Need some inspiration? Try one of these lenses for a change of pace.
Until you shoot with something other than the standard 18-55mm kit
lens, you never realize how boring and restrictive it feels. Here are
some recommended lenses to help get you out of that kit lens rut.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of lens recommendations, nor
are these necessarily best-in-class; they're simply lenses I've shot
with that I like, and that didn't disappoint me on photo quality. It's
also just a start, and I'll update as lenses pop onto my radar.
Latest update: December 5, 2014. Added two new Lensbaby models.
Recommended for: This fast, wide-angle, full-frame lens delivers nice, sharp images on a full-frame camera, and on a Nikon APS-C camera it offers a 30mm-equivalent angle of view that's great for photographing group and landscapes.
Manufacturer price: $800 (but widely available for $600); AU$1,100; £680
Recommended for: With its 60mm-equivalent focal length and ability to focus as close as 6.4 inches, this makes a nice fast, cheap, entry-level option for portraits and product photography. Manufacturer price: $280; AU$399; £250
Recommended for: This fast lens' 90mm-equivalent focal length makes a great portrait lens, and because it's compact -- especially on one of the smaller interchangeable-lens cameras -- it's really unobtrusive for more-distant street photography. It seems positively cheap given how nice it is. Manufacturer price: $400; AU$500; £280
Recommended for: With the 35mm-equivalent angle of view of 24mm, this is a great, fast lens for wide-angle street photography. It's fast and quiet for video, and has Olympus' focus cuff, which lets you quickly switch between manual and autofocus. Manufacturer price: $700; AU$1,000 ; £740
Recommended for: A fast lens with lovely bokeh, this 150mm-equivalent focal length model works really well for portraits or wildlife and when you're indoors but can't get close, such as for school plays. Manufacturer price: $900; AU$1,000; £950
Recommended for: Although at the top of the price range, this fast lens (24-80mm equivalent) is weather-resistant, well constructed, and has a programmable function button and Olympus' quick manual focus cuff, plus it delivers sharp photos and simply feels really nice to use. It can focus as close as under 8 inches, which makes it really flexible as well. Manufacturer price: $900; AU$1,200; £900
Recommended for: A good, fast general-purpose lens that delivers an equivalent focal length of 24-75mm on Sony dSLRs. And since there are no E-Mount fast zooms, you can use this on one of the interchangeable-lens models with an adapter. Manufacturer price: $800; AU$1,100; £570
Recommended for: Currently available for Canon EF-S (28.8-56mm equivalent) or Nikon DX and Sigma (27-52.5mm equivalent) mounts, this is a terrific lens for most wide-angle needs. Manufacturer price: $799; AU$900; £800
Recommended for: I'm not big on f4 lenses, mostly because they tend not to match up with my needs, but this new optically stabilized full-frame Sigma lens is a reasonably priced alternative for folks who shoot in brighter conditions or are OK with higher ISO sensitivities. It's available for Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sony A, or Sigma mounts, and is quite sharp. Neither Nikon nor Sony offers a 24-105mm f4, and Canon's can be expensive; that said, though the Canon has a list price of $1,149, I've seen it offered for less than $800 in some places. At that price, it's a good deal. Manufacturer price: $900; AU$900; £850
Recommended for: A great fast, full-frame lens available for Canon EF, Nikon FX, Pentax K, Sony A, and Sigma mounts, this model stands out not just for delivering excellent sharpness and build quality, but for being a lot more affordable than models from Canon and Nikon. Plus, I love it as a portrait lens on an APS-C camera. Manufacturer price: $900; AU$1,050; £800
Recommended for: When you want to fool around but don't necessarily want it too lo-fi, Lensbaby's mount and optic systems are fun and creative without breaking the bank. I like the Composer Pro mount best, as it provides the most consistent controls and feel, and the 80mm optic is long enough that you can really see the effects. The Composer Pro comes in Canon EF and Nikon FX mounts. Manufacturer price: for the kit: $500; £400 (est.); optic only, $300
Available for a host of mounts -- Canon EF, Nikon F, Micro Four Thirds, Sony A and E, Pentax K and even Samsung NX -- at $300 (£230) the company's new fish-eye lens (5.8mm f3.5) is a fun, intentionally artifact-filled lens for creating fish-eye photos. It can focus right on top of your subject and stops down as low as f22. Like all Lensbaby lenses it's manual-focus-only, and one caveat is that it's kind of hard to focus at small apertures because the viewfinder gets dim on many non full-frame cameras, but beyond 3 feet you're at infinity focus anyway. If you want something fish-eye a lot cheaper, Photojojo's fisheye adapter runs between $50 and $85 depending upon the configuration you buy, but I think the results from the Lensbaby are more interesting. (The first slide of this gallery was shot with it.)
Multi mount: Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 50 Optic
Like its 80mm brother, you can use the Sweet 50 (£240; 50mm f2.5) as both a straight 50mm lens and a special-effects lens; tilting it produces an atypical blur everywhere but the area of focus. Though it's not as fast as the f1.8 and f1.4 lenses offered by both camera manufacturers and third-party lens companies like Sigma and Tamron, and it's not as cheap as the cheapest lenses you can get (usually f1.8), but at $300 it's not significantly more expensive, plus it does double duty as an effects lens. It's available for Canon EF, Nikon F, Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds, Sony A and E, Pentax K and even Samsung NX mounts. If you already have the Lensbaby Composer mount, you can get just the optic for only $120.