"What lens should I get?"

“What lens should I get?”

I hear that question a lot from students, and I am always delighted to help answer it.

Of course “help” is all I can do. And I will, over time, in this blog. I can explain the difference between:

  • Zoom and prime.
  • EF and EF-S (or non-DX and DX).
  • Wide and telephoto.
  • Normal and specialised, like Macro and Tilt-Shift.

And I can explain what to use them for (long for sports and safaris, short for environmental, parties, and photojournalism).

And with that knowledge, you can, for instance, buy the lenses I use – or at least understand why I bought them:


So this is a typical photojournalist collection, consisting of fast (f/2.8 or better) lenses:

  • Zooms: 24-70 2.8L, 70-200 2.8L and 16-35 2.8L
  • 100mm macro
  • Fast primes, 35 mm f/1.4L and 50mm f/1.4

But “fast” does not have to mean “expensive”. The first lens you should buy is the lens I shot my lenses with – the cheapest Canon lens (and Nikon has one too): the 50mm f/1.8. The “nifty fifty”. And while the lenses above range from $500 (50mm) to $1,000-$2,000 (all the rest), the 50mm f/1.8 is just over $100. And boy, is it fast and sharp. Zoom in to see!

And that nifty fifty on a crop camera turns into an 80mm portrait lens.

One thing to feel good about: when buying a lens, you are investing. Unlike a camera, which loses value as quickly as a PC, a lens keeps its value for many years.

0 thoughts on “"What lens should I get?"

  1. Deat Michael

    What is your favorite wide angle lens and why..you probably wrote about it but I missed the entry.


  2. My favourites, plural!

    1. The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 on teh full fram 1Ds MkIII. Wide.. and I love wide. So, “because it is wide and sharp”.

    2. The Canon 35mm f/1.4 prime lens. I use this on the 7D as a 50mm equivalent “normal” lens, and on the 1Ds when I need a fast lens to shoot a party or similar event. So – “because it is fast and sharp”.

    Those are fabulous wide angle lenses- fabulous.

  3. As portrait and model photographer, my personal combination: EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye + EF 35mm f/1.4L + EF 85mm f/1.2L II. I think this combination should be nice…. the other lens that will complete my series is EF 200mm f/2L IS……

    Edwin Setiawan Photography: http://www.edwinsetiawan.com

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