The Best Lenses for Digital SLR Cameras

digital slr lenses at

Trying to find the best lenses for your digital SLR camera can feel a bit like hunting for the old needle in a haystack.

Camera manufacturers offer a huge selection of their own lenses, and then you have several third party companies that you can also choose from.

While you can count the number of available digital SLR cameras on your hands, you need a wall chart to keep track of all the lenses.

Here's the bad news: lenses are EXPENSIVE (the good ones at least), and I'll talk more about this in just a moment.

The good news? I've spent hours researching lenses across all of the camera manufacturers, and have narrowed down the options to a handful of the best lenses for your digital SLR.

Ready to get started? Let's go!

The Problem With Cheap Lenses

Let me say this right upfront to make it clear: when it comes to lenses for your digital SLR, don't buy on price alone.

As you research lenses more, you'll find a huge price discrepancy between them: some lenses cost $80 while others cost $6,000.

A lot of factors affect the price of a lens including its focal length, maximum aperture, and any additional features it may include (like image stabilization).

But here's the bottom line:

Very cheap lenses have a negative impact on the image quality of your photos, regardless of how nice a camera you're using.

Let me ask a few questions to help make this point:

  • Would you put cheap hardwood flooring in a million-dollar home?
  • Would you outfit your high-end sports car with bargin tires?
  • If you had poor eyesight, would you get the cheapest glasses you could find?

This last question is the best real-world parallel I could come up with for what cheap camera lenses are like.

Glasses are designed to bring your surroundings into sharp focus. The cheaper the glasses, the less capable they are of correcting your vision.

In a similar vein, the cheaper the lens, the less capable it is of creating a clear, focused image on the camera's sensor.

canon 17-55mm lens

Cheap low-quality lenses don't just affect the CLARITY of your photos, they also affect the COLOR and the CONTRAST.

Light actually contains a spectrum of colors - the same spectrum that you see in a rainbow.

Low-quality glass can distort red, blue and green color wavelengths passing through the lens. This distortion yields colors that are not true to the scene as it appears to your eyes.

This same low-quality glass can also reduce the contrast in your photos, making subjects look like they're behind a screen or fog.

On the flip side, very expensive lenses are made up of multiple glass elements and each one is specially designed to prevent the light passing through the lens from distorting.

End result? Photos that are crisp, clear, colorful and have plenty of contrast, like the one below.

red rose

Find the Best Lens For You

Now that I've preached the importance of being willing to spend a fair price for your new lens, let's talk about what I've done to find the best lenses.

I followed the same steps that I take when I'm buying a lens for myself:

  1. I find a group of lenses that match the primary criteria for the photography style (focal length and maximum aperture)
  2. I narrow down the list to three lenses or less per manufacturer based on the special features of each lens
  3. I read a variety of reviews for each different lens, weighing the image quality of the lens against its price

People ask me to recommend lenses all the time, and it's due to these many requests that I finally decided to write down my findings.

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