How to Choose the Correct Lens to Purchase

There are literally thousands of lenses out there, and knowing which one to choose for your work can be a daunting task. By answering a few questions for yourself, though, you can narrow down the selections to the right choice. 

It's important to remember that lenses, like all photographic equipment, are tools and to treat them as such when choosing the appropriate option. This means always keeping your vision and subject matter in mind, then tailoring your choice to fit within your budget (as opposed to falling prey to Gear Acquisition Syndrome). As Peter McKinnon summarizes, this essentially boils down to three questions:

  1. Are you shooting photo or video?
  2. What's your subject?
  3. What's your price range?

Of course, within these questions is a multitude of considerations, and McKinnon aptly delineates everything to think about when choosing the right lens for the job. Take time to really envision what you value aesthetically and write it down. Then, write down a list of every technical requirement you have: Do you need a wide aperture? Image stabilization? Once you've answered all those questions, compare the two lists, and the choice should become much clearer. Then, head over to B&H and start browsing lenses. And if you have any lingering questions, feel free to leave me a comment!

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Canon publishes a book called "Lens Work". I have two different versions, the FD mount version published in 1981 and the EF Lens Work III. The manual focus version is more informative since it shows the changes in angle of view and changes in perspective of their lens lineup.
Both are informative books about their lenses. The EF version is out of date since it doesn't have their current lenses available and covers lenses that has been discontinued.

I have the EF version; I would love to see the FD version!

The FD version provides more information, horizontal angle of view, vertical angle of view. The EF version just provides the diagonal angle of view, which the FD version also provides. I used the horizontal angle of view to figure out overlap when doing a panorama photo.

More than anything this article brings awareness to Peter's Youtube channel and touches upon a subject many photographers starting out should consider rather than just buying whatever they can afford.