Many photographers start out timid and not wanting to do what they have to in order to unleash their true creativity. Once you start shooting though, and you start to become braver, bolder and more confident in your craft. Your lenses are really what teach you to do your job. Even when you become advanced, semi-pro and pro there are always certain lenses that you can go back to in order to learn more about what you can do with your creativity and vision: and they’re not always 50mm’s either!
For that, here are some of the best lenses to learn with no matter what experience you have:
The Canon Normal EF 50mm F1.8 is an autofocus lens that is essentially the lens that almost every Canon user learns on. At $99.95 it is very cheap and provides very good image quality. Even better for a beginner is the fact that it doesn’t have IS built in so starters will have to learn how to keep their nerves calm and control their breathing while shooting: even if you can shoot at faster speeds with it. For the more advanced users, the bokeh that a 50mm delivers will allow for lots of creativity in your shots. Furthermore, the 50mm focal length is just right as a portrait lens on “crop-sensor” Canon DSLRs (like the Rebel series and 10D-50D series).
The other Canon lens is the standard kit lens that one receives with their APS-C DSLRs: the Canon EF-S 18-55 f3.5-5.6 lens.. Using this slow lens will give you a little bit telephoto zoom than the 50mm will and can give you more creativity with your wide angles. Because the lens is so slow and since the low-light focusing system on Canon’s isn’t as superior as Nikon’s, you may sometimes be tempted to switch it into manual focus in order to achieve your shots correctly. Many users will go with this lens and stick with it for a while, especially when trying to shoot and travel light.
The Nikon 35mm 1.8 DX lens is one that is extremely versatile and is highly regarded by many Nikonians. Because of the angle of view, the pictures it takes look most natural to the human eyes. This can lead to the conclusion that it would be an excellent lens for street photography: a style that Magnum Photographers are famous for. Further, beginners and advanced users alike will go for this lens because the of the low-light capabilities it offers and the fact that it should work perfectly when using it with the video capabilities of your D90 or D5000. It is a true “normal” focal length lens on these crop-sensor bodies.
Another lens that you may want to consider is the Voigtlander|Nokton 58mm f1.4 manual focus lens. It’s the closest that you can get to something like the higher grade Zeiss lenses without dropping the equivalent of this month’s rent. If you screw it onto a DX format camera it will act as an 87mm lens would on a 35mm or full frame camera. Photographers that plan to shoot lots of portraits or work in a studio often may want to go for this lens as it will teach you a lot about lighting, metering and focusing absolutely perfectly with a wider aperture.
Sony, for the most part, is known for putting lots of megapixels onto a sensor. To get the most out of those megapixels it is in your advantage to use a lens like the Vivitar 85mm f1.4 because of the fact that you’ll be able to get very nice portraits with a lens like this. Utilizing your megapixels to the fullest will become commonplace for the growing Sony shooter. Advanced users and pros may want to move onto the nicer (and costlier) Zeiss, Minolta and Sony lenses that are highly praised in the photography world.
Similarly, the Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 is a superzoom that delivers high quality images . . . in good lighting. This lens was used to shoot my graduation by a photographer (not a pro) that had to move from location to location. In a situation/event like that, this lens will excel. Most photographers have problems with superzooms and prefer their primes instead. The usefulness of this lens will last with even the advanced users as their lens collection builds up. Assuming the lighting is good, this might be the perfect walkaround lens.
Due to the fact that Olympus has such a small sensor because of the 4/3rds system, they take pride in their 2x crop factor. Which is why their advertisements are usually shot in bright daylight and show action that will require a faster zoom lens of some sort. This is why a lens like the Sigma 70-200m f2.8 II EX is a great lens to start off on; despite the steep price. On the plus side, you’ll be able to shoot all the wildlife and sports shots you could possibly want or need. The lens will stick with you for a long time as well since there aren’t many very fast lenses for the 4/3rds format.
For those looking to be more discrete about their photography, there is always the option of the pancake lens that Olympus and Olympus users take pride in (I have my personal gripes with it.) This 25mm 2.8 lens is the equivalent of a 50mm and is recommended for street photography and close-ups. If you’ve got one of the smaller bodies it will make your camera more compact as well: I’m able to put this on my E-510 and shove it into a pocket of my winter pea coat without any significant bulging.
Pentax’s are ideal for travel photography and I’ve even seen them used for studio and photojournalism work. This lens is the one I see in every Pentax user’s bag: the Normal SMCP-FA 50mm F1.4 autofocus lens. If you’re a photography student using Pentax and you plan on sticking with the system, why not use this lens with the theatre majors at your school to take headshots?
For your photojournalism or wildlife photography the Pentax SMCP-DA 50-135mm f2.8 lens will suffice your needs. For the cost, it is a lens that you will learn on and become very much accustomed to using. I’ve seen this lens shoot everything from close-up candids while strolling the Coney Island boardwalk to creative High ISO shots for documentary styled photography.
What About Your Lenses?
Which lenses have helped you grow the most as a photographer? Are you a prime shooter or do you prefer the flexibility and convenience of a zoom lens? Let us know in the comments below.