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What should I consider when upgrading from my kit lens?

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LensYews 5 1.3k 1 United Kingdom
7 Sep 2010 10:52PM
This is a topic in the Frequently Asked Questions group, aimed to help new comers to the sight with one topic that will answer all their questions about upgrading the kit lens that came with the camera. For the more experienced members please add your own suggestions and experiences from selecting lenses.

Firstly, determine why you think you need a new lens, as there are many types out there and it is easy to select and unsuitable one. You may decide that the kit lens doesn't have the reach you would like and you want to get closer to your subject, or you might want to kit more of the landscape in.

Secondly determine what kind of budget you have available for the lens, and remember you might find a better quality lens on the second hand market. 200-300 will get you a good kit lens replacement from a third party manufacturer, top quality replacements from own brand manufacturers are typically more expensive, look at budgeting around the 750 region for those.

Sometimes it is worth spending the extra on a better quality lens that will last 6-8 years, than replacing 2 or 3 other lenses in the same timeframe. But equally, if you don't use the camera or lens much a second hand or middle budget option might make more sense.

Other considerations

Prime lens vs Zoom Lens.
Many manufacturers offer prime lenses (single focal length, such as a 50mm) which are generally sharp and produce quality images, but require you to use your feet to get closer or further away from an image. Prime lenses also often offer wide aperture giving the dual benefit of very shallow depth of field to make your subject pop out from the background, and more light to assist the autofocusing. Modern zooms e.g (17-55mm) offer quality close to or at the same quality level as the primes and the extra convenience of being able to recompose the shot from your location - very handy if you aren't able to move around or your subject is liable to move.

Lens Hood
If the lens doesn't come with a lens hood as standard, buy one for the lens. They are incredibly useful for cutting down on the risk of lens flare, and protecting the end of the lens from accidental damage.

Fast lenses
For some subjects, such as sport, having a fast lenses is critical to getting the desired results. i.e. an aperture wider of f4 or wider is critical to get the low light autofocus performance, and the background blurring. These are usually significantly more expensive than

Image Stabilisation (IS on Canon, VR on Nikon, OS on Sigma and VC on Tamron)
Most people can hand hold a camera steadily for shutter speeds down to around 1/60 of a second. Lenses that have image stabilisation features allow that shutter speed to be reduced further, by up to 4 stops on the latest lenses so down to around 1/6 of a second, increasing your chance of getting a sharp shot. Useful feature to have in low light, but usually a feature you want to turn on a tripod where it can add camera shake.

If you don't already have a tripod, consider getting one. It may make the different for your existing kit lens and mean you don't need to upgrade yet.

Where to buy the lens
If you buy online, be careful to check where the lens is coming from and what warranty will be applied. a Hong Kong sourced lens repaired under warranty would have to be shipped back to Hong Kong for the repair.

Specialist lenses
If you are looking to improve your close up shots, then you may want to consider a specialist Macro lens (Macro being the image on the sensor is the same size as the subject - beware some zooms claim to be Macro lenses but don't offer this life-sized 1:1 ratio). For Macro lenses it is often easier to focus manually, so make sure you are comfortable with using the focusing ring.

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Ian-Munro 6 200 15 Wales
8 Sep 2010 9:56AM
1 Decide on a focal length that suits you and your type of photography.

2 Ask why you need to upgrade from a kit lens.

3 Make a shortlist of lenses that you would like.

4 Realise that you like the most expensive one.

5 Try and go over budget simply because there is no substitute for top glass and thats why your here upgrading, because your kit lens is utter tat.

6 Go to other sites and look for reviews and peoples experiences with that lens.

7 Realise that there will always be contradictions to price and performance etc ( see point 5 ) For example Canon 85mm 1.8 = Fantastic lens non L series good price or Canon 85mmL series = Fantastic lens and massive price.

Ian

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