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6 Points to Consider Before Buying a New Lens

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As soon as you get your first DLSR camera, you start looking at various lenses to go with it. At Better Travel Photos, we often get questions as to what lens to buy before a trip or which ones to bring on a photo tour. A zoom or a prime, wide-angle or telephoto, standard or macro? There are lenses for all purposes, tastes and wallets. Which one to choose? How not to get lost in the variety of lenses the market has to offer? Let's have a look at some key points to consider when buying a new lens.

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When do you need a new lens?

If you have a DSRL camera, you most probably already have a lens or two to start with. The majority of DSLR cameras come with a standard 18-55 mm lens, sometimes with an additional 55-200 mm lens. If you find yourself thinking of getting a new lens on top of what you already have, ask yourself WHY you actually need it?

The time to get a new lens has come when:

  • you have reached the limitations of your current lens(es) and know for sure that you'll get a much better photo of your favourite subject using a new lens
  • you can name the exact qualities your new lens should have (different focal length, different aperture, different quality, different weight, etc.)
  • you can definitely tell the difference in quality when comparing the results coming from your old and new lens

In all other cases remember that even an inexpensive kit lens is capable of producing great images if used thoughtfully. There is no need to spend a fortune on a new lens only because someone else has it, if you can't tell the difference in the resulting photos. If you are curious to try something new, rent a lens first, spend a weekend with it and then decide if it's the right one for you.

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Once you're sure that a new lens is an absolute must-have,

Decide on a budget

Yes, budget is important. The prices on the market vary greatly: your search will become easier if you limit yourself to a particular price category. Remember that it's always best to own fewer lenses of better quality than to buy too many that will not get used.

Decide on a subject

A lens is one of the main photographer's instruments, and every instrument is best suited for a particular subject. Decide what are you going to use the lens for: landscapes, portraits or sports, travel or studio work. Subject always comes first! It's a common mistake to think that a photographer needs lenses to cover all possible focal length. An interior photographer may never need a 300 mm zoom, just like a fast lens with very low aperture numbers will be of little use for a landscape photographer, mostly shooting at f/11 from a tripod. Therefore look for the qualities of a lens that you need to achieve a particular result.

APS-C or Full Frame?

Simply put, lenses for cameras with cropped sensor (APS-C) are different from lenses for full frame cameras. Lenses made for full frame cameras can be used on both full frame and cropped frame cameras, whereas APS-C lenses can be used on cropped frame cameras only. Therefore if you plan to upgrade your APS-C camera to a full frame some time in the future, it makes sense to start investing into full frame lenses already now.

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Zoom or prime?

Both zoom and prime lenses have their pros and cons. Go for zoom lens if you are looking for more convenience: if you travel a lot and don't want to change lenses too often, if you prefer to travel light and only carry one or two lenses with you, or if you are a landscape photographer and rarely shoot on wide apertures. Go for prime lens if you are looking for better image quality, if you often shoot in low light, or if you often use low depth of field in your images.

Lens weight, size and build quality

If you are a travel photographer and mostly shoot outdoors in various weather conditions, how the lens and body of camera are built is important. Opt for a robust weatherproof body, even if this means an increase in weight. This will allow you to manage difficult situations without worrying too much. But remember that special protections are still recommended for heavy rain or terrible dust.

So what is your next lens going to be?

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.