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Beginner’s guide for buying a camera lens

You’re out in nature, witnessing a breathtaking sunset. You reach into your camera bag, eager to capture the moment, only to realize that the lens you bought doesn’t do justice to the scene before you. The disappointment is palpable.

Fear not, for I have been there too. That’s why I’m here to share my hard-earned wisdom with you, to save you from the pitfalls of buying the wrong camera lens. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your photographic journey, choosing the right lens is essential for unlocking your creative potential.

Join me to unravel the mysteries of lens selection together through a beginner’s guide for buying a camera lens. I will let you dive deep into the common mistakes that plague even the most experienced photographers, and I’ll equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to make an informed decision.

This beginner’s guide for buying a camera lens is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the intricate process of selecting the perfect lens.

What factors to consider when choosing the right camera lens?

Knowing your photography aims and desired photographs is crucial when starting. Landscapes or portraits? This will assist in identifying your focal Length and lens type.

Now, budget. As a beginner, you don’t have to break the bank. Find budget-friendly solutions. Used or reconditioned lenses may save money.
Camera-lens compatibility is also important. Choose a lens with the same mount as your camera.

Research matters! Read reviews, watch YouTube videos, and ask photographers. Their expertise can help you choose a lens.

1-Focal Length

The focal length of a camera is the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus. It controls lens magnification and angle of vision. In millimeters (mm), focal Length classifies lenses as wide-angle, standard, or telephoto.

Wide-angle lenses (usually less than 35mm) capture a more comprehensive picture with more depth of field.

Standard 50mm lenses replicate the human eye’s viewpoint, making them suited for many photographic genres.

Telephoto lenses (over 70mm) compress perspective and magnify pictures.

Focal Length significantly affects picture composition and perspective. Wide-angle lenses (Shorter focal lengths) enlarge and crowd things. This effect is ideal for landscapes and foreground items.

Telephoto lenses (longer focal lengths) compress perspective, making distant things look closer. This technique helps isolate subjects, capture details from afar, and create a narrow depth of focus for portraits.


Aperture refers to the opening in a camera lens that regulates the light entering the camera. It is measured in f-stops, such as f/1.8, f/4, or f/16. A wide aperture, denoted by a lower f-number, allows more light to reach the camera sensor. In contrast, a narrow aperture, indicated by a higher f-number, restricts the amount of light.

Impact on Light and Depth of Field:

a) Wider Aperture: A wider aperture (e.g., f/2.8) creates a shallow depth of field, resulting in a blurred background while keeping the subject in sharp focus.

Useful for portraits or isolating subjects from distractions.

b) Narrow Aperture: A narrower aperture (e.g., f/16) increases the depth of field, rendering more of the scene in sharp focus from the foreground to the background.

Useful for landscape photography or capturing detailed scenes where you want to maintain clarity throughout the image.

3-Prime Lenses VS Zoom Lenses

a) Prime lenses:

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, meaning they cannot zoom in or out. They are available in various focal lengths, such as 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm. They are known for their superior image quality, wider maximum aperture, and often more compact size compared to zoom lenses.

Useful for sharp images, artistic background blur, portrait, street, or low-light photography.

Types of Prime Camera lenses

Wide-Angle Prime Lenses
Focal length 14mm to 35mm
Field Wide and greater depth of field
Type of photography expansive landscapes, architectural details, immersive street scenes, Landscape photography.
Standard Prime Lenses
Focal length 50mm
Field shallow depth of field
Type of photography portraits, street photography, everyday shooting, creates bokeh.
Telephoto Prime Lenses
Focal length typically exceeding 85mm
Field powerful magnification and subject isolation capabilities.
Type of photography portrait photography, sports, wildlife, and other situations where capturing distant subjects is crucial.

b) Zoom Lenses:

On the other hand, Zoom lenses offer a variable focal length, allowing you to zoom in or out and adjust the field of view without changing lenses. These Lenses cover a range of focal lengths, such as 24-70mm or 70-200mm, providing wide-angle to telephoto capabilities. Zoom lenses may have slightly lower maximum apertures and larger physical sizes. Their convenience and versatility make them a go-to option for many photographers.

Types of Zoom Lenses

Standard Zoom Lenses
Focal length wide-angle to short telephoto around 24-70mm or 18-55mm
Field  strike a balance between wide-angle and telephoto capabilities
Type of photography  landscapes, portraits, events, and street photography
Aperture  constant aperture throughout the zoom range.
Telephoto Zoom Lenses
Focal length  longer focal length ranges, often exceeding 70mm and reaching up to 200mm, 300mm, or even 600mm in some cases.
Field  bring faraway objects closer while maintaining image quality.
Type of photography  wildlife, sports, and other situations that require capturing distant subjects.
Aperture  variable maximum apertures across the zoom range.
Superzoom Lenses
Focal length  18mm or wider and can extend beyond 200mm or even 400mm. 
Field  offer exceptional convenience by eliminating the need for multiple lenses.
Type of photography  landscapes and architecture to wildlife and street photography
Aperture  variable maximum apertures.

4- Price

When choosing a budget-friendly lens, there are a few key factors to consider.

First, determine your specific photography needs and the type of shots you want to capture. Next, research and compare lens options within your budget range. Look for lenses from reputable brands that offer good image quality and reliability.

Consider buying used lenses or looking for deals and discounts to save money. Read reviews and seek recommendations from other photographers to get insights into the lens’s performance and value for money.

Remember, a budget-friendly lens doesn’t necessarily mean compromising on quality. With careful research and consideration, you can find lenses that offer excellent performance without breaking the bank.

The most common types of  Camera lens

1- Fish eye lenses:

fish eye lens

Fish-eye lenses are known for their unique specifications. They typically have an ultra-wide-angle focal length, often around 8mm to 16mm, and provide a wide field of view of 180 degrees or more. These lenses feature a short minimum focusing distance, allowing for close-up shots. Their distinctive curved distortion adds a creative and dynamic perspective to photographs.

2- Wide-angle lenses:

wide angle lens

Wide-angle lenses are famous for their unique specifications. They have a short focal length, typically 10mm to 35mm, providing a wide field of view. These lenses excel at capturing expansive landscapes, architecture, and group shots. They offer a greater depth of field, making them great for capturing sharp details near and far.

3- Standard lenses:

standard lens

Standard lenses are versatile tools for photography. They closely resemble the human eye’s perspective with a focal length of around 50mm. Standard lenses provide a natural field of view, minimal distortion, and excellent image quality. They are ideal for various genres, including portraits, street photography, and everyday shooting, offering a balance between wide-angle and telephoto capabilities.

4- Short-range telephoto lenses:

short-range telephoto lens

Short-range telephoto lenses, typically 85mm to 135mm, offer a slightly narrower field of view than standard lenses. They provide greater magnification, making them ideal for portraiture and capturing subjects from a distance while maintaining a pleasing background blur. These lenses deliver sharpness beautiful bokeh, and are often favored by portrait photographers.

5- Telephoto lenses:

telephoto lens

Telephoto lenses are known for their specific specifications. They have a longer focal length, typically 70mm to 400mm or more, allowing photographers to capture distant subjects with great detail. These lenses offer narrow fields of view with powerful magnification and are commonly used in wildlife, sports, and astrophotography to bring faraway subjects closer.

6- Super telephoto lenses:

super telephoto lens

Super telephoto lenses are designed for capturing subjects at extreme distances. They provide exceptional magnification capabilities with focal lengths exceeding 300mm and reaching up to 800mm or more. These lenses offer narrow fields of view and excellent image stabilization and are commonly used in wildlife, sports, and bird photography to capture fine details even from afar.

7- Kit lenses:

kit len

Kit lenses are entry-level lenses that often come bundled with camera bodies. They typically have a variable focal length, such as 18-55mm or 18-140mm, providing a versatile range for general photography. While they may not have the same optical quality as high-end lenses, they offer a cost-effective option for beginners, covering various focal lengths and as a good starting point for learning and exploring different photography genres.

8- Macro lenses:

macro lens

Macro lenses are designed for close-up photography, capturing subjects at a 1:1 magnification ratio or higher. These lenses have a short minimum focusing distance, allowing photographers to capture intricate details and small subjects with remarkable clarity. They offer superb sharpness, minimal distortion, and precise focusing abilities, making them tools for macro, nature, and product photography.

9- Tilt-shift lenses:

tilt-shift lens

Tilt-shift lenses provide unique capabilities for perspective control and selective focus. They feature unique mechanisms that allow photographers to tilt the lens element, adjust the plane of focus, and shift the lens element to correct converging lines. These lenses are famous for architectural, product, and creative photography, offering precise control over depth of field and perspective distortion.

10- Zoom lenses:

zoom lens

Zoom lenses offer versatile focal lengths that can be adjusted within a specific range. They provide flexibility in composition by allowing photographers to zoom in or out without changing lenses. Zoom lenses come in various focal lengths, from wide-angle to telephoto, catering to different shooting scenarios. They are famous for their convenience, offering a wide range of perspectives in a single lens.

11- Ultra-wide lenses:

ultra wide lens

Ultra-wide lenses are characterized by their extensive focal lengths, typically 10mm to 24mm. These lenses provide an expansive field of view, capturing a significant scene in a single frame. They excel in landscape, architecture, and interior photography, offering dramatic perspectives, minimal distortion, and impressive depth of field.

12- Infrared (IR) lenses:

infrared lens

Infrared (IR) lenses are specifically designed to capture infrared spectrum images. These lenses are constructed with materials that allow infrared light to pass through effectively. They offer unique imaging capabilities, allowing photographers to capture ethereal and otherworldly images with distinct color renditions, especially in landscape and architectural photography.

The top camera lenses for each genre of photography:

Photography type Best camera lens type to use Camera lens recommendations 
portrait photography Prime lenses with moderate focal lengths and wide apertures  1-Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM2-Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G3-Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
landscape photography Wide-angle lenses with a focal length of 16-35mm 1- Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM2- Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM3- Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
street photography wide-angle prime lens, around 35mm or 50mm 1- Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 R WR2- Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS3- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Travel photography versatile zoom lens, such as 24-70mm 1- Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 R WR2- Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS
wildlife photography Telephoto lenses with focal lengths of 300mm or higher 1- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR2- Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM3- Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS
sports photography Fast telephoto lenses with focal lengths of 70-200mm or longer 1- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR2- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM3- Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS
architectural photography Wide-angle lenses with minimal distortion  Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G EDSony FE 12-24mm f/4 G
macro photography Macro lens with high magnification Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USMNikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-EDSony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
fashion photography A fast prime lens with a focal length of 85mm or 50mm Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USMNikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8GSony FE 85mm f/1.8
documentary photography versatile zoom lens or a standard prime lens Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USMNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR
aerial photography Wide-angle lenses with a focal length of 10-24mm DJI Zenmuse X5SSony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GMCanon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM
astrophotography A wide-angle lens with a wide aperture Samyang/Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMCSigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ArtNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED
underwater photography  wide-angle or macro  Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G EDCanon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USMSony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
food photography macro lens with a focal length of 60-100mm Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USMNikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-EDSony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
black and white photography versatile prime lens with good contrast and sharpness. Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPHFujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 RNikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G


To wrap up this beginner’s guide for buying a camera lens, it is essential to remember that you should examine your interests in photography, establish a budget, investigate various lens possibilities, and ask for suggestions. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed; take your time and make an educated choice. When you have the correct lens, you’ll be assured to start your photography adventure.
Have fun at the range!

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