Digital SLR Lens Reviews

You've done your homework, and now you're ready to pick a digital SLR lens.

If you're just landing on this page for the first time, I encourage you to start at the beginning of my 6-step process that helps you find the best digital SLR lens.

If you've been following along through all 6 steps, by now you should have a fully developed digital SLR lens wishlist.

We're going to leverage the information in your wishlist to pick a digital SLR lens that is ideal for your photography style.

We just have to find the one lens that is the closest match to your dream lens.

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SLR Lens Search Engine

Wouldn't it be nice if there was something out there that would allow you to plug in the items from your wishlist and have it tell you which lens to buy?

Well, there is (but it might give you more than one option to choose from).

The web site is called Adorama, and while they are a retailer, I find that their lens search engine is the easiest way to quickly find a lens that matches my needs.

Here are the steps to follow to find a lens:

  1. Follow this link to the Adorama web site
  2. On the right side of the page you'll notice checkboxes - use your wishlist and check the appropriate boxes
  3. Adorama's lens search engine will return lenses that match your criteria
  4. Using your wishlist, look at the descriptions of the lenses to find one that's a close match to your ideal lens

Congratulations! You've just narrowed down the number of lens options you have to compare from hundreds to a handful.

Lens Hunt Example

Throughout the steps of this digital SLR lens guide, I've been talking about Chris who wants to get a nice lens for his Nikon camera.

Chris knows that he wants to take photos of his son's little league games, and builds his lens wishlist around this need.

As he has worked through each step of the guide, Chris has added more criteria to his wishlist to narrow down his options.

This is what he's wound up with:

  • Lens mount: Nikon
  • Lens focal length: Telephoto
  • Lens type: Telephoto to Telephoto Zoom
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8 - f/3.5
  • Zoom aperture: Constant
  • First vs third party: Undecided
  • Extra features: full-time manual focus, internal zoom

Now Chris goes looking for the lens that's a close match to the one he has identified in his wishlist.

On the Adorama web site, he checks the following boxes to search for lenses:

  • Manufacturer: No selection (this will return both first and third party lens options)
  • Digital vs Film Lenses: No selection
  • Lens Style: Telephoto Zooms
  • Mount: Nikon

He clicks SEARCH and is on his way. On the first page of results, he sees this:

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor ED-IF Lens

The lens matches many of the items on Chris' wishlist: it's a telephoto zoom with a wide contant maximum aperture of f/2.8. It has a silent autofocus system (AF-S) anti-shake (VR - Vibration Reduction), and an internal focusing system (IF).

Only one problem: price. This particular lens retails for about $1,500.00.

If Chris is willing (and able) to pay out this much money he's going to get an exceptional lens to photograph his son's games.

SIDEBAR: when it comes to lenses, you DO get what you pay for. Please realize that if you find the perfect lens, it's probably worth the price you'll pay for it in the long run. Lenses of this build quality never break, last forever, and take exceptionally clear photos.

Chris decides that he'd like at least TWO more lower-cost alternatives to suit his little league photography needs, so he spends some more time browsing the search results.

The next one he sees is this:

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Zoom-Nikkor Lens

Priced around $850, this lens is not quite so hard on the pocketbook, and still meets the criteria of his wishlist.

Looking for one more option, he finds this:

Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM Macro Telephoto Zoom for Nikon AF-D

Have you noticed something? With a completed wishlist and relatively little effort, Chris has narrowed down the field of possible lenses to just 3 options.

NOW he's ready to find which of the 3 will suit him the best.

The Final Step - Read Reviews

The last step on your journey to find the best digital SLR lens is to read some reviews of the lenses you've selected to make sure they aren't duds (some are).

There are two web sites that I use to evaluate whether or not a lens is high-quality and worth the price I'm about to pay.


Photodo is a massive archive of information about lenses of all sizes and shapes. The site includes lens specifications, guides, a discussion forum and plenty of reviews. The only trick: you HAVE to know what lens you're looking for. Going to Photodo before you have narrowed down your lens options is a sure-fire way to get overwhelmed with information. I recommend that you build your wishlist first, narrow your options, and THEN go to Photodo for more detailed reviews.


While not as comprehensive as Photodo, what I like about Amazon is that it usually has plenty of actual user reviews. I say usually because some lenses are so new, so obscure, or so expensive that not very many people who own them have taken the time to write a review. All in all, Amazon's reviews are a good barometer of the quality of a lens, and can sway your decision about which digital SLR lens you should pick.

I wish you the best of luck in picking a digital SLR lens that you'll be happy with for years to come, and I hope that this guide (and your wishlist) has helped you along the way.

If you have any feedback about this digital SLR lens guide, I am happy to hear it.

Where To Buy Your Lens

I buy all of my lenses from Adorama, Amazon and B & H. All three have a great lens selection, fast shipping and very reasonable prices.

Remember, when it comes to lense prices don't pay bottom dollar. Lenses are worth every penny you pay for them since low-quality lenses result in low-quality photos (regardless of the camera that's taking the shots).

Lens Acronyms

By following the 6 step guide and building a wishlist you should now know how to pick a digital SLR lens that will suit your photography needs.

But now that you're deeper into the world of lenses, you might be curious about something: what in the WORLD do all of those acronyms mean?

Take these two lenses:

  • Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR

Part of the problem here is that each lens manufacturer uses their own abbreviation for what is essentially the same feature. For example, Canon calls their anti-shake IS (for Image Stabilization) while Nikon calls it VR (for Vibration Reduction).

In a similar manner, Canon's silent autofocus goes by the name USM (Ultra-Silent Motor) while Nikon calls it AF-S (AutoFocus Silent).

As you can see, the features are exactly the same, it's just the acronym that's different. Once you learn what the different acronyms stand for, the rest is easy.

In order to help you on your way, I've put together some guides that will help you understand how each lens manufacturer uses acronyms to describe the features of their lenses.

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