Which Lens??? Two of my personal favorites:

A question I’m often asked during my Intro to Photography workshop is ‘What lens should I use?”.  The answer I often provide is “It depends”.

I like to think of my gear as tools in a toolbox, each one has an intended purpose, however it is possible to use some items beyond their traditional functionality (think MacGyver…more about this in a later post), and your lenses are no exception.

With respect to lenses – My all time favorite lens in the sub-$1000 price range is the 18 – 200 (Nikon or Canon).  Obviously primes (fixed focal-length lenses) provide better bokeh (background blur), are faster, have larger aperture openings (smaller f-stops), and generally wider range of sweet spots than do their zoom counterparts.  Having said that, the sheer versatility of the 18 – 200 is reason enough to contemplate purchasing one.

Consider the following advantages to carrying the 18 – 200 lens in your camera bag:

  • Significant reduction in your equipment’s exposure to dust and the elements by eliminating the need to change lenses.
  • Reduction in camera maintenance / cleaning fees due to above.
  • Savings in terms of weight and space in your camera bag.
  • No loss of time when transitioning between lenses in the event your subject is ‘just out of range’ of your current lens (note, if you are the owner of a South African game park, its best to use your camera’s zoom as opposed to telling your clients to stand closer to the rhino – see full article here).
  • Less failure points (managing / maintaining one lens as opposed to two).

Runner-up: The ‘nifty fifty’ – The best value lens on the market:

Depending on what you enjoy shooting, the ‘nifty fifty’ usually appears on everyone’s top 5 list.  This 50mm, f-1.8 lens is relatively cheap (under $150… oftentimes it can be found used for under $100) and is a great way to train your photographic eye.  Due to its fixed focal length, one has to constantly recompose their photos by re-position themselves to create their shot (and therefore, exercise their mind and body) as opposed to merely rotating their wrist (zoom in, zoom out… yawn).  The 1.8 aperture creates a very nice, shallow depth of field – good for shooting infants, food, etc.  In the off chance this lens is lost, dropped, etc, one need not donate a kidney to purchase a new one.  Its a completely different experience from the 18 – 200.