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Purchasing Your Next Lens

No matter how many lenses a photographer has, there are often added lenses we still wish for, and even more lenses after which we lust.

There are so many options that choosing your next lens can often involve a dizzying cavalcade of choices—manufacturers, focal lengths, prime or zoom functionality, auto or manual focusing, and price. Below, we offer up some thoughts on what your next lens might be based on your shooting preferences and needs.

To keep things simple, our suggestions are based on the use of a full-frame camera—those seeking a lens for use with smaller sensor size cameras will need consider the appropriate crop factor.

Since we don’t get too specific here, feel free to use the Comments section at the bottom of the article for further questions on what lens might work best for you.

The Need for Speed

The first question to ask yourself is, “What do I need that my current lens doesn’t give me?” In terms of functionality, your answer is most likely going to fall into one of two categories: speed (aperture) or versatility (focal length/zoom). Let’s look at the first factor and figure out what lenses can help increase your “speed.”

When it comes to optics, the term “speed” is used to describe how much light the aperture diaphragm allows into the lens, relative to its size. And the mention of size invites a distinction between two lens types—primes or zooms. As described in the chart below, prime lenses feature a single, fixed focal length, which is often selected based on the subject one wishes to photograph. While this limited field of view makes a prime lens less inherently versatile than a zoom, primes are generally smaller in size, and often faster and lighter weight. And, as the adage goes, selecting a prime lens does offer the opportunity to “Zoom with your feet.”

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