Digital SLRs - Buying a Camera Lens

The lenses you fit to your camera play two very important roles. The first is that lenses with different focal lenses (i.e. a wide angle lens or a telephoto lens) will give you different looking photographs of the same scene. The second is lenses vary in quality. Therefore the quality of the lens you attach to your camera can have a big bearing on the overall quality of the photographs you take.

One of the biggest advantages of buying a Digital SLR is you can choose the lens you use to take a photo. There is a lot of choice and it is worth understanding the types of lens you will need to produce the photos you want to take before you buy a Digital SLR. When you do this you can allocate your budget in the way that suits your needs the best.

The key points to understand when buying a lens are:

  1. Lens Mounts
  2. What different types of lens are used for

For more detail about buying lenses pay a visit to our lens section Camera Lenses

digital slrs

Lens Mounts

It is important to understand, when choosing a DSLR, that you are buying into a system. Each manufacturer has a different type of mount for attaching the lens to the camera, so when you are looking to buy additional lenses you have to make sure you get one that will fit.

Lens Choice

Canon and Nikon have the biggest ranges, each offering around 70 different lenses for their cameras. Olympus and Pentax also have a good choice, as they have been making cameras for many years. Sony are much newer to the market, but their cameras use the same mount as Minolta, giving compatibility with a lot of older lenses.

It is important to note, when thinking about buying additional lenses, that some lenses are specifically designed for use only on models with the smaller, APS-C sized sensors, while others can also be used on models with a full-frame sensor. If you think you may want to upgrade later to a full-frame model, then make sure you buy lenses that can be used on both.

Digital SLR Guide Pages

Digital SLR Basics
Digital SLRs and Digital Cameras Key Differences
Digital SLR or Compact System Cameras
Digital SLR Handling
Help for Beginners

Lenses and Accessories
Buying a Camera Lens
Memory Cards
Digital SLR Accessories

Learn More About Features
Resolution and Sensor Size
Sensor Cleaning
Manual Exposure Modes
ISO Range
White Balance
Auto Focus
Drive Modes
Scene Modes
Help With Tricky Lighting
Metering Modes
RAW Mode
Live View and Articulated Screens
Flash Options
Movie Modes
Depth of Field Preview Button
Image Stabilisation
Mirror Lockup

Current and Recommended Models
Summary of Current Models
Recommended Digital SLRs

Digital SLR Guide Author
This guide was written by Ian Younger

Buying 2nd Hand Lenses

A good quality lens is a great investment, and you will find that you can keep your lenses long after you have changed the camera body for a newer model and they will still work.

For this reason, lenses hold their value much more than cameras, and you will find second-hand lenses selling for prices not much lower than new models, although it is sometimes possible to pick up bargains on ebay or in charity shops.

Even though the price reductions may not be as significant as you think it is still worth checking out the used lens market if you are looking to save a little money. This is because a lens that has been well looked after is likely to perform just as well as a brand new one.

Third Party Lenses

Also, lenses made by third-party manufacturers, such as Tamron and Sigma, come in a number of different mounts, so you will usually find one that will fit your camera, and these are often more affordable than the lenses produced by the camera manufacturers.

Whilst you can save some money buying third-party lenses rather than the manufacturers' own lenses, this does not necessarily mean sacrificing quality. Certainly there may be a slight compromise between cost and quality, but both Tamron and Sigma produce lenses that consistently receive good reviews in the photographic press. Sigma, in particular, sometimes rival the quality of the manufacturers' own lenses. Other third-party lens makers are also becoming more prominent, with Tokina, for example, producing very high quality lenses, although they do not currently offer anything like the range that Tamron and Sigma do.

Lens Adapters for Compact System Cameras

There is a more limited range of lenses when it comes to CSCs, but the manufacturers are being quite innovative in finding ways to open up more choice. Olympus has 11 lenses for its PEN range, for example, but makes an adaptor to allow the use of its DSLR lenses on the smaller cameras. Panasonic produces 14 lenses for its Lumix range of CSCs but they can also use Olympus lenses, as they use the same micro four-thirds mount. Sony has seven dedicated lenses for its NEX-series CSC cameras, but also has an adaptor allowing the use of its 30 lenses for the Alpha DSLR range.

Some manufacturers have produced adapters that will allow the lenses from their DSLRs to be used on their CSCs. In the case of Olympus, the adapter is a relatively simple affair and costs around £55. Sony, on the other hand, produce an adapter for their NEX series of CSCs that incorporates a reflex mirror and complete autofocus system and costs around £350, so it could add significantly to your costs if you want to use the bigger lenses on a CSC. There is also a more basic lens adapter for the Sony Nex range. This is available for around £100.