DSLR Lens Guide (Everything You Need to Know)

Editor’s Key Takeaways: Mastering Your DSLR: The Comprehensive Lens Guide

The Ultimate DSLR Lens Guide (read this before buying your new lens)

This blog post provides a comprehensive guide for choosing your next DSLR lens. It aims to support both amateurs and professionals in understanding important parameters when deciding on a lens. The author highlights that there are five main considerations when purchasing: the required focal length, the amount of maximum aperture, any special purposes, the need for image stabilization, and the build quality of the lens.

  • Focal Length: This is vital as it enables the alteration of shot perspective without movement. For instance, a shorter focal length like a 24mm can capture a broad view of a scene, while a 200 mm focal length can capture details from a distance.
  • Zoom vs. Prime: The guide elaborates on the properties of both prime and zoom lenses and their uses.
  • Maximum Aperture: Knowing your required aperture size is crucial as it can affect image quality.
  • Special Purpose Lenses: The guide includes a detailed discussion on macro lenses and tilt-shift lenses.
  • Image Stabilization: Depending on the type of photography, image stabilization can be a necessary feature.
  • Build Quality: This refers to the lens’s construction and robustness, which can be significant depending on the shooting conditions.

By understanding these parameters, photographers can make an informed decision when buying their next DSLR lens.

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This is a comprehensive DSLR lens guide that will help you through the steps of shortlisting, comparing and deciding on your next DSLR lens. Whether you are an amateur or a professional this guide will help you understand the different parameters that you need to consider before finalizing a lens.


Considerations to Buying a DSLR Lens

Contrary to popular believe buying lenses isn’t as easy as it seems. There are at least five different decisions that you have to make in order to buy a piece of glass. I mean a lens. These are

  • the focal length you need,
  • the maximum aperture you need,
  • Special Purpose, if any, (will discuss in detail later) that needs to be fulfilled,
  • need for Image Stabilization (or the lack of it) and finally,
  • the build quality.

Let’s take a closer look at all of these parameters one by one.

✓ Focal Length

Focal length is an important consideration. This is because the focal length allows you to change the perspective of your shot without having to move. A shorter focal length, something like a 24mm, will allow you to capture a wider slice of the scene. A longer focal length, such as a 200mm, allows you to get closer to the action. Why does this happen?

Let’s first understand what focal length is. Focal length denotes the distance between the optical center of the lens, the point where the light rays converge inside the lens barrel, and the point on the focal plane where the light rays from an image. The latter being the sensor on which the image is formed. This is calculated when the lens is focusing at infinity.

Longer the focal length, the further the magnification of the scene is. Consequently, the narrower the lens’ field of view. On the other hand, the shorter the focal length, the wider the field of view that it can capture and less is the magnification. This is why longer lenses are used for shooting distant objects and shorter lenses are used for capturing landscapes.

Zoom vs. Prime

There are two types of lenses in terms of focal length – one which comes with a fixed focal length and the other which has a variable focal length. We call the first prime lenses and the second zoom lenses. There are advantages and disadvantages to both these types of lenses. Let’s take a closer look.

Prime Lenses

As stated above, prime lenses have a fixed focal length. In other words, they don’t zoom. Their inability to zoom makes it possible for the lens manufacturers to focus their energy towards making the optical technology of the lens of superior quality.

Examples of a prime lens are the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D and the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 G. Since these lenses don’t have a zooming mechanism they contain fewer elements. Resultantly, they are lighter compared to their zoom brethren.

A lot of photographers prefer prime lenses to zoom lenses. They say that these lenses are a lot ‘simpler’ to shoot with. But the inherent disability of these lenses is that you have to use your feet a lot more than you normally do in order to manually ‘zoom’ in and out.

Zoom Lenses

Zoom lenses, on the other hand, have the ability to change their focal length within a maximum and minimum value. Therefore with a single lens, you are able to get a wide-angle shot and then adjust the focal length (zoom in) to capture a subject that is much further away.

These lenses are perfect if you don’t have the enthusiasm to move around that much or don’t have the option. Wildlife photography is one area where zoom lenses are of paramount significance. Another is sports photography. Don’t think those zoom lenses are restricted to telephoto lengths only. There are a number of wide-angle zooms as well.

Examples of a zoom lens are the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5 – 5.6. You will notice that sometimes zoom lenses come with two sets of apertures. This suggests that the maximum aperture possible on the lens tends to vary based on the focal length that you have selected.

The one that comes first denotes the maximum aperture that the lens is able to open up to when shooting at its shortest focal length. The one after suggests the maximum aperture that the lens is able to open up to when shooting at its longest focal length. This happens more with the cheaper lenses than the top-end lenses.

The 24-70mm has a constant aperture across the focal length range. If possible buy a lens that has a constant aperture because that will allow you to get a constant depth of field across the focal length range and there would be no visual jerk.

Also, insist on lenses that have minimal to no focus breathing. Focus breathing is a mechanism where changing the focus tends to change the focal length (and therefore the field of view) of the image. Cheaper lenses have massive focus breathing issues.

✓ Maximum Aperture

Aperture is the adjustable opening on a lens that allows light to enter the camera and expose the sensor for the image to form. Aperture is not an absolute measurement of any kind. It is more of a ratio between the focal length and the actual diameter of the lens’ opening.

Aperture is expressed in f-stops or f-numbers. We had previously detailed what the f-stop chart is like and how sliding up or down the f-stop chart will double or half the amount of light that is captured by the sensor. We have also detailed how increasing or decreasing the aperture tends to impact the depth of field of our images. We shall touch on these points in brief here.

Aperture is expressed as f-numbers and the usual way to express is it is either in full stops or 1/3rd stops. Full stops like f/1, f/2, f4, f/8, f16. And one-third stops like f/1.8, f/2, f/2.2, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.2, f/3.5, f/4 and so on. Every full stop going right (or down) that chart will halve the amount of light and go left (or up) that chart will double the amount of light.

You must have noted the smaller the f-number the wider the aperture gets and vice versa. So, f/2.8 is actually a wider aperture than f/4 and f/4 is wider than f/8. It is kind of confusing at the first. But you will quickly get used to it.

An image where a major chunk of it is in focus is stated to have a large depth of field. An image where the major chunk is out of focus is stated to have a shallow depth of field. Both of these effects are necessary for photography.

Let’s assume that you are photographing a stunningly beautiful landscape scene. As per our previous understanding, you need a high-quality wide-angle lens to capture the scene in all its glory. You also need to use a small aperture around f/8 or even f/11 to get much of the scene in sharp focus. Though there are other techniques too which you need to apply, these are the basic aspects that you need to begin with.

Let’s take another example. Let’s say that you want to make an image of a beautiful flower in your garden. You want to focus on the flower and blur out all the insignificant elements that are in the background as well as the foreground. There is no way you could do that unless you open up the aperture. When you do that only a small portion of the frame remains in focus and the rest of the scene, as has been explained already, becomes out of focus. By the way, this technique is also referred to as selective focusing.

Cheaper lenses tend not to handle small apertures well. We have already read how a poor-quality lens tends to get affected by lens diffraction very easily. This happens when you stop the lens down and that results in the light rays getting bounced off the aperture diaphragm blades thereby reducing the overall sharpness of the image. This is the reason it is advised not to invest in cheaper lenses. Their inherent defects are very easily exposed when you use a high-resolution camera with a cheap lens.

✓ Special Purpose Lenses

This DSLR lens guide will be incomplete without a mention of the different special purpose lenses that are available to shoot with. These are macro, tilt-shift, close focusing and selective focusing.

Macro Lenses

Macro lenses are a special lens type that has extremely small working distances for focusing. Normal lenses have a slightly longer working distance. The working distance for focusing denotes the minimum distance from the subject at which the lens is able to make a sharp focus. The shorter that distance, the greater is the magnification. Magnification refers to how large the image of a subject would be when it is projected onto the focal plane (sensor). A true macro lens will be able to produce a 1:1 representation of a subject when focused on its closest working distance.

Tilt-Shift Lenses

Tilt-shift lenses are another special-purpose lenses. They have a limited utility in photography. They are very difficult to master. But having said that, these lenses will allow you to accomplish certain tasks where all other lenses will fail. One of the many optical illusions that this lens tends to solve is the problem of the Ponzo illusion. This illusion will show up parallel lines as merging in a distance. Examples are railway tracks, tall twin skyscrapers, and even tram lines. Another critical advantage of tilt-shift lenses is that they can create selective focusing at an extreme level.

Normal lenses have the plane of focus running parallel to the image sensor (the focusing plane). With these lenses you can move the plane of focus around, shifting it perpendicularly or even horizontally. You can thus, create an image where the plane of focus is perpendicular to the focusing plane. Therefore, elements in the image vertical to the focusing plane (back to front) are in focus and those parallel to the focusing plane are out of focus.

A tilt-shift lens can counter common issues like merging train tracks or tall skyscrapers appearing leaning on each other and so on. They are great for architecture photography. They are also great for selective focusing techniques.

✓ The Need for Optical Image Stabilization

There are two kinds of image stabilization at work. Optical and electronic. We are concerned with optical image stabilization only in this discussion. Optical image stabilization is a technology whereby mechanical or computer-aided systems inside a lens move tiny stabilization elements in the lens in order to ‘stabilize’ a picture and compensate for any inadvertent hand movements at the moment when you press the shutter release.

Image stabilization kicks in at the precise moment when you press the shutter button halfway to lock focus. Thus the best way to see optical image stabilization at work is by pressing the shutter button halfway.  On most cameras focusing and stabilization are wired together (pressing the shutter button halfway) as well as the function of making the actual image (when the shutter release is pushed all the way). You can change things around though, such as using a technique is known as back button focusing to separate the two processes of focusing and image-making.

Image stabilization, on the other hand, is inseparable from the process of image-making. It will always kick in when you press down the shutter button halfway. Unless of course, you turn it off, such as when shooting from a tripod.

This is how it happens. Along with the focus mechanism, tiny gyros and sensors inside the lens powered by the onboard computer detect movement of the camera (as the hands move) relative to the focal plane. This mechanism will quickly kick in and try to realign certain elements inside the lens so that the light reflected off of the subject and coming through the lens’ focusing elements converges on to the image sensor so that a sharp image is formed. They work to some extent like a counterbalancing system.

There are three different kinds of optical image stabilization systems in place. They are named differently by different manufacturers but they all tend to do pretty much the same thing.

The first one would stabilize a movement regardless of the direction in which the hands (and therefore the camera) is moving. This is the most basic form of image stabilization there is. To start off if you plan on shooting images in low light and hand-held you need this particular image stabilization mode. This mode will come in handy in a host of other shooting situations such as portraits, flower, group shots, landscapes and so on.

The second mode is known as a panning assist mode. In this mode, the lens will activate image stabilization when it detects that there are any movements that are perpendicular to the panning movement. This mode is perfect for planning purposes. Such as when you are following an athlete running past you or when panning a bird in flight and these sort of things.

The third mode is for sports photography mainly. For moments when you are unsure which way the subject is going to move, i.e., the movement is erratic. In this mode image stabilization kicks in only at the moment when you press down the shutter button all the way. This mode, thus, is preferred by sports photographers because they can keep the subject in the frame much more easily without the lag that happens because of O.I.S. engaging and trying to bring the subject in focus.

✓ Build Quality

A consideration that’s frequently overlooked is the build quality of the lens. Build quality refers to not only how capable the lens is in terms of repelling the elements of Mother Nature. But it also includes how sturdy the lens is and capable of handling the odd knocks and some amount of misuse. Rain, dust, hail, cold and heat are the ways Mother Nature threatens us photographers from time to time. Technically, there is no way you can counter the last two elements. But you can prevent the rest to some degree.

Usually, a lens that is labeled as weather-sealed comes with a series of rubber sealing around the lens mount, switches, and buttons. Basically, these are the places that can leak water and or let the weather in. Different lens manufacturers use different acronyms to mark that their lenses are weather sealed.

A fully weather-sealed lens is what you need when working in outdoors and in inclement weather. Such as if you are shooting landscapes, seascapes and fog and basically any photography pursuit that require you to expose your photography equipment to the mercy of Mother Nature.

Usually, outdoor photographers, such as those who do landscapes, water sports, sports in general use equipment that is weather sealed. And not just the lens they prefer using weather-sealed camera bodies as well. If you plan on doing the same you have to ensure that you get yourself a weather-sealed body along with a weather-sealed lens. You should also get yourself a filer that will protect the front element otherwise weather sealing will not be complete.

Canon uses the ‘L’ moniker that states that the lens has weather sealing. However, you have to keep an eye out for the specifications shared by the manufacturers to establish whether the lens is actually fully weather-sealed or not. Fully weather-sealed lenses will be able to handle rain, bad weather, and dust without any problems.

✓ Price

The most important consideration, something that seems to be number one when it comes to deciding which lens to buy, is the price. However, I have purposefully not included that in the list above. I have always maintained that when it comes to choosing between the combination of an average quality lens paired with a good camera, and an average camera paired with a good quality lens, always opt for the second combination. Even if you have a great camera, the inherent shortcomings of a poor lens will be glaring in the final image. Let’s take an example.

Let’s say that you want to buy a 36-megapixel full-frame camera with all the latest features packed in. But you pair that with a 100 dollar lens. I am not saying that the 100 dollar lens is crap. But it will have its limitations. The optical quality wouldn’t do justice to the capabilities of the full-frame behemoth you picked up. The resulting pictures would show a noticeable amount of chromatic and other aberrations. There would be a noticeable amount of distortion as well. Plus, what is common is when you stop down the lens refraction will be dominant. All these things are suppressed or minimized to a large extent in higher-quality lenses.

If your budget is low, which is the case with most beginner photographers, but you need good quality lenses nevertheless, try to look for second-hand lenses. Photographer’s beginners and pros often upgrade their equipment. They sell off their old equipment either to buy new ones which are upgraded or for the purpose of minimizing their overall equipment.

Sometimes photographers jump platforms, such as a Nikon user switching to Sony or vice versa. For them keeping lenses from the older platform makes no sense at all. These lenses end up getting listed on eBay. Which, incidentally, is a good place to look for great quality optics at a bargain price. Another good place is to look for manufacturer refurbished lenses

Lens Buying: How to Read Lens Acronyms

Lens manufacturers these days have surpassed all previous standards when it comes to adding acronyms (and abbreviations) at the end of a lens’ name. Let’s take an example. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Lens. Sometimes, it becomes really confusing to know what the lens does and what its properties are. Lens buying, thanks to these absurd amounts of acronyms, has become an extremely difficult proposition.

There are a few things that you need to look out for though. We will take a look at these now.

Lens Mount

This is probably not so important when buying proprietary lenses as proprietary lenses will mount without issues except for a few exceptions. This is particularly important when buying lenses made by third-party manufacturers. Such as Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Lensbaby, Lomography and so on.

Every lens mount is different. You cannot mount a lens that has been designed for the Canon EF mount on a Nikon F-mount camera or vice versa. That is without an adapter. Third-party lens manufacturers would routinely manufacture the same lens for two or more lens mounts. Thus, it is imperative that you double-check that you are picking up the version for the specific mount that your camera has.

Lens Format

Lens format denotes whether they are designed for full-frame or crop sensor cameras. We are not concerned about mirrorless systems, despite the fact that mirrorless systems also come in full-frame as well as APS-C sensors.

When buying a lens always check the acronyms to establish whether the lens will fit your requirement. First thing is the image circle. Make sure that the lens’ image circle is large enough to fill the entire sensor size of your camera. There are several acronyms that different lens manufacturers use. Let’s take a look at these acronyms.

Let’s start with Nikon. Nikon will clearly mark out their lenses as FX or DX. FX stands for full-frame. That means lenses marked with this acronym will fit the image circle of the full-frame cameras. Some FX lenses will also work with older film cameras. Please check whether the particular lens will fit your film camera before buying.

DX is the acronym that suggests that these lenses are optimized for the smaller crop sensor cameras. These lenses will also mount on Nikon’s FX-format cameras. This is a major difference from the Canon system.

Mounting a larger lens on a smaller camera gives you a slightly longer effective focal length. This depends on the crop factor of the camera. The reason why this happens has already been explained before. In the case of Nikon systems, the crop factor is 1.5x. So, a 50mm FX lens becomes a 75mm lens when mounted on a DX body.

Please note that the actual focal length never changes. It is only that the lens uses a shorter crop of the image coming through the lens which mimics the effect of a tighter composition (longer focal length).

Canon uses the terms EF and EF-S to denote lenses that are optimized for the full-frame cameras and those designed for the smaller cropped cameras respectively. As per Canon’s design architecture, you cannot mount an EF-S lens onto an EF mount camera. Though the reverse is possible.

When mounting a Canon EF lens on an EF-S mount the effective focal length gets multiplied by a factor of 1.6x. So, a 50mm lens becomes the equivalent of an 80mm lens.

Let’s discuss the Tamron lenses next. Tamron makes some very interesting lenses for both Canon and Nikon systems. They use the acronyms Di and Di II (as well as Di III) to denote lenses that are for the full-frame systems and APS-C systems respectively. The acronym Di stands for Digitally Integrated. That means these lenses have been designed keeping in mind DSLRs and not film cameras. And just in case you are wondering, the Di III stands for lenses that have been optimized for mirrorless systems.

Next, on our list, we bring up Sigma. Sigma makes lenses not only for its own camera system but also for Nikon, Canon, and Sony. Sigma uses two acronyms that highlight whether the lens has been designed for full-frame or APS-C cameras. The DG acronym is used to identify lenses that have been designed for full-frame digital cameras. These lenses will work with film cameras as well; to some extent but have been optimized mainly for full-frame digital sensors.

The acronym DC is used to denote lenses that have been designed for the smaller APS-C sensor cameras. These lenses should not be mounted on full-frame camera systems though as you will face a serious amount of vignetting. And just for your knowledge, Sigma also makes lenses that are optimized for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. These lenses are marked as DN.

Image Stabilization

Different manufacturers use different acronyms to denote the image stabilization technology on their lenses. Nikon, e.g., uses the acronym VR which stands for Vibration Reduction to denote that their lens has image stabilization. Canon, on the other hand, uses the acronym IS which means Image Stabilization. Sigma uses the acronym OS which stands for Optical Stabilization. Tamron uses the term VC which stands for Vibration Compensation.

Tokina, on their part, uses an acronym VCM which stands for Vibration Correction Module. Sony uses a special acronym for their mirrorless format lenses. It is OSS or Optical Steady Shot. Although we are not concerned with mirrorless systems in this discussion, I just wanted to give an idea as to what acronym the major players are using.

I have already discussed that some optically stabilized lenses have one or more stabilization modes. It is just that not all lenses have them. Some lenses have only one mode, while others have two and still others have three.


Lenses originally did not auto-focus. Not until very recently. Older camera lenses had to be manually focused. The first 35mm camera with an auto-focusing mechanism integrated was the Pentax ME-F. This camera came with tiny focus sensors as well as paired with lenses that had focusing motors inside them.

Today, most lenses come with a focusing motor inside them. But some older designs still don’t have an auto-focusing motor on them. Some camera bodies like the Nikon’s mid-range and advanced cameras come with a built-in auto-focusing motor. While the cheaper entry-level cameras like the D5200 or the D3100 don’t have a built-in AF motor. This is why if you use lenses such as the 35mm f/1.8D or the 50mm f/1.8 D with an entry-level camera your lens won’t auto-focus.

Different manufacturers use different acronyms to denote their auto-focusing technologies.

  • Nikon uses the term SWM which denotes that the lens uses the modern generation Silent Wave Motor technology.
  • Canon uses the term USM which stands for Ultra-Sonic Motor. Many of Canon’s latest lenses come with the abbreviation STM printed on them.

These lenses are known to have a slightly slower and yet more reliable Stepper Motor AF technology. These lenses, Canon states, have been designed to work in tandem with the new dual-pixel CMOS auto-focusing technology.

Sigma uses the term HSM which stands for Hypersonic motor. Tamron uses the term USD to denote the lenses that have auto-focusing motors in them. This refers to the Ultrasonic Silent Drive auto-focusing motor.

The Need for the Second Lens

This DSLR lens guide discusses the need for lenses. But what if you already bought your first and need a second lens? When I started off as a digital photographer, merely dabbling different things with my DSLR camera, I realized very quickly that one lens was not enough. I quickly got weaned from my over-dependence on the kit lens that came with my camera. That’s probably the story with thousands of other photographers around the world too.

The next logical set of steps would mean that you start looking for a suitable second lens. For many, the second lens is a standard prime. Not the norm though. There are photographers who have preferred a macro lens to a standard prime. Still, others have preferred a telephoto lens. It depends on the path that each photographer takes. There is no hard and fast rule about it.

Wildlife Photography

It all comes down to your interest which you are likely going to discover early in your photography career. Let’s say that you find wildlife photography as your calling. The best features you need in a lens for shooting wildlife are a long focal length, a fast aperture and the ability to pan without any vertical hand movements affecting the panning movement.

Fast aperture will ensure that you are able to capture a reasonable amount of light even when there is not enough to go around. Lenses that have a smaller maximum aperture struggle in these situations. Another advantage of fast lenses is that you are able to freeze a moment.

You also need a focus delimiter feature that will allow you to limit the focusing distance within a shorter range. Additionally, you need weather sealing because when you are outdoors you never know when the heavens are going to open up.

Let’s say that you are tracking a kingfisher. You know it is about to make a move. You put your camera on the continuous shooting mode, set focusing to AF continuous, set the focus delimiter button to ensure that you have the focusing range correct and set your camera to shutter priority (and not focus priority) and fire away. If you have a lens that matches your expectations it will likely result in a number of keepers.

A good choice (regardless of whether you are on a full-frame or crop sensor) would be the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR. This lens extends all the way to 200mm and has a fast constant aperture throughout the focal length range. Plus, being compatible with Nikon’s teleconverters you can easily double the focal length with a maximum loss of two stops of light (with the AF-S teleconverter TC – 20E III). Then the lens has a series of other features which are extremely useful for the purpose of outdoor shooting.

Portrait Photography

On the other hand, if portrait photography is your calling, you need to find a lens that gives you a focal length range of 70 – 135mm. Ideally, if you are on a full-frame camera something like the Nikon D610 or the Canon 5D Mark IV you should be using a focal length between 85mm to 135mm.

The lens mentioned above (70-200mm) is suitable for this purpose (portrait photography) as well. But you can also find a series of prime lenses which are perfect for the job too. We have already learned how prime lenses tend to be optically superior most times when compared to zoom lenses. Such as the 85mm f/1.8 and the 135mm f/2.

The ideal portrait lens is one that is able to produce a shallow depth of field. These days every camera buyer is vying for this. Even smartphones are being fitted with two or more lenses so that they could mimic this effect. Shallow depth of field looks stunningly beautiful in the context of portrait photography.

Another thing that you need to consider, and this is related to the shallow depth of field, is bokeh. Bokeh is the quality of the blur. It is a Japanese word. Bokeh is somewhat related to the number of aperture blades there is in a lens. 9 rounded blades are the recipe for beautiful bokeh. Though there are some exceptions.

Some special lenses have the ability to produce really interesting bokeh. One of them is the Petzval 58. As a matter of fact, this is a very old design that has been reinvented and relaunched. The original design was made in the first half of the 19th century. There is a unique bokeh control option on the lens that allows you to render really interesting effects to your portrait images.

Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is an extremely difficult art. Contrary to popular belief. It requires a very deep understanding of exposure, post-processing and requires a lot of planning and preparation to be successful. And you also need the right equipment. When we say the right equipment we mean among other tools a great piece of lens.

What is a good landscape lens? There are many choices, across formats and makes, just like in other genres of photography. The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM is a great choice to start off. It is optically sharp, comes with the perfect focal range for shooting expansive wide-angle landscape shots and comes with both image stabilization and Canon’s trusted USM auto-focusing mechanism. Plus, the fact that the lens is an L lens means it has good weather sealing as well.

Another great choice is the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM. This lens is also optimized for the full full-frame Canon EF-mount cameras, comes with weather sealing. The expansive wide focal length range of 11-24mm allows you to get an even wider slice of the scene. This particular lens is a bit expensive yet the amount of features packed into it is incredible.

Street Photography

Street photography is another interesting, and for many, intimidating genre of photography. This is because you have to walk out onto the street and make images of complete strangers. Not an easy thing to do. Street photography requires smaller (in size) and shorter (in focal length) lenses. The primary purpose of these lenses is to be able to capture a scene, without drawing attention unto themselves.

Different photographers prefer different lenses for doing street photography. But a vast majority choose lenses that are smaller and of a shorter focal length. The 16-36mm that I referred to earlier is a nice lens to start with. The 11-24mm is also a good lens. There are a vast majority of street photographers who prefer to use prime lenses for shooting street photography. They prefer either the 35mm or the 50mm as their primary choice.

There is really no hard and fast rules here. You are free to experiment with different lenses till you reach that point when you realize which one (or two) works best for you. Ideally, however, select a single lens because street photography is an art form that requires a keen eye and the ability to shoot at a moment’s notice. Often you wouldn’t get too much time to compose and make your shots. The best street photographers continuously shoot with the same lens for years. They are able to envision an image as it would appear on their camera even before they have taken it. It is a rare skill that takes years to develop.

Sports Photography

This is yet another special photography genre that requires you to use specialized equipment. Sports photography is usually about speed, fast auto-focus, blindingly fast continuous shooting drive and the ability to withstand elements. A majority of the sporting events are held outdoors and that means your lens better be weather sealed.

Also, some sporting events like swimming and equestrian as well as fencing among others are held indoors and under artificial light. It goes without saying that artificial lights inside a sporting event are rarely set to aid a photographer. They are almost always under-lit (for photography purposes) and therefore fast lenses are the order of the day.

Along with fast apertures you also need your lens to have the usual goodies, good distortion and aberration suppression, suppression of ghosting and flares especially when working in backlit situations.

The Single Lens Theory

Not everyone needs a second lens though. There are photographers, amateurs mostly, who only own a single lens in their life. A single lens that they never need to unmount from their camera. One lens that seemingly takes care of every shooting situation. Well almost. There are some lenses like that.

This segment of this discussion will help all photographers who ever wanted to have a single lens to do everything that they needed to do.

Even though there are some lenses that you probably never need to take off, being a firm believer in the concept of multiple lenses, I find it very hard to imagine a situation where I would be stuck with a single lens at all times. At the least, I carry two lenses with me at all times. A general-purpose lens that I carry in my camera bag and a special purpose lens depending on the shoot that I am going for.

Here are a few lenses that qualify as a general-purpose one that you could leave on your camera:

  • The 24-70mm,
  • the 18-55mm,
  • the 18-105mm,
  • the 16-35mm, and
  • the 18-200mm.

Please note that these lenses are a mix of full-frame and APS-C.

These lenses will take care of most of your everyday photography requirements. The 18-200mm and the 24-70mm, for example, are great for landscapes, portraits, group shots and everything in between. They are designed for two different sensor formats, APS-C and full-frame respectively.

About the Author
rajib mukherjee

Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. He loves to test and review new photography gear. He has been writing about cameras and lenses for over 10 years now.

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1 thought on “DSLR Lens Guide (Everything You Need to Know)”

  1. Thank you was very insightful, even for one in early stages of dementia. I seldom am able to comprehend things on a first read,