Before "what lens to get"

Started Dec 17, 2005 | Discussions
wibbs Regular Member • Posts: 444
Re: Classic post (12/2005)!

There is a lot of good stuff here. The point is to push the limits of your camera and your kit lens and figure out what kind of pictures you like to take and where those pictures stretch your current equipment before buying more.

balloonchasers wrote:

One of the most common questions found on this forum is “what lens
to get?”. Often this question is asked by someone who describes
themselves as new to dslr or awaiting the arrival of their newly
purchased camera. I would like to make the following suggestions
before someone considers purchasing a new lens to replace the kit
lens:

1. Experiment with the kit lens. Find out what it is capable of.
This lens will amaze you with what it can do if only given the
opportunity.
2. Take pictures at all zoom levels, f-stops, and shutter speeds.
3. Discover the relationships between the variables listed in #2.
Learn how to expose an image differently by altering one variable
and then another.
4. Try taking the same picture with different ISO settings. See
how f-stop and shutter speeds are affected by different ISO
settings.
5. Use each of the different program modes found on your camera.
6. Intentionally underexpose or overexpose an image to create a
feeling that you want to convey to the viewer of your picture.
7. Experiment with bokeh and use it in a creative manner. Yes, the
kit lens is capable of bokeh!
8. Set your lens to a zoom level and leave it there all day long.
Practice zooming with your legs.
9. Spend an entire day with the lens set on manual focus. Learn
how to focus without relying upon the automatic focus feature.
10. Take some pictures at slow shutter speeds (handheld and on a
tripod). Learn at what shutter speed you can no longer hold the
camera steady enough to take a shake free image. Create a feeling
of motion in an image that you would like to hang on your wall.
Slow a waterfall down until the water looks like slow moving fog.
YES, the kit lens is capable of all this.
11. Take some pictures at fast shutter speeds. Stop action in mid
air.
12. Take pictures in the bulb mode. Star trails, automobile
taillights, ghost images, and fireworks are all great opportunities
to create an image you would be proud to share with others. Yes,
the kit lens can do all this too.
13. Capture an image of a lightening bolt.
14. Take a picture of the moon. Not a close up of the moon, but a
landscape picture which includes the moon.
15. Try panning. Fast moving vehicles or an athlete at a sporting
event are great subjects to practice the technique of panning.
16. Take some pictures of water drops until you get one that you
want to print.
17. Take some portraits of your friends.
18. Take some candids of your friends.
19. Ask 10 strangers if you can take their picture.
20. Take some self-portraits of yourself. Find one that you would
like to share with others.
21. Try taking some pictures of items close up. You may not be
taking true macros, but you will be amazed at what the kit lens can
do.
22. Go downtown at night and take some exposures without the flash.
Learn to use the available light.
23. Be thankful that Canon gave you an onboard flash. Learn how to
use it. Try using a coffee filter/tissue to soften the flash’s
effect or an index card to create a bounce effect.
24. Take pictures in the middle of the day. Learn how shadows can
create a mood.
25. Catch yourself knelling on one knee to capture an image. The
best angle is not always found standing up.
26. Make someone laugh with a picture you took.
27. Make someone pause and reflect with a picture you took.
28. Practice using your software program that you process your
images with. This is your darkroom, learn how to make most of it.
29. Visit someone else’s online photo gallery. Find an image you
like and see how close you can imitate it.
30. Look through a magazine. Find a picture you like and see if you
can imitate it as well.
31. Print these suggestions out and highlight those that you have
not done with the kit lens. Do those that you highlighted.

Once you have followed these suggestions and others you will
discover along the way, ask yourself what you enjoyed the most,
what you would like to do more of, what would you like to do
easier, differently, or in another way. Then you can begin to
answer the question, “what lens should I get”.

robm001 Junior Member • Posts: 34
Re: Before "what lens to get"

Thanks so much for this post! The information here is so solid. Can't wait to try the challenge my self!
Cheers,
Rob

chris-grant Senior Member • Posts: 1,160
Great List... Thanks!! (n/t)
-- hide signature --
John1111 Regular Member • Posts: 102
I am printing this list and checking off as I go...

put this list in a book before someone else does....

Cr4zYH3aD Regular Member • Posts: 170
Re: Before "what lens to get"

Superb advice !

chrisof4 Regular Member • Posts: 350
Re: Before "what lens to get"

This is a great post. I have been laboring over this very question, as I consider the purchase of an XTi. Now, I can be confident in the decision to buy one with a kit lens and work my way through this fantastic list. Then, when it is time to upgrade my glass, I will know what I really need.

I plan to begin putting these ideas to use immediately with my Kodak Z612 as they will obviously work with any camera. This may be over 2 years old, but clearly wisdom is timeless.
--
Check out my flickr stream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7309221@N05/

I am pretty new to photography, and I could use any recommendations you have. Thanks.
Chris

Marcos Juarez Junior Member • Posts: 26
Re: Before "what lens to get"

Thank you for a very thoughtful and informative post.

Marcos

ADunham Regular Member • Posts: 135
Re: Before "what lens to get"

Bumping this because it doesn't deserve to fall off the front page yet!

Spender Junior Member • Posts: 48
Re: Before "what lens to get"

First, a great post, and I agree with each and every step as learning tool, something which every SLR owner should do to learn the wonders of photography and SLR techniques...

Each of the steps will give you an overall feeling of photography and what affects what and when, it will highlight limitations of the lens and the camera and you.

But, when I first got my 350D I had it in my mind to try and do all those things with whatever lens was on the camera, try all ISOs, different lighting conditions, apertures, hand shake speeds, tripod shots, landscapes, reflections, macro, etc.

I bought my camera with the 18-200 sigma lens as I thought that's what I wanted. I then discovered I wasn't happy with the pictures at all. The general image quality, contrast and sharpness was just not what I wanted. Maybe I got a bad example, but I ended up switching it for a Sigma 17-70. I really wished I'd bought a 17-70 to begin with.

It will take at least a year if not more to really learn all those steps properly, and although they're important from an understanding photography perspective, one also buys a SLR for a kind of immediate purpose, eg. kids growing up, going on vacation, camping weekend shots, sports events etc.

In the year that you'll spend finally realising which lens you really need, all those shots you've taken as tests and on vac etc. will be governed / reduced by the quality of the kit lens, which in my opinion is only visually satisfying lens when stopped down, especially if you've come from a P&S.

The Sigma 17-70 has 1:2.3 (ish) macro as well which another entire area available to you, and the images it produces across the range of focal lengths and apertures are all satisfying. Some on par with prime lenses.

I just wish that all my photos taken with my original 18-200 were replaced with the 17-70 shots, that way I'd have done all my learning, vacation shots etc. on a lens which produces considerably better photos. I think this would be even more pronounced if I'd bought the kit.

Just voicing my opinion, and I'm not trying to downplay the steps needed for learning in the slightest, these are a complete necessity.

Just that for anyone who gets the kit lens be aware all the shots you take which won't come again like kids, landscapes etc. would have been better rendered, sharper and more colourful if you'd gone for an 'equivalent' better quality lens like a Canon 17-85, Sigma 17-70, Tamron 17-50 all these I would get over an above the kit from day 1.

You can't go wrong with any and they all cover this end of the zoom range very well, and are affordable. If you THEN need a better lens, or a more specific lens, I'd say you'd know more having started with a reasonably good lens to begin with, and you may not need to change at all. And you'll have a load of photos from your first days with the camera which are of reasonable quality.

I just saw another side to the story myself and wouldn't recommend the kit to anyone if they can stretch to one the lenses mentioned above.

OP balloonchasers Veteran Member • Posts: 3,189
Re: Before "what lens to get"

Great thoughts Spender!

I agree that there are better lenses than the kit lens. I never meant to imply otherwise. What I was suggesting is to first understand what you want to accomplish... before rushing out to buy a new lens. The kit lens is a great lens to learn with. I still believe this.

The lenses you suggested are well spoken of.. but cost $400-500. The kit lens usually only costs an additional $100 or so. If your wanting quality images for once in a lifetime opportunites why not buy an "L" lens for $1,500? Why not buy the 1Ds Mark III camera? Unreasonable? Wait a minute.. these are once in a lifetime pictures we're talking about.

A far as taking a year to finish the list, I have been taking pictures off and on for 20+ years and I finally captured my first lightning bolt this year! But I learned enough in the first few months to begin to see what I enjoyed the most and what lens I wanted next. I didn't base my purchase on what someone else thought I needed (or what I thought I needed when I first bought my camera). That was/is my point.

Happy shooting!

John
--

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

Spender Junior Member • Posts: 48
Re: Before "what lens to get"

Hey John,

I think we're agreeing on most points ! I used a Sigma 18-200 to 'learn' with and discovered it wasn't (or that example) wasn't for me so I got a different lens, which thankfully I'm very happy with. Also I was trying to say that with many people, I would say it may take some time to really know what they need/want, and finally get round to choosing and buying a replacement lens...especially when a decent range for most people including professionals who just want a lens that covers alot of situations well, the 17 to say 100 ish range is about spot on for any general purpose lens. So these lenses would automatically cover this range and would be good for most people for a long time and any upgrade would need to be 'seriously considered' to better those lenses and most likely would be for a more specialist purpose.

I do agree that it should be your own experiences and preferences that make you choose which lens to get, but I would say apart from specialist photographers, the 17-55, 17-70,85 etc are ranges which we'd all happily use and need on a day to day basis. I doubt many go out and stick with a 70-300mm lens as their kit replacement! So most would need a good lens in this range anyway so why not save the $100 in the first place.

I agree for $100 though, you can't really go wrong with the kit lens. But I would say that anyone doing this should be ready to write it off, quickly, and not be 'burdened' with it, and make a decision to get what they really want reasonably quickly before they forget the whole idea, and replace with a lens which produces nice quality images across it's entire range.

Also as with all posts, it comes down to disposable income as well, L glass is beyond most 350D users I'd say as a first lens, but personally a minimum spend for 350D should be a few hundred on top of body price for a decent common range lens, which I think many will end up with, having tried the kit first...cos the range is very user friendly and covers most stuff from landscape to portrait...

This is obviously a v.good subject :O)

Alex

pjfornetti Regular Member • Posts: 235
I am posting because...

...this thread should never leave the first page.

Pierre and Carol Regular Member • Posts: 116
Re: I am posting because...

I'll second that!

I have just printed it out and have my highlighter ready!

What a great post.

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Carol
http://www.pbc.carbonmade.com

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Bannor Regular Member • Posts: 374
Thankyou!!

This is an awesome post - and just as relevant today as when it was first posted. May it live on!

Thankyou!

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My camera is absolutely perfect. My pictures are not. Yet.

Abana Senior Member • Posts: 1,603
Comprehensive, but why #9?

Nice list, and although I'm pretty much past the 'what lens' stage (and am happy with my current 'lens collection'):

9. Spend an entire day with the lens set on manual focus. Learn how to focus > without relying upon the automatic focus feature.

With the 400D's VF and my eyesight, this might not be an easy task, but why do you consider this to be an important part of the process?

Thanks,
abana

OP balloonchasers Veteran Member • Posts: 3,189
Re: Comprehensive, but why #9?

Abana,

Not sure you will check back to see that I responded but just in case:

Must admit I am not really sure why I put this one (#9) on the list.. I started writing down ideas one night and the list just kind of grew and grew. Maybe it was from the old days, when my slr only had manual focus? Or maybe it was an attempt for new users to appreciate the autofocus technology that was (is) possible. Live view was dismissed as almost impossible at the time I wrote the original post... times have changed. Glad that most of my suggestions have survived the test of time.

John
--

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

dholl
dholl Veteran Member • Posts: 3,239
Thanks

Although in the end I plumped for Olympus and their OM lenses (financial reasons but they are still very good) I just want to say that this list inspired me and helped me know which lenses I wanted to add to the kit lens.

-- hide signature --

dholl

pjfornetti Regular Member • Posts: 235
With the 450D out and the 1000D announced...

... and the 10 million "what lens do i get?" threads out there, its time to bump again.

Ed Yamanaka Regular Member • Posts: 400
Thank you!

pjfornetti wrote:

... and the 10 million "what lens do i get?" threads out there, its
time to bump again.

I was just asking about this in one of my replies to a person asking the 'what lens do I get? question. I'm so glad that you bumped it up. I can never seem to remember the subject name.

Thanks again! I hope it helps some of the new users.

natureman Veteran Member • Posts: 3,979
Re: Before "what lens to get"

Your post below should be REQUIRED reading for anyone who signs up for these forums, before they are allowed to ask any questions, and your post should be permanently placed on the homepage with a heading in big red letters that says: READ THIS!!

It should also be used as THE response to anyone asking what lens to get.

About the same thing could be said about what camera to get.

balloonchasers wrote:

One of the most common questions found on this forum is “what lens to
get?”. Often this question is asked by someone who describes
themselves as new to dslr or awaiting the arrival of their newly
purchased camera. I would like to make the following suggestions
before someone considers purchasing a new lens to replace the kit
lens:

1. Experiment with the kit lens. Find out what it is capable of.
This lens will amaze you with what it can do if only given the
opportunity.
2. Take pictures at all zoom levels, f-stops, and shutter speeds.
3. Discover the relationships between the variables listed in #2.
Learn how to expose an image differently by altering one variable and
then another.
4. Try taking the same picture with different ISO settings. See how
f-stop and shutter speeds are affected by different ISO settings.
5. Use each of the different program modes found on your camera.
6. Intentionally underexpose or overexpose an image to create a
feeling that you want to convey to the viewer of your picture.
7. Experiment with bokeh and use it in a creative manner. Yes, the
kit lens is capable of bokeh!
8. Set your lens to a zoom level and leave it there all day long.
Practice zooming with your legs.
9. Spend an entire day with the lens set on manual focus. Learn how
to focus without relying upon the automatic focus feature.
10. Take some pictures at slow shutter speeds (handheld and on a
tripod). Learn at what shutter speed you can no longer hold the
camera steady enough to take a shake free image. Create a feeling of
motion in an image that you would like to hang on your wall. Slow a
waterfall down until the water looks like slow moving fog. YES, the
kit lens is capable of all this.
11. Take some pictures at fast shutter speeds. Stop action in mid air.
12. Take pictures in the bulb mode. Star trails, automobile
taillights, ghost images, and fireworks are all great opportunities
to create an image you would be proud to share with others. Yes, the
kit lens can do all this too.
13. Capture an image of a lightening bolt.
14. Take a picture of the moon. Not a close up of the moon, but a
landscape picture which includes the moon.
15. Try panning. Fast moving vehicles or an athlete at a sporting
event are great subjects to practice the technique of panning.
16. Take some pictures of water drops until you get one that you want
to print.
17. Take some portraits of your friends.
18. Take some candids of your friends.
19. Ask 10 strangers if you can take their picture.
20. Take some self-portraits of yourself. Find one that you would
like to share with others.
21. Try taking some pictures of items close up. You may not be
taking true macros, but you will be amazed at what the kit lens can
do.
22. Go downtown at night and take some exposures without the flash.
Learn to use the available light.
23. Be thankful that Canon gave you an onboard flash. Learn how to
use it. Try using a coffee filter/tissue to soften the flash’s
effect or an index card to create a bounce effect.
24. Take pictures in the middle of the day. Learn how shadows can
create a mood.
25. Catch yourself knelling on one knee to capture an image. The
best angle is not always found standing up.
26. Make someone laugh with a picture you took.
27. Make someone pause and reflect with a picture you took.
28. Practice using your software program that you process your images
with. This is your darkroom, learn how to make most of it.
29. Visit someone else’s online photo gallery. Find an image you
like and see how close you can imitate it.
30. Look through a magazine. Find a picture you like and see if you
can imitate it as well.
31. Print these suggestions out and highlight those that you have not
done with the kit lens. Do those that you highlighted.

Once you have followed these suggestions and others you will discover
along the way, ask yourself what you enjoyed the most, what you would
like to do more of, what would you like to do easier, differently, or
in another way. Then you can begin to answer the question, “what
lens should I get”.

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