens is 50mm, which is a fairly close match to the magnification made by the human eye on a full frame DSLR camera. That’s not to say our eyes are limited to 50mm. In fact, the human eye has a larger field of view, but if you were to look at a specific object through your own eyes, and then view it through a 50mm lens, the magnification would be quite similar.
50 mm is a good lens for a variety of photography. You can capture a startling landscape as well as a stunning portrait with the 50mm.
I like to use the 50 mm lens mostly for taking portraits in a low light situations or photos with a nice bokeh blur effect.
Wide angle lens
A wide angle lens is any lens with a focal length smaller than 50mm. For example a 25mm lens will give you twice the diagonal field of a 50 mm. It is ideal for taking photos of large groups, wide landscapes and tall buildings, by allowing you to squeeze in twice as much information as you can in a 50mm.
Any lens below a 20mm is considered to be an ultra-wide angle lens. These offer a larger depth of field and allow for more focus from the foreground to the object and from the object to the background to capture the right depth of field.
However, keep in mind that when you squeeze in lots of information, your photo is likely to suffer from distortion, especially around the edges. But don’t let that stop you from working with the wide angle lenses. In fact, with patience and practice, you can actually use the lens to purposely exaggerate subjects to create a startling special effect.
I like to use the wide angle lens especially when shooting landscape photos when I’m not able to move far enough from the object.
Lenses larger than 50mm are telephoto lenses. You can’t fit as much information into the scene; however, they take a wide range of photos and work very well. For portraits, use 85mm to 135mm, and for wildlife or field events, use 200-600mm.
Lenses come with a fixed focal length, which remains the same, or with a zoom lens, which can be focused from one focal length to another. While zoom lenses are convenient and offer some variety, they really don’t produce as high quality photography as a fixed focal length lens.
You will find zoom lenses go from wide angle to short telephoto (28mm – 80mm), wide angle zooms that go from ultra-wide to normal range (16mm – 35mm) and telephoto zooms which go from short, 70mm to long, 300mm focal lengths.
I like to use the telephoto zoom lens especially when I am travelling as it allows me quickly to adapt the focal lenght depending on the situation.
Filters for DSLR cameras are an essential part of a photographers gear. Yet many are not well versed in how to use them or which filter to buy. Some even claim that filters are no longer needed due to the capabilities with a editing software such as Photoshop. However, I think they are still a crucial part of getting a great shot.
The first of the two most common filters is a UV filter. Most people use a UV filter on their camera to protect their lens from the elements such as dirt or moisture. UV filters start at around $2.00 each and go up to over $90.00.
The general rule of thumb is that the higher quality your filter, the better your pictures will turn out. If your looking to protect your lens then a UV filter is the way to go.
The second filter that many photographers use is a Polarized Filter. If you shoot a lot of photos outside, then this is the filter for you.
It acts like polarized sunglasses and eliminates glare from your pictures. If you shoot anything that gives off glare then you will fall in love with a Polarized Lens.
Neutral density filter
The last filter that every photographer needs is a Neutral Density Filter. It simply reduces the amount of light that hits your image sensor so that you can experiment with slower shutter speeds.
If you are planning on shooting a waterfall mid-day with a slow shutter speed than this is the perfect filter for you.
To sum it up, lenses can really enhance your photography skills.
However, I would recommend that you should stick with your kit zoom lens that came with your camera first to see what kind of photos you’ll be mostly taking.
When you are ready to buy you next lens, remember that extra lenses are just as important as your camera so you’ll want to invest as much as you can, as wisely as you can. Rather than invest in two or three mediocre lenses, choose one lens that you really can’t live without, and invest in the highest quality you can afford.
Once you have the lenses you need, take more professional looking pictures with the right DSLR lens filters.
Filters offer many advantages for photographers. From simply protecting your lenses to allowing you to use slower shutter speeds in bright situations; filters offer many great opportunities for us. Try a few different ones and decide which one is best for you, because it really comes down to personal preference.
Now that you know the basics of choosing the right lenses for your camera, let’s have a look at my my favorite DSLR lenses.