Sunday, 13 February 2011

How to choose main lens

As usual, when buying a camera there is a tantalizing choice - what lenses should I select? Assuming, that most first time DSLR buyers would buy not a full frame DSLR, I would offer to buy at least one fast prime lens (i.e. fixed focal length with wide aperture). From my experience, the most useful lens is 35mm (Nikon has very nice 35mm f/1.8G intended for DX DSLR, and these are really cheap). They usually have decent depth of field, are pretty fast (and would represent around 53mm on full frame equivalent for Nikon) and can be used more generally. The loss of zoom (let's say like with kit lenses of 18-55mm) can be solved with your legs. I also have 50mm f/1.4 but these are already rather long on cropped sensor, and there is limited use of them indoors, especially taking photos of several people. What I noticed - as soon as I bought these lenses, I stopped using my kit lens (18-55mm). Using fixed lenses makes you think about the photo, how it should be composed and so on. Also, they are really fast. Now as I check, most commonly I use aperture from 2.2 to 2.8 and go to 3.5 or smaller only on rare occasions (and kit lenses most wide aperture is around this figure and getting lower with longer range). Funny thing - I do not wish lenses like 17-55 f/2.8 as they would be too slow for me indoors. I am not a pro and do not make for living from photography, so usually I take photos of my family in evenings after working hours and thus in low light; I do not use flash, as integrated one is rather awful and I do not have more money to spend on flash (I used all my budget in buying those two primes).
I also made a stupid mistake - actually first I bought 50mm f/1.4 (after reading all those articles about nifty fifty) for only to realise, that actually I needed 35mm on crop sensor (Nikon has a factor of 1.5). 50mm makes amazing portraits, are fast but are too long for general photography making 35mm much more useful.
To sum it up:
- if you first time buyer, avoid buying kit lenses, instead buy 35mm fast prime (on DX, or crop, sensor) or 50mm for full frame; buying 50mm on DX sensor has rather limited depth of field on shorter distances between camera and the object, especially limiting your abilities to take photos of several people indoors (and outdoors you'll need to go rather far); in general, if you are using other systems, such lenses should be 50mm equivalent of full frame camera;
- decision not to buy some zoom lenses is difficult to make, and I initially bought kit lenses, only to sell them later;
- these lenses most likely will be your working horse for all kind of photography;
- above tips are only for those interested in photography, composition of photos and so on; if your intention is point and shoot, you need zoom lenses (of course, you will loose a lot of possibilities to shoot in lower light without flash and to make portraits with so called bokeh);
- second lens choice should depend on your preferences - either some wide angle (for cropped sensor should go at least to 10-12mm at widest range), telephoto or macro.

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