A lot of consumers migrating from a Compact Point & Shoot to a DSLR would often be confused as to which lens to buy. While buying a DSLR they would be tempted to buy the kits lens provided with the camera. Unaware of what a kit lens is, or what type of lens they need, they may even buy it only to realise later that it was a bad investment. If you are looking to buy a new DSLR, the following tips can help you choose your first lens.
A kit lens is one that comes bundled together with a camera as an offer from the manufacturer. Usually an entry level DSLR would come with a 18-55mm lens. 18mm and 55mm are the two extreme focal lengths within which the lens can shoot pictures. It has nothing to do with the length of the lens. The smaller the number the wider is the field of view that it can capture (technically any lens less than 50mm is known as a wide angle). Again, the higher the number the more optical zoom range the lens has. Typically, the human eye has a focal length of about 50mm which is why, a lot of street photography enthusiasts prefer shooting with a 50mm prime lens. More on prime lenses later. If you are interested in everyday shooting only, then a 18-55mm kit lens will be enough for you. But if you prefer to shoot wildlife then you will need a bigger focal length, something like a 55-300mm. if you are a landscape photographer or shoot architecture, then you will need a wider lens something like a 17-55mm.
Compatible lenses from other manufacturers
If you're shopping for a DSLR, you have the option to purchase it along with a kit lens, or ask the store keeper to bundle the camera with another lens of your choice. There are no hard and fast rules that you will have to purchase the kit lens. Professional photographers prefer buying a camera body only and then use a lens of their choice. Purchasing only the body allows you the option to even mount a compatible lens from a different manufacturer. There are plenty of other compatible lenses available in the market. If you're purchasing a Nikon or a Canon DSLR, then the choice is pretty wide.
Using lenses via an adapter ring
One can even use lenses which are not directly compatible, via an adapter ring. However it is pertinent to note that if you use a lens via an adapter ring you will most likely lose out on the Auto-Focusing (AF) abilities.
Prime lenses and zoom lenses
A prime lens is a fixed focal length lens. Being fixed in its focal length means manufacturers have less number of moving lens elements to deal with and can concentrate on the optical qualities of the lens instead. Prime lenses are usually faster because they have a wider maximum aperture and offer photographers the option to select a faster shutter speed. Wider aperture is perfect for shooting fast action or in low light conditions.
Zoom lenses on the other hand have a variable focal length and can be adjusted to focus on a subject by turning a focusing ring on the lens body. There are several moving elements inside a zoom lens body and as such the lens tends to be heavier. Also, the maximum aperture is somewhat smaller than a prime lens.
Image stabilization system
When purchasing a lens it is pertinent to note whether the lens has some sort of image stabilisation system built in or not. Image stabilisation system is referred to by different names by different manufacturers, but they essentially do the same. They counter for the camera shake when the picture is being taken. There are tiny gyro sensors mounted on the lens body which can detect vertical and horizontal movements of the camera and compensates for that by moving specific lens elements to bring the image on to the correct focal plane. If you intend to shoot hand holding most of the times, then you must have image stabilisation system in your lenses.
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