The Best DSLR Camera Lenses

Why Buy a DSLR Lens?

Once you’ve broken in your first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera and want to take your photos to the next level, consider investing in a new DSLR lens. While most DSLR cameras are sold with a kit lens, these are generally considered starter lenses, providing only basic features and capabilities. Nikon, Canon and Sony are among the top DSLR camera and lens makers, and each offers options to upgrade from the kit lens. You can read more about these offerings in our articles on DLSR lenses.

A new lens can help you capture higher-quality photos and take different types of photos. They can also allow you to explore new photography techniques. New DSLR lenses can help you take that leap from amateur to professional.

DSLR Lenses: What to Look For

When selecting a new DSLR camera lens, it’s important to keep in mind what types of photos you want to take. Different lenses provide different angles, levels of sharpness, zoom distances and countless other factors that will affect the quality of your photographs.

It’s also important to keep in mind that most lenses are not cross-compatible with cameras made from a different brand. Lenses are specifically crafted to work with certain brands of cameras, and even then there are lenses that will only work with certain models of cameras within a brand. Here are some specifications and terminologies to be aware of when shopping for a lens:

Camera Types
Besides making sure that the lens is compatible with your brand, you’ll get the best results if it’s compatible with your type of camera, too. DSLR cameras come in different varieties, the most common two being full-frame and APS-C. The difference is that APS-C cameras have a smaller sensor than full-frame cameras. While it’s recommended that you match the types of lenses with their corresponding cameras, full-frame lenses will work with APS-C cameras, although photos taken with this pairing will be considerably cropped. Most APS-C lenses will not work with full-frame cameras, though there are some that are compatible.

Focal Length
When browsing lenses, a prominent specification you will come across is the focal length, which is measured in millimeters. Focal length determines how magnified an image will be and how narrow your field of view will be. Standard and kit lenses are in the 18-55mm range. Lenses with a long focal length (referred to as telephoto lenses), from about 70-300 mm, provide long zooms and flattened perspectives. Lenses in the 14-35 mm range are considered wide-angle lenses, which provide a wide point of view, sometimes to the point of distortion. Keep in mind that lenses with zoom features have ranges of focal lengths.

Enhancing Features
Modern DSLR lenses are built with extra features to help you take the best photo you possibly can. Some must-have features include AF, or auto-focus, which takes the stress off of you to line up the perfect focus on your subject. Another feature to look out for is a stabilizing component (called VF by Nikon and IS by Canon). This can reduce blurring caused by shaky hands and give you sharper photos. Depending on where you plan to do your shooting, there are lenses that are waterproof and ones that can survive physical trauma.

Before setting out to upgrade your kit lens, it’s important to keep in mind what type of camera you have and what type of photography effects you are interested in creating. A new lens can drastically change how you shoot photos, but the right one will ultimately help you take sharper, more detailed photos you’d be proud to hang on the wall.