So, you’ve purchased your first DSLR camera – maybe something like a Canon Rebel. While the standard kit lens that comes with the camera will serve you well, and be incredibly versatile, you’ll soon want to branch out. Today we’ll be going over the best first lens you could buy, and why you would want it.
What is Wrong with a Kit Lens?
A kit lens, or the lens that comes stock with your DSLR body, is not great. If you’re an inexperienced photographer, you might like it a lot due to its versatility. And don’t get me wrong, I do too. If I don’t want to carry around multiple lenses and want to be ready for anything, I would probably choose to equip my kit lens. A kit lens can do just about anything, but not well. It’s a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
Most kit lenses you’ll find are 18-55mm so that you can take a wide variety of images. The lens will have moderate zoom and are incredibly affordable. If you’re just starting out with DSLR photography, and your camera didn’t come with a lens, there is nothing wrong with purchasing a kit lens. This will help you learn what kind of photos you like taking, and of the limitations of your lens. Once you learn more about your own relationship with photography, you will better understand where to spend your hard-earned money.
The majority of photographers will choose a 50mm lens as their first additional lens. These lenses tend to be inexpensive with a very large aperture. The Canon 50mm F1.8 is a great example. This makes it an incredibly fast lens, so you’re sure to get those quick shots. It also allows for a very shallow depth of field, creating that soft blurred background that so many people strive for (just look at Portrait Mode on phone cameras!). A 50mm lens is an excellent portrait lens in any right, but it’s the kind of thing that can easily impress your friends and family.
The downside of this lens is that it has a fixed focal length of 50mm. That’s a great focal length for portraits. But when you need to zoom in or zoom out, you’re out of luck. You’ll need to physically move if you want to adjust your composition. It can be frustrating, but it’s also a good way to practice composition.
50mm lenses are incredibly affordable and can usually be found for under $150.
This should be your first lens if you: Are most interested in shooting portraits; want to create background blur; need something super-fast.
This should NOT be your first lens if you: Need to have a camera in a fixed position; want to take photos of items that are far away; need to make quick zoom adjustments while shooting.
On the other end of the spectrum is a zoom lens. Zoom lenses, unlike a 50mm prime lens (learn more about prime lenses here), have the ability to zoom in and out with ease. They also excel at zooming long distances. This makes them great for capturing images of faraway objects. They’re also perfectly fine at capturing closer objects, as their starting lengths are similar to a kit lens.
The term “zoom lens” is a bit loose but you can easily find a lens that goes up to 300mm for under $300, making it a great deal for a lens this versatile.
This should be your first lens if you: Want versatility without the downsides of a kit lens, or want to take photos of landscapes.
This should NOT be your first lens if you: Want to prioritize portraits over landscapes; want to keep your camera more compact.
Why Do I Need Another Lens?
Your camera can take a photo of just about anything without much issue, even with its stock lens. But different lenses are like different coats. Any coat can protect you from the rain and wind to some degree, but different kinds of coats serve different purposes, Windbreakers are great on windy days, parkas are ideal for the snow, waterproof jackets with hoods are nice during the rain, and fabric hoodies are great for just staying warm and stylish. A 50mm lens is great for taking portraits and a zoom lens that can go to 300mm is great for capturing faraway details.