Wonderful Photo
Of The Day

What first DSLR lens should you buy?

This question gets asked a lot:

I'm just starting getting into blah blah photography. What lens should I buy?

Here's the answer...

If you have to ask this question, buy the cheapest damn lens you can get.

What? I must be kidding, right?

Sorry, no.

Here's why...

This is really a question that only you can answer for yourself.

For somebody that's just getting their feet wet in this photography thing, if you don't know what lens gets you what, in all honesty, the replies you get from a bunch of strangers, each with their own agenda, is not going to help you at all.

You used to get a 'normal' 50mm lens when you bought a camera. Why that one? It's a base. A place to start. You have to take your cheap-ass lens and shoot lots of pictures with it. Look at those pictures. Study them. Analyze the situation when you shot them. Now ask yourself...

What do you feel is lacking?

This is the most important thing and is what will lead you to your own answer. It bears repeating...

What do you feel is lacking?

Were you not able to get close enough? Perhaps a longer telephoto lens is in order.

Were you not able to get far enough away? Perhaps a wider angle lens is in order.

Sick of moving back and forth to frame the shot? Perhaps a zoom lens is in order.

Want a shallower depth of field look? Perhaps a faster lens is in order.

Shots looking a little soft and you KNOW your technique is solid? Perhaps a better quality lens is in order.

These and many others are all questions that you have to answer for yourself. The answer only comes with experience and knowing the equipment you have and knowing where it is letting you down, or even if it is. How much longer, wider, faster? Sadly, this takes time and experience to figure out.

Spending big money on an expensive lens without knowing why is a waste of money. Sure you may look uber-cool with that big white 70-200 f2.8 L IS lens but do you know why you bought it?

If you bought it to look cool, that's OK by me. If you bought it because it's fast throughout the range, great. If you bought it because it has IS, super. If you bought it because you have more money than you know what to do with, bully for you. I honestly don't care why you bought it. What's more important is do you know why?

Don't believe me? It's true. Ask anyone who's been around in the photo business for a few years. Odds are pretty damn high they know what each lens in their bag will give them on a shot. They know how close they have to be for each lens. They know the scene each lens will give them. How do they know this? They know this because they spent the time learning their equipment.

There is no substitute for the time spent photographing.

Spend a little time, and you'll be able to answer most of your own questions.

Now, if you come in and say something like "I'm looking to get a longer reach in my shots. How do a 70-200, 100-400 or 300mm compare to each other?" we can begin to have a dialog. Why? You already know what you are looking for.

I know why I bought each lens I own and why certain lenses are on my list of things to acquire or investigate. That only came through experience.

As I thought about this some more I came up with an analogy that may be easier for some folks to understand.

Remember your first automobile? Did you get a cheap car to start with or did you buy an expensive one? WHY?

That's the key - why you bought that particular car and why you bought each subsequent car or what you are looking for in your next car.

Odds are pretty good that when you bought your first car you had already driven a few others and had ridden in many more so you could start to form your opinion of what you wanted in a car so that when the time came, you already knew what you were looking for. I doubt that you asked a random group of strangers "What car should I buy?"

This same thing applies in photography. If you don't have a lot of experience using an SLR camera with interchangable lenses, you probably don't have an idea of what you really want or need. You need to take a few lenses for a 'test drive.' Stop by your local camera shop and 'drive' a few.

I write this NOT because I don't feel like helping new folks out. Far from it. This is one issue where I can't help you at all. Nobody can. You have to help yourself.


To view Todd's work, visit www.tjasher.com.