Any photographer will tell you that the lens you use is more important than the camera. It’s much better to get a great quality lens with an inexpensive camera than it is to buy an expensive camera with a cheap lens. I recommend always buying your camera body and lens separately because the lenses that come with the camera are usually cheap quality and a waste of money.
So, what do you look for when buying your first camera lens? How do you know if a lens is good quality and if it will work for the type of photos you want to take? Well the first thing you need to know is how to read the numbers on the side of the lens.
A blogger’s guide to camera lenses
1. How to read a camera lens
If you are looking to purchase a lens, the first thing you will notice is that each lens is defined by a bunch of numbers and letters. While that long trail of numbers may seem confusing, it is important to know exactly what those numbers mean so you can make an informed decision about which lens to buy.
Let’s take my favourite lens, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens as an example.
24-70mm: The first number tells you the focal length of the lens. It tells you how zoomed in your photo will be. This number will also tell you if the lens is a zoom lens or a prime. If there is only a single number (like 50mm) that means the lens is a prime. If there are two numbers (like 24-70mm) that means the lens is able to zoom in and out to produce different focal lengths.
f/2.8: The second number is telling you what the maximum aperture of the lens is. Aperture is important because it tells you how bright of photos you are able to take. The smaller this number is, the better the lens will preform in low light. Smaller apertures also give a beautiful blurry background look that allows your subject to stand out from its surroundings. Usually the smaller the aperture number is, the higher quality and more expensive the lens will be.
Quick note: I highly recommend staying away from lenses with variable apertures because your photos will suddenly become darker or brighter as you zoom in and out. This is because the max aperture is different at each focal length. You can tell if a lens has a variable aperture if the f number is a range of two numbers instead of just a single number.
2. Zoom lens or prime?
There are two main types of lenses: zoom lenses or prime lenses. Prime lenses are only one focal length while zoom lenses allow you to change the focal length depending on what you want to capture. I personally love zoom lenses because they give you so much flexibility within a single lens, but there are a few downsides. First, they are often much heavier than prime lenses. Also you are often able to get a better quality prime lens for less money than an equal quality zoom lens. Of course prime lenses have a downside too because you may have to carry multiple lenses to switch between depending on the style of photo you want to take.
3. How to choose the right focal length
When choosing a lens, you need to decide what focal length you will need for the photos you want to take. Or, in other words, you need to decide how zoomed in you want your photos to be. Here are a few of the most frequent types of photos I personally take as a blogger, and the focal lengths that are best suited to each type of photo.
Best focal length for travel photos & selfies: 24mm-35mm
If you want to take gorgeous travel photos, you will need to choose a lens with a wider focal length. A wide angle lens will be able to capture so much more of your surroundings in the frame. It’s also important to have a wider focal length if you want to take a selfie with your camera. If you choose a lens that is too zoomed in, you won’t be able to fit your entire face into the photo.
The below image was shot at a 30mm focal length. Because of the wider focal length you are able to see both myself as well as most of the beautiful temple in front of me.
Best focal length for full body shots & everyday photos: 35mm-50mm
This focal length is the best all-around focal length for taking everyday photos. If you are looking to buy your very first lens, I highly recommend finding a lens that covers this field of view! This focal length is also very similar to what your eye would naturally see when looking at something, meaning the images you capture will feel naturally proportioned.
The flatlay image below was shot at 50mm. At this focal length, it’s easy to fit lots of detail items into a flatlay photo without feeling crowded or seeing tons of extra whitespace around the image.
Best focal length for beauty shots & detail photos: 50mm-85mm
Have you ever noticed your face looking weird or getting distorted when you take a selfie with your iPhone? The reason is that your iPhone camera lens has a wide field of view. When taking close up photos such as beauty shots, outfit details or portraits longer focal lengths are much more flattering. Not only that, but you also get that beautiful blurred background look that helps keep the focus on the subject you are photographing.
The below image was shot at 70mm. Because of the narrow focal length there is no distortion on my face, and you can tell that the background is nice and blurry, keeping the focus on me instead of my surroundings.
Choosing the best camera lens for you
As you can tell the best lens for you will depend on what types of images you want to photograph. Of course, it will also depend on what type of camera you own. Most lenses are built to fit on only one brand of camera, but you can absolutely buy adapters to fit different brand lenses onto different cameras. Lastly, if you still aren’t sure what type of lens you want to buy, I recommend renting a lens for a weekend so you can try it out and see what sorts of lenses you like best.
Thank you so much for reading today’s blog post! I hope this information was super helpful to you. Make sure to also check out my guide to choosing a camera here! And check back next week Friday for a brand new blog post all about how to style and create flatlays!