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Old Jan 6, 2006, 8:14 PM   #1
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... Hi everyone. I am trying to understand how to buy a good lens for my needs. I would like one for good landscapes. And one with more of a zoom to catch birds, etc. It can get confusing to understand what one needs and how to buy the correct lens without making a mistake. What should you look for in this? the f/stop and mm? How do you know? Thanks and I hope I don't sound tooooo dumb on the subject. I have a Canon Rebel XT. Thanks for your patients with my post.:?
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Old Jan 7, 2006, 10:24 AM   #2
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Good questions actually.

Tthe first consideration is FOCAL LENGTH.

Given you're interest in photography, at what focal length's do you find yourself taking most of your shots and spending most of your time?

For lanscape, you might find yourself spending most of your time in the 17-35mm range (I'm using a Canon 20D with a 1.6x crop factor for this example).

For birds, you may find yourself spending time in the 300-600mm range, or if you're shooting birds at your bird feeder only, in the 70-200mm range.

So, decide on the focal lengths you'll need.

Second, decide how "fast" a lens you need (ie maximum aperture). If you shoot a lot of low light or indoor situations, you might look at a lens with a maximum aperture of F2.8 or better. Usually, the faster the lens, the higher the quality, and the higher the cost.

Then there are other considerations such as how big or heavy a lens your willing to carry, whether you will use a tripod, etc .etc. etc.

But usually, the 2nd and most important consideration is COST. Really, really nice lenses can be very, very expensive.

Unless your budget is unlimited, you start looking at tradeoffs.

If you have lots of money, you can buy zooms, and prime lenses and anything you need, of only the highest quality, and have a bag with $20,000 lenses sitting in it.

But realistically, most people start out with one lens.Usually it's anall purpose "carry around" lens in the 28-75 (again, 20D 1.6x cropping factor) or 17-85 or something like that.

Then, depending on your interest, you might go for a wide angle zoom, covering a wide angle wider than your carry-around lens.

Then you'll probably be looking at a telephoto zoom that maybe starts at 70mm and goes out to 200 or 300mm.

So, two or three zoom lenses will cover a range of somewhere between 17mm and 200 to 300mm.

If you're really into birds you might add a super telephoto zoom going out to 400mm or 500mm, or buy a teleconverter, which is a little adapter than will make your 300mm telephoto zoom into a 400mm super telephoto.

After that, you might look at some prime lenses (non-zoom) that are pretty fast, and pretty specific to a situation. For instance, an 85mm F1.8 (very fast) prime for shooting your son or daughter's basketball games.

But anyways, start with an all purpose carry-around zoom, then add a wide angle, and a telephoto zoom. That way you have a focal lengths covered.

Then add more lenses (if you can afford them) for more specific situations.

Always buy the best quality lensyou can afford, in my opinion.

-- Terry

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Old Jan 8, 2006, 2:27 PM   #3
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Terry has some great advice. My additional advice is to focus on the wide-angle lens first. You can get some great wide angle zoom lenses for just a few hundred $$. Shooting wildlife, birds in particular really does take longer lenses - usually 400-600mm. And putting a teleconverter on a cheap lens really doesn't yield very good results. So, in keeping with Terry's advice about buying the best lens possible, I would stay away from the 28-300 type lenses. Buy a good quality lens - maybe 17-40 or 17-85 or even something in the 28-70 range if you don't need 17mm wide. You'll get a lot more use out of a lens like that than a longer lense of good quality.

When buying a lens, remember a good lens will outlast several camera bodies. And, the good lenses hold their value very well so you can upgrade from then if you want later to even better lenses. The cheap lenses don't.
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Old Jan 8, 2006, 7:22 PM   #4
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Thanks for the well thought response. I will consider everything you said.
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