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Great Advice for Buying and Using Lenses

Category: Camera, Photography, Video
Tagged with:
Nov 09

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There was such a great response to yesterday’s episode on cameras, and a lot of people have mentioned lenses, so I thought this episode would help out a lot.

Getting a high quality lens usually means it will bring in more light when taking photos. Having this option is always a good thing. It will keep your images less blurry, and allow for a nice background. Most higher end lenses are also weather sealed, which means you can take them out into the elements, and not worry as much about causing damage. Photo shoot – Bikinis in the snow :) You are also going to get a faster and more accurate focus with these lenses, meaning you are less likely to miss that important shot. Finally, they make you look more impressive to the opposite sex.

Here is my BANG for your BUCK list. I would buy these in descending order if first starting out or contemplating a new lens. These lenses also tend to be standard among camera manufacturers.

50mm 1.4 – Relatively inexpensive, Tons of light, small size, useable focal length.
70-200 2.8 – Though this is an expensive lens, it belongs in everyone’s bag. There is not faking the beauty this lens produces consistantly. Out of focus backgrounds, sharp focus, built well.
17-40 (16-35) These are really wide angle lenses. If that is your style, go with the 16-35 or similar (nikon 14-24). If it is a lens you will pull out only on occasion, save some money and go with the 17-40.

See all of our recommended gear HERE

For an amazing site that reviews all of canon’s lenses, check out Canon Lens Reviews

For Nikon & More, check out Ken Rockwell

If those don’t satisfy your itch, DP REVIEW is a powerhouse.

  • James Warwood

    I also only use 4 lenses. 10-24mm, 50mm, 18-55mm (kit) and a 55-200mm. The whole focal range is pretty much covered with them. The 18-55mm will be the next to be upgraded for a faster lens. You absolutely notice the difference between a 2.8 and something above 4. It’s all about the f-stop baby! :D

  • Kyle Miller

    Ditto on your lens choices.   I usually carry 5 lenses :  50mm, 70-200mm, 17-35mm wide, 28-135mm, and 17-85mm.  Each has its own specific use, as do my camera bodies.  5D, 40D, and 10D.  

    I carry a Camera at all times.   And my tools of choice are the 5D with the 50mm.  I can use it in any lighting situation.  Its easy to carry. and i don’t have to worry about a bulky lens hitting things. Plus if i need to get closer i can use my feet. 

  • Jeremy Cupp

    I’m rocking the 50 1.4 and the 17-40L. Not really sure what I should get next. I’m trying to master what I have first instead of going gear crazy. 

  • JaredC

    A- you NEED to do a phlearn pro on the  wax head image you showed in the video above.

  • Eric Burgers

    My lenses:
    1. Tamron 90 mm f/2.8 1:1 macro (easily scared and/or scary animals)
    2. Tokina 10-17 fish-eye (wrecks, reef scapes, large marine animals and CFWA)
    3. Nikkor 18-105 VR kit lens (holidays)
    4. Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 (bought just last week – mainly for shallow DoF & bokeh)

  • Salvador Parada

    Great video!
    At first I had in my mind that the more lenses, the better… luckily I bought the basic combo, and realize that that’s all I need most of the time.

    My basic combo:

    EF 28mm f2.8  -  $250

    EF 50mm f1.8  -  $90
    EF 100-300mm f4.5-5.6  -  $120

    These are really cheap and at the same time deliver a very decent image quality.

    I’ve used the L series lenses and theres a big difference in sharpness, low light performance and autofocus speed, but until I have the budget to get those, I’ll stick to these.

  • Joseph McCarthy

    Ok breakdown, if you like alot of flexibility then get zoom lenses. However if you do alot of studio or set up shots, use prime lenses. They are sometimes cheaper, they are shaper and lower apertures, please don’t hold me to this but this is what I would have in my arsenal depending on the job. Sorry these lenses in the list are canon as I don’t know Nikon. Please note that this is just my choice.

    Out and About 

    24-70mm 2.8
    50mm 1.8 (Perfect full body portrait, as this is the same as the human eye)
    85mm 1.2 (Another Perfect portrait lens)
    70-200mm 2.8 ( If you can get IS )

    Studio or staged shoot

    50mm 1.8
    85mm 1.2
    100mm f/2.8 USM Macro
    70-200mm 2.8

    Once again if your a canon user, only get the EF lenses, not the EF-S they may be cheaper and kinda do the same thing, however these are for the cropped sensors. Once you upgrade or more full frame cameras come out these lenses cannot be used with full frame. So EF-S only for cropped sensors, while EF for both. The only problem with EF on a cropped sensor is the magnification, so a 50mm EF on a 7D for example will become an 80mm lens. However this can be a good thing, because a 200mm lens on a cropped senor would become 320mm lens.

  • Joseph McCarthy

    Oh and if you need a lens for a job, remember you can always rent one.

    Sorry UK Links

  • Sebastian Ortiz

    I have the 24-105L and the 50 1.4… can’t afford the others just yet… Hee! maybe I’ll get it for my Birthday tomorrow.. LMAO ! doubt it… Hee!! really tho’ I agree, if you can afford it get it, if not, work with what you have, and make them work for you, not the other way around…. great vid, Aaron!

  • Joseph McCarthy

    Happy birthday for tomorrow lol

  • Anthony Phung

    I have 4 lenses, but really only use 2. The main one being the 50mm 1.4 and if need it then the 18-200 will do.

  • James Warwood

    +1 this

  • Cornflake Couture

    LOVE this episode- this answered so many questions I had about lenses!  To be honest, I was quite surprised you only have 4 lenses Aaron (Ok, I say ‘only’ when as you said, one of them is £2000′s worth!).  But still, it was highly nice to know I dont need a huge wishlist when one excellent lense might be the thing that works for me.

    I have the Nikon 50mm 1.8 (cheeeeapskate :) and the  Nikon16-85mm 3.5-5.6.  I use that for the vast majority and got it because of the reviews.  I also have the Sigma 70-300mm 4-5.6 which was a gift.  Whilst I appreciate the speed and sharpness of that lens, I find it way too heavy (Focus is in the lens as I used to use it with the D40 which does not have auto focus in the body).  The lens is just too heavy to carry around so I rarely use it.

    I’ve realised I like wide more and more these days, so things may change, but for now I’m ok with what I have.

  • Sebastian Ortiz

    Thank You Kindly, Mr. McCarthy….

  • -cr

    Good selection of lenses, Aaron!
    Especially on a full frame camera, and for someone who doesn’t live on a budget. ;-)

    For those who love to shoot wide open, I’d suggest *not* buying Canon’s (or Nikon’s?) 50/1.4, though, but rather go with Sigma here =>
    (And if you’re on a budget, I’d suggest one of the 50/1.8 lenses as your 2nd lens, right after the kit lens.)

  • -cr

    … and for lens reviews, you might also find helpful.

  • Anan Adnan

    i have a nikor 50mm 1.8 and its the greatest lens i love it its on my camera all the time its great every were   i have 18-105mm too but i just use it in the studio 
    great episode today love it cant wait for tomorrow :) thanks alot Aaron your are doing awesome in Chicago 

  • Daniel Tuck

    I have the nikkor 50mm 1.8 too – it’s barely left the front of my camera (D7000) since I got it – absolutely love it :)

  • Daniel Tuck

    Thanks for the links – I’d definitely want to “try before I buy” with the more expensive lenses

  • Ana Hernández

    Hey there! I have a 85mm f1.8 EF USM and a simple but effective 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 EF-S IS
    I’m really looking forward to be able to change my game and buy a 5D, but for now I can say I’m pretty happy with my 550D :-)
    It’s very much true that you lose so much light with a f3.5 or higher lens, because I notice it so badly when I change to my 85mm, that I just wish I had a lot of money so I could buy all my lenses like 2.8 or lower haha! One of the photos I’ve taken with this one and that I like the most is this:
    I bought the 18-200mm with the camera because I didn’t like the one that was included on the offer and I
    thought this one was better. I’ve taken some photos I can say I’m very proud of, like this one:

    I was missing a lens with a nice aperture, so that’s why I bought the 85mm… The only thing I didn’t think properly about before buying it was that, as I don’t have a full frame camera, I wouldn’t get a 85mm for real, but instead a 127mm… It’s okay for me right now, but sometimes I have to get away too much from the subject, and that’s anoying… The only good thing is that it’s an EF lens, so I will be able to use it also on my future full frame camera :-D

    Thanks a lot for this episode, it gave me great clues about wich should be the next lens I buy :-)

    Greetings from Barcelona!

  • Milla K

    I know it’s not exactly the same but just making sure that you guys have seen the time lapse video on making that image in his Google+, right? Cos if you haven’t then you’re missing out, big time. 

  • Lawrence Smith

    It seems  timely that you would do this episode rite now Aaron.At present I have a T1i with a Tamron 17-50(non-IS) along with a 50mm1.8,as well as an old ef28-90 from my canon film camera. Right now in the market for a new lens,something a bit longer to cover the full focal range,while still being  affordable. These are my options:
    ef 85mm 1.8
     ef100mm 2.8 macro

    any suggestions?

  • Joseph McCarthy

    My opinion is if its for portraits then the 85mm, however if its to get an all rounder lens, then go long before you go wide, so if a general suggestion then get the 70-200mm

  • Garrett Lucas

    I shoot with Canon and I have…
    70-200mm IS (My favorite lens…hands down! I also have a 2x II extender to increase my reach)
    16-35mm (This was the first expensive lens I bought and justified my future purchases of L-Series lenses)
    24-70mm (Just recently purchase this one about 4 months ago, great for portraits, and a good walk-around lens)
    100mm 2.8 Macro IS (I bought this one 2 months ago on the sheer factor that I got lucky on craigslist locally. Someone needed to get rid of it cheap and I had just started entertaining the idea of one to shoot jewelry and food. Timing couldn’t have been better, this is one SHARP lens!)

    I know that I’m probably jumping over my budget for a 50mm, but the 50mm 1.2 is on the radar if I can find a steal. Even used they go for $1300 all day on eBay and Craigslist. I think I am going to take Aaron’s advice and go with a 1.4 just to see if I like it. We’ll see…

  • Thomas D

    I’ve been using the 135mm f/2 for almost a year now, and it’s my favorite lens for sure… The second one would be the 50mm f/1.4.
    And btw, you’re totally right, I do shoot a lot wide open. But I also like setting up the shots, this is not incompatible.

  • Andrea Peipe

    I just pictured Aaron with shoulder-long hair ;)

    Ah, lenses!!! CAMERA PORN!!!! 

    I have one high-end lens and a few “regular” lenses and honestly, I only ever shoot with my high-end one (17-55 mm 2.8)…oh, end with my 50 mm 1.4. Major love going on there :D

  • Anonymous

    Of course I wish I could get every lens on your list but it is probably better that I get to know them one by one.. So I will have to patiently collect these jewels.   In the spirit of sharing though, stumbled upon a website that may help track down which place has the current cheaper price for the Canon lenses..  Hope this helps. 

  • Daniel Robert Conway

    I am lucky enough to attend a school with millions of dollars worth of photo gear available for checkout, so I’ve had the chance to try out lots of lenses and cameras. I’ve got to say of all the lenses I’ve tried, the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L is my favorite; it is a sexy, gorgeous piece of glass. Highly recommend renting one (I’ve used if you have a portraiture gig, (or anything else that benefits from a minor telephoto and low dof situation) if you don’t have a $2,049.00 B&H gift card just laying around…

  • Parthiv

    I own a Nikon D60 and a D3000. I HAD a D5000, but fell in salt water and was ruined. Anyways, going into lenses, I have a nikkor 18-55, nikkor 55-200, Tamron 10-24 wide angle and recently got a tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro. These are all great lenses. It would be nice if you can do an episode on different types of flashes and the functionality of them and the differences between them. I have a SB 400 because I read somewhere that this will be good for most of the images. I would like to upgrade to a different flash but have no idea on which one to go with …

  • han

    tamron 28-75mm  it stays at f/2.8
    very affordable and nice range, belongs in everyone bag.

  • london22

    If you want to avoid paying lots of money, you can hire photography equipment at LensLocker:

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