Beyond the Kit Lens

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For many DSLR owners, there comes a time when one wants to go beyond the kit lens that came with the camera. The reasons vary. For some it's a matter of sharpness. For others it's a matter of speed and/or focal-length restrictions. And for some it's simply the fact they don't like the ''icky" feel of a plastic lens barrel, regardless of how sharp the lens may or may not be.


Assuming you've been shooting with a kit lens typical of the type that comes with a compact APS-C format DSLR,
you're probably shooting with something in the 18-55mm range, which on a 35mm camera translates into a 28-90mm-ish lens. A few DSLRs in this class are available with slightly wider and/or longer zooms, but like the kit zooms bundled with pricier full-frame DSLRs, they're usually not long or wide enough to radically alter your creative horizons.

For casual shooters, these kit zooms are sufficient for most day tripping and around-the-house applications. But if you plan on shooting Junior scoring a soccer goal, or a herd of charging rhinos while on a safari, the focal range limitations of kit zooms limit your ability to take pictures which, with few exceptions, will be underwhelming at best.

Another issue with kit zooms has to do with lens speed—or lack thereof. Most kit zooms open up to a maximum aperture of f/3.5 at the wide end and trail off to f/5.6 at the telephoto end, which is adequate on bright, sunny days but dicey once the clouds start rolling in or the sun begins kissing the treetops. Better zooms only open up to a maximum of f/2.8 at best, but at least it's a constant f/2.8 throughout the zoom ranges, which better guarantees sharp results when shooting tight.

There's also a limit as to how far you can play with selective focus with smaller-aperture optics, and even zooms that only open up to a modest f/2.8 are still better than f/3.5 or f/4 when you're trying to isolate your subject from the foreground and background.

Resolving power, optical distortions and lens construction are additional issues that get people thinking about moving beyond the lens that came with the camera. Though many kit lenses are fairly decent and more than adequate for general shooting and desktop-printing needs, none of them can be described as "killer" when it comes to resolving power.

Sharpness, especially toward the edges of the frame, can often be wishy-washy with kit zooms especially when shooting wide open, and barrel distortions are common when shooting at the wide end of the focal range. Barrel construction is another area of contention with kit zooms. When building a lens designed to sell for as little as $99 over the cost of a body only, concessions have to be made, which explains why the lens barrels of these optics are invariably made out of polymer rather than metal alloy. This also explains why the zoom and focusing rings aren't always silky smooth, and wobble as you work them. As for weather and dust resistance, I would suggest being protective of your gear on both fronts.

If any (or all) of the above issues strike a chord within you, the following list of lenses are suggestions that may address your particular optical peeve. Some of these lenses go wider than the typical kit zoom, some longer, some wider and longer—and most are faster than the lens that came with your camera. They're all sharper, most likely, better constructed, and will probably feel better in your hand.

Note: The lenses chosen for this article range from wide angle to telephoto. Separate articles on extreme wide angle and extreme telephoto optics will be appearing in upcoming holiday newsletters.


  Format Min Focus Filter Size Weight
APS-C 1' (0.3m) 77mm 19.2 oz  (565 oz)
   APS-C  1.3' (0.4m)  62mm  16 oz (470 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  0.92' (0.28m)  77mm  17.5 oz (500 g)
   APS-C  1.18' (0.36m)  77mm  25.6 oz (725.75g)
   APS-C  0.95' (0.29m)  72mm  20.15 oz (570 g)
   APS-C  0.66' (0.2m)  72mm  19.2 oz (544 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  1.2' (0.366m)  77mm  33.6 oz (953 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  1.15' (0.350m)  77mm  35.2 oz (998 g)
   Ful-Frame / APS-C  1.48' (0.45m)  77mm  24 oz (680 g)
   APS-C  1.08' (0.33m)  67mm  18 oz (510 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  1.6' (0.49m)  82mm  30.88 oz (875 g)
   APS-C  3.3' (0.49m)  67mm  24 oz (680 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  3.61' (1.1m)  55mm  14.8 oz (420 g)
   FourThirds  3.9' (1.2m)  67mm  35 oz (995 g)
   APS-C  4.6' (1.4m)  58mm  15.5 oz (440 g)
   APS-C  3.6' (1.1m)  67mm  43.4 oz (1229 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  4.9' (1.5m)  77mm  44.8 oz (1270 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  4.6' (1.4m)  77mm  51 oz (1451 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  3.94' (1.2m)  77mm  52.6 oz (1490g)
   Full-Frame /APS-C  3.9' (1.2m)  67mm  24.96 oz (708 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  3.9' (1.2m)  67mm  27.2 oz (771 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  4.6' (1.4m)  77mm  51.2 oz (1452 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  3.3' (1m)  77mm  48 oz (1361 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  4.6' (1.4m)  77mm  50.4 oz (1429 g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  3.1' (0.95m)  77mm  40 oz (1134g)
   FourThirds  3.9' (1.2m)  67mm  35 oz (995g)
   Full-Frame / APS-C  4' (1.2m)  77mm  47.2 oz (1340g)

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 Cool Love them

I'm sure the intent of this article is good, but truthfully, the article is not much more than a essay on "what's wrong with inexpensive lenses" and offers little real advise or help on more mid-range and higher end lenses. What strikes me as somewhat humourous is the idea of Soccer Mom shooting  Junior's soccer goal with a bridge DSLR with a $2961.00 lens attached, especially when the idea is to send it to Aunt Jane in an e-mail.  The last time I checked, Photo Safari's in Africa will run you around $10K, if one has those kind of bucks, you would think they have graduated past the idea of a kit lens.  It's very difficult to write this type of article and really "hit the mark", with so many different types and brands and levels of cameras out there, so kudos for the effort.

Anonymous wrote:

I'm sure the intent of this article is good, but truthfully, the article is not much more than a essay on "what's wrong with inexpensive lenses" and offers little real advise or help on more mid-range and higher end lenses. What strikes me as somewhat humourous is the idea of Soccer Mom shooting  Junior's soccer goal with a bridge DSLR with a $2961.00 lens attached, especially when the idea is to send it to Aunt Jane in an e-mail.  The last time I checked, Photo Safari's in Africa will run you around $10K, if one has those kind of bucks, you would think they have graduated past the idea of a kit lens.  It's very difficult to write this type of article and really "hit the mark", with so many different types and brands and levels of cameras out there, so kudos for the effort.

Points taken, and thanks for your comments, both positive and negative.

As for my references to safaris, I wasn't talking about African safaris, but Great Adventure's Safari Park in New Jersey. Season passes are about $79, but you can easily find discount coupons at gas stations and on the sides of Coke cans.

(Tip- Go early in the day or later in the day. Like the locals, most animals prefer lounging in the shade when the sun gets hot, and there's less of a chance of minivans cutting in front of you just as you press the shutter.) 

Anonymous wrote:

I'm sure the intent of this article is good, but truthfully, the article is not much more than a essay on "what's wrong with inexpensive lenses" and offers little real advise or help on more mid-range and higher end lenses. What strikes me as somewhat humourous is the idea of Soccer Mom shooting  Junior's soccer goal with a bridge DSLR with a $2961.00 lens attached, especially when the idea is to send it to Aunt Jane in an e-mail.  The last time I checked, Photo Safari's in Africa will run you around $10K, if one has those kind of bucks, you would think they have graduated past the idea of a kit lens.  It's very difficult to write this type of article and really "hit the mark", with so many different types and brands and levels of cameras out there, so kudos for the effort.

I hate to be picky but at B&H prices none of the lenses listed is close to the $2961 quoted although $2300 for the Canon 70-200/2.8 is still a hunk of change. I do think that Canikon users are well served by the article with a wide range of lenses identified from OEM and others suppliers at prices covering an equally wide range of budgets. As an Olympus user though I felt a little cheated with only one OEM lens listed albeit twice.

Anonymous wrote:

I'm sure the intent of this article is good, but truthfully, the article is not much more than a essay on "what's wrong with inexpensive lenses" and offers little real advise or help on more mid-range and higher end lenses. What strikes me as somewhat humourous is the idea of Soccer Mom shooting  Junior's soccer goal with a bridge DSLR with a $2961.00 lens attached, especially when the idea is to send it to Aunt Jane in an e-mail.  The last time I checked, Photo Safari's in Africa will run you around $10K, if one has those kind of bucks, you would think they have graduated past the idea of a kit lens.  It's very difficult to write this type of article and really "hit the mark", with so many different types and brands and levels of cameras out there, so kudos for the effort.

I go on safaris about once every 18 months... and am amazed that people show up with point and shoots !  What is more amazing is that people do not invest in a good pair of binoculars...  a $200 Nikon will work brilliantly, but over the years I have concluded that the ultimate safari binoculars are the Leica Duovids.

I was really excited when I saw this email about which lens to buy because I am trying to figure out exactly that right now but I was terribly disapointed when I read the article and it did not help in any way.  I am glad to know now that the lens that I bought with my camera sucks but I really didn't find out which lens would work to shoot junior (actually I am taking it to pro basketball games to shoot from a distance).  

OrlandoScott15 wrote:

I was really excited when I saw this email about which lens to buy because I am trying to figure out exactly that right now but I was terribly disapointed when I read the article and it did not help in any way.  I am glad to know now that the lens that I bought with my camera sucks but I really didn't find out which lens would work to shoot junior (actually I am taking it to pro basketball games to shoot from a distance).  

Orlando,

There's a difference between shortcomings, limitations, and 'sucks', and the goal of this article was to address these issues - which BTW, I am constantly questioned about by readers like yourself, attendees of my B&H Event Space lens seminars, and neighbors who know I'm 'in the biz'.

They also reflect my own thoughts based on shooting with countless cameras & lenses over the years, and the realities of my own encounters with kits lenses, good and bad. And make no mistake about it - there are good kits zooms and lousy kit zooms out there. 

And thanks for the feedback.

OrlandoScott15 wrote:

I was really excited when I saw this email about which lens to buy because I am trying to figure out exactly that right now but I was terribly disapointed when I read the article and it did not help in any way.  I am glad to know now that the lens that I bought with my camera sucks but I really didn't find out which lens would work to shoot junior (actually I am taking it to pro basketball games to shoot from a distance).  

Look at the 18MM to 200MM lenses.  They are midrange all purpose more affordable lenses.  Both Canon and Nikon has them and I am sure the other companies have equiv.  They are not the fastest or the brightest but are a step up from a kit lens and should be OK for 80% of your photographic interests

OrlandoScott15 wrote:

I was really excited when I saw this email about which lens to buy because I am trying to figure out exactly that right now but I was terribly disapointed when I read the article and it did not help in any way.  I am glad to know now that the lens that I bought with my camera sucks but I really didn't find out which lens would work to shoot junior (actually I am taking it to pro basketball games to shoot from a distance).  

Look at the 18MM to 200MM lenses.  They are midrange all purpose more affordable lenses.  Both Canon and Nikon has them and I am sure the other companies have equiv.  They are not the fastest or the brightest but are a step up from a kit lens and should be OK for 80% of your photographic interests

OrlandoScott15 wrote:

I was really excited when I saw this email about which lens to buy because I am trying to figure out exactly that right now but I was terribly disapointed when I read the article and it did not help in any way.  I am glad to know now that the lens that I bought with my camera sucks but I really didn't find out which lens would work to shoot junior (actually I am taking it to pro basketball games to shoot from a distance).  

Look at the 18MM to 200MM lenses.  They are midrange all purpose more affordable lenses.  Both Canon and Nikon has them and I am sure the other companies have equiv.  They are not the fastest or the brightest but are a step up from a kit lens and should be OK for 80% of your photographic interests

OrlandoScott15 wrote:

I was really excited when I saw this email about which lens to buy because I am trying to figure out exactly that right now but I was terribly disapointed when I read the article and it did not help in any way.  I am glad to know now that the lens that I bought with my camera sucks but I really didn't find out which lens would work to shoot junior (actually I am taking it to pro basketball games to shoot from a distance).  

Look at the 18MM to 200MM lenses.  They are midrange all purpose more affordable lenses.  Both Canon and Nikon has them and I am sure the other companies have equiv.  They are not the fastest or the brightest but are a step up from a kit lens and should be OK for 80% of your photographic interests

OrlandoScott15 wrote:

I was really excited when I saw this email about which lens to buy because I am trying to figure out exactly that right now but I was terribly disapointed when I read the article and it did not help in any way.  I am glad to know now that the lens that I bought with my camera sucks but I really didn't find out which lens would work to shoot junior (actually I am taking it to pro basketball games to shoot from a distance).  

Look at the 18MM to 200MM lenses.  They are midrange all purpose more affordable lenses.  Both Canon and Nikon has them and I am sure the other companies have equiv.  They are not the fastest or the brightest but are a step up from a kit lens and should be OK for 80% of your photographic interests

Very disappointing article - yes, I know the kit lens sucks - but really?  A $2900 lens is the next step up?  That's nearly 3x what I paid for my camera.  Not exactly in the budget for most people to shoot photos at the kid's soccer games, or create some nice holiday photos that you might frame a couple of.  

Actually I think the article was pretty spot on in a rudimentary manner.  Kit lenses are just that, loss leaders.  I have run through two 18-55 Nikon plastic lenses now.  One just plain ole broke in the lens shaft and the 2nd one has fallen victim to a Kansas dust storm.  Still at roughly $100 they do what they do.  The article points this out. 

I write product reviews myself in the hunting industry and it is a no win situation.  Either you are branded as an idiot or you step on some mother-in-laws toes somewhere.  If you recommend a brand or even a lens size, you are going to be hammered by somebody liking another brand.  You have to take information like this in a generic manner and apply it to your own personal use. 

For me, I'll be looking into a better, wider view zoom to get my work done.  Thanks for the piece.

John Hawg wrote:

Actually I think the article was pretty spot on in a rudimentary manner.  Kit lenses are just that, loss leaders.  I have run through two 18-55 Nikon plastic lenses now.  One just plain ole broke in the lens shaft and the 2nd one has fallen victim to a Kansas dust storm.  Still at roughly $100 they do what they do.  The article points this out. 

I write product reviews myself in the hunting industry and it is a no win situation.  Either you are branded as an idiot or you step on some mother-in-laws toes somewhere.  If you recommend a brand or even a lens size, you are going to be hammered by somebody liking another brand.  You have to take information like this in a generic manner and apply it to your own personal use. 

For me, I'll be looking into a better, wider view zoom to get my work done.  Thanks for the piece.

Your welcome (and 'Amen')

 The proliferation of cameras of decent quality today is a great thing for all.  As a professional photographer, I see all sorts of folks out shooting all sorts of things.  This is wonderful.  I see however lenses that have no business on cameras doing things they should not be doing.  People buying D700's and putting DX lenses on them.  People using D300's and shooting night football games with f5.6 lenses.  It is like the research the camera but buy a lens based simply on focal length.  

Kit lenses have a place for the retailers of the world.  But if folks would spend some time and research what they are buying (for more than an afternoon), money might be better spent.  personally, if I am thinking of buying a D90 and one of these kit lenses.....I'll simply buy a point and shoot instead.  

It's great to offer your customers value in the form of educational/technical/creative postings.  Keep it up.

 Allan, as always an intelligent article.  I was hoping to find a summary/review of adapters, especially those that will fit these lenses on my micro 4/3 Panasonic GF.  I was surprises that the Mirrorless Cameras article in the same newsletter didn't cover this important topic!  Maybe this category was covered in a previous article ... if so could you point me to it?

pbradshaw wrote:

 Allan, as always an intelligent article.  I was hoping to find a summary/review of adapters, especially those that will fit these lenses on my micro 4/3 Panasonic GF.  I was surprises that the Mirrorless Cameras article in the same newsletter didn't cover this important topic!  Maybe this category was covered in a previous article ... if so could you point me to it?

Hey Pete!

Sorry we didn't cover the topic of adapters. We've mentioned them in separate posts in the past, and perhaps it's time to visit the topic in it's entirety.

Fact is that most first time buyers and novices don't understand the importance of the lens when they are buying their first sub $1000 DSLR. And the only way a beginner will ever understand this is after using the product for a while.

This article does a great job helping the novice understand that to achieve noise free freeze action in low-light like they see in magazines and newspapers at grade school Basketball, Football, Volleyball games, will in most cases require they upgrade the stock kit lens.

What most 1st timers never seem to understand is the these cheap kit lenses never let you maintain a fixed aperture as you zoom. This is the the main down fall for the kit lens in low light situations.

The selection of lenses in the list is great. A $600 constant aperature 2.8 lens will dramatically improve the image over the stock 3.5-5.6 lens which is seriously useless indoors for fast moving subjects.

I do believe you should add a 50MM f1.4 to the list as this is the best bang for the buck to improve low light performance. That lens is a game changer to achieve stop action in low light.

Thanks B&H for the great information as always.

MK

For all those folks that have or are buying more sophisticated camers for the first time; this is a good article.  Most of us that have been shooting for any reasonalble length of time, know the kit lenses are like standard equipment on a car. The are multiple options to upgrade to.   What I was looking for, was more information on which specific lenses would be the logical progression. 

Keep the articles coming

Anonymous wrote:

For all those folks that have or are buying more sophisticated camers for the first time; this is a good article.  Most of us that have been shooting for any reasonalble length of time, know the kit lenses are like standard equipment on a car. The are multiple options to upgrade to.   What I was looking for, was more information on which specific lenses would be the logical progression. 

Keep the articles coming

Thanks for the feedback. As for "information on which specific lenses would be the logical progression", that's hard to delve into without knowing your specific needs as every photographer has his or her own set of priorities, likes, and dislikes when it comes to camera gear.

And the fact you're 'anonymous' doesn't make my job any easier.

I agree when the author says that a $3K lens is better than a $99 one (I never thought that! :-), but instead of trying to convince someone who spent $500 in a dSLR kit to spend 6 times more over a single lens, I think it would be more appropriate to talk about great lens that cost around $250, like the several 35mm F/1.8 (for low light situations), or the excellent Nikon 55-200VR F/4-5.6 and Canon 55-250 IS F/4-5.6 (more adequate to a "soccer moms" than a large and heavy F/2.8 telephoto).
My opinion is that If you're going to spend $3.5K on a dSLR and lens, better go for a $1.5 K body + $2k lens than invest with the proportion that the author suggests.

Good article for me!  I'm just learnng about the lens opportunities out there.

Is there a book out there that visually articulates what the lens will produce? 

I am a visual learner and not a technically oriented communicator (throwing around focal lengths, f-stops, etc just yet).

A book with a photo of the lens, its specs, and then a photo example of what the resulting image looks like - that would really help me!

Thanks!

Anonymous wrote:

Good article for me!  I'm just learnng about the lens opportunities out there.

Is there a book out there that visually articulates what the lens will produce? 

I am a visual learner and not a technically oriented communicator (throwing around focal lengths, f-stops, etc just yet).

A book with a photo of the lens, its specs, and then a photo example of what the resulting image looks like - that would really help me!

Thanks!

I might just write such a book... but first we have to finish up a pile of holiday newsletter articles.

Remind me in January.

Anonymous wrote:

Good article for me!  I'm just learnng about the lens opportunities out there.

Is there a book out there that visually articulates what the lens will produce? 

I am a visual learner and not a technically oriented communicator (throwing around focal lengths, f-stops, etc just yet).

A book with a photo of the lens, its specs, and then a photo example of what the resulting image looks like - that would really help me!

Thanks!

Try Ansel Adams' "The Camera". ;-)

Anonymous wrote:

Good article for me!  I'm just learnng about the lens opportunities out there.

Is there a book out there that visually articulates what the lens will produce? 

I am a visual learner and not a technically oriented communicator (throwing around focal lengths, f-stops, etc just yet).

A book with a photo of the lens, its specs, and then a photo example of what the resulting image looks like - that would really help me!

Thanks!

It's not a book, but the German site (www.photozone.de) does a great job in providing independent reviews of all types of lenses.  Reviews show pix of the lens and include mind-numbing technical data, sample images shot using the lens and an overall reviewer conclusion that touches on Value (what you get for the dollar). 

When I was in your shoes I too struggled in deciding how best to upgrade my glass.  Unfortunately there's no single lens solution out there to recommend.  Differing situations may require different lens solutions.  As a Canon shooter, I upgraded from non-Canon entry level glass right into Canon L series.  There was a bit of sticker shock with new L series glass, but you won't be disappointed in the performance and improved image quality.  As an alternative the used market runs deep for Canon/Nikon either from B&H, KEH, Adorama, FredMiranda, PopPhoto, your local camera shop or local Craig's List. 

The one thing the article doesn't specifically address: even inexpensive Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras (and probably others) provide outstanding photos when coupled with a great lens. While you are not going to get 8-10 frames per second with a Canon Rebel, you will get outstanding photos with lenses such as the 17-40L f/4, 24-70L f/2.8, any of the 70-200L lenses. Fact: the lens is more important than the camera.

Wil wrote:

The one thing the article doesn't specifically address: even inexpensive Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras (and probably others) provide outstanding photos when coupled with a great lens. While you are not going to get 8-10 frames per second with a Canon Rebel, you will get outstanding photos with lenses such as the 17-40L f/4, 24-70L f/2.8, any of the 70-200L lenses. Fact: the lens is more important than the camera.

Just like a sound system is only as good as the speakers, same goes for whatever lens you have hanging off the front of your camera.

Wil wrote:

The one thing the article doesn't specifically address: even inexpensive Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras (and probably others) provide outstanding photos when coupled with a great lens. While you are not going to get 8-10 frames per second with a Canon Rebel, you will get outstanding photos with lenses such as the 17-40L f/4, 24-70L f/2.8, any of the 70-200L lenses. Fact: the lens is more important than the camera.

I agree - partially. If you spend 1K more, instead of a Rebel you'll get a body that can go up to ISO25600, which is 4 steps faster than the 1600 of the Rebel; and F/2.8 is only 1 step faster than F/4...

Good article if you want to spend 3 or 4 times what my camera cost on new glass,  I am in the market for a good close up lense,  Have you done an article or can you do an article on single focal length prime lenses that will do close up work?  Right now I'm torn between a 60mm f1.8 AF S Full frame/DX lense which would be good for low light situations and an 80mm f2.8 AF S DX lense.  Since I might be stepping up to the plate and buying a full frame camera in the next couple of years.  Is the 60mm going to work well enough on the DX format to justify buying it?

RC

 I agree one thing Canon has over Nikon is they make pro caliber lenses like 80 200 f4 a superb optic but as f4 cost less than 2.8

As a nikon owner I have a 17 55 it is   sweet 

but after that I bought Tokinas even they are expensive but i must say they are very good optically and well built although they are d lenses

50 135 f2.8 is sharp as a tack and a hand holdable size

as is 11 16 f 2.8

good to see them putting in motors

I think that many have been too harsh about the step up in price . . . If you are the type to be content with lenses that are sub $1000, then you are likely going to be satisfied with your kit lens and comparable zoom lenses, etc.

I agree with Wil.  Good glass = good pictures.  I would even go so far as to say, that good glass can make up for a lot of the photographer's short-comings.

You don't need a Pro body or even a pro-sumer level body to get tack sharp images.  But you DO need good glass, period.

And, while I'm making recommendations the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 for APS-C sensors is one of the best bargains out there.  It's wide, wide, wide, and it's got great color and sharpness.  If Canon or Nikon produced this lens it would cost upwards of $1500, but it costs a bit more than a third of that . . .

 I've compared my kit lens (Nikkor 18-70mm f3.5-4.5G)  with several "upgrade" Nikkor lenses like the 50mm f1.2 (I bought that one for the f1.2), the 60mm macro and lower cost 85mm portrait lenses. I decided that they are not worth the additional cost for whatever minor improvements they offer. What you should write about is how spending $2K+ for a pro quality glass will significantly improve one's compositional skills or help develop an eye for a great shot. Or better still, what are the jewels in the under $1K priced lens class.

It was good as far as it went and I am exactly at this point - my kit lens is an EF-S 17-85 and I have been looking at either the EF 24-70/2.8L or the EF 24-105/4L IS.

What I can't figure is which is more important - the f2.8 vs the f4 with IS.

The kit lens has IS and I've come to rely on it (maybe too much) and am wondering what an f2.8 would do without IS.  Or does the additional stop (f2.8) make up for not having IS in being able to use a slower shutter.

What I do know is that it will be nice to have a lens that maintains its f-stop throughout the full zoom range.

See why I'm confused.

Tom wrote:

It was good as far as it went and I am exactly at this point - my kit lens is an EF-S 17-85 and I have been looking at either the EF 24-70/2.8L or the EF 24-105/4L IS.

What I can't figure is which is more important - the f2.8 vs the f4 with IS.

The kit lens has IS and I've come to rely on it (maybe too much) and am wondering what an f2.8 would do without IS.  Or does the additional stop (f2.8) make up for not having IS in being able to use a slower shutter.

What I do know is that it will be nice to have a lens that maintains its f-stop throughout the full zoom range.

See why I'm confused.

Good question Tom. Here's the deal. You only gain one stop by going from f/4 to f/2.8, but with an IS lens you get about a 3-4 stop advantage under low-light conditions. The flip-side is that you have extra wiggle-room for selective focus with the f/2.8 lens. Another question you have to consider is if you need the extra focal range afforded by the 24-105.

The choice is yours and they're both good optics.

Allan,

Not a bad article, though I think that a little more in-depth advice on criteria for exactly HOW to choose the next step lens would have made it a great article. Perhaps a set of bullet points or a decision tree to help guide beginners through the lens selection process would have been better than the chart of lenses.

As to the chart, I suggest that a couple of extra collumns would make it far more useful to the beginners.

1) Separate column for the aperture range. Yes, I know you included the aperture as part of the lens name/link, but beginners may not understand that /4L after the focal length means that it's a fixed F/4 Canon L-Series lens.

2) Column for the B&H price

3) Because many of the lenses in your chart are third-party lenses and are available for multiple mounts, a list of the mounts available would go a log way toward clearing up confusion amongst beginners. I'm sure that a lot of beginners are skipping over Tamron, Tokina, and Sigma lenses because, "My camera is a Canon" or "My camera is a Nikon" and they don't know that those lenses are available for their camera.

WillCAD wrote:

Allan,

Not a bad article, though I think that a little more in-depth advice on criteria for exactly HOW to choose the next step lens would have made it a great article. Perhaps a set of bullet points or a decision tree to help guide beginners through the lens selection process would have been better than the chart of lenses.

As to the chart, I suggest that a couple of extra collumns would make it far more useful to the beginners.

1) Separate column for the aperture range. Yes, I know you included the aperture as part of the lens name/link, but beginners may not understand that /4L after the focal length means that it's a fixed F/4 Canon L-Series lens.

2) Column for the B&H price

3) Because many of the lenses in your chart are third-party lenses and are available for multiple mounts, a list of the mounts available would go a log way toward clearing up confusion amongst beginners. I'm sure that a lot of beginners are skipping over Tamron, Tokina, and Sigma lenses because, "My camera is a Canon" or "My camera is a Nikon" and they don't know that those lenses are available for their camera.

Funny you should mention this because we were in the midst of writing guides such as you've described for cameras, lenses, printers, flashes, laptops, audio gear, video gear, etc.

And then we got hit with a shopping list of  holiday articles to write.

But stay tuned because we plan on publishing a bus load of nut-and-bolts guides soon after New Years.

So hang on and thanks for the feedback.

A few years back I bought a Canon Rebel XS and was dissappointed with the pictures, they were never sharp, but came out fuzzy on the edges. After some months I just sold it and got myself another DSLR. Afterwards I learned that there might be something with the jpeg processing inside the camera that produced excessive softness. Also, the lens could have been cheap. But I see no point in buying a bundled camera kit only to be forced to go and buy a better lens.

The other DSLR I bought has an excellent lens that came with it. The only trouble with it is that in low light conditions it refuses to work, especially if you have the flash forced off.

Maybe all cameras have their pros and cons, but I don't have the money to do the research. 

Actually I thought the content of the article was appropriate for the subject it was discussing.

I can say from experience that you need a good supplier. Too many salepeople are only interested in getting the sale rather than providing proper advice.  Never use a super store, go to a dedicated camera store.

Good Glass=Good Shots; and no, the lens and camera combo won't turn you into a pro, only practice, practice, practice will do that along with some critical reviews of your own work.

There a great selection of good lenses available sub $1000, all depends on your needs and budget.

Good article!

Rob wrote:

Actually I thought the content of the article was appropriate for the subject it was discussing.

I can say from experience that you need a good supplier. Too many salepeople are only interested in getting the sale rather than providing proper advice.  Never use a super store, go to a dedicated camera store.

Good Glass=Good Shots; and no, the lens and camera combo won't turn you into a pro, only practice, practice, practice will do that along with some critical reviews of your own work.

There a great selection of good lenses available sub $1000, all depends on your needs and budget.

Good article!

I beg your pardon... don't go to a 'super store'... they're only interested in taking your money and don't give good advice?

Hey Rob... you ever been to B&H? There are a 80 billion shoppers who would disagree with you on that point, and we've been dealing in good advice (and good pricing) for about 40 years now. 

Stop by sometime and I'll be happy to give you the deluxe tour.  

I feel that you did a good job on explaining the differences in the kit lenses vs the more expensive lenses.  I'm a firm believer that it's better to put your money in the lense than the body, I still shoot with a Nikon D-200.  The lense is what needs to be sharp, chrisp, full of detail and being able to control the DOF that's possible with a faster lense like my Nikon f1.4 50mm or  Nikon 80-200 f2.8.  Yes it is an expensive lense, but it's also paid for it's self with my part time job shooting sports for the local paper.  I have used great Sigma, Tokina, Tamron, and Nikon lenses, I've also had terrible ones too.  I think that people have been fooled into believing that they can get an image like you see in a sports magazine from a kit lense.  They see it on the advertisements on TV, so it must be real.  They don't get to see the editing that's been done to get that shot.  Buy what you can pay for, enjoy shooting, be realistic in your expectaions.  AND MOST OF ALL HAVE FUN.

To people complaining about the kit lens ....my observation....and I stick to it....more expensive lenses will only set you free to try different things (but at a higher cost) ..the inexpensive zooms in the kit can actually be made to deliver much more than an average casual photographer seems to extract out of them. Paying more attention to shooting techniques (than camera gear) can help. 

.....again... to Nikon users.....instead of Nikon AFS Nikkor 70-200/2.8...why not try a AF 80-200 2.8D at a fraction of the cost and much better flare control. ...who needs VR in average outdoor snaps and in these days where results at higher ISO are getting better.

...besides we can save for a large aperture prime tele say 300mm / 2.8 (+ the new TCIII 20E ), at which focal length, added advantage of VR may help more than it does at 200mm.  

I was rather dissapointed too. I completely agree that this was just a simple essay on lenses. Filled with information that most beginners already know, if they have studied at all. I knew all of this within the first week of owning my DSLR.

So yeah, I was hoping for more when I clicked on the link.

But it is good information for the VERY beginner.

I was very excited when I saw this article. I am shopping around for a replacement of my 18-55 kit lens (I bought a Nikon D90 from B&H last March and opted to have 18-55 & 55-200 lenses instead of the 18-105 kit lens - hoping to have a better total zoom range). I then learned the hard way that changing lenses costs you time and you may lose a shot (or your wife loses her nerve!) or you may get dust on your lens. And also it is not always easy and practical to carry a second lens with you.

As my experience builds up my frustration with the kit lens increases. Especially the need for a faster lens is like a thorn on my side.

Having said that, I was very surprised that my top of the shopping list lens does not appear on your article: Sigma 17-70 f2.8-4.0 . This lens (at least on paper-I did not have the chance to test it) has a acceptable zoom range and a very respectable f-stop range. I first looked at Nikon's own 16-85 but it is not different from the 18-55 in terms of f-stop range. The Sigma beats Nikon on price and f-stop range (but falls short of the zoom capability - but I can live with that)

I honestly would like to hear your opinion on the Sigma. It would be good to have an expert opinion before I buy the lens.

Tolga

Istanbul, Turkey

Tolga K wrote:

I was very excited when I saw this article. I am shopping around for a replacement of my 18-55 kit lens (I bought a Nikon D90 from B&H last March and opted to have 18-55 & 55-200 lenses instead of the 18-105 kit lens - hoping to have a better total zoom range). I then learned the hard way that changing lenses costs you time and you may lose a shot (or your wife loses her nerve!) or you may get dust on your lens. And also it is not always easy and practical to carry a second lens with you.

As my experience builds up my frustration with the kit lens increases. Especially the need for a faster lens is like a thorn on my side.

Having said that, I was very surprised that my top of the shopping list lens does not appear on your article: Sigma 17-70 f2.8-4.0 . This lens (at least on paper-I did not have the chance to test it) has a acceptable zoom range and a very respectable f-stop range. I first looked at Nikon's own 16-85 but it is not different from the 18-55 in terms of f-stop range. The Sigma beats Nikon on price and f-stop range (but falls short of the zoom capability - but I can live with that)

I honestly would like to hear your opinion on the Sigma. It would be good to have an expert opinion before I buy the lens.

Tolga

Istanbul, Turkey

Hi Tolga,

Wish I can help you but as of November 22nd, 2010, @ 5:12pm I have not had any hands-on experience with this particular lens. That said, I won't venture past whatever I've put to press. If I did, I'd be lying and Mom said I shouldn't lie.

Register my vote for including the prices in the chart.  It's one of the most important considerations, so would be nice if it was there to see without having to click through to the description.  Thank you.

Thomas Hughes wrote:

Register my vote for including the prices in the chart.  It's one of the most important considerations, so would be nice if it was there to see without having to click through to the description.  Thank you.

Tom,

The reason we refrain from listing the prices is because they change so frequently.

Instead, we hyperlink the product name to the product page, which is as up-to-date as it gets.

So if you see something that tickles your fancy, click on it, and you'll have a price that's usually within 20-minutes of any updates.

Now that's not too bad...is it?

No love for the Canon 17-55 f/2.8? Its an amazing lens.

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