December 14, 2011

What Lens Should I Choose?

Confused by all those numbers? Not sure which lens best fits your needs? Here’s a breakdown of what all those numbers attached to an SLR lens mean. If you’re thinking of adding a new lens to your camera this year, this quick cheat sheet will help you pick the right lens for your needs.

18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

Here’s a standard lens we can use as an example. This is the kit lens that comes with the Canon Rebel T3i. If you’re not sure what you’re looking at, this might as well be written in a foreign language! First of all, here’s how you say it: 18 to 55 millimeter F 3.5 to 5.6. Now let’s break it down.


This is your Focal Length. Focal Length is how far your camera will zoom in and out. The lower the number, the more you can fit in the photo. In other words, this is how much you can zoom out. The higher the number, the more it zooms in. The lens above will zoom from 18-55mm. 18-55 is a great focal length for an all purpose lens. My all purpose lens that hardly ever leaves my camera is 24-70mm. To give you a point of reference for what 18-55mm means, here are some examples of a few other focal lengths.


This is considered a Wide Angle lens. This lens will zoom out more than the 18-55mm lens. I use this lens when I want to fit a lot in the picture, but don’t have a lot of room to “back up” and fit everything in. A wide angle lens is great for traveling. I use mine to photograph hotel rooms, scenery, and city skylines. I can fit a whole lot in the photo without having to be too far away from my subject.


Lens 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5
Focal Length 10mm
Aperture f/3.5
Shutter Speed 1/15 sec


Lens 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5
Focal Length 10mm
Aperture f/8
Shutter Speed 1/15 sec


Lens 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5
Focal Length 10mm
Aperture f/5.6
Shutter Speed 15 seconds

However, due to distortion and lack of background blur, I would not recommend a wide angle lens for portrait or food photography.

70-200mm (and above)

This is considered a Telephoto lens. This lens zooms in more than the 18-55mm. I use this lens for outdoor action photography. Because it zooms so far in, I don’t know that I’ve ever used this lens indoors. With a 70-200mm lens, you would have to be pretty far away from your subject to fit it in the photo, which is why this lens is best for outdoors or indoor arenas with lots of room where you would want to zoom in. I use this lens for outdoor action shots of Miley and Howie.


Lens 70-200mm f/4L
Focal Length 104mm
Aperture f/4.5
Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec

A telephoto lens is great for outdoors, action, and candid portraits — any subject which you can be pretty far away from and still photograph. I do not recommend a telephoto lens for everyday indoor photography.


If a lens only has one number it’s called a Prime or Fixed lens. This means the lens does not zoom in and out at all. I could not comprehend this until I got my first fixed lens! I did not know how it could not zoom at all. But it doesn’t. Imagine a cellphone camera without a zoom. If you want to get further away from or closer to your subject, you’ll have to move with your feet.


Lens 50mm f/1.4
Focal Length 50mm
Aperture f/1.6
Shutter Speed 1/500 sec

Prime lenses are great for indoor, outdoor, portrait and food photography. Their only limitation is in their lack of zoom.

So that basically covers your focal length. If you already have a lens, look to see what the focal length is, and take note. Do you like the focal length? Do you wish you could zoom in more? Zoom out more? If you want to zoom in more, look for a lens with higher numbers than what you have. If you want to zoom out more, look for a lens with lower numbers. If you’re pretty happy with the focal length, look for a lens with similar numbers. If you don’t already have a lens and you’re not sure what focal length you need, I would consider a lens within the range of 17-100 to be a great focal length for an all purpose lens.

Now on to aperture.


Let’s go back to our example lens, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. The aperture on this lens is f/3.5-5.6. Aperture controls the background blur, or bokeh, in your photos. The lower the number, the more background blur you can achieve. You’ll notice that this lens has two numbers, 3.5-5.6. That means that when the lens is zoomed all the way out (18mm), you can set your aperture as low as 3.5. But when you are zoomed all the way in (55mm), the lowest you can set your aperture is 5.6. If you have a lens with just one number here, for example, the 24-70mm f/2.8, that means you can set your aperture as low as 2.8 no matter how much you are zoomed in or out. Keep in mind that the aperture numbers on the lens are simply the lowest the aperture can be set. On both lenses your aperture can always be set higher, no matter what your focal length is.

To make things even more confusing, the amount of background blur created by the aperture is directly proportional to the focal length. The higher your focal length (the more zoomed in your are), the more background blur you will have. For example, a photo with an aperture of f/4 and a focal length of 18mm will not have much background blur. However a photo with the same aperture of f/4 and a focal length of 200mm will have a substantial amount of background blur. Notice the two photos below have the same aperture of f/4.

Tons of background blur here.

Lens 70-200mm f/4L
Focal Length 200mm
Aperture f/4
Shutter Speed 1/640 sec

No background blur.

Lens 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5
Focal Length 17mm
Aperture f/4
Shutter Speed 1/2000 sec

If you want deep, soft background blur at an all purpose focal length, I would not recommend getting a lens with anything higher than 2.8. One other important thing to note: If you want any type of background blur, I would not, under any circumstances, recommend a lens with more than one number in the aperture value. Take our example lens above, with an aperture value of 3.5-5.6. At 18mm, f/3.5 just isn’t a low enough aperture to give you background blur. Likewise, at 55mm, f/5.6 isn’t low enough to produce a soft background either. However, if you could set your aperture as low as f/2.8, you could generate plenty of background blur at a focal length of 18 or 55.


Lens 24-70mm f/2.8L
Focal Length 24mm
Aperture f/2.8
Shutter Speed 1/30 sec

Lens 50mm f/1.8
Focal Length 50mm
Aperture f/1.8
Shutter Speed 1/2500 sec

Look for a lens with a versatile focal length with only one number in the Aperture area.


One other lens to note is a macro lens. If you find yourself constantly wanting to get up close and personal with your subjects, wishing you could zoom in closer for details, or cropping your photos closely once you get them on the computer, you may want to consider a macro lens. A macro lens lets you zoom in close to your subject and focus on the details so you don’t have to crop your photos or zoom in on the computer. Cropping on the computer only degrades the quality of the photo. Macro lenses are also great for portraits, and depending on the focal length you chose, a general all purpose lens.


Lens 100mm f/2.8 Macro
Focal Length 100mm
Aperture f/2.8
Shutter Speed 1/160 sec

What I’m Using

Here’s a breakdown of the lenses in my arsenal, along with how I use each one.

24-70 f/2.8 L

You’ll notice this falls in the all purpose focal length, with a nice, low, and singular aperture number. This is my default lens. I use it for travel, portraits, and food photography. A great alternative to this lens to consider is the Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8. That’s the lens I used for years before upgrading to the Canon 24-70 lens. The photo below was taken in 2006 with a Canon XTi with the Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 and is SOOC — no editing. At just over $400, this lens is a great deal.

Lens Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8
Focal Length 50mm
Aperture f/2.8

10-22 f/3.5-4.5

This is a wide angle focal length, and since background blur is pretty much nonexistent at such a wide angle, I don’t care about the aperture number here. I use this lens for travel, scenery, city skylines, and hotel rooms.

50mm f/1.4

This is a fixed lens with a very low aperture. This lens produces excellent bokeh! I use this when I want a ton of bokeh, or in low light when I need to use a lower aperture in order to steadily hand hold the camera. I talk about this more in depth in my Quick Guide to Understanding Your DSLR post. Another lens to consider is the 50mm f/1.8. Super cheap and super fun. You’ll get great bokeh with either of these lenses. They’re perfect for portraits, food photography, and because of the middle-of-the-road focal length, even travel.

100mm f/2.8 Macro

This is another fixed lens with a great low aperture. It’s a macro lens, and the background blur is excellent. This lens is fun for portraits and food photography. I use it when I want to zoom in super close on the details or get tons of background blur.

70-200 f/4 L

This is my telephoto lens, and I mostly use it outdoors to get action photos of Miley and Howie. The aperture is not super low, but since the focal length is higher, I’m still able to get great background blur.

Final Notes

The full name of our lens above is actually EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. The focal length and aperture numbers described above are the most important factors when choosing a lens, but just in case, here’s what those other numbers and letters mean.

EF or EF-S. This refers to the lens mount. EF is the standard lens mount on Canon EOS DSLR cameras. This is indicated by a red dot on the lens that corresponds to the red dot on the camera where you attach the lens. If your camera also as a white square, you can also accept lenses with an EF-S lens mount.

L. This indicates the lens is a top-of-the-line lens from Canon, also known as a “Luxury” lens.

IS. IS stands for Image Stabilization. Many of the available lenses will come both with and without an IS option. I always opt for the cheaper, non-IS version because I have a pretty steady hand. However, if you have a shaky hand, this might be an option to consider.

With this information you are now armed with the knowledge to confidently purchase a new lens for your camera! If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer as best I can. Just leave me a comment below. Happy shopping!

See More Posts About: Photography Tutorials


Jessica December 14, 2011 at 1:34 am

This is an amazing post Amanda! Such helpful information! I will be pointing all my emailers/commenters to this post from now on. I could never put it so well as you do!


Melissa December 14, 2011 at 2:18 am

Thanks for the great photography tips. Maybe you should include more of these on a semi-regular basis for those of us like myself, who are looking to become more advanced in our photography skills. My oldest son is already telling me that when he gets settled (he just moved back from the West to the South) to live with his dad and I that he will be buying me a more advanced DSLR than the little point and shoot that I have. I love photography and want to advance my skills.


Melissa Kalson


Christie R. December 14, 2011 at 3:35 am

Amanda doll, thank you so much for this incredibly helpful info. I’m getting a Canon Rebel soon and feel like it’s a little over my head. This post made the photography lens verbiage way less confusing! I am definitely going back to read your DSLR post! Thanks so much again!! Happy Holidays to you, Kevin, and your pups!!


Erin December 14, 2011 at 3:44 am

One question do you use a stand while doing these photos or no? If you know of any good tripods please email me I need one for my canon 7d :)


Amanda December 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Hi Erin! I generally only use a tripod when I can’t hold the camera myself — either when I’m taking a picture of me and Kevin, or I’m in the kitchen and using both hands, but want to photograph what I’m doing, or if I’m using a really slow shutter speed to capture soft waterfalls or city skylines at night. I’ve had my tripod forever, I think I just got it at Best Buy! I’m in the market for a new one though, so if I find a good one, I’ll let you know. :)

Digital Collage Sheets December 14, 2011 at 5:09 am

Thank you very much for this post!!
I requested a new lenses from Santa (husband) for Christmas but I wasn’t sure which ones are the best for what I am planning.
You photos are fabulous!


Lorah December 14, 2011 at 6:11 am

THANK YOU! This detailed post is one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read about lens choices. Thanks a million times!!!


Becky December 14, 2011 at 6:21 am

I always wondered about all the lenses. Thank you for the great tutorial…I am a real visual person and the pictures were very, very helpful.


Angie December 14, 2011 at 6:37 am

Great tips, I’m currently down to 1 lens, a 24-70. I def need a few more. I would highly rec the 50 1.4 though from my experience over the 1.8. I have broke too many 50 1.8′s. Even though they are cheap, I don’t think they are worth it if you photograph nearly everyday.


Stephanie December 14, 2011 at 6:40 am

This is an incredibly helpful post, I’m printing it out :). Thanks for putting it together and making it simple:)
Stephanie @allartful


Julie @ Table for Two December 14, 2011 at 6:49 am

thank you so much for this entry — I’m looking to invest in a 24-70mm soon and this has helped me immensely!! :)


Kimberly December 14, 2011 at 6:50 am

Hi Amanda – Thanks for the great post. I see you mentioned the Tamron. Just curious, I am on a very limited budget, but would really like to add another lens or two in my collection. Do you suggest that someone start with the Tamron for those other sizes, or would it be better to wait until the budget allows for a Canon purchase? Thanks again for such great postings!!



Amanda December 14, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Hi Kim! I started with the Tamron until I could afford to upgrade to the Canon. I was very happy with the quality of photos from the Tamron lens. :)

Jenn T. December 14, 2011 at 6:53 am

What an informative post! I shoot with a Nikon D3100 and have two very basic, higher aperature multi purpose lenses (18-55 and 70-200 or maybe 300), but my favorite is my prime 50mm with a low aperature lens. The lower aperature lenses with zoom always seem so expensive, but I know they’re worth it!


The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh December 14, 2011 at 6:58 am

This is SO getting printed and put in my camera bag. (After I update my wishlist) Thank you!!!


Danielle December 14, 2011 at 7:12 am

That seriously rocked. Thank you!


Amanda S. December 14, 2011 at 7:25 am

Ahhhhhmazing. Thank you for the info/tips! My husband and I just received a wedding gift from my brother-in-law…a Canon T3i!!! We are so excited to start playing with it :) I sent this post to my husband because all of the terminology, well, scares him. I told him not to fret – you saved the day! :)


Jessica @ How Sweet December 14, 2011 at 7:37 am

this seriously could not have come at a better time. thank you!


Allie@LiveLaughEat December 14, 2011 at 7:37 am

I am strongly considering [forking over my life savings and] getting the 24-70 f/2.8. I’m ready to have a versatile lens that I can depend on in a variety of lighting conditions.

Question: Do you think it’s too heavy to carry around with you everywhere? I take my DSLR with me EVERYWHERE (even the grocery store!) and I’ve read that it’s quite heavy. And is it really worth $1300?!


Amanda December 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Hi Allie! The 24-70 is a beast for sure! :) I do generally carry it around with me all day when I’m on vacation though, and it does fit right in my purse. My shoulder gets sore by the evening, but the versatile focal length and pictures are totally worth it. :) However, I will say that I could not justify spending the money on the Canon lens until I started earning an income from photography. Until then, I was completely and totally happy with the Tamron lens mentioned above. It’s smaller and lighter too!

Amanda Dawn December 14, 2011 at 7:47 am

Thanks so much Amanda! This was most helpful. Now I can intelligently verbalize what kind of lens (and why) I want for Christmas to my husband. He’d thank you too. :)


Christi @ Love From The Oven December 14, 2011 at 7:59 am

I have to add one more to the list (the one I’m stalking) – the 17-55 2.8 with IS. While I’ve always longed for the 28-70L, after months of reading and researching I’m leaning towards the 17-55 as it’s supposed to be one of the best lenses hands down if you are on a crop sensor (I use a 50D). The glass is repeatedly said to be as good as the 24-70L (many say they prefer it to the 24-70), the IS rocks especially with the constant 2.8 and it’s said to be tack sharp even wide open. On the downside it’s every bit as pricey as an L series, and apparently doesn’t have the build quality, there are some dust issues and at the price, a lens hood should be included! It’s EF-S, so not great if you plan to upgrade to full frame. I want to run to Amazon and hit buy now!

I ADORE my 50mm 1.4. I rarely take it off. I debated it as I have the 1.8, but it was so worth it. I also love my 100mm Macro, but it is long, especially on a crop sensor, and really hard to use indoors.

Ah, love talking lenses!


Christi @ Love From The Oven December 14, 2011 at 8:02 am

And I should add that I LOVE your collection! :)


Meg December 14, 2011 at 8:02 am

Thanks for this awesome post! I was curious if you would consider the 28-75mm f/2.8 to be a “wide angle” lens or if the 10-24mm f / 3.5-4.5 is the way to go?? I asked for the 28-75mm for Christmas but after this post I’m starting to wonder if I should have asked for the 10-24mm?



Amanda December 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Hi Meg! The 28-75mm f/2.8 would make a wonderful all purpose, never take off the camera, use for everything lens. At 28mm, you’ll be able to fit a lot in the picture. But a true “wide angle” lens would be the 10-24. You’ll be able to fit a TON in the picture, When it’s zoomed all the way out, the photo may even have a slight “circular” quality to it because it’s so far zoomed out! You also won’t get any background blur with a lens like this. If I could only have one lens, I’d definitely go for the 28-75. :)

Tiffany Sanders December 14, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hi Amanda!
Thank you so much for all of your photograpy tips. After buying my camera a Canon T1i and the kit, the next lens I had to have was the 50mm after seeing your bokey tut post. I’ve been stalking the 24-70 but geesh the price. It sits on my wish list. ;0) I ‘ve printed all of your tutorials out and use them as quick guides. You should consider making a digital book! You relay the information so well and it’s super easy to understand.

Thanks again! Happy Holidays!


Lynne December 14, 2011 at 8:10 am

I subscribe to your blog, but honestly your photog tutorials are my absolute favorite! I just got a Nikon 5100 yesterday, having upgraded from a D40 and am fairly new to photography. I love how you break things down into easy to understand verbiage. Will you be discussing shutter speed soon…I hope, I hope?


Anne Weber-Falk December 14, 2011 at 8:20 am

The best explanation I’ve ever seen. Thank you. I’ve taken a “simple” photography class and I’ve had my husband try to teach me a thing or two about the camera and lenses. You’re the only one that has me understanding. This is perfect. Thank you again.

Anne WF


Debbie Olson December 14, 2011 at 8:25 am

Thank you SO much for demystifying the lens decision; it’s much appreciated!


Amanda December 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Demystifying the Lens Decision, love this! :)

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga December 14, 2011 at 8:31 am

Oh I love everything about this post and I could geek out for hours and talk lenses!

My #1 go-to lens is also the 24-70mm, also.

I keep thinking for food photography that would I get even crisper images if I used a prime lens so recently just bought a 35mm lens (not the L glass, the cheaper one)….and I haven’t even broken it in yet.

I also bought an 85mm prime b/c I’ve heard that photographers who do portrait work love the bokeh on it. I bought the 1.8 and not the 1.2 (there was over a $1000 price difference in it and I figured I didnt need the 1.2 anyway)

And also have the 50 mm 1.8 and keep wondering if it’s worth the money to upgrade to the 1.4 b/c I have the 24-70mm and should I just use that…the same could have been said when I bought the 35mm prime a few weeks ago, too.

Anyway…I love love love lens talk and both the tutorial-info you provided and the lens info, awesome.

If you want to talk about the types/brand of UV filters you use on your lenses, if you think there is a big enough difference between L glass and not in things like a 35, 50, or 85mm, or anything else you want to ever discuss in future posts, I’d love to read it!!

Sorry to keep rambling….


Nicole P December 14, 2011 at 8:43 am

you are so awesome. seriously I have learned more from you than I did in a college photography course. Thank you soooo much!


Lori @ RecipeGirl December 14, 2011 at 8:52 am

Brilliant, helpful post as usual!!


Maria December 14, 2011 at 9:04 am

I love your posts! I can understand you:) Thanks for always sharing your knowledge! So happy I got the 24-70. Loving it!!!


Michelle December 14, 2011 at 9:22 am

Fabulous post. What about lens hoods and filters. What is the advantage? I’ve never used either.


JulieD December 14, 2011 at 9:47 am

Love this post! You’re so awesome!


Vickie December 14, 2011 at 10:37 am

Thank you so much for this post Amanda. I am looking to buy a new lens but still not sure what I should buy. You’ve helped tremendously. Thank you again. You have some awesome photos on this site.


Ashley Bird December 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

I absolutely love your photography posts! I got my first DSLR this summer and I swear I learn something new everyday just messing with it. I just started turning the switch from A to M a few months ago! Phew talk about stressful! :)


Tickled Red December 14, 2011 at 10:55 am

Brilliant break down! I am still trying to learn how to use my camera after two years ;D. LOL…don’t ask.


Stella December 14, 2011 at 11:22 am

Thank you so much for posting these helpful tips for us! As a newbie learning photography on my own, I really appreciate that you have a sample picture along with the specs. They are a lifesaver! Thank you.


Urban Wife December 14, 2011 at 11:23 am

Amanda, what a wonderful post! I love the details and specifics. So easy that I could just email this post to my hubby as a *hint* for Christmas. Thanks again! :)


Erin B. December 14, 2011 at 11:25 am

I’m looking for an affordable lens for my Nikon D5000 and I’m debating between the 50mm f/1.8G and the 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX. I really only take portraits of my daughters and I want a nice bokeh. Thoughts?


Amanda December 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Hi Erin! I would recommend the 50mm for portraits of your daughters. For portraits, 35 is a little wide for me, and you’ll get better background blur with the 50. Like we learned above, because of the relationship between focal length and background blur, you’ll get better background blur at 50mm than 35mm even if your aperture is set to 1.8 in both cases. The 50 will make a great all purpose lens as well!

Dawn Lepper December 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

Thank you for the great info. I’ve been trying to figure out what lense to get and this has been very helpful.

Have a great holiday season.


Dalia December 14, 2011 at 11:47 am

Thank you for sharing this information. It is so much help.


Jen Graham December 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

Oh my. Thank you so much. This article is so timely because I just got my first dSLR and I am determined to NOT use the automatic mode.


Brandy December 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Amanda, thank you! This is great info. I’ve been using a Canon DSLR for years, but never understand all of the lens numbers. I just upgraded to a 60D with a EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens. I already have the fun 50 mm lens, now I “need” the Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8. Thanks!


Sabrina Jackson December 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

This is a fantastic post! I have been doing lots of photography research online but this really helps with choosing a lens. I’m going to save this post for when the time comes for me to choose a new lens. Thank you!


Anne December 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Thanks for the “lens primer” post! You have a great talent for making all things photography easily understandable. I currently use a P&S with manual option, but am really hoping to update to a full DSLR early 2012 and the timing of this post on lenses couldn’t be better! I just wish I could carry you around in my pocket for the first month or so after I get my new camera!


Sarah December 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Great post!!! So incredibly helpful! I’ve been using my 18-55 kit lens and have been debating which lens to buy next. Now I know what to buy to improve my photography. Thanks for this post!!


Melanie Y December 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm

This is an excellent post! I see that you mentioned the Tamron 17-50 2.8. Do you have any experience with the Tamron 28-75 2.8? I think this focal range would better suit me but have read mixed reviews about it. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance! :)


Amanda December 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Hi Melanie! Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with the Tamron 28-75 2.8, but I can say that I was very happy with the Tamron 17-50 2.8. :)

Kathleen December 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Thank you for this. I love your easy-to-understand style tutorials. Things always seem clearer when I read your info posts.


Meredith December 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm


I am so intimidated by my camera, and have become one of the people I mock – resorting to “auto” mode *gasp*!!! It all seems so latin to me, but you always put it into laymen’s terms for me… THANK YOU!

I actually feel, after reading this post, like I know what lens I want to look for in order to shoot photos of my cards properly. I need to brush up and read your previous posts – lighting, settings, etc… Get back into practicing my Manual skills.



Pure2raw twins December 14, 2011 at 6:05 pm

thank you for this post, I want a new lense. I have basic Nikon lenses, so hopefully can get another one soon.


Tracey C December 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Loving this post. Extremely helpful.


Rachael December 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I am completely inspired by everything you post! I’m 17 and I have a website on my own and I’m kind of wondering how you enable viewers to post comments to a post. Just get back to me if you can, please. Great post on cameras, too!


Laura Jane December 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Amazing post! You made everything so crystal clear. I just got my first DSLR (Canon Rebel T3) a few months ago and am already suffering from “I need more lenses” syndrome. I used the kit lens for the first 3 months but couldn’t get the bokeh I wanted from that (as expected). So I got the $100 55mm prime f/1.8, and, wow, I love it! The difference in the picture quality between that and the kit lens is amazing! I can get some pretty serious bokeh with that one. However, I don’t find it to be an ideal everyday lens to keep on the camera all the time. When taking group shots or scenery/sightseeing pics on vacation, you just can’t walk far enough away to get what you want in the shot. Or, for example, I was trying to take a group pic inside my house but the wall was in the way from backing up enough to get everyone in the shot. So I find myself switching lenses all the time, which I doubt is ideal. I’m really wanting the Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 or maybe the 28-75mm f/2.8 for that reason.


Marla December 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Amanda, what an amazing post! You are such a great teacher. I always learn so much from you. The more I take pictures the more all of this stuff makes sense to me.


Godelieve December 15, 2011 at 3:58 am

Thanks for this excellent info!! Helps a lot!
I LOVE my 100mm lens, my most favorite and most used one, and my 50mm too.
But now I *need* two more :)


Pam December 15, 2011 at 5:58 am

This is such a great piece. You have managed to make it very understandable, especially with the photo examples. Thanks so much. I find all your posts very inspiring!


Jeanette December 15, 2011 at 6:36 am

Thanks for sharing your knowledge – it can be so confusing, so posts like this are so incredibly helpful ad much appreciated.


Angela Sarris December 15, 2011 at 8:08 am

What a wonderful post!! I love all the photos showing just what each lens does and what the end products of each lens looks like ~ Love it!! I am in the market for new lens and this will be a great help! I put the whole post in a file to keep and save!! Thanks I do love your site ! I am always impressed with the content! Thanks and Merry Christmas to you!!


Ashley December 15, 2011 at 11:01 am

This post was super super helpful!! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!


Blair December 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm

This post is beyond perfect for me as I am just starting a small photography business! Thank you!!!


*kristin December 15, 2011 at 8:44 pm

thanks, this is excellent!

i’ve been doing photography for a few years, but this is so great to remember the basics and you broke things down and explained them
really well. i’ll be referring my friends to this post when they ask me about lenses (because i often don’t even know where to start)! well done.


*kristin December 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm

(and ps, i have the 24-70. i LOVE it. :D)


Noelle December 16, 2011 at 12:26 am

You are amazing Amanda!!! After 4 years at school learning about photography I still never learned about lenses. This is the most informative post and details I have wondered on for so long. Thank you for sharing your knowledge! Where does your knowledge come from by the way? You know so much and are such a talented photographer!


Andrea Nelson December 16, 2011 at 8:58 am

Thank you for this helpful information! I am new to photography but am reading everything I can get my hands on. I have a question though. My husband (God bless him) is allowing me to make a new lens purchase and I am debating about what to buy. I have been told the 18-200 is a great versatile lens, but now I’m reading about the 24-70 and how people love that as well. I am looking to use it as an all purpose lens and will be using it to take portraits. Any suggestions?


Amber December 16, 2011 at 10:00 am

Great overview of the lenses. I noticed someone else mentioned this as well, but I also heard that the tamron 28-75 is a really good lens, especially for the price (around $450) been compared to the canon L 24-70. I am pretty sure that will be one of my first lens purchases when I make the jump to a DSLR. My fiance says after the wedding if we stay on budget :). I do have an awesome camera right now though, so we’ll see.


Tiffany December 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Thank you for making this post. My husband just bought me the Rebel T3i, and I was wondering what lens I should get. I’m so excited to get started creating great photo memories!!


Christie December 16, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Ahhhh, finally some info I could really understand!! Thank you so much for this post!! So helpful!


J @ ... semplicemente j ... December 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Thank you for this post … I always feel like I am missing something … I have a Nikon D 80 and wish I could upgrade, but that will have to wait.

My lenses are:
1. Macro 60 mm
2. Portrait Lens 50 mm 1.8/22

I sold my 55-200 because I felt I could not take a pic with a lot of zoom … or at least I did not notice a lot of difference with my 18-135.

I want a Tamron 10 -24 …

I love to shoot food and portraits and building structures … nature is not my thing really … please tell me aside from the wide angle … what am I missing?

Thank you for your help!


TidyMom December 17, 2011 at 11:05 am

FABULOUS post Amanda!!

A few months ago I bought the Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 (for Nikon) since I couldn’t afford the Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 and I’ve been VERY happy with it!

I think, especially after your post, I’d like a wide angle lens next or the telephoto.

Thanks for all the info!


Agus Y December 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Wooow now I understand everything!!! thanks so much Amanda!! you have no idea how useful was this!! new item added to my wishlist lol


Melissa | Cajun Sugar Pie December 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Thank you so much for this post! Very informative and helpful! My early Christmas present was a new Nikon camera. I’ve been completely overwhelmed, but this post was a HUGE help!


Ann Marie @ Twice Lovely December 19, 2011 at 10:00 am

Thanks so much for this post!! I’m looking to buy my first digital slr, and I know what I want it to be able to do that I’m not able to with my point and shoot. Now I know what I need to look for in lenses! Extremely informative and helpful. You guys are awesome!!


Gerard ~ GQ trippin December 20, 2011 at 12:53 am

I’ve been researching lens all month since I wanted to bring a 2nd lens for my RTW trip. I ended up getting a 35mm 1.8 for my Nikon D90. It should complement my 18-105mm kit lens well I hope. I really wanted the Tamron 17-50mm 2.8, but it was twice the cost of the 35mm and wasn’t as sharp.


Amanda Bumgarner December 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

This is extremely helpful. I’m actually looking to buy a good starter lens that would be useful for portraits and basically your standard day-to-day shots. You mentioned the Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8. Would there be a huge difference between that and that Tamron 28-75 mm f/2.8? I just really want to spend my money on the right lens. Thanks again for this. I love your site!


Amanda Bumgarner December 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Well, I just read some of the comments and saw that some people asked the same question :) So I found my answer. Sorry to bother you, but seriously, thank you for the tutorial! This was fantastic.

Leslie December 21, 2011 at 9:05 am

THANK YOU so much for this post! My husband just bought me the Canon T3i for Christmas (should be here tomorrow!) and while I have a couple of basic lenses for my 35 mm Canon EOS camera, I wanted some specialty lenses, too. I just wasn’t sure which lens to ask for first! And now, I can show him why I need each lens. LOL


Amanda December 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm

HUGELY valuable info here! Thank you! But I have to know… where was that gorgeous vacation shot taken… with the water and the stone pillars? WOW!


Amanda December 21, 2011 at 5:29 pm

That was at the Costa Baja in La Paz, Mexico. I wanted to live there!

Ellie Amador January 1, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Thanks so much for the post! I did not know anything about my lenses and couldn’t figure out why my Christmas tree lights wouldn’t blur like yours in the post about bokeh.


Vickie Guilbeaux January 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Hi!! I LOVE your work and also LOVE to read all your articles!! I do have a question. I’ve been debating on the tamron 28-75 or the Tamron 17-50. I have a canon D40 and want to make sure both of these lenses will fit on that camera and also am interested in which one you would choose.


Mayyah January 4, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I really love this blog, and I really, really love this post. Camera’s are so confusing, and your blog has helped me so much with my photography! I picked up my camera about 2 years ago and started playing around with it, not having any idea what I was doing. I just pointed and shot. This blog has helped me so much and been such an inspiration in regards to photography! So, again, thank you!


whoorl January 5, 2012 at 10:55 pm

This was SO incredibly helpful. Thank you!


p49it January 13, 2012 at 1:14 am

I have a plan to upgrade my point and shoot camera into a DSLR. Thank you so much for sharing this valuable info about cameras and lenses.


candace January 16, 2012 at 10:38 pm

i know you are CRAZY busy these days, but could you give the full name of your 10-22 lens? i want to get one and have NO idea what it’s called?


Gerty January 26, 2012 at 4:45 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for this post. It’s the BEST, most informative and CLEAR tutorial I’ve read on this topic! I’ve joined a digital photography site and I get overwhelmed with the layout, let alone the information. I have a Canon EOS 1100D and I want to be able to use it well. I’m not as yet ready to buy a lens and your tutorial has convinced me that I CAN work with the standard lens kit that I have. Much appreciated.


Kate February 19, 2012 at 11:59 am


Last summer, while visiting Florida, my Nikon was stolen. My dearest friend just sent me her old XTi, but I needed to buy my own lens. As my husband and I are in grad school, there was no way I could get a lens I *wanted*; I had to settle for what the local pawn shop had. I am now eagerly shooting with a Canon lens 35-70MM 3.5-4.5. Can you give me any advice on this lens and shooting with it? While I’d love to have a 50mm {and about a hundred others} I’m so grateful to even have this. I missed 8 months of shooting my babes!

Thanks for the beautiful site and constant inspiration!

Kind Regards,


anne April 12, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Thank you so much for your helpful blog! I went to a quickie photography class and this helped me sooooo much more! I know EXACTLY what lens I want now thanks to you! You’re amazing!


TastefullyJulie May 16, 2012 at 7:36 am

I love you. Seriously! I’ve been looking everywhere for this information and I could never find it until now. I just figured out everything I’ve been doing wrong. So, thanks!


Kate May 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm


Thought I’d chime in: The 70-200mm is fantastic for gymnastics. There’s not a ton of info out there for those amateurs who want to get those swift, dramatic moves their kids are making on the gymnasium floor, and this lens is the tool to use. Took me ages to find what I needed, but your site helped me decide!

Kind Regards,



Jenna June 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Such a great post! I’m a future teacher/mother and can’t wait to purchase a camera! Thanks for the great info! Stop by and say hello on my blog!


Krista June 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm

What a find! I am a camera newbie ~ my (wonderful) brother gave me a Canon Rebel T3 for my birthday about a month ago. I’ve been taking bunches of pictures and trying to learn about lenses ~ finding this info is amazing :) I have an 18-55mm lens, but want a telephoto lens. I am trying to decide between the Canon 55-250mm and the Canon 75-300mm (price for me is good for both). I will primarily use this to take pictures of my son’s sporting events (baseball games, cross-country, basketball, water-skiing, etc), as well as using it on vacations. Any suggestions or preferences with these? My high price point right now is $300, but would rather stay below that, if at all possible. Thanks for all the great tips here ~ I’ve already learned a bunch!


Chris Girmann July 1, 2012 at 1:57 am

Yes , I kind of have the same question as Krista. I would like a lens about 300 mm but hoping to stay under $200.00 IF possible. I also have a Cannon T3. I have a Sigma 28-200 from my old Cannon rebel 35mm camera. It attaches but only works SOMETIMES. I don’t know if I should be putting the 35mm lens on my new digital camera as far as compatibility reasons. Error codes have said check contact points or clean them (cant remember). whats your thought please. Thanks….Chris Cincinnati


Mia July 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Thank you so much for shaing this! You knew exactly the questions that I had in my mind and explained them so clearly.


Tonya July 31, 2012 at 10:03 pm

wow what a great post! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m still learning and this helped out alot thanks again!


Erin @ Texanerin Baking August 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I just spent hours researching lenses and being very confused. I worked off of the lenses in your Amazon store but then I realized… what am I doing? Amanda HAS to have a tutorial on this somewhere. And you did. Thanks a bunch! It cleared things up for me. I really want something for sightseeing that will also work for closeups of food. I’m thinking the 24-70mm. But the 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 would be so nice too! This is agonizing.


Erin @ Texanerin Baking August 4, 2012 at 2:25 am

I went with the Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 although I really wanted the Canon. It’s just not reasonable at this point. It’s arriving on Monday. Yay! Thank you again for this lovely tutorial. :)


eric August 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

thank you so much for this post. Before i read this, i used to think that the higher the mm, the better quality photos you get, so i used to buy only lenses with high numbers such as 200+ but now i know thats not the case at all. each kit has it’s own purpose. I’m never overlooking a 18mm lens again. Thanks for the better understanding!


Dustin August 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Do you think the Canon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 Telephoto Zoom Lens would be a good all-around lens?
Thanks for your Information!



CK August 30, 2012 at 5:56 am

Thank you!!! You’re awesome! ;)


james jackson September 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

Thanks for your blog i have been asking all around about what the different numbers mean and you just solved all my questions for me.Now i know exactly which lens i need to use for my Canon Rebel t3,you just saved me alot of time and money once again thanks.


Saucy Spatula September 6, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Reeeally helpful information here, Amanda. Thank you so much for sharing, it’s great for referencing. I got passed down an old Canon XTi/400D which I hardly ever use because of my lack of photography knowledge. Since I just started food blogging, I’ve been wanting/needing to know more about it and how to appreciate my SLR even though it’s an old camera. Again, great sharing!



Bing September 11, 2012 at 11:49 am

Thank you. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been thinking about getting a new lens to take my hobby on the next level. Honestly, my kit is a 600d canon and 18-135mm lens. Sometimes it’s frustrating whenever I take some photos that doesn’t match with what I need or what I want (I’m a digital scrapper). And so I tend to think that I chose the wrong lens. I love everything macro so I’ll take note of the 100mm macro lens, also that of 24-70mm or 50mm. Love love love these inspiring photos. Thanks again!!


Hema September 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

Hi Amanda
I found this post extremely helpful, it sort of lifted the cloud off my head regarding focal length and apertures, am a food blogger, right now using a Canon DSLR with the standard 18-55mm lens, looking to buying a macro lens, was not sure about what to buy, this post cleared my doubts to some extent, thank you so much..


Fernando Kiechle November 4, 2012 at 4:26 am

Dear Amanada,

what kind of lens you use to shot a portrait?

(from Brazil)


Comment Pages: 12Next »

Leave a Comment