Three Lenses You Should Own

It’s a question I hear a lot from new photographers: “what lenses should I buy?”

And while there are a lot of different types of lenses appropriate for many different situations and needs, time and time again I find myself primarily relying on three lenses in my bag: a fast general purpose zoom (18-50mm), a macro lens and a telephoto zoom (70-200mm). These three lenses will give you enough versatility to shoot in almost any conditions. Also, these three lenses are available for just about every camera system and lens mount on the market.

The general purpose zoom

This is the lens that sits on my camera the most. For APS-C cameras, something in the 18-50mm range is best… for 35mm format cameras, a 24-70mm will work. This will give you the ability to go fairly wide while also being able to zoom into objects off in the distance. This lens might be your kit lens, but it should preferably be fairly fast (a fixed f/2.8 if possible) to give you greater control over depth of field. It makes a great “walkabout” lens when you aren’t sure what you will be shooting.

Tamron 17-50 2.8 VC

The macro lens

The length of this lens isn’t as important as its ability to create a 1:1 magnification of subjects. I currently keep a 50mm f/2.8 macro in my bag because it is small and light… easy to carry around for when I might need it. It makes a decent portrait lens (very sharp and the f/2.8 provides a fairly shallow area of focus) and the level of detail you can get when shooting objects up close is fantastic. Having a macro lens opens up a whole new world of tiny objects to photograph. Also, if you do any type of product photography (jewelry, food, etc.) this lens will allow you to capture a much greater level of detail than is possible with non-macro lenses.


Photo taken with 50 f2.8

The telephoto zoom

The telephoto zoom should be in the general range of 70-200mm with a maximum aperture of at least f/4 (faster is nice though). This will give you a lot of distance to work with and a very shallow depth of field to bring focus to your subjects. For faster moving objects, the bigger aperture will allow you to shoot at faster shutter speeds which will help capture moving objects (birds, sports) too. This is also an excellent portrait lens as the focal length minimizes distortion and narrows the angle of view to fill the frame with your subject.
Canon 70-200 f2.8

Wait… what about?

I am sure many of you reading this have other lenses you would consider essential. A fast 50, or a wide angle or a longer zoom… and all of those are great lenses to own also. However, for someone who is new to photography or who has just bought their first DSLR, these three lenses will give them the versatility to shoot in almost any situation. Family gatherings, sports events, birds, insects, flowers, landscapes, portraits, etc. Once you narrow in on a particular type of photography that most interests you, other lenses may be more useful for that specific subject, but until then these are the lenses all photographers should be carrying with them