What should my first lens be?
So, you've just bought your camera, and have been using the "kit" lens that came with it. Perhaps you've started thinking about what else is out there to help improve your images. Maybe you've noticed that the lens that came with your camera doesn't let you get the indoor, non-flash images that you like. They turn out way too dark, and you're not sure what to do. It may just be time for your first lens purchase.
What should you look for in your first lens purchase? That is a big question, but I would recommend looking for something that is "fast glass". Fast glass means that it has the ability to use f 2.8, f 2, f 1.7, or even f 1.4. The reason you may want something like this is that it allows you to shoot photos in lower light (indoors, low light, nighttime, etc). Often times we look at our photos and think they are too dark, or maybe blurry and wonder why. Fast glass gives you so much more room to work with to get your images to turn out properly exposed.
Another thing to consider is do you want a zoom lens, or a prime lens. A zoom lens allows you to zoom in and out to compose your picture. I find this extremely helpful when taking photos of kids. They move everywhere and having the ability to zoom in or out can make a shot go from good to great. The downside to some zooms is that the image quality will not be quite as good as a prime lens. However, this is often trivial (except to professionals and photo experts) and the average photo viewer may not even see the difference. My first non-kit lens was the Tamron 17-50 f 2.8. I have really enjoyed it and I have never had a client not like a photo that it has taken. It's a solid bet, and gives you an f 2.8 for an affordable lens price.
A prime lens is another option. A prime lens is simply a lens that doesn't zoom. So, if it's a 50 mm lens, it's a 50 mm lens, no more...no less. So, what are the advantages of a prime...image quality. Since they don't have to zoom in and out, the construction of the lens is built to optimize the focal length it is made to, rather than having to compromise at times on a zoom, where it may work best at one focal length, but not another. The saying goes that to zoom in with a prime, use your feet! Using a prime helps you move around more and perhaps see some compositions you wouldn't if you could just stand in one spot and zoom in or out. I have an old 50 mm f 1.7 lens from the 1980s that delivers outstanding images. An aperture of f 1.7 gives you a creamy bokeh (background blur) that is difficult to achieve any other way. Here is an example of a lens such as this. Canon 50 mm f 1.8. Or for even more bokeh and low light capabilities, the Canon 50 mm f 1.4. The list below are for similar lenses, from different manufacturers. Use the links to be directed to the specific lens. By using these links, throughout the site, I receive a small commission (at no cost to you), which helps me run this site. Thanks in advance for using them.