Purchasing Your Next Lens

122Share

No matter how many lenses a photographer has, there are often lenses that we still wish for and lenses after which we lust. There are so many options out there that choosing your next lens can be a dizzying cavalcade of manufacturers, focal lengths, prime or zoom functionality, auto or manual focusing, and price. Here, we offer up some thoughts on what your next lens might be based on your needs. We won’t get too specific, but feel free to use the comments section at the bottom of the article for specific questions on what lens might work best for you. Also, check out a parallel article—Why You Should Go Beyond the Kit Lens— that offers a similar perspective.

The first question you have to ask yourself is, “What do I need that my current lens doesn’t give me?” Your answer is most likely going to fall into one of two categories: speed (aperture) or focal length/zoom. Let’s look at the first problem and figure out what lenses can help increase your “speed."

When it comes to lenses, the term “speed” is used to describe how much light the aperture diaphragm allows into the lens, relative to its size. For an in-depth discussion on aperture, please refer to the B&H Explora article, Understanding Aperture.

Most kit lenses have variable apertures that start at f/3.5 and close down to f/5.6 as you zoom in to a longer focal length. This is not problematic if you’re shooting outdoors on a sunny day, or indoors with a flash or bright lights, but low-light situations will cause issues like blur from camera shake, and small aperture openings limit your ability to get that desirable out-of-focus background blur known popularly as “bokeh.” For low-light shooting and banging bokeh, you’ll want a “faster” lens.

So, what is a “fast” lens? Fast lenses generally have an aperture of f/2.8 or larger (indicated by a smaller f/-number). The larger the aperture, the more light the lens allows in. Fast lenses are great for low-light conditions.

Now let’s talk about focal length and zooms. The focal length of a lens determines, more or less, the utility and purpose of a lens. In general, wide-angle lenses are known for landscape images, “normal” focal length (around 50mm on a full-frame 35mm camera) are known for street shooting and general photos, popular portrait lenses run around 85mm to 105mm, and telephotos past that range are known for sports. Of course, you can shoot portraits with a wide-angle lens and landscapes with a telephoto, but they are stereotyped into the categories I mentioned.

A prime lens has a fixed focal length and a zoom lens has a variable focal length. In general, getting back to “speed,” prime lenses usually have larger apertures than their zoom counterparts, but zoom lenses top prime lenses for their versatility.

The first next lens I recommend to every photographer is the “nifty fifty.” I wax poetically about it in this article: The One Lens Every Photographer Should Have and Use: the 50mm. If you want the summary, just know that there are inexpensive 50mm lenses (or lenses with a 50mm equivalent focal length) available for whatever type of camera you own that will likely be optically sharper, lighter, smaller, and have larger apertures than any zoom you can buy.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Other photographers argue that the 35mm lens is the one lens that should be in everyone’s bag, but I will stick with my 50mm (or equivalent) recommendation. But, if you want to read fan mail on the 35mm lens, check out this article: The Lens Every Photographer Should Have and Use: the 35mm.

Many new photographers are keen on capturing portraits with nice blurry backgrounds. A nifty fifty can fill the bill for that need, but you might want a fast lens that has a slightly longer focal length for portraits or shooting objects farther away. The 85mm f/1.8 lens is a (usually) economic way to enter the world of portrait photography. Longer lenses, like the 85mm, are great for portraits because they create less distortion and allow you to be at a greater distance from your subject.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 Lens
Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 Lens

Telephoto Zoom Lenses

Telephoto lenses are ideal for photographing birds, sports, theater, or any other subject located at a distance from your camera. If you find that you’re missing out on shots because you can’t zoom in close enough to your subject, you should probably choose a telephoto or telephoto zoom as your next lens. You might have a kit lens that reaches 200mm, but at f/5.6, your shutter speed will be too slow to freeze the movement of your subject. In this case, you need a faster telephoto lens. The most common “pro” telephoto zoom lenses are the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. They are fast enough to stop action and give you nice bokeh, while keeping your subject sharp. If you have a 1.5x APS-C crop-sensor camera, this will provide about a 105-300mm equivalent on a full-frame camera.

If you don’t need the speed that an f/2.8 lens offers, some other great choices would be a 70-200mm f/4, or if you need the extra reach, an 18-300mm or 70-300mm variable-aperture lens might be your answer.

Another point to consider, especially with telephoto lenses, is whether or not you need a built-in image stabilizing system. Nikon calls this VR (vibration reduction), Canon calls it IS (image stabilization), Tamron has VC (vibration compensation), and Sigma refers to it as OS (optical stabilization). Whatever you call it, the benefit of having a lens with image stabilization is that you can effectively use a longer shutter speed when shooting without a tripod, giving you sharper images, and making the lens more effective in low-light situations.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Wide Zoom Lenses

If your response to the “What do I need that my current lens doesn’t give me?” question is that you need to squeeze more people or beautiful scenery into your frame, then a wide-angle lens should be your next choice.

The 28mm and 24mm focal lengths are solid prime lenses, but often times you might want more versatility with a second lens, such as that found in wide zoom lenses. There are many different zoom lengths available, not only from the main manufacturers, but from Sigma, Tokina, and Tamron, as well. One thing that most photographers will tell you is that when shooting with a zoom lens, most of their shots are made at one of the extremes, either the widest or the longest end of the zoom. While we think the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (available in Nikon, Canon, and Sony mounts) is one of the sharpest super-wide lenses, it doesn’t offer as much of a range as the 12-24mm, 16-35mm, 17-50mm, or 24-70mm zooms. This is where you have to decide exactly why you will need this lens. If you’re not exactly sure, the 24-70mm is a good choice, because it will let you shoot full-length body and headshots. If you don’t need that much range, and just want a very wide lens, then the 11-16mm might be your best option.

Tokina opera 16-28mm f/2.8 FF Lens for Nikon F
Tokina opera 16-28mm f/2.8 FF Lens for Nikon F

Macro Lenses

Perhaps you’ve seen some really close-up photos of insects or flowers, and you’ve tried to take them yourself with your kit lens but found that it couldn’t focus. This is because you need a special type of lens called a macro lens, with a very small minimum focusing distance. These lenses usually focus at a foot or less, all the way to infinity, so you can use them for shooting macro photography, as well as everyday shots of people, landscapes, or other subjects at any distance. The same choices apply here, whether you need a fast lens or not, and whether you need a wider-angle or telephoto lens.

Pentax smc Pentax-D FA 100mm f/2.8 WR Macro Lens
Pentax smc Pentax-D FA 100mm f/2.8 WR Macro Lens

There are a couple of important things to consider when choosing a macro lens. First, the wider your lens, the closer you’ll need to get to your subject. If you’re shooting flowers, and you want to focus on one flower but also want other flowers to be out of focus in the background, then a wider lens like a 40 or 50mm would work best. On the other hand, if you’re trying to shoot moving insects like bumble bees or butterflies, chances are you won’t be able to get close enough to them with a wide lens, so something like an 85mm or longer would be better for you. Also, when you’re shooting with your camera and lens very close to your subject, you often cast a shadow, meaning less light, and requiring a faster lens or special ring lights for your camera. If you don’t want to worry about shadows or purchasing flashes, consider a longer macro lens for your camera.

Canon MR-14EX II Macro Ring Lite
Canon MR-14EX II Macro Ring Lite

Pick Our Brains

So, we’ve covered a lot of ground here. We’ve discussed choosing the lens based on what focal length you need, whether you want a prime or a zoom lens, and whether you need a fast lens with a constant aperture, or if you can deal with a slower variable aperture.

Once you figure out exactly what will satisfy your photographic requirements that are as yet unfulfilled, you should be able to make an informed decision confidently, to ensure that your next lens purchase will be the right one for you.

122 Comments

I have a Canon 5d MK4 and would like to get into macro. Is the Canon 100mm IS a good start? I need the "IS" because I tend to shake a bit now that I'm up in age and the lighter the better too. Is there anything else that is not Canon? Thanks

A Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro is an excellent lens, but if you're on a budget, the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens for Canon EF, BH #SI10528MDGCE is a good option with similar features.  https://bhpho.to/2KvyXef

Hey - great article - thanks!  

I especially read the MICRO lens discussion.  But, I have a specialized question I hope you can help me with.

I have a Nikon D5600 DSLR that came with two lenses:  18-55m VR and 70-300m ED.   I plan to use this camera to digitize thousands of family photos that I've inherited - B&W, color, some over 120 years old - many have adhered to the plastic they were put under, so, need to leave them as is and do the best I can - the commercial scanner I thought to use does terrible things to the colors, so that's a no go. 

After reading Peter Krogh's book on digitizing photos, I now have a horizontal mount for camera, along with add-on lighting.  Am figuring I'll need a macro lens to be able to take good digital pix of these photos, which vary from 2"x2" up to 12"x14".  The lens' I have seem to distort and not do a good job for this level of work.

What do you think about me purchasing the

AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm F3.5G ED VR

lens for this purpose?   Would it give me the clarity and precision for this "odd" usage? 

Thx!

The AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm F3.5G ED VR would definitely work in your case with no distortion.  Also, the minimum focusing distance of 11.3" is a plus. 

I have been buying lenses from BandH for the last 20 years. I am not a professional but I am the family photographer. I have a 70 - 200 4L Canon lense that I bought for outside portraits. I now again have grandchildren playing sports in gyms. It will not let me use a high shutter speed without uping the ISO very high. I have a 17 - 55 2.8 IS that is good but cannot get close enough. I am considering selling the 70 - 200 4L and buying the 70 - 200 2.8. Would the 70 - 200 L II be ok for sports inside a gym and also for outside sports and portraits. 

Hi Sheryl,

Thanks for your continued patronage!

The 70-200 f/2.8 will only give you one more stop of shutter speed over the 70-200 f/4. That means you will be able to shoot at 1/500th sec. at f/2.8 instead of 1/250th sec. at f/4. If that stop is critical to you, then go for it.

I don't usually tell people to get a new camera (I often recommend new lenses), but, in your case, may I ask you what camera you are shooting? My thought is, if it is an older model, by two generations or more, you might be able to upgrade the body, get better ISO performance, and keep your 70-200mm lens.

Thanks for writing in, Sheryl!

I use canon 700d . Which lens should I buy? Tamron 18-400mm Di || VC HLD. OR. ( CANON 10-18MM IS STM  &  70-300mm IS || USM). ?

The question would depend on what you would like to photograph with the lens you wish to purchase.  The 10-18mm lens is designed for wide angle photography usage needs, and would be a good option for landscape photography, group photography, and interiors/architecture photography usage needs.  The 70-300mm lens is a telephoto lens designed for photographing items that are at a longer distance from your physical location, allowing you to zoom into your subject to make them appear larger in the frame,  It would be good for sports photography or wildlife photography.  The 18-400mm lens would be an all-in-one zoom lens designed for all-around photography usage needs.  It can be used as a standard zoom lens for everyday photography, but it has enough zoom range for use as a telephoto lens, so it is the best of both worlds.  Lenses with shorter zoom ranges typically have better optical performance, but the 18-400mm lens would be a good option if you only want to carry one lens and need the most flexibility.  As you did not state how you plan to use the lens or what you plan to photograph with the lens you wish to purchase, I would recommend sending an e-mail with this information to askbh@bhphoto.com so we can make a more informed recommendation on which lens may be best for your usage needs.  If you currently own lenses, letting us know which lenses you already own would help our recommendation to see which may also work in addition to your current focal length range.

I have a nikon d90 with a nikkor 18-200 general use lens and a nikkor 200-500.  Looking at something to take close up portrait shots and close up insect & flower shots.  What would be the best lens for that? I have a filter kit that I haven't used that is 72mm and am wondering what lens would be good for use of those.  Thanks

Hey Colleen,

Right off the bat, I was tempted to recommend two lenses for your two different needs. In general, photographers will have a dedicated portrait lens for portraits and a dedicated macro lens for close-up shots of flowers and insects. But, having said that, there are other options friendlier to one's budget and I have a great idea for you...so read to the bottom!

Before I get into those options, lets talk portrait lenses and macro. I'll be brief, but feel free to follow up.

Traditional portrait lenses are usually large aperture prime (not zoom) lenses at 85mm or 105mm like the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 lens.

Macro lenses [https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/macro-lens] are the best tools for close-up macro photography and Nikon has a ton of options that will work on your D90. Check out that buying guide if you want to see the choices.

Here is your "Todd just saved me a ton of money" option...

For portraits on a D90, I don't hesitate to recommend the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. On the D90, it has the field of view of a 75mm lens (very similar to a traditional 85mm portrait lens) and it is small and lightweight. To make it great for close-up work, you have a few options, but the best and least expensive will be through the use of extension tubes [https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/macro-photography-gear-lenses-extension-tubes-and-filters]. You could also use close-up filters, but I prefer extension tubes as they do not alter the optics of your lens.

I tried to keep this short and sweet, but feel free to ask follow-ups!

Thanks for stopping by!

Hi Todd, 

I'm a beginner in photography who's really confused and could use your help. I'm looking to buy my first ultra wide angle lens and not sure which to go with or even if I should get one at all. I'm also open to hear any input and advice you might have for my situation. 

What I need from the lens: more landscape, experiment with wide angle portraiture, and also try night sky. Budget < $500 USD. 

What I currently have: canon rebel T5i and the 2 kit lenses it came with, an 18-55mm and 75-300mm. I then added the canon 50mm 1.8 STM lens. 

What I'm considering: CANON 10-18mm f 4.5-5.6 (pros: inexpensive, ultra wide at 10mm, IS. cons: not very wide aperture/fast lens), TOKINA 11-16mm f 2.8 (pros: ultra wide, affordable. cons: limited focal range, no IS, lens flare per reviews). Also considering SIGMA 10-20 mmf f 3.5 and ROKINON f 2.8.

I know that was a lot, but hopefully relevant information for you to help me with. I'm currently leaning more towards the canon 10-18mm and the tokina 11-16mm with slight preference for the canon, but I'm also open to hear your take on the sigma and the rokinon. Please advise me on what you think might be best for my situation and why. Thank you in advance! 

Hello Bilal,

I hope we can bring an end to the confusion here!

So, it looks like you have done your homework here and you likely have read more about these lenses than I have. I am not sure exactly which Rokinon you were looking at, but the 3 other lenses all have very similar reviews. Therefore, I will give you my $0.02 on your takes on the lenses you mentioned...

Canon 10-18mm...There is always something that feels safe about sticking with lenses from the body's manufacturer. There are many photographers who never venture towards 3rd party lenses. The maximum aperture is very narrow (relatively), but that is not a show-stopper as a lot of landscape photography is either done in good lighting or tripod-based. The disadvantage of that aperture will be if you want to do starscapes or shallow depth of field work with very close and far objects in the same frame. You mentioned night sky shots, so I might be tempted to skip this lens. The benefits of IS are lesser on wide-angle lenses. It is "needed" more on telephoto lenses.

Tokina 11-16...I used to own a Tokina wide-angle lens for Nikon. It was superior to the similar Nikon in every respect—optics, color rendition, and build quality. Lens flare can often be managed by using a lens hood or by simply blocking any direct sunlight hitting the front of your lens with your hand or a baseball cap. And, honestly, it is not always objectionable...just ask J.J. Abrams. The f/2.8 will be your best option for night skies.

Sigma 10-20...Sigma makes great lenses. This one seems to fit nicely between the wide-aperture Tokina and the Canon.

And, last, but not least, Rokinon. Depending on what lens you were looking at, you might be entering the manual focus world. This isn't the worst thing, but if you are used to autofocus, there will be a learning curve. For starscapes, manual focus is sometimes a blessing. In general, Rokinon/Samyang lenses offer great value and very good performance. Where they have struggled in the past is distortion control and consistency in manufacturing—you could get a stellar copy of a lens or one that isn't perfect. I own a 12mm f/2 for starscape work that I really love.

I don't know if that cleared anything up for you or not, but, if I was shopping I might go with the Tokina as my top choice with the Rokinon as a close second if I was ready to do manual focus.

Let me know if you have any follow-ups! Good luck!

I am not a great photographer (let me start out with this)....

I own a nikon d3300 that was a bundle deal with 2 lenses18-55 and 55-200.    I am an avid traveler and have been to some amazing places and have gotten some amazing photos BUT i have also missed out on some crazy photos.  I am looking to purchase another lens that will help me to achieve some longer distances.   I am currently in the process of booking 2 more adventures (1 to tanzania for the great migration and the other to uganda to trek with gorillas).    I just got back from borneo and missed out on some opportunities bc my lens just couldn't get me as close as a i needed to be (really mad about the flying fox i missed photographing and the orangutans).   I do not want to spend thousands of dollars .....what would be my best options?

Hi connie,

Good morning!

First of all, let me start out with this: I am sure you are a good photographer! If you think there is room for improvement, then you should work hard to improve by shooting and studying, but if you are taking photos that you like, then you are a good photographer!

Before I give you a couple of recommendations, remember that mo' telephoto does not necessarily make ones photos better or make someone a better photographer. However, especially when traveling, I know that a longer reach can make the difference between getting a great shot and getting a photo where you have to explain to someone what was in the distance.

Having said that...you are already getting out to 200mm which is a pretty good reach for a DSLR camera. Getting out further means breaking open the piggy bank, unfortunately.

The least expensive option is the Nikon AF-P 70-300. This lens is inexpensive (comparatively) but will not really give you an increase in image quality over what you already own. It would replace your 55-200. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/801669665-USE/nikon_20062_af_p_dx_nikkor_70_300mm.html

The next step up is the full-frame-friendly AF-S 75-300mm. This is a bigger and heavier lens, but will likely have a bump up in image quality compared to the AF-P lens. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/801840180-USE/nikon_2161_af_s_vr_zoom_nikkor_70_300mm.html

The next two options are a definitely step up, but they are prime, not zoom lenses at a fixed 300mm focal length:

The older version of the 300mm f/4 is very very good (I own one) and not super spendy. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/801812917-USE/nikon_1909_af_s_nikkor_300mm_f_4d.html

The newest version is a Fresnel lens and it is incredibly lightweight and small compared to other 300mm lenses...but more expensive: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/801821214-USE/nikon_2223_af_s_nikkor_300mm_f_4e.html

NEWS FLASH: Check our Used Store for savings on these two lenses!

And, your last option...and one that you might really enjoy....the Nikon P1000 point-and-shoot bridge camera. If you want a longer reach, there is nothing else on the planet that can touch this camera and its 24-3000mm lens. Yes...3000mm. You would leave your D3300 and lenses at home and head out with just this one camera. For your African trips, this might be a great camera to have...easily portable but with unmatched telephoto reach.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1423182-REG/nikon_26522_coolpix_p1000_digital_camera.html

Also, check out our announcement and video: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/news/get-an-incredible-3000mm-zoom-with-the-nikon-p1000

Let me know if you have more questions and good luck!

Thanks for stopping by!

Depending on your budget and on the size of the lens you wish to carry, the two lenses I would recommend for your stated usage needs would be either the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens for Nikon F, B&H # SI1506005CN, or the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens for Nikon F, B&H # SI100400N.  The 150-600mm lens would have the most range and would be a great option for wildlife, but it is slightly large (check the Specifications tab for the size and weight), though I still love it for wildlife usage.  If you need something smaller, lighter, and more economically-priced, the 100-400mm lens would be a great alternative that is only slightly larger than a standard telephoto zoom lens.

I just upgraded my four year old Canon Rebel T3 with a Canon EOS Rebel T7i after reading your article on purchasing cameras. I have the basic lens it came with and a 4yr old Sigma 70-200 lens with stabilization. I'm looking for a lens, perhaps the Sigma 150-600mm, to capture in focus images of swimming action. My son swims for USA Swimming and I take photos for our team from the stands, often quite a distance from where they start off the block. The more I try to learn about the lenses the more I'm not sure which one best suits my needs. Stabilization is important. I can lean against a side rail and sometimes rest the lens on one hand on the front rail but a tripod isn't an option. I was looking at the Sigma 150-600 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM, but with your comments about shutter speed I'm worried it won't be fast enough. Thank you for any feedback.

The Sigma 150-600 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM lens should work for your planned usage needs.  However, I would also state it depends on the light levels in the arenas in which you will be photographing your subjects.  In the meantime, I would recommend looking at the EXIF data from your images taken with the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lens you own, specifically looking for the shutter speed and ISO setting that was used on the images.  Guessing that you were shooting with the maximum aperture, f/2.8, if you wanted to use the same shutter speed as your current images to freeze action, then you will have to increase your ISO by 2 to 2.3 stops.  For example, if your current images were taken at ISO 1600, to use the same shutter speed with the Sigma 150-600 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM lens, you will need to set your ISO to 6400 or 8000 to use the same shutter speed.   Increasing your ISO would be the best option, as you do not want to lower your shutter speed too much to prevent blur from movement.  If you wanted to use the same ISO, then you would have to use a slower shutter speed (for example, if you are currently shooting images at 1/500 sec to freeze motion and do not want to change your ISO, then your new shutter speed range with the same lighting will be between 1/100 to 1/125 sec, which may cause motion blur.  If you have an upcoming event, you can test this with your current lens and adjusting your ISO and shutter speed to see if it will be in range, but in either case, the Sigma 150-600 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM lens would be my recommendation for your application and budget range.  The better performance of the Canon EOS T7i DSLR camera should also assist you in obtaining less noise at higher ISO settings compared to the Canon EOS T3 DSLR camera, and you can further improve your images using noise reduction during post-processing.

Hi There

I'm looking to purchase a mirrorless camera (likely Oympus OMD-EM5Mk2), primarily for landscape photography in the mountains. I'm confused about lenses for the mirrorless cameras.  Is the terminology / specs the same as for SLR cameras?  If I used an SLR, I'd probably look at a 24-105mm lens.  However I can't seem to find similar specs for the mirrorless lenses (eg M.Zuiko).  Can you please advise if there is a translation table that will help me?  Thanks in advance!

Hey Kris!

Great question! I touch on "crop factor" in the above article, but I do not delve into the information you need for your purchase. Sorry!

The Olympus (and Panasonic) mirrorless camera line has a sensor size known by the trademark Micro Four Thirds. The sensors in these cameras are half the size of a 35mm piece of film (or a "full frame" digital sensor). This means that, when shopping for lenses, you multiply the focal length by 2x to get the field of view equivalent to what you were familiar with in the SLR world.

Example: On a Micro Four Thirds camera, a 25mm lens produces the same field of view as a 50mm lens on a 35mm SLR.

So, for your 24-105mm experience, you want a 12-50mm-ish lens like the beautiful M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens. There are also some Panasonic lenses that are near that focal length and will work on the Olympus.

Oh, if you want to read more about crop factor, click here.

Standing by for follow-up questions, Kris! Thanks for reading!

Also, as a follow up to my last question, which of the lenses I currently have do you think would work best for portraits? Thank you!!!

Hey Deborah,

Thanks for bringing me to the end of your wits with you! :)

Luckily, I am not sure you can blunder completely here, so don't lose too much sleep.

If my research is correct, only the Sigma 18-35 ends up on the sidelines if you switch to full-frame as the Art 50mm is an EF (not EF-S) lens. Please correct me if I am wrong.

So, the options you laid out are the 7D II and staying in the APS-C world plus a refurbished 6D, or the 5D IV.

Have you considered the 6D Mk. II? If you are happy with your 7D, the 7D Mk. II will be a familiar upgrade. May I ask why would you add the refurb 6D to that option? The 5D IV is a great camera, but so are the others. You really can't go wrong, you just need to figure out what is best for your needs.

As far as portraits, regardless of the sensor size, I would probably be leaning heavily on that Sigma 50 Art for portrait work.

Standing by for your answers/follow-ups!

Kind of at my wits end here, not wanting to blunder into a wrong expensive choice.  I have a 7d (about six years old).  Lenses include three kits (nifty fifty, 70-300mm and 18-135mm all canon).  I've upgraded lenses with a canon 70-200 f4,  a sigma art 18-35mm and another sigma art 50mm.  I'm wondering if it makes sense to upgrade my camera to the 7d mark II along with a refurbished 6d or bite the bullet and go for the 5d IV (in which case will my art lenses be useless???) 

Hi Todd,

Thanks for general lens overview in your article. I've just purchased a Panasonic GH5 to fit as a bridge to shoot nice images and also record videos. The reason I'm writing to you is because I'm looking for the best lense to record "private" videos with my wife. Actually, I'd like to record the action using the POV style. Right now I have the 42.5mm (85mm equiv.) f/1.2 Nocticron but obviously is not right one for this purpose.

I was thinking on the Leica 7-14mm (14-28mm 35mm equivalent) but Panasonic is releasing the 8-18mm f/2.8-4 by the end of month and that might be equally or better valid for this. Could you please give me your advice? Should I go for that one or should I consider a completely different one (fixed/variable, different brand, ...)

Thanks a million Todd, Regards

Hey Ralph,

I bet either the Leica 7-14mm, or the new Panasonic 8-18 would work well for that task. You might also consider a wide-aperture wide-angle prime lens depending on the lighting conditions.

But, to be unique and flexible, you could try a helmet or chest-mounted GoPro or a 360-degree spherical camera like the Ricoh Theta S.

Good luck!

Hi Todd,
This was a great read, thanks for all the information.
I am looking at getting either a 24-70mm or an 85mm for my Canon. I noticed that there is a big price jump between the 85mm 1.8 and 85mm 1.2. It's the 1.2 really THAT much better or why such a difference?
Also, should I stick with the Canon brand, or am I safe to try a lower priced brand?

Hey Becky,

Thanks for the kind words! I am glad you enjoyed the article!

Great questions!

Is there a big difference between the 85mm f/1.2 and 85mm f/1.8? Well, if you talk to someone who purchased the f/1.2, they will say, "Definitely!" Whereas someone who loves their f/1.8 will say, "No way!" :) 

The true answer is that there is probably not a great deal of difference between the lenses. Some people love the extra light-gathering capabilities of the f/1.2 version and the super-shallow depth of field they get with the lens. In the real world, an f/1.8 lens is still extremely bright and has shallow depth of field abilities as well. If you don't have a pressing need to go to f/1.2, or drain your savings account, you should be totally happy with the f/1.8 version. Finally, history has a few examples where the f/1.8 versions of f/1.4 (and maybe f/1.2) lenses actually outperformed their more expensive stable mates.

Canon vs. Third Party? That is completely up to you. Third party companies make some fantastic lenses and have been in business for a long time. Sigma, in particular, has been rocking the market with some amazing new offerings that have been getting rated consistently higher than the big brands, and the premium brands like Zeiss. Do your due diligence and research your options on the interweb. Remember, there are variances in lens production, so your lens, be it Canon or a third party, might not be as good as one tested the web. Or, it might be better!

Let me know if you have follow-up questions and thanks for reading Explora!

Thank you! I appreciate your quick reply.

You are very welcome! Have a great weekend!

The biggest difference between the EF 85mm f/1.2 L II and the EF 85mm f/1.4 is the way they do not or do correct for field curvature. This affects the way out of focus highlights (often called 'bokeh') will be rendered.

The EF 85mm f/1.2 L II (and the first version before it) don't use much correction for field curvature. This allows the bokeh to be very smooth and creamy, but it makes the lens not as well suited for shooting flat test charts. The edges of a flat test chart will look soft because when the center is focused at its sharpest, the point of focus on the edges is a few inches in front of a flat test chart. You can actually refocus the lens to make the edges and corners sharp, but that leaves the center soft! Since most portraitists that would use the 85 "L" frame with the edges covering the background that they want to melt into the creamy bokeh that only that lens can deliver, the loss of sharpness on the edges is not as issue for them.

If you are doing flat reproduction work or landscape work in which you want the field of focus to be as flat as possible so that the image is sharper from center all the way to the edges and the corners, then the 85mm f/1.8 is a better lens for that task. But the price of a flatter field of focus is less smooth out of focus highlights.

The newer EF 85mm f/1.4 L IS also has a fairly high degree of field curvature correction. This makes the lens look a lot better when shooting flat test charts than the EF 85mm f/1.2 L II, but the newer lens doesn't render out of focus areas near as smoothly.

Hi Michael,

Thanks for chiming in!

Ironically, a pro-shooter friend of mine grabbed the f/1.4 version after doing a good bit of research.

I hesitate to forward your comments!

Hello, Mr. Vorenkamp

There's so much I could ask on the subject. Here's one question.

I have a Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 and have always thought that Canon's 70-200mm f/2.8 would be my next lens. I know it would certainly be much better in low light apart from just being better glass. But would it be a good addition for wildlife photography (among other things) seeing as I already have a telephoto lens? 

Any help you could offer would be much appreciated. 

Hey Jameson,

You will definitely see a jump in your images between the Sigma and the Canon 70-200 f/2.8. The bad news is that you will be carrying two lenses instead of one, and the Canon is not small! But, my guess is that, when going out to shoot wildlife, you will be carrying your 70-200 all the time and not being bothered by the fact that it doesn't extend quite as far as the Sigma.

Great question! Thanks for reading!

Hello Todd,

I have a Sony a6300 with hopes of getting an a7Rii sometime in the next 18 months or so.  I've been looking at the FE 24-70 f2.8 for an all around lens, but even more specifically for HS and MS basketball gyms.  Do you think this lens would be good for getting more light in, and clearer photos of the players?

Hey Janet,

Happy New Year!

Yes, the 24-70 f/2.8 will be a great lens for courtside in the gym. As bright as the arenas are, photographically, they are pretty dim, so you'll definitely want something with an aperture of f/2.8 or wider.

Thanks for reading!

Hi Todd,

I’m considering putting together a kit with a Nikon D5500 and three lenses — the 18–300mm f/3.5-6.3G, 35mm f/1.8G, and the 85mm f/3.5G. Among a number of anticipated applications for this kit will be Macro photography at a reproduction ratio near (or better than?) 1:1.

The 85mm is clearly a Macro lens that can go down to 1:1 with a closest focusing distance of 0.9 feet. I understand the 18–300 has a reproduction ratio of 1:3.4 while focusing down to 1.6 feet.

If I wanted to push the close-focusing limits of either lens, would you recommend using:
     A.  A low diopter-strength Close-up Lens,
     B.  A Reversing Ring,
     C.  Extension Tubes, or
     D.  anything else?

I realize each of these options would bring the lens closer to the subject, making it more difficult to illuminate, and probably introducing other issues. Could you possibly outline the trade-offs between these options?

Thank you very much.
Howard

Hi Howard,

Good questions. 

For true macro work, I would focus on using the 85mm and not worry too much about the 18-300 as the reproduction ratio will leave you wanting.

I think the best solution to push either lens is: extension tubes. You can use them on either lens and they do not degrade optical quality. Quick, easy, inexpensive. Done!

Check out these two articles that I penned..but, seriously, extension tubes are all you will need and want.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/macro-photography-gear-lenses-extension-tubes-and-filters

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/macro-photography-gear-bellows-reversal-rings-macro-couplers-and-focusing

Thanks for reading and thanks for the questions!

Thanks so much Todd!

That was a quick, decisive, response.
You saved me days of experimentation. 

I've already ordered a set of Extension Tubes and, after a careful re-reading of your two articles (linked above), I've decided to also "splurge" on a $7.95 Macro Coupler. With that I can experiment on reversing the 35mm f1.8 on the Micro 85mm. 

From the direction in which you pointed me in your response and articles, I think I can see a Focusing Rail and a license for Zerene Stacker may be in my future. <Smile>  

Thanks, Again.
Howard 

Hey Howard,

No worries at all!

That is quite the splurge! I hope I didn't encourage you to break the bank and that you are not in trouble with the significant other!

Enjoy the macro shooting! I think that macro is one of the most fun things you can do with a camera...I really need to do it more often than I do!

Thanks for stopping by!

Todd,

I have a Nikon D5500 as of now but what to move up. I just want to know your opinions on the D750, D610, and D500. I like the DX format i have on the D5500, but I never tried the FX. With that in mind, I have aimed more towards the D500 but would like more of a professionals opinion. 

Also I am looking for a lense that would be ideal for portraits but also wildlife and landscape since I photograph that more often. I was looking at the 85mm f/1.8G. But I only use this for a hobby and is only intermediate at the whole photography things so a professional view would be appreciated. I am now getting into taking portraits for people in my neighborhood and would like a lens with a great high and low aperature. If you coud just give me your best opinions that would be extremely helpful.

Thank you in advanced!

Kennedy

Hey Kennedy,

First of all, I don't know if my opinion qualifies as "professional," but I will give you recommendations nonetheless!

Let's start with the lens...the 85mm f/1.8G is a great lens for all sorts of photographs, and it is ideal for portraiture. Great choice!

I honestly don't think you will see a huge difference in photos between the D5500 and the D750, D610, and D500. Having said that, the cameras you are considering are faster and, especially in the case of the D500, more robustly built. But, if you are looking for a jump in image quality, you likely wont see it in any significant ways.

Let's talk FX/DX with that 85mm lens. 85mm is a classic portrait-length lens. When you use it on an FX camera, it gives you a traditional 85mm field of view. On a DX camera, like the D500 or your D5500, you will have a field of view equivalent of a 128mm lens...a bit long for the traditional portrait world, but still very viable. One possible advantage is that you will be working further from your subject—preferred by some photographers and "models."

Do you have a 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 lens? On DX, those have the same field of view of a 75mm lens — great for portraiture as well. So, if you don't have a 50mm and you are staying in DX, that would be a great lens to have. Honestly, FX or DX...everyone should have a 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 lens.

In summary, I would only suggest a new body if you want something more robust or want to move to full-frame. The 85mm will be great for portraits on either format camera, and a 50mm is a great all-purpose lens to have for both formats as well.

I hope this helped! Please let me know if you have more questions. Thanks for stopping by!

Hi Todd,

Thanks for the helpful article.  I'll be getting a D750 this week from BH, moving from a crop sensor and need advice on a recommended first lens - or two.  For landscapes my current go to is the Nikkor 16-85 with most shots at 16-24.  Im looking at the 16-35 VR vs 18-35G and maybe a 20mm prime.  Sharpness with filters and long exposures are key.  And I do find myself in lower light conditions handheld as well.  Feeling like I need 5 different lenses here.  Lol.  Thanks in advance..

Sean

Hey Sean,

Quite the dilemma! It looks like the 16-35 is getting better reviews than the 18-35...and I personally prefer a fixed wide aperture—the 16-35 being f/4 all the way through.

I have also gravitated towards prime lenses over the past few years where I used to rarely use them. The convenience factor isn't there, but the image quality always is, so that is something to consider. Pairing one of those zooms with a wide-aperture prime is probably a great place to start. Also, on the prime front, you might consider getting an older manual focus lens (new or used) to save money and still get excellent glass.

Standing by for follow-ups! Thanks for reading!

I Have a Tameron 70-300mm Lens for my Cannon D470 and Cannon 600 Ex-RT Flash  BUT The Flash Only goes up to 200 mm ? any way i can change that on flash? 

Hey Jeff,

You'll just have to fire the flash at 200mm and hope for the best! Sorry, mate!

Thanks for reading!

Hold the phone, Jeff! A B&H colleague just sent me this:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/427602-REG/Visual_Echoes_FX3_FX3_Better_Beamer_for.html

Good luck!

The APS-C sensor has a crop factor of 1.6. All the adjusted focal lengths in the article pertaining to the APS-C are incorrect. 

Hello The Truth,

Only Canon has the 1.6x crop factor with their APS-C cameras. Nikon, Fujifilm, and others have 1.5x crops. I will tweak the article to avoid confusion moving forward, but the majority of APS-C sensors are 1.5x.

Thanks for reading!

Indeed they are, but with the Canon lens pictured it adds precision to the article. Thanks for editing. 

We love precision! Thanks again, The Truth! We appreciate the feedback!

Hey! I have a Canon 5D Markii & I'm a portrait photographer. I've started shooting weddings & was wanting either the 24-70mm f2.8L or 70-200 f4L - but cannot decide which would be better for me.  I'm wanting to be able to get in closer during ceremonies.  I only have prime lenses.  

thanks!

Hey Carie,

I am curious to know what primes you are shooting with.

The 70-200 f/4 (or f/2.8) is going to allow you to shoot around traditional portrait focal lengths (85mm, 105mm) and then give you some extra reach. Wedding pro Jerry Ghionis is a big fan of the 70-200. That is his go-to lens. Check out this interview I did with him here.

Also, check out this article: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/fisheye-telephoto-variety-lenses-wedding-photographer

Standing by for follow-ups! Thanks for reading, Carie!

Thank you, so helpful!! I will read the interview, thanks!  I have a 35mm 1.4, 50mm 1.2, & 135mm 2.0 & I'm in love with my collection.  Next portrait lens I would love is 85mm - but think I need to invest in something as I mentioned earlier.  Thanks much!

You are very welcome, Carie!

Getting in close? Well the 70-200 is where it's at. I have the f/2.8 so I can't personally attest to the quality of the f/4...but because of the lens compression I'm sure it's just dandy. For a season in my career, the 70-200 was my go to for portraits. The bokeh is incredible. I highly suggest renting, tho. I do have thr 24-70 but only use it at receptions on the dance floor or for when I need a wide shot of the ceremony.

Thanks for helping a fellow Explora reader, Christina! Great advice!

I like your input!

If you have been spoiled by the extremely smooth bokeh of the EF 135mm f/2 L, the bokeh of any of the 70-200mm L lenses used wide open will look a bit "busy" or even "harsh" next to images you take using the 135/2 at large apertures.

Please don't get me wrong, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II is a great lens. I shoot with both the EF 135mm f/2 L and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II and probably use the 70-200 a bit more than the 135. But that is due to the nature of what I'm shooting and the ability to control (or not control) the distance between my shooting position and the subjects when shooting sports. If I'm shooting anything that allows me total control of subject distance and I want to use a very wide aperture to blur out the background, it's the 135/2 every time.

Thanks for this as well, Michael!

We appreciate you stopping by and sharing your experiences!

Show older comments

Close

Close

Close