If you are relatively new to photography and a beginner looking to upgrade from a kit lens I would suggest you take a step back and slow down before going out and spending big on a top end, professional spec lens.
You will get better quality photos using a professional grade lens, and it is tempting to go out, spend big and get one of these in the first instance but this, in my opinion, is a little foolish. Here’s a fact for you – some lenses simply aren’t suited to some photographers, and no matter how long they try with these lenses they simply don’t like using the lens, can’t get to grips with the lens or get the most out of the lens.
As a real life example I wanted a fisheye lens, so I went and purchased the Canon 8mm – 15mm f4L (i.e. the top end fisheye lens for Canon cameras). No matter how hard I tried or what I did I simply couldn’t get the lens to perform how I wanted. I have seen stunning photos taken with the Canon fisheye lens so I knew it was down to human (i.e. my) error but I couldn’t work it out. I so desperately wanted to get some good photos with the fisheye, but didn’t. After several weeks of testing, changing my approach, reading and researching and taking more photos I got so frustrated I gave up and sold the lens, making a huge loss in the process. Had I bought a cheaper fish eye lens (a budget one) in the first instance I wouldn’t have wasted so much money. Had I bought a fisheye converter (which is cheaper still) I would have realised that me and fisheye photography don’t make a good combination, and I would have wasted even less money.
I learned the hard way and now, whenever I buy a “different” type of lens I always buy a budget version in the first instance. Buying a budget model requires the smallest investment and allows me to try and test the lens to see how I get on with that particular type/focal length of lens, whether I will use the lens in the long term or whether it will end up on a shelf collecting dust and if I actually like the style of photos I can capture with that particular type of lens.
I know there is a “buy cheap buy twice” school of thought however I have found that when I buy budget lenses and sell them on I tend to get most of my money back, unlike the few professional grade lenses I have sold where I made huge losses on each one. If I can’t get on with a particular type of lens I sell it on. If I don’t like using a particular type of lens I sell it on. If I am not going to use a particular type of lens in the long term, and it is a fad, I sell it on.
If after spending several weeks or months using a lens and getting to know how to get the most out of it I decide I like the type of lens but I want better image quality I sell it and upgrade to the professional grade version.
So what are the best lenses for beginners? For different types of lenses I would suggest the following lenses are the best for beginners
CANON EF 50MM F1.8
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 50mm/ 80mm/ Aperture:- 1.8 - 22/ Min focus:- 13.8"/ Dimensions:- 2.72" x 1.55"/ Weight:- 5.6 oz/ Image stabilization:- No/ Price (approx.) $USD/£GBP:- $125.00/£100.00
In order to get the best out of a fast prime lens and get great shots using it wide open, i.e. at really wide apertures, you have to spend a bit of time experimenting because the depth of field is so shallow. There is a learning curve with this and you will have to persevere. Fast prime lenses don’t suit every photographer and there are plenty of photographers out there who simply refuse to use fast prime lenses. Will a fast prime lens suit you? Only you can answer this, and the only way to answer this is to give one a go and see how you get on. The best fast prime lens for beginners is the Canon 50mm f1.8.
First off you have to be aware this little lens isn’t the sturdiest of lenses, and it feels more like a toy than a serious bit of photography equipment. Don’t let this put you off though, because it will last and provide years of trouble free service, providing you look after it of course. I have had my 50mm f1.8 prime lens for several years now and it is as good tonight as the day I first bough it.
The image quality of this lens is very good, and better than that of lenses costing several times more. When this lens is stopped down it is sharp, and the sweet spot is at f8 – f11. This is all well and good the reason for buying a fast prime lens is to use it wide open isn’t it? Wide open this lens can be soft, so it is crucial you get the focus point spot on.
This lens is dirt cheap and you can buy it for under a hundred bucks, so it is top value for money. It is the price of this lens that makes it such a good buy for beginners. If, after trying using this fast prime lens, you can’t get on with it (and many people can’t) you can always sell it on and not lose out too much money. If, after trying this fast prime lens, you do get on with it then you will find it is possible to capture some stunning photos. To get the stunning photos you will have to put in the time though.
All in all the 50mm f1.8 is a cracking lens and, one of the best camera lenses for beginners. Buy the Canon 50mm f1.8 from Amazon.com or buy from Amazon.co.uk.
CANON EF-S 60MM F2.8
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- N/A/96mm/ Aperture:- 2.8 - 32/ Min focus:- 7.9”/Dimensions:- 2.87” x 2.76”/ Weight:- 11.8oz/ Image stabilization:- No/ Price (approx.) $USD/£GBP:-$400.00/£350.00
Macro lenses are specialist lenses, and like all specialist lenses they are expensive. Camera lenses for beginners shouldn’t be expensive, and this is the reason the Canon 60mm macro lens is a great lens for beginners. Okay, it is still pretty expensive compared to other types of lenses, but in the world of macro lenses it is a cheap lens.
This lens is a great lens and, given its low cost very well built and sturdy. The image quality of this lens is very good and it is very sharp from the centre of the frame to the edges. As well as being sharp the level of detail this lens records is amazing, and you have to see it to really appreciate it. This lens will clearly pick out individual hairs on a fly leg, all the eyes on a spider and other minute details you can’t see with the naked eye.
With an effective focal length of 96mm this lens doesn’t have a great working distance, i.e. lens to subject distance, so you to keep this in mind when light levels are low or you are trying to take photos of insects, mini beasts and other critters. It is possible to take photos of insects with this lens, it is just a little more challenging than taking photos of insects with a macro lens with a longer focal length.
Overall the Canon 60mm macro lens is a great macro lens for beginners and it provides a taste of proper macro photography without having to spend a shed load of money in the process. The image quality of this lens isn’t as good as macro lenses like the Canon 100 f2.8L IS macro lens and other tope end macro lenses, but then this lens costs far less. This is one macro lens I highly recommend and one you may want to take a look at.
Buy the Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens from Amazon.com or buy from Amazon.co.uk.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.