Take Advantage of Your DSLR and Capture Great Photos
Lenses are the most important investment in gear
The biggest mistake camera manufacturers make today is including the same boring kit lens in every entry level DSLR package. The 18-55 kit lens is slow and more often than not discourages beginners rather than enabling them to be creative and enjoy photography. A lot of beginners think they need a better camera when really they need a better lens. Invest in great glass and your lenses will last a lifetime. Bodies will always be phased out, but physical limitations in the technology of lens design insures that these are a great investment. These 5 lenses are tried and true classics of modern photography that will help you get more out your camera and capture the photos you want.
Canon/Nikon 50mm f/1.8
This is, of course, the first recommendation anyone will hear for a first lens purchase, and for good reason. The "nifty fifty" is a legend going back well into the days of 35mm film photography. This focal length has been a go to for portraits, street photographers, and studio work for nearly a century because it offers a realistic focal length (the closest to human vision, so what you see is what you get), not wide enough to cause distortion, and not too tight to make it restrictive. The modern 50mm lenses have a fast 1.8 (or better) aperture that works great for portraits thanks to the shallow depth of field and bokeh, and also helps with low light situations where your kit lens will be too slow and cause motion blur. Better yet, the 50mm lenses are great for both crop sensors and full frame cameras, so it's a great investment that will grow with you. The header image above was captured with this lens.
Canon 35mm f/2 - Nikon 35mm f/1.8
The next lens I suggest people invest in is a wide-normal range prime (non-zooming lens), and 35mm is the perfect focal length for "walk around" use. 35mm is a fantastic length for environmental portraits, street photography, and group portraits. It maintains the fast aperture, low price point, and great performance of the 50mm lines while offering a more cinematic viewing angle for your shots. Prime lenses also force you to consider your composition and positioning relative to light more than zoom lenses. Since you have to physically move to adjust your framing you tend to consider the scene more before just clicking and zooming away. If I could only have one lens for everything, the 35mm would be my choice.
Canon 24mm 2.8 Pancake
This lens is the biggest hidden gem in Canon's entire line of DSLR lenses. The pancake design means it weighs next to nothing, takes up no space, and can be had for a super budget friendly price. It is incredibly sharp and focuses as close as 6 inches for close-up shots, which a lot of beginners are interested in exploring. This is the ultimate travel friendly lens as well, since it barely takes up more space than a lens cap and fits almost flush on your camera body. If you have a Canon DSLR, this would be a great second purchase to compliment your 50mm 1.8. This lens is also a great choice if you are interested in shooting video, as the wider angle is a great starting point for filming a lot of scenes or settings.
Nikon 20mm 1.8
Nikon's best landscape lens, in my opinion, is their new 20mm 1.8. This lens is amazing, with little to no distortion visible, fantastic sharpness even when shot wide open, and the perfect focal length for landscape work. A lot of people love 14mm for landscapes, but I find it too wide and that it gives scenes a surreal look, whereas 20mm is still wide enough to show sweeping landscapes or night skies. The 1.8 aperture is great for shooting indoors or astrophotography, and the wide angle lets focusing snap fast and accurately. The lens is also an amazing choice for street photography, wedding receptions, or event coverage.
The only zoom lens on our list, and the only "slow" lens, yet an incredible choice for it's range, affordability, and performance. My go to lens combo for a few years was the 50mm 1.8 and this lens. The 50mm covered low light scenarios and portraits and this was used for everything else. From landscapes to dance floors to studio portraits, Canon's "budget L series" is a great addition to a Canon bag, as long as you have a faster prime to cover you when the f/4 aperture is too slow.
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