Debating lenses


TPF Noob!
Jan 3, 2008
Reaction score
Far away.
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Hey all. I was wondering if I could get some opinions. I am looking to purchase some lenses as part of my first SLR setup and have read a lot of the posts on this forum on the matter. My budget roughly allows me 3 lenses, plus the $79 Canon 50mm that seems to be too good a deal to not include. I am split between several primes and a macro (35mm, 85mm, 185mm macro) and a set of zooms (16-35, 24-70, and 70-200).

I realize part of my decision needs to consider quality/speed/cost of each particular lens, but I can sort that out on my own. What I am looking for here is a discussion on how to weight my selections. Do I go exclusively with the challenges and rewards of primes as well as enjoy the delights of macro and look at zooms later, or do I get the zooms for their obvious versatility and specialize with primes and/or a macro lens later. Or is there a wiser combination to be found here? Macro photography intrigues me to no end, but I am quite flexible as to whether or not to include a macro lens in my initial set up. Let's hear what you've got to say! Thanks a bunch.
I'm in the same boat as you. I'm getting ready to buy my first digital SLR and a few lenses. Just waiting on that tax return! I'm planning on getting the Pentax K10D with the 18-55 kit lens. I'm also going to get a 18-250 f/3.5-6.3 lens. Some people on here say it's too slow, but I've read reviews from people that own the lens and they all seem to love it. It will be a walk around daytime lens anyways. I'm also going to get the Pentax 50mm f/1.4 lens. Also going to get a Sigma 105mm macro lens. Macro photography fascinates me as well. I love all the insect photos in the Nature gallery. From what I've seen, the 100mm range macros are a good macro lens to start with.
Welcome to the forum.

At first glance, it would appear that you are looking at a 'full frame' camera like the 5D or posibly a 1Ds. Or at least you seem to concentrating on EF lenses and not including EF-S lenses.

If you are considering a 'crop factor' camera like the 40D, (and don't plan to upgrade to full frame) then you can consider EF-S lenses.

When starting a kit, I might first look at a 'normal range' zoom. This might be called your 'walk around' lens. On full frame, this could be the 24-70 F2.8 L (or 24-105 F4 L IS, if you don't need the F2.8 aperture).
On a crop body, this could be the EF-S 17-55 F2.8 IS (or the EF 16-35 F2.8 L or the EF 17-40 F4 L...or even the EF-S 17-85 IS ).

The camera and the normal zoom is a good would allow you to shoot in many situations. Add the 50mm F1.8 (or something better) for a large aperture and it's looking good.
After that, I think your shooting style should determine the next step. If it's Macro, then get a macro lens. If you want to shoot wildlife or sports, consider a telephoto, if it's landscape, consider a wide lens.
You can combine some of that, the 180mm Macro might also be a good wildlife telephoto. On the other hand, a set of extension tubes can turn just about any lens into a macro lens.

As for primes vs zoom lenses...that's up to you. Some people prefer primes, but those are often people who have been using them for many years and have an affinity for them. Sure, the quality of pro level primes is outstanding...but the quality of pro level zooms is pretty darn good as well. I would suggest that you have at least one of each and try them out for a while....if you find that you like using one more than the other...then your question will be answered.
I agree with Mike. Get a nice but cheaper mid-zoom to start off with, and then the "nifty fifty" f/1.8 to get you started in primes, and then let your shooting style determine what you get next. I'd suggest the cheap but good 18-55. The 18-55 lenses in both Nikon and Canon systems focus pretty darn closely but aren't quite macro lenses. The Nikon 18-55 does 1:3.2 which is actually just about their closest focusing non-macro lens. I'm not sure of the Canon specs, but I think it's just about the same with respect to close-focusing.

If you always seem to want to focus closer, go ahead and get a full dedicated macro. If you want to go longer, get something longer. If you want to go wider, get a wide angle. If you want something faster, get something faster, etc. I started off with the cheap but good 18-55 in the Nikon system but realized it was very slow, so then I got the cheap but excellent 50mm f/1.8 for $100. That I loved, but was too long for a lot of what I was doing, so then I got the 35mm f/2 for $300. Eventually I got the 85mm f/1.8 for portrait stuff for around $300 used. I think that lens is $300 NEW in the Canon system. Canon lenses are usually a bit cheaper than Nikon, and sometimes a lot cheaper.

For zooms, I wanted something that would take me from wide to portrait length, so I picked up Nikon's 18-135mm lens for cheap used and I love it. I also got a cheap 55-200mm lens just to play with a telephoto zoom and to see if 200mm would be long enough for me for when I wanted to make long shots. Nope. So I sold that one off and just got a 70-300VR (IS) for Christmas. Recenly I picked up a used Tokina 28-70mm f/2.8 for cheap just to play with an f/2.8 mid-zoom. Nice enough for what it is, but I think the zoom makes me lazy and after a month of shooting with it, I find the photos with my primes to be far more interesting due to the far more interesting angles and perspectives you get with a fixed focal length lens from trying to get everything you want in the frame. You can achieve the same with a zoom, but just need to have more discipline is all.
Thanks for both those replies, they are insightful. I am not at this point considering a FF body. Appealing as it is, its just too much cost to justify at this point. As you have guessed, however, I have not ruled it out as something to do in the reasonable future. I have given budgetary priority to good lenses, and have decided to include the 16-35 for two reasons. First, on a crop body, it will provide a nice wide-mid zoom option, and if/when an upgrade to FF occurs, it will be a great zoom for landscapes and large subjects like big buildings, event crowds, large natural features, etc. Although, to be honest, I am still somewhat torn between this and the 24-70. Also a finalist is the 50mm f/1.8 at $75. So much to learn and such a great reputation for price:quality from the cheapest lens in Canon's lineup.

I would still like something on the longer side of things, and don't know if a zoom or a prime would be of greater benefit. I want to sharpen both my eye and my creativity as much as possible and wonder if a prime mightn't help me do that a little better than a zoom. However, at this stage, perhaps zoom is a better move to determine which focal length I will use the most and therefore which prime to spend money on.

Most reactions