Many photographers will say that equipment does not matter. It is the photographer’s eye that creates a good photo. I completely agree. I have seen some incredible photos taken with inexpensive cameras. But sometimes I see incredible photos with unsurpassed color and clarity, and I think some of that had to be the equipment. Much of that has to do with the lens too. Though I am dreaming of getting a better camera, I would first like to get some better lenses.
There are many factors that go into making a better lens. Some of it is the construction of the lens, and the quality of the glass is very important. Better glass will reflect light better and create a clearer image. Zoom lenses tend to be more expensive than lenses with a fixed focal length (also known as prime lenses). Though all camera makers have their own brand of lenses, there are also third party manufacturers that make less inexpensive lenses for each brand of camera. You need to check the reviews on these lenses, but for photographers on a budget, they might be the way to go.
When it comes to lenses, as well as cameras, you usually get what you pay for. My husband was not too happy to learn that my dream lens is double the cost of our monthly mortgage payment! However, we were able to afford a good prime lens. (Mine cost about $200.) Prime lenses, like I said before, have a fixed focal length, so I cannot zoom in or out, but it does allow me to have a larger aperture (the opening in the lens that lets the light through). This makes the lens ideal for low light situations (inside the house), and it also creates that wonderful blurry background (or depth of field) when I’m taking a portrait of my sons.
A lens that comes with a DSLR when you purchase it is called the “kit lens,” and although it’s good for everyday use, it has its limitations. Unless you can afford a high-end zoom, I recommend getting a good prime lens. A 50mm f/1.8 (or f/1.4) is a lens that is very popular with all photographers and recommended to beginning photographers. Recently Nikon created a 35mm f/2.8 lens, so I bought that one. It offers a wider angle than the 50mm, but I have used a 50mm too, and both of these create photos that are sharper and clearer than my kit lens. I rarely take it off my camera. Of course, with all lenses, you need to make sure it is compatible and fully functional with your camera.
There are also lenses for different kinds of photography, and it’s helpful to think about what kind of photography you would like to do before purchasing a lens. For portrait photography, a 50mm prime lens will do a great job, and it is good for a variety of photographic needs too. Though I doubt I will ever be able to afford my dream lens, I am hoping to get a macro (or micro) lens one day. Macro lenses allow a photographer to take up-close photos of a subject, such as a flower or insect, and magnify the tiny details. Though many cameras have a “macro setting,” this isn’t the same thing. True macro lenses are able to get the tiniest details in focus.
I could go on and on about lenses, but I won’t. If you would like to read more about different kinds of lenses for different purposes, I recommend this online article: http://www.digital-slr-guide.com/best-lenses-for-digital-slr.html. If you would like to read about the mechanics of a lens, I found a very good article here: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-lenses.htm You can find more information by doing a online search of your own too.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.