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Camera Optics: Which lens to choose and when?

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Congratulations on your shiny new camera. Now while your new toy comes with all the essentials needed to get up and running, what it doesn’t come with is extra optics.

The 18-55mm kit lens that you get with most cameras is often good enough for beginners. The camera has a wide focal range and can cover most scenarios.

What it offers is sorts of best of both worlds as you get a wide angle shot at 18mm and a focussed, narrowed down shot at 55mm.

However, at some point in time, every beginner outgrows the 18-55mm lens.

Camera Optics: Which lens to choose and when? Brief guide for beginners
The 18-55mm kit lens. The photo was shot with a 55-250mm zoom lens

If you often find yourself in a situation where you feel like you need a bit more zoom, or perhaps more depth of field, chances are, its time to buy a new lens.

Also read: Top 7 DSLR and Mirrorless camera for beginners

Which lens to buy and when?

This is probably the most confusing question after buying a DSLR.

For most people, buying a camera lens is an expensive affair. Besides, camera lenses, are in general, expensive.

However, that should not stop you from advancing in your photographic journey.

The first lens I’m going to talk about is the 50mm prime. You’ve probably heard of it before if you’ve done even the bare minimum of research on DSLR lenses.

The 50mm prime comes with a lot of benefits. It’s lightweight, compact, and most importantly, cheap. Most 50mm prime lenses offer a maximum aperture of f/1.8 which is just fantastic for getting that smooth depth of field.

Camera Optics: Which lens to choose and when? Brief guide for beginners
The 50mm Prime lens.

Why should you buy a 50mm prime when your 18-55mm already covers that focal range?

The main reason is the aperture. The large aperture of the 50mm prime lens is going to give you amazing bokeh in your images. Also, since it is a ‘fast’ lens, you get better low light performance and generally better image quality.

Coming in at around INR 8k, it’s one of the cheapest lenses out there. If you look a little further, third-party lenses from companies such as Youngnou are available for even cheap and deliver identical performance.

Also read: DSLR Maintenance 101: How to clean your camera sensor and lenses

Moving on, ever felt like you could use a little bit more zoom?

Presenting to you the 55-250 or 70-300mm zoom lenses. Quite a lot of cameras also offer these lenses as an add-on bundle along with the 18-55 kit lens.

Camera Optics: Which lens to choose and when? Brief guide for beginners
The 55-250mm zoom lens. The image was shot with an 18-55mm lens. Note the difference in image quality

How are they any different from the 18-55? Well, to begin with, you get a ton of focal range. These lenses offer a pretty decent zoom range and hence, can be used to cover a wide variety of events.

Unlike the 50mm prime, you have the luxury of zooming in on your subject. Don’t let that become a habit. Try to get as close to your subject as possible before zooming in.

What these lenses don’t offer is the exceptionally wide aperture of the 50mm prime. The aperture tops out at about f/5.6.

Coming in at about INR 12k, these lenses are also not a bad choice if you’ll be covering events. Especially anything that requires covering a stage or even something like wildlife/bird photography. Also, if you research, you might be able to find cheaper, third-party alternatives to these as well.

Also read: DSLR vs Mirrorless camera: Which one to choose in 2019?

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: