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How To Choose a Camera Lens

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When you’re choosing a digital camera, you have to think about image quality, feature options, sharing possibilities, and, of course, price point. Interchangeable lens cameras, including both new mirrorless models and standard digital SLRs, offer a lot more flexibility when it comes to imaging—which means more decisions to make. Here are three things to look for when choosing a lens for your interchangeable lens camera.


Compatibility


Most cameras require an adapter if you purchase a lens which was not made for that camera model. Nikon F-mount cameras, however, are compatible with a few third-party brands, and Canon EF-mount cameras, with an adapter, are compatible with just about any lens. When you’re choosing your lens, be sure to double check that your camera works with that model. Bear in mind that a high-end lens can make a low-end body perform at professional quality, so even if you have a starter body, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a higher-end lens.

On the other end of the spectrum, many film photographers new to digital media may want to reincorporate a library of lenses amassed over the years. Many digital cameras are compatible with film lenses—you’ll simply need an adapter to do so.

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Artistic Function

Even if you’ve just begun photography, you’ve likely heard of words like macro, fisheye, and tilt-shift. With the proliferation of special artistic filters and features on point-and-shoot cameras and even smartphones, these professionally artistic terms have become household conversation. If you’re looking to really invest in your photography, however, you’ll want to buy the real deal. A fisheye lens makes your images look as if you’re looking through a rounded glass, a fish bowl, perhaps. Tilt-shift lenses make regular scenes look like models, or miniature, and are often used in landscape or urban photography. Macro lenses are for close-up photography, and have the ability to capture the minutest details, like fingerprints or individual grains of sand.

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Price Point

Your price point for a camera lens depends entirely on what you want to do with your photography. Unlike camera bodies, camera lenses tend to withstand the test of time; manufacturers usually do not release a new model of a standard lens year after year. This is why it’s often better to spend real money on a good lens than the best body available. If you’re working with Canon, for example, we recommend opting for an L-series lens rather than their standard (and cheaper) EF-series. An L-series lens is compatible with both crop-sensor and full-frame models, so it grows with you, while most EF-series lenses are only compatible with a standard EOS camera.

In this vein, telephoto sports lenses will run you significantly higher than the best 18–55mm standard lens you can find, but if you’re serious about capturing fast-moving subjects, you’ll need to invest in a proper telephoto lens. The same goes for macro photography. A serious zoom will be able to capture details like grains of sand, but you probably won’t be able to get close enough to create a really jaw-dropping image. Make your decision, figure out what’s best, and take the plunge when it comes to price.

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