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DSLR camera lens buying guide

A Guide and Tips on Buying Camera Lens

July 17, 2015

Only a professional photographer knows the importance of lenses in a camera. However, being a normal user, you do not know how vital it is to have the right lens for a perfect shot. This write-up helps you to find out the best camera lens for a DSLR or interchangeable lens camera.

However, it's not easy to pick up the right lens for your DSLR camera; this article will provide you tips to get the right kit lens.

If you are new to the DSLRs and the lenses, then first you should know about the basics of camera lenses. Basically, each camera lens has two main properties, one of focal length and other is the f-stop. The focal length is to determine that how close you are to the subject with the lens. For example, an 18mm lens can produce a very wide angle shot, where a 200mm lens can get very close to the subject. The f-stop is to identify how wide the aperture can open. For example, a lens with the reach of f/1.4 will be brighter than f/4.0. So, you should know these concepts if you are a regular photographer.

It's not necessary to purchase multiple lenses for your new camera body, but make sure the manufacturer has offered a wide range of various lenses so that your camera supports all types of photo styles you need for your personal photography.

Every camera brand uses its own hardware while designing an interchangeable lens camera, therefore, the relationship with the specific hardware mount depends upon its manufacturer and the type of lens you choose. For example, Nikon uses the F and Nikon 1 mounts, Canon the EF and EF-S mounts (Canon EF-M mount for the EOS M mirrorless camera), similarly Sony the A and E mounts, where Panasonic and Olympus the Micro Four Thirds mount, Pentax the K mount, Leica the M mount, etc. Although, these all are interchangeable lens cameras, but still you cannot use a Sony glass on a Nikon body and vice versa.

Types of DSLR Camera Lenses

  • Kit Lenses – Kit Lenses are offered with DSLR as a package. These are an entry level zoom lens and designed for regular shooting.
  • Prime Lenses – A prime lens is a lens that has one focal length only. These lenses are used as the opposite of zoom lenses as the lens has a fixed-focal-length. Due to their simpler optics, prime lenses usually have a larger aperture than zoom lenses. These are used to shot in dim light and a shallower depth of field.
  • Zoom lenses - Zoom lenses can rotate a lens in multiple directions, such as, pull a lens forward and back, press a button to "zoom in" on an object, etc. these are the most trendy type of lenses.
  • Macro Lenses – These lenses are designed to shoot the close objects. There is a wide range of cameras and lenses that come with a 'macro' setting. Macro lenses allow you to get incredibly close to the subject you're shooting.
  • Wide Angle Lenses – These types of lenses facilitates you to take a photo of a wide area. For example a big room, a large underwater space, etc. Wide-angle lenses are basically useful for landscapes and to get close to subjects.
  • Telephoto lenses - Lenses that allow you to take pictures of subjects far away, such as, birds, clouds, etc.

Note: Both Wide Angle Lenses & Telephoto lenses can be prime lenses or zoom lenses.

  • Mid-range Zooms - These lenses come with focal-length between 17mm and 60mm. For example a 17-35mm lens, 17-70mm lens, and a 18-55mm lens. These lenses are basically good to shot marine life, like large fish, turtles, sharks, large eels, napoleon wrasses pelagic, etc.

Things you should look for while purchasing a camera lens:

Calculation of focal length & crop factor:

If you are planning to purchase a camera, calculate the focal length and crop factor. Usually the basic focal length of a camera lens could be 14-42mm, 18-55mm, 70-200mm, 500mm, etc., the actual angle of view that you'll capture is dependent upon the size of the imaging sensor. This is called the crop factor. Therefore, before buying the lens for your camera, you must know how the size of the sensor impacts the angle of view to the resulting image. For example, if you use a 'nifty fifty' 50mm f/1.8 lens on a Canon Rebel T5i, then it will not result a normal angle of view, but a highly moderated image, which will be equivalent to 80mm on film or a full-frame sensor.

This is because of the 1.6x crop factor. Similarly, on a Micro Four Thirds camera, a 25mm lens will not result in a wide-angle, but equivalent to a 50mm lens, this is because of 2x crop factor. On Micro Four Thirds, a true wide-angle focal length would be a 14mm, where on an APS-C DSLR it would be an 18mm.

Maximum aperture

Some users only pay attention to the focal length of the camera lenses. Focal length is a basic problem of compact cameras. A normal user always preferred a powerful zoom of the camera. However, the actual fact is, it's good to be close to the subject with a telephoto lens, but if the image is not properly bright, then it will be a waste. Therefore, a user can get far better shots with a 50mm f/1.4 lens than a 200mm f/4.0 lens. Moreover, the choice of your lenses should always be dictated to the type of shots you can take, such as close-up shots, Indoor shots, outdoor shots, daytime shots, nighttime shots, and landscape shots.

Background of an image is also a very important thing that affects an image a lot. A large maximum aperture, such as f/1.8, provides you more options to make the background detailed or soft. A large aperture settings offer you to soften the background more easily, where smaller aperture settings (f/5.6 and smaller) results to render more background detail. If your image is about the complete details of the surroundings, then you should consider a lens with a larger maximum aperture. Popular examples are, a 50mm f/1.8 and a 30mm f/2.0. With these lens choices, you can shoot without flash indoors and also can control the background detail of outdoors.


Most of the interchangeable lens cameras have inbuilt image stabilization into the body, which help to eliminate blurry shots. Therefore, any lens you attach to the camera will be stabilized automatically. However, all the camera brands do not offer this in all of their camera range. If you are willing to get an image stabilization, then you need to buy specific stabilized lenses. This is easy enough to determine, as all the manufacturers mention this feature in their camera bag. This is a very important module of a camera, especially if you take a lot of extreme telephotos, or take pictures in low light without using flash.


A majority of interchangeable lens cameras offer a wide range of focal lengths. Beyond the basic 3x kit zooms, there are also other editions available for zoom, such as 7x and 12x which are called super zoom or telephoto. These are the highly recommend cameras for a professional photography. You can check the numbers like 18-125mm or 18-200mm, 55-210mm, etc., and multiply the common crop factor to get wide angles telephotos according to your preferences.

Wrapping Up

Your lenses are so important that they can increase the quality of your DLSR camera. The selection of lenses for your camera is one of the most important things you should take care of. It is always best to use the right tool for the job to get the perfect result, and your lenses are those tools. A camera body is obviously important, but if your lens will not give a clear shot, it might be a waste. A photographer's always prefer a lens over a camera body. Therefore, if you are considering your next camera, then always take care of the above mentioned lens buying tips and criteria, before creating a list of preferences. Always think about the choice of shots you want to capture, the lighting conditions where you might use the lens, and the size you are willing to carry. Once you are done with the list, then read reviews of the optics, study the specs, while considering your budget.

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