Lens shopping advice for digital SLR camera owners

I get a lot of folks emailing thanking me for the advice in http://philip.greenspun.com/photography/building-a-digital-slr-system but asking for more details on “what lenses should I buy now that I have a digital camera.”  I’m trying gradually to write a little bit about that and the first simple article is http://philip.greenspun.com/photography/sigma-lenses

Suggested improvements would be appreciated, either via email to philg@mit.edu or in the comments section.


6 thoughts on “Lens shopping advice for digital SLR camera owners

  1. I found it useful to spend some time with the cheap 18-55mm kit lens that came with my camera, not because it’s easy to make great pictures with it, but because it helped me to really appreciate the quality of better lenses. I was much impressed seeing photos I took with the 50mm f/1.8 lens after several weeks of using the kit lens.

    I have rarely used the kit lens since then, pretty much only when it was my best focal length option. Having just bought a 17-40mm L lens, I will likely use the kit lens even less. But I learned a lot from it, namely, what to avoid in lenses. 🙂

  2. I might be outside the intended audience, but I think there’s others like me out there. I’m not a photographer, just like to take a few pictures now and then. I’ve got a decent Canon 35mm SLR with the kit lense that I mostly have used to take decent pictures using auto, and occasionally play around with more advanced features. I also have a cheap point and shoot digital, which makes generally terrible pictures.

    I’ve found a good deal on a digital rebel XT, and would put my kit lense on it. I’d like to see something on using older lenses made for film cameras on small-sensor digitals, for those of us without the budget to drop on new lenses.

    A related question (aviation and photographic): have you had any trouble with digital cameras at altitude? I’ve seen people have trouble with hard drives but haven’t heard anything about cameras.

  3. Interesting. I have been steering people away from the EOS EF-S lenses and similar small-sensor DSLR lenses. I believe within 3-5 years, full-frame sensor DSLR’s like the 5D will be around the entry level and there will be little motivation to buy small sensors. Or at least, they will be cheap enough that anybody who will buy 3 or more lenses will probably spring for a full-size sensor. Do you see a long life for lenses that won’t be compatible with full-frame sensors?

  4. I find your piece very informative. I have a Rebel XT with the kit lens and I would like to buy a good normal prime. I was thinking of buying the sigma 30/1.4 you suggest, but I keep reading reports from people who say that it does not focus correctly (look for example at the reviews on amazon). What is your experience? Since the lens is not cheap, I was thinking of choosing instead a Canon 28/1.8, which is an older lens but at least should not have focusing problems. What do you think? Thanks!

  5. I read your article about SLR cameras and I am one of those impatient people. I’m looking for a gift for my wife and she expressed interest in buying an SLR camera. She’s a beginner photographer with an interest in it.

    Your article is dated from last year and I wanted to know if you still recommended buying the Canon Digital Rebel XTi or if there is newer camera that you recommend.

    I would prefer not to spend over $500 for the camera actually more in the range of $300 but I don’t think that’s possible.

  6. I can’t even keep track of what the latest and greatest Canon Digital Rebel is. They are all pretty good, though, and the Canon EOS system remains the market leader. If you want to save money, buying a Rebel one or two generations back will still yield much better results than a point and shoot camera due to the superior viewfinder and handling, lower noise in low light, etc. If your wife falls in love with SLR photography there will be plenty of opportunity to buy additional lenses or an upgraded body.

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