A lot of folks spend most of their money on a camera and then use what little is left over to buy whatever lens they can afford. This is a big mistake. It’s like being a great chef and cooking with the worst ingredients. Low quality or unsuitable lenses can ruin the photos taken from a great camera and top quality lenses can make even photos taken with no-so-great cameras look good.
If you’re buying a camera, have a budget in place and balance the camera and lens quality within that amount. If you already have a camera and want to buy additional lenses, it’s always safer to buy the same make lenses as your camera to be sure of not just compatibility but for the best results. For example a Nikon lens on a Canon will not produce the same picture quality as an identical Canon lens. There are specialized lens manufacturing companies line Leica and Zeiss which produce some fantastic lenses, but make sure they complement your camera before spending large sums of money on them.
Besides many specialized lenses, there are four basic lens types you need to know about.
• Most cameras come with a standard lens fitted to them. These have a focal length somewhere in the range of 35-70 mm. These are good general purpose lenses with an angle of view that is close to that of the human eye. These are good lenses for the beginner to start and work with until he understands their limitations. That’s when the need for other lenses arises.
• With a focal length of around 85-135 mm, medium telephoto lenses are what most people buy after the standard lens. These are great for photographing objects some distance away. They are also ideal for portraits since they can bring the subject a little away from the background to give it more prominence. The increased focal length can be used to give a slightly flatter look to the image and provide a perspective that is often more flattering in portraits. They are also among the best lenses for candid photographs.
• The next choice for most photographers is the wide angle lens with a focal length of less than 50 mm. These are the best for wide sweeping landscapes and similar panoramic photos. They create a strong perspective and give a great deal of depth to a photo. A group picture shot against a wide background with one of these lenses will bring out the group in relation to the background / setting. These are also great for candid photos taken from a short distance as the deep depth of field they offer reduces the need for refocusing.
• The last of the 4 basic lenses is the long telephoto lens with a focal length of 135mm plus (up to 300mm and more). These are used for any situation where you need a close up image of the subject but are physically unable to get near. These lenses are ideal for picking out and highlighting a specific part of a scene.
Besides these there are many other lenses like macro lenses for photographing flowers or insects, super telephoto lenses that can pick out and take picture of object so distant they are not visible to the human eye or to take super close ups of distant objects, and super wide angle and fish eye lenses for extreme wide angle photos where a large panoramic view has to be captured.