How to Pick a Camera Lens

Choosing which camera lens to have might be harder these days, especially when we are exposed to online reviews that vary from professional to complete newbie. While some do give good info, others may be subjective and inexperienced.

But since its you who'll be using the lens, you will need to know exactly what you need to use it for ... never be distracted by advertisements that dictate the function and use of such.

- For Landscape photography:

Iceland Landscape spring panorama at sunset

A wide angle lens might be the best choice if one needs to get the biggest area within the frame. Taking into account that price varies, a standard kit lens might be a good start; it usually goes from 28 mm up to 70 or 100 mm ... a range suitable for most areas of photography. However a 28 mm might not be wide enough, so a lens that is wide angle within its range should be the next step.

A wide angle prime lens is an option that is usually better than a wide angle zoom in terms of distortion and because more elements are in a zoom, vignetting may be more pronounced along with chromatic aberrations. But today's optics are much more refined and if not, digital corrections are way ahead of old times and therefore all of those downsides can be easily resolved through software digital correction.

Magical Fog,forest.Colored Background.Magic Artistic Wallpaper.Fairytale.Dream.Tree.Beautiful Nature Landscape Panorama.Colorful.

For landscape photography, other lenses may be of help ... it is not stated in any manual that other focal lengths should not be used for such a field. A 100 mm or even a 300 mm can be used and that depends on the area and what is needed to fit within the frame.

- For Portraits

Portrait of a photographer covering her face with camera.

Portrait Of Family Outside Suburban Home

A lens that is able to isolate the subject may be the best choice and to accomplish that it needs to be a fast lens. A fast lens is that with a wide aperture between f 1.2 to f 2.8 ... at those aperture the lens can blur out the area outside the focus range resulting in a clear portrait with no distractions.

I personally use a 35 mm lens to take good portraits because i can get more within the frame, be it the surrounding context or simply added flexibility to where the subject is at and that lens is an f 2.0. But its not an issue if you closed down the aperture to f 4, 5.6, 8 or even 11 and more, it totally depends on the situation and saying that, you may want to show the good clear background or in between as to give your image the required objective/meaning.

- For action

Football Soccer Kick. Soccer Players Duel. Children Playing Football Game on Sports Field. Boys Play Soccer Match on Green Grass

Always use a fast lens/ wide aperture to focus faster and get more accuracy at pinpointing the exact needed shot. Waiting for the focus to adjust might be a pain in that situation especially if its a paid job. Though those lenses cost a lot yet if this is professional work with good pay, then spending money here should not be an issue, rather its a better bargain for the future.

- Macro photography

Macro photo with wasp

A tricky one, a lens that can focus up close with a ratio of 1:1, yet you need to have a sturdy tripod because the closer you are to the subject the less the focus area due to very small depth of field. a 180 mm a 100 mm or a 60 mm can apply but the longer telephoto can keep you further from the subject so not to disturb the subject.

- For general tourism

Multiethnic traveler couple using generic local map navigation together at train station platform. Asia tourism trip concept

A zoom lens, a standard 28 to 105, 140 or can go beyond to 300 mm ... i'd rather not go that far because the wider the focal range the weaker the lens may render the image. With a risk of getting less sharpness off the centre of the image or more vignetting and distortions ... i'd rather get a 28 100 mm max to avoid a low quality result.

There are many more fields of photography but it all comes down to your personal experience with focal range(s). I had a 40 mm lens and adapted to it for almost 2 years shooting general photography and portraits, thought i wished i could have a longer reach or get more wide, yet i got great results from that focal length.

In general, primes are the best and remain so unless you're willing to pay a lot on professional zoom lenses, with wide fixed aperture throughout the zoom range, and for portraits a prime is always best if the bokeh was a main concern and total isolation of the subject with minimal distraction was needed.

To conclude, it all comes down to what you personally need rather than what the lens was advertised to do or what other people use it for.

I had this situation when i had my zoom wide angle lens, where i had in mind that landscapes were my goal that day, and some dogs accompanied me in the morning; the light was great outlined their fur but i couldn't take a shot at the right moment. The lens was not meant for such and i was a bit far ... running towards them would not have worked because dogs react, run move etc ...

So again, it all comes down to personal experience and if ... weight was an issue then a standard zoom or a standard prime is probably the way to go.

Photo credits: Artjuli933, Kawee Wateesatogkij, Matimix, Vasilache Claudiu Catalin, Monkey Business Images, Scyther5, Tomas1111.

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April 12, 2019


If you need to go wider than what you have the the 20mm f 1.8 should do the trick. Its not ultra wide and its 30 mm equivalent. Its more of a general purpose focal length if mounted on dx D500. I would recommend that lens ... plus its a keeper when you decide to upgrade to full frame

April 12, 2019


I need to invest in a good wide angle lens. My widest right now is 35mm and it just isn't enough. Since I'm shooting with a Nikon D500 crop sensor, do I need wider than the 28mm, especially if the lens is for a full frame camera? Thoughts from the DT crew? Tips for a good Nikon or Sigma wide angle purchase?

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