This is an essential buying guide for how to choose a new camera lens for DSLR or mirrorless cameras. If you’re asking how do I know which camera lens to buy, I’ll show you what questions to ask to ensure you make the right choice for your needs.
In this camera lens guide for beginners, we’ll look at how to choose a lens for both DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and how to choose a zoom lens and the best general use camera lens.
What are 3 of the factors to consider when choosing a lens?
- As small/light as possible to make it portable
- Wide aperture for low light performance
- OIS stabilization for hand held photography
What 3 lenses should every photographer have?
- 16-35mm lens for wide angle photographs
- 24-70mm lens for mid range photography
- 70-200mm lens long distance shots
Table of Contents
A high quality camera lens is something all photographers desire, as it directly affects our final image quality, but factors such as price often lead us to purchase lenses of lesser quality and reputation.
However, does this always lead to a lesser quality image? What are the factors that contribute to the overall quality of a camera lens – and should we try and purchase them or is it all just advertising hype?
When looking for a new camera lens there are several areas that are crucial to consider:
A high quality lens will produce images that are sharp and detailed, with minimal distortion or blur. This is achieved through the use of high-quality optics and precise manufacturing.
Each lens will have characteristics that make it sharper in different areas, such as the centre or edge of the frame. More expensive lenses will be sharp from edge to edge, whilst cheaper lenses focus on the centre area only for sharpness.
Another consideration is how some lenses will be sharper at particular f/stops, such as f8. Lower quality lenses will be less sharp at wider apertures and narrow apertures, because of their design flaws.
Low Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration is when a lens produces different colors of light at different points in the image. A high quality lens will have minimal chromatic aberration, resulting in more accurate and pleasing colour reproduction.
However, most editing software will remove any chromatic aberration in post processing.
Distortion occurs when straight lines in the image appear curved or distorted. A high quality lens will have minimal distortion, resulting in more natural-looking images.
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A fast aperture in a camera lens refers to a lens with a large maximum aperture (a low f-number), which allows more light to enter the camera sensor. This is important in low light conditions, as it allows the camera to take clear and sharp images without using a flash or a tripod.
A fast aperture also provides shallow depth of field, which helps to create a blurred background effect and draw attention to the subject of the photograph. Additionally, fast lenses are often favored by professional photographers for their ability to capture action shots with fast shutter speeds and freeze motion effectively.
High build quality in a camera lens is essential for several reasons. Firstly, a well-constructed lens can withstand wear and tear, making it more durable and less likely to suffer from physical damage.
Secondly, high build quality helps ensure that the lens performs consistently over time and provides reliable image quality. Thirdly, lenses with high build quality are often weather-sealed, allowing photographers to shoot in challenging environments without worrying about dust or moisture getting into the lens and affecting image quality.
Finally, a high-quality build often signifies that the lens has been manufactured to exacting standards and with precision, which is essential for capturing sharp and accurate images.
Image stabilization technology (OIS) built into the lens can help to reduce camera shake and produce sharper images. Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) is a technology used in camera lenses to reduce blur in photos caused by camera shake or slight movements.
This is achieved by using gyroscopic sensors to detect the movement of the camera and then shifting elements within the lens to counteract that movement. The result is a stable image, even when the camera is being held in less than ideal conditions.
OIS is especially useful for shooting in low light situations or for capturing images at slow shutter speeds without a tripod. The technology has become a standard feature in high-end cameras and lenses and can greatly enhance the quality of photos, especially for photographers who don’t have access to a tripod.
- Fujifilm XF55-200 OIS here
- Fujifilm XF16-80 OIS here
- Fujifilm XF70-300 OIS here
- Fujifilm XF50-140 OIS here
- Fujifilm XF10-24 OIS here
Brand reputation and warranty
Lenses from reputable brands are more likely to be of high quality and also come with a warranty that ensures the product is functioning properly.
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High quality autofocus
This depends on the lens as in a DSLR or mirrorless camera, the autofocus system is typically built into the camera body. The camera uses a sensor to detect the distance to the subject, and then the lens is adjusted to the proper focus distance.
This is known as “phase detection” autofocus. On the other hand, some cameras, especially point-and-shoot and smartphones, have the autofocus system in the lens. This is known as “contrast detection” autofocus, which works by analyzing the image data from the sensor and adjusting the lens to bring the image into focus.
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Weather resistance (WR).
Great lenses in today’s market have very effective WR. This means you can take your camera (as long as it also has WR) out in bad weather and not worry about it getting ruined by the rain.
Even WR lenses and cameras have their limits of how much bad weather they can take, but I’ve never experienced any disastrous issues, and I’ve been in dreadful weather in mountain regions for landscape photo shoots on many occasions.
This technology in the lens will make the lens work faster and quieter.
As we’re all aware, higher quality camera lenses are expensive, but they are an important investment for professional and serious photographers.
While some camera lens manufacturers have a reputation for producing high quality lenses, it’s also important to consider the specific lens model and its features to see if it meets your needs.
There are examples where a high priced lens that has an aperture of f/1.4 will actually be less sharp than an f/4 lens (at f/4) – so it’s really important to think through why you’re purchasing the lens and whether you require the wide aperture.
If you’re photographing landscapes, you’ll likely not need an f/2.8 lens as you’ll be mainly using a tripod and higher f-stop numbers such as f/11. So, there’s little point in paying the extra cost of a lens that will give you wider apertures, as you’re not going to need them.
An f/4 lens would also make your kit lighter and smaller, so would make far more sense all round.
Furthermore, it’s not just the lens itself that can make an image look sharp, other factors such as the stability of the camera, the technique used and post processing can also affect the final sharpness of an image.
High-quality camera lenses are definitely something we should all aspire to own, as they’ll ultimately play a large role in determining the success of our final images, but this should in no way hinder us from working within our financial needs.
I’ve seen images taken with older, vintage lenses that are technically flawed but have far more atmosphere and texture than a modern, expensive lens.
New or used?
Buying a new lens is an expensive purchase, but it will often outlive the camera, so it’s important to get it right. However, it’s worth considering the option to purchase your new camera lens from a lens reseller. If you’re carful to use the right place they will often provide a warranty with the used lens, meaning you can have peace of mind.
If you go this route, make sure to check on the description of the lens to ensure it’s in the best quality possible.
Buying a new camera lens doesn’t need to be a daunting task if you take these aspects into consideration. By thinking carefully about what you need the lens for, you’ll be able to pin point the right lens for you.
It’s worth noting that often the f2 lenses, which are cheaper, smaller and lighter than wider aperture lenses, are often sharper than the more expensive, f1.8 lenses. Don’t be put off by the f2 lenses, especially the Fujifilm ones as they are high quality and will perform well for most situations.
Only buy a wider aperture lens if you know you’ll need lower light performance, as they are more expensive.
Photography is about using what you have to capture the world around, so don’t worry too much about spending the price of a small car to purchase your next lens, as you can have just as much fun with a lens that only costs a fraction of the price – and you may just prefer those images too!