The chances are that when you purchased your DSLR camera it already came with a lens. We tend to refer to these lenses as “kit” lenses. They are usually a short range zoom with a focal length in the range of 18-55mm and an aperture range of F3.5 to f5.6. They are not the best optical quality but at least they get you started.
In some instances manufacturers offer kit bundles which may also include a telephoto zoom with a focal length zoom range of 55 – 250mm. As you would expect buying this as a kit is cheaper than buying each item individually.
As your photography develops and you find particular subjects that you like photographing, you may want to change your lens so that it helps you produce better results with more creative control over the aperture setting.
Lenses cover a wide range of focal lengths from 4mm to 800mm and beyond. The lower the number the wider the view.
Ultra Wide Angle lenses – 4mm to 12mm
Wide Angle lenses – 16mm to 28mm
Standard to Short telephoto – 35mm to 100mm
Telephoto – 135mm to 300mm
Long telephoto – 400mm to 800mm
The following pictures were all taken from the same position. The only difference between them is the focal length setting of the lens. At around 50mm the area of view is considered to be that of our eyes.
Lenses can be purchased at a fixed focal length (e.g. 50mm, 85mm). We call these Prime lenses. They are generally cheaper than zoom lenses as they contain less glass elements.
Zoom lenses offer the flexibility of being able to select different focal lengths but can cost more as they contain more glass elements which move when the lens is zoomed in or zoomed out.
So which lens do you buy?
To a certain degree this is determined by your available budget. Generally, the more you are prepared to spend on a lens, the better the optical quality and the better the result.
It is up to you whether you stick to the same manufacturer as that of the camera. All we would say here is that you are putting together 2 components that are intended to work together.
There are good independent lens manufacturers out there like Sigma and Tamron. They offer the same features and similar performance to the manufacturers own lens, but at a cheaper price. If you are unsure there are plenty of lens reviews in camera magazines and also on the web where lenses are compared to one another. We would always recommend reading these so that you make a more informed decision before making your purchase.
If you want to find out more our Getting Started course covers this in more detail.