Choosing LensesThere are many things to consider when selecting a lens. The following will help you sort through the options carefully. And careful you want to be, for more than any other area, the hunk of glass you work with can hurt or help your ability to make great photographs.
It is true that you can get a third-party lens by companies such as Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina. Many people do get such lenses and are perfectly happy. It mostly depends on how much shooting you are going to do; if you are really serious about photography, we recommend getting Canon lenses for Canon, Nikkor lenses for Nikon, and Minolta lenses for Minolta... The may cost more but they are worth every extra penny.
While the brand you choose is determined for the most part by which camera you own, other decisions still need to be made.
The first decision to make is whether to go with a zoom or a fixed focal length lens. What's a fixed focal length lens, you ask? It is basically a lens that does not zoom.
The Great Controversy:In the infant days of zoom lenses, these contraptions just didn't cut the mustard. Like most digital cameras are today, they were either too expensive or poor quality. They just needed tweaking and a few technological innovations to happen before they could be considered good enough to be used by serious artists.
Zoom vs. Fixed Focal Length Lenses
Things have changed. Before you start packing a bunch of heavy hunks of glass (and before you spend all your hard-earned cash on these lenses), rest assured that many zoom lenses are now both good enough and cheap enough to be used for quality work. In fact, one good zoom will often offset the price of a few quality fixed focal length lenses.
What a Zoom Lens Can Do For YouMost people think of a zoom lens as a tool for getting closer to your subject. It is. However, it can be used for so much more. The real benefit of using a zoom lens is the speed and ease with which you can recompose your picture.
Without having to switch lenses, and without having to run forward or run back, you can:
What a Fixed Lens Can Do For YouFixed-focal length lenses will give, in theory at least, the sharpest results. This makes sense; if you want the least distortion, etc., you want to have the least amount of glass between you and your subject. A zoom lenses usually consists of a great number of different elements (piece of glass) while a fixed will have few.
I have only rarely seen the superiority in a fixed focal length lens, and this was with Canon's "L" series, a line of their very best (and most expensive) professional lenses. If you are a nut about having the best, are worried about having the slightest lack of quality or have tons and tons of disposable income, get wide, normal, and telephoto fixed focal length lenses.
Ranging from Wide Angle to Telephoto
Lenses are measured in millimeters. Forget about what the millimeters refer to and just learn this:
If you are just starting, get at least a normal/wide-angle lens. A zoom in the range of 28mm to 80mm works best. If you can afford it, also get a medium to long telephoto, say 100mm to 300mm. One camera body and two such lenses makes an awesome combination when out in the field.
From this foundation, you can add an extreme wide angle if you like to do panoramic, expansive scenes or wacky, wild angles.
Also consider adding a super telephoto, especially if you like shooting wildlife, sports, etc. These long-range lenses are a lot of fun and open up many new opportunities. Children, for one, are much easier to photograph from a slight distance.
Specialties and OptionsIf you find that you love to shoot abstract close-ups of things like flowers, bugs, and dripping water droplets, you might like a good macro. Those who know this is what they are going to be doing can save themselves a lot of money but just getting one 50mm macro instead of a 50mm normal lens and an additional macro lens. A 50mm macro works just as well for normal photography; its design simply allows you to get much closer to your subject than you could with a normal lens. This gives you the added ability to do fun close-up work.
You can also get tele-extenders that will magnify your lens by 1.4 of 2. For example, putting a 2x teleconverter on a 200mm lens will give you a 400mm. However, such teleconverters cut out a lot of light, making it more difficult to maintain fast shutter speeds and shoot without a tripod or in low-light conditions.
Now that you have an idea of whether you prefer the convenience and flexibility of zooms or the extreme sharpness of fixed focal length lenses, as well as what range you would most enjoy working in, you can go out and get the perfect lens. The glass you use for your photos makes a huge difference; splurge a little bit here and you will be most happy.
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