Choosing the Right Lens For Your DSLR

Choosing the Right Lens For Your DSLR

Every owner of an interchangeable-lens camera (otherwise known as a SLR or DSLR now), so choosing the right lens for your DSLR can be a dilemma when picking the most appropriate lenses to buy, then deciding which to use. However, there are no rules to go by; much depends on your personal style and what you already own. To help you decide which lenses to buy and how best to use them, we offer the following.

Nikon_AF_S_Nikkor_50mm_f_1_8G - Choosing the Right Lens For Your DSLR

(This post may contain affiliate links) Although some lenses are fairly cheap, the Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.8G can cost from £140+ depending which website you purchase from.

Normal lenses: Today, many 35mm photographers opt for a short zoom instead of a 50mm, but both have their virtues. If you need a fast, general-purpose lens in the f/1.4-f/2 range (starting from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/1.8 on 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses) for available light work, nothing can beat a 50mm. Positives: Usually more compact, lighter than a short zoom; often less costly; generally very sharp; provides brighter viewing image. Negatives: No zooming; you must compose by moving the camera.

Short zooms offer framing flexibility, often in a package not much larger than a 50mm lens. A 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 is usually the smallest and least expensive, but a 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 is more useful for shooting interiors, vistas, and cramped quarters because it gets down to 28mm. If you shoot portraits, nature, or sports at close range, consider a compact 35-105mm or a 35-135mm zoom. Normal zoom positives: Equivalent to two or more single focal length lenses in a handy, responsive package, it provides intermediate focal lengths; there’s less need to switch lenses. Normal zoom negatives: Moderate aperture (typically f/3.5-4.5) limits low-light shooting and focusing precision with manual focus, affects viewing brightness. Zooms tend to be larger, heavier, more expensive than 50mm lenses.

Wide-angle lenses: They range from 24mm (bordering on ultra-wide) to 35mm (bordering on semi-wide). As with normals, the choice is between very compact, single-focal-length lenses of relatively wide aperture (f/2-f/2.8, a few f/1.4s) and moderate-aperture zooms (around f/3.5-4.5), which provide superior framing flexibility. For positives and negatives on both types, see normal-lens section above.

Many wide zooms, such as 24-50mm, 25-50mm, 28-50mm, etc., encompass normal as well as wide-angle focal lengths, which is an advantage. A few (for example, 21-35mm, 18-28mm) combine ultra-wide (21mm and below) and wide focal lengths (see ultra-wide section below). Many are not much larger or heavier than a 50mm. Although 25-50mm or 21 -35mm may not sound as impressive, it’s the zoom ratio (long divided by short focal length) that counts. If you need a really fast wide-angle (for example, 35mm f/1.4, 28mm f/2, 24mm f/2) for available light or shooting handheld with slow film, stick to single focal lengths.

Ultra Wide Lenses and Telephoto Lenses

Ultra wide angle and telephoto lenses do not come cheap. A 70-200mm lens for either Nikon or Canon, you can be expected to pay upwards of £1,500/$1,800 and I wish the good news ended there. The bigger the lens, the more expensive they are. A Sigma or Tamron 150-500/600 can still put a dent in your bank balance, costing around  £800-£1800 range. These lenses are still go value for money, as both Sigma and Tamron have up their game in the design and manufacture of their lenses. However, as both Sigma and Tamron have both released new versions of their 150-600mm lenses, these will still set you back a whopping £1800 pounds

Ultra wide Angle Lenses: With focal lengths of 21mm and below in 35mm format, they provide extreme angular coverage of 90 degrees or more. Positives: Ultra-wides, by virtue of low image magnification, provide great depth of field; more likely to yield sharp-looking images when handheld at slow shutter speeds. Excellent for expanding tight interior spaces, capturing vistas; for intimate photojournalism, street photography. Negatives: Apparent perspective distortion, though useful for dramatic or comic effects, is problematic in portraiture. Avoid placing subjects near edges of the frame or prominent features, such as noses, in the foreground.

Prime Lenses: Sometimes called portrait lenses, these optics in the 85-135mm range are fine for portraiture, minimise apparent perspective distortion, and provide convenient working distance when shooting faces close up. Many tele zooms work well in this range, but they’re heavier, longer, and slower than single focal length lenses. If you shoot a large percentage of portraits, you should consider getting an 85mm f/2, 100mm f/2, or 105mm f/2.5, even if you own a tele. Positives: They allow discreet photography of people without the perspective-flattening effect of long telephoto lens; single focal length type combines fast aperture, bright viewing image, good image quality. Negative: For zooms, see above; for single focal length, fairly specialised.

Long Telephoto Lenses: Traditionally, any lens over 135mm for 35mm photography is a long tele. Today, the most popular by far are zooms in the 80-200mm or 70-210mm range. Unless you need a lens that’s very fast and very long (such as the optically superb but large, heavy, and very expensive 300mm and 400mm f/2.8s used by professional sports photographers), a tele zoom is the most flexible and economical choice. For many photographers, a 70-200mm f/2-4.5 (especially one with macro) is the only long tele they’ll need. Positives: Reasonable size, weight, and price, wide range of uses in either; nature, sports, people, portraits, scenics. Negatives: Moderate and variable aperture; mediocre performance unless stopped way down. A number of surprisingly compact 100-300mm f/5.6s are now offered for those who need a bit more reach, and there are a few fine 200-500mm f/5.6s for those who need really long telephoto lens for such things as long-distance sports close-ups. Long tele zoom negatives: larger size and weight. Cost is another factor as with the Nikkor 800mm Lens, this will set you back an eye watering £11,000 GBPounds.


If you wish to know more about ‘ƒ’ Number or what Depth of Field is, please visit my post on the subject which can be found here: Photography and What is Depth of Field

John Milnes




    • 18 April 2017 / 9:35 pm

      It always pays to do some home work before purchasing a lens. Find the right make which is reliable and doesn’t break the bank balance either.

      John M

  1. 18 April 2017 / 7:13 pm

    Great, informative post. My husband always rents a few kind of lenses when he’s off to an airshow!

    • 18 April 2017 / 9:33 pm

      I do want to look in to hiring a lens for some events. That maybe a good idea for a blog post too. Thanks for the idea.

      John M

  2. 18 April 2017 / 7:46 pm

    That is the problem with lens they can be super expensive but I agree that the more expensive lens often take better pictures. I think my photographer has an ultra wide lens from what I remember.

    • 18 April 2017 / 9:32 pm

      The camera is only as good as the person using it. That being said, I have taken time to get the best lenses I can which allow me to get the best effect for the situation and shots I want. I use my 50mm for a lot of portrait shots of my daughter. I use other lenses for inside the house for doing blog related stuff for the wife.


  3. 18 April 2017 / 10:20 pm

    Thanks for this, it is really useful to me. I tend to just always use my kit lens despite have another I can change over to. I think I like an easy life and maybe should have just bough a bridge!

  4. 19 April 2017 / 8:45 pm

    My eldest daughter has hijacked my Nikon DSLR, I must get it back and then I can look at a new lens! Kaz

  5. 19 April 2017 / 9:00 pm

    I think my eyes went cross eyed mid way through owing to all the information, but if I need a camera lens, then I know where to come!

  6. Helen
    19 April 2017 / 9:29 pm

    I’m very new to my DSLR (and still using the kit lens that came with it) This is such a helpful, informative post. I had no idea how to go about choosing lenses and what they all do!

  7. 19 April 2017 / 9:50 pm

    I’ve bookmarked this post, as I want to invest in some more lenses for my DSLR this year – I need a bigger zoom lens, and would love a macro lens too.

  8. 20 April 2017 / 12:44 pm

    I really need to treat myself to a DSLR! I’d love to take my photography to the next level. Bookmarking this post for when I finally do 🙂


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