Best Lens Choices For Your New Camera

Getting a new camera usually means getting a slew of new accessories and one of the first most people start looking for are new lenses.

There’s a big risk labeling anything the “best” when it comes to either cameras or accessories. Photography is a very competitive field from an equipment standpoint and the best of anything will frequently depend on the type of camera you have and what type of shooting interests you the most. Beyond that is figuring out the context. The best value for the money? The best quality at any price? The highest rated?

If you’ve looked at ten different site rating lenses, you’ll find ten different sets of recommendations. That’s not because they’re being bought off by manufacturers, it’s because there is so much good equipment on the market.

What I tried to pick here are lenses that have a loyal following and prove themselves useful in a wide variety of situations. I’m also going to assume you got a kit lens with the camera, most of which are fairly good lenses.

50mm lens

Canon Nifty Fifty and The Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

The 50mm lens has proven itself in 35mm photography for decades and the new breed are lighter and faster than ever before. A good 50mm lens is one of the few that will serve you equally as well with either a full frame or crop sensor camera.

Equally good for portraits and landscapes, the 50mm will be the most consistently useful lens in your bag.

sigma 17-50mm
The Sigma 17-50mm is hard to beat for sheer speed and versatility

The Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8

Available for Canon and Nikon the Sigma 17-50 is a great lens for shooting fast and on the go, making it a great choice for photojournalism. It gets 4.5 stars on 65 reviews at Amazon Marketplace.

This lens is very similar to the Tamron 17-50mm, which is my favorite portrait lens but I should clarify that is in the context of photojournalism, not studio portraits. Gets a slightly lower overall rating compared to the Sigma because of the focusing noise and sometimes clumsy zoom ring. Compare the two here.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L

The Canon EF 70-200 and Nikkor AF-S 70-200

These two lenses tend to be the workhorses for many professional photographers. The zoom range gives you plenty of stand-off range for shooting weddings and events, particularly on an APS-C camera. I’ve seen them shot under almost every conceivable shooting situation, including studio work, and they always deliver consistently good results.

Certainly these lenses are not the best choice for every shooting situation, but they have proven themselves useful and reliable over the years. It’s hard to go wrong with any of these in your bag.

Keep your camera gear close at hand with Think Tank Photo’s new Modular Rotation System

As an event photographer you need to be able to have quick access to your camera gear. Think Tank Photo newly redesigned Modular Rotation System takes all your camera equipment and puts it on your belt.

We had the opportunity to try out the system this week and were quite impressed, the system was easy to use and figure out. You attach the bags to a belt and can either fix them in position or allow them to move around the belt and out of the way, when not in use. The Lens Changer bags have a wide mouth that allows quick lens changes without removing the lens hood. Some of the larger bags like the Lens Changer 75 have a pop down compartment which allows you to expand the bag with a simple zipper. You should be able to fit a 100-400 f/4 lens in the Lens Changer 75. The Lens Changers also have the added bonus of having a rain cover hidden behind a zippered pocket on the bottom. A drawstring keeps your lens from falling out, and you should be able to operate it with one hand. The material and padding in the bags should protect your lens from scratches and the occasional bump.

The package also came with some gear pouches, one for your flash and a multi-use pouch than is just the right size for your gear, whether it is more lenses, batteries, flash triggers or any number of small gadgets.
We didn’t have much issue with the belt falling down (we didn’t load it up too much), but all your equipment can start to get heavy. The new Keep It Up shoulder strap not only helps keep the belt from falling down, it also includes a memory card holder within easy reach.

Think Tank Photo has also redesigned their skin line, which offers most of the same features but is a more compact and lightweight system than the modular rotation system.

Think Tank Photo has done a great job redesigning this system, it was truly designed for photographers. The Modular Component Set v2.0 and Modular Skin Set V2.0 will ship in early December.

Full disclosure: Think Tank Photo sent us the Modular Component Set to review.

Photos courtesy of @PhilADavis

Top Six Lenses Given As Gifts

You gotta love statistics. It gives you the ability to slice and dice data and make discoveries of interesting trends, like the top six lenses that are purchased as gifts, as compiled by Amazon.

1) CanonEF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS

Canon EFS
Canon EF-S 55-250mm

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6-IS lens is designed for the consumer market with EF-S mount cameras, primarily APS-C models. This model will not work well with full frame cameras like the Canon 5D MKII. The big selling point is having a long zoom range with built-in image stabilization.

This lens has received some criticism for feeling like plastic, but overall gets good marks from users.

2) Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens

Canon 50mm f/1.8
The Canon 50mm f/1.8

The Canon “Nifty-Fifty” 1.8 lens is a must for any camera bag.  It’s small, sharp, fast and inexpensive.  A great lens for any kind of general shooting duty, including portraits and walking around.

Has been criticized for feeling like plastic and noisy focusing motors, but what do you expect for $100?


3) Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6

Canon EF 75-300

A very light and inexpensive lens for the focal range. While the build quality is mediocre, the lens generally gets decent reviews from users.

Criticized for being soft at the wide end at lower f-stops, the clarity improves as you stop down. Focusing speed is okay, but not fast.




4) Nikon Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6

Nikon Nikkor 55-200mm
Nikon Nikkor 55-200mm

A lens criticized for the plastic mount, but praised for high quality optics and excellent clarity. Considered by many to be the telephoto lens deal of the decade.


Handling does take some care not to chip the plastic mount.


5) Nikon NIkkor 35mm f/1.8

Nikon Nikkor 35mm
Nikon Nikkor 35mm

This inexpensive hero from Nikon is frequently the one that gets left on cameras the most often. Fast focusing and versatile, this lens gets high marks from Nikon shooters.

Criticized for feeling like plastic and being a little slow on the focus.



6) Nikon Nikkor AF-S 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 55-200
Nikon Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm

Another Nikkor lens that gets high marks for clarity, light weight, and optics but criticism for the build quality. Another point of contention is the noisy autofocus. A lens popular with many weekend sports enthusiasts.

New Panasonic Mirrorless Lenses

Panasonic announced two new electric power zoom lenses to match up with its Lumix camera line launched in August.  The lenses, in the premium X brand series, are billed as the first interchangeable power zoom lenses.  The Lumix G X PZ 45-175mm f/4-5.6 and the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 are specifically made for the Lumix G Micro Four Thirds System standard.  Here’s our comparison of the two lenses: Lumix PZ 45-175 vs Lumix PZ 14-42.
If your just thinking about a mirorless camera you can view our Lumix DMC-G3 Review and GH2Review, and if you haven’t decided on Panasonic you should also take a look at our Sony Nex5 vs Panasonic G3 roundup to see the differences to the Sony offering.
Both lenses feature Panasonic’s Nano Surface Coating, rumored to be similar to the Nikkor coating, that cuts down on ghosting and flair.
Panasonic Power Zoom
The Vario PX 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 retractable power zoom - photo Panasonic

The Vario PX 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 is a retractable power zoom lens, making it a very compact addition to Panasonic’s line of  mirrorless micro four thirds cameras that weighs in at just 95 grams.  Internally it boasts 9 lenses in 8 groups for excellent clarity and reduced distortion through the entire zoom range.

Also included is Panasonic’s Power Optical Image Stabilization with a new type of gyro sensor, newly integrated with the power zoom technology to suppress large, slow movements.  Coupled with that hand held motion is dampened by the MEGA Optical Image Stabilization.

The lenses Light Speed focus system is driven by the AF stepping motor linked with the camera’s AF system cuts down the lag time by as much as 40 percent.

The Vario PZ 45-175mm f/4-5.6 zoom has the same nano coating as its smaller sibling in the line and boasts 14 elements in 10 groups that moves throughout the zoom range without changing the overall length.  A neat trick for a zoom lens.

The weight is a thrifty 210 grams and the lens is only 3.5 inches (90mm) from the tip of the lens to the base side of the lens mount.

power zoom lens
The Vario PZ 45.175mm f/4-5.6 zoom - photo by Panasonic

The Vario PZ 45-175mm supports the same internal gyro sensor as the wider zoom and a seven-blade internal aperture.

Listed as around $450 for the 45-175mm and $349 for the 14-42mm.  Not available in all locations this week.