Tired of your basic kit lens? As as a beginner, having a small but carefully selected collection of DSLR lenses can really help you improve your craft by allowing you to experiment with different techniques and styles. And of course, having the right lens for the scene or subject you’re trying to capture will certainly help you take better photos. If you’re looking to start building your collection, here are the best Dslr Lenses For Beginners and the best budget lenses under $300 (and yes, there are plenty of Canon and Nikon lenses included in this list):
For those who are new to photography, choosing and buying camera lenses can be confusing and daunting. There are just so many brands, lens types, and focal lengths to choose from, and then of course there’s the fact that lenses simply aren’t cheap. Building a good lens collection is an investment, and it definitely won’t be a small one.
Nonetheless, the good thing about having many choices is that it won’t be difficult to find budget-friendly DSLR lenses that can give you plenty of bang for your buck.
Dslr Lenses For Beginners
BEST BUDGET dslr LENSES: PRIME
Every photographer should own a prime lens. Unlike zoom or kit lenses with variable focal lengths, a prime lens is limited to a fixed focal length and is perfectly optimized to perform one specific task. Because they deliver maximum performance for one specific focal length, prime lenses can produce superior-quality images with optimal sharpness, clarity, and contrast, and with less visible aberrations.
Standard prime lenses are popular and an ideal option for beginners because of their fixed 50mm focal length, which offers a more natural perspective that is closest to that of the naked human eye. They’re also relatively inexpensive, making them perfect for photographers on a budget.
Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8
Made for Canon DSLRs with EF mounts, this lens is comparable to the Canon 50mm f/1.8—but for less than half the price. It has a maximum aperture of f/1.8 (making it great for shooting in low-light conditions and producing a shallow depth of field) and a minimum aperture of f/22.
BONUS: Yongnuo also makes 50mm f/1.8 Nikon lenses, which is priced at $79.95.
Pentax SMCP-DA 50mm f/1.8
Designed to fit cameras with Pentax K mounts, the fast, lightweight, and well-built Pentax SMCP-DA 50mm f/1.8 offers great low-light capabilities, pleasing bokeh, and impressive image quality. An ideal lens for portrait photography, it has a maximum aperture of f/1.8 and a minimum aperture of f/22.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
If you have a more flexible budget and prefer a Canon-branded lens for your DSLR, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 is a lightweight, compact, and relatively affordable, high-performance lens that works best for portraits, action shots, and night photography. It has an 80mm effective focal length on APS-C cameras and 50mm on full-frame cameras, and it delivers amazing color balance, minimized ghosting and flare, and beautiful, creamy bokeh.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8D is a fast prime lens that offers natural image rendering, incredible sharpness, and exceptional performance in all lighting conditions—at a highly affordable price. Compatible formats include FX, DX, FX in DX Crop Mode, and 35mm film.
Sony 50mm f/1.8 DT
While the Sony 50mm f/1.8 is technically considered a standard prime lens, it’s actually more of a short telephoto with the 35mm equivalent of a 75mm focal length when used with cameras that have an APS-C sensor. It delivers crisp, tack-sharp images, out-of-focus backgrounds with stunning bokeh, and fast and smooth autofocus, thanks to the Smooth Autofocus Motor (SAM) technology.
Olympus 25mm f/2.8
This standard “pancake” lens is extremely thin, lightweight, and highly portable, and it works well for portraiture, landscape photography, and even close-up shooting. It has a focal distance equivalent to 50mm on a 35mm film camera and offers a “natural” perspective, making it a great everyday lens.
BEST BUDGET dslr LENSES: WIDE-ANGLE
Wide-angle lenses offer a wider field of view, allowing you to squeeze in more of the scene that you’re shooting into the frame—such as in landscape or real estate photography. But even if you aren’t into shooting landscapes, adding a wide-angle lens to your collection is still a good idea. It offers a different kind of perspective than other types of DSLR lenses, thereby giving you more creative flexibility.
Regular wide-angle lenses have a focal length of 35mm or wider on DSLRs with full-frame sensors, while ultra-wide angle lenses have a focal length of 24mm or wider. There are also fisheye lenses that fall under the ultra-wide angle category.
These lenses can have either a fixed focal length (wide-angle prime) or a variable focal length (wide-angle zoom).
Pentax SMCP-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL
The Pentax SMCP-DA 35mm is an affordable wide-angle lens with a fast f/2.4 aperture. Equivalent to a 52.5mm in 35mm format, this lens is ideal for landscape photos, portraits, and more. Despite the affordable price, the 35mm offers great image quality and resolution, along with superior contrast and sharpness.
Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM
Ultra-slim and lightweight, this wide-angle lens is a great everyday lens due to its versatility, portability, and speed. It is designed for use with Canon APS-C cameras and boasts of sophisticated optics for excellent image quality, specialized lens coating and arrangement to minimize ghosting and flare, and a stepping motor (STM) for smooth and silent autofocus. It also allows manual focus adjustment.
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX
Made for DX-format cameras, this lens is perfect for users who want something that delivers amazing performance while still being reasonably affordable. Its 35mm focal length resembles the results of a 50mm FX format lens, which offers a more natural, undistorted angle of view that is close to what is perceived by the human eye. This fast and quiet lens delivers phenomenal image quality and integrity, as well as superior color consistency.
Rokinon 8mm Ultra Wide Angle f/3.5 Fisheye
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced ultra-wide lens, the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye is a great choice. Although designed for APS-C cameras, this lens is also compatible with full-frame cameras (available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony mounts). It provides the widest field of view (at approximately 180°) and produces full-frame coverage for APS-C cameras and a rounded, vignetted image for compatible full-frame DSLR cameras.
Outstanding optical construction delivers incredibly sharp images with reduced flare and ghosting.
Samyang 8mm Ultra Wide Angle f/3.5 Fisheye
Samyang also makes affordable fisheye lenses for Sony, Canon, Nikon, and Pentax cameras. This 8mm ultra-wide lens features hybrid aspherical lens components for sharp and highly defined pictures, multi-layer lens coating to help eliminate flare and ghosting, and a 180° angle field of view for dramatic perspective.
Nikon 28mm f/2.8D
As a standard wide-angle lens, the Nikon 28mm f/2.8D offers a suitable angle of view (approximately 74°) without any distortion along the edges. Compared to other wide-angle lenses in its league, it provides value for money with its superb sharpness and image clarity, as well as beautiful, vivid colors.
It’s best used for landscape scenes, street photography, indoor photography, and more.
BEST BUDGET dslr LENSES: ZOOM
Another staple in a photographer’s lens collection is the highly versatile zoom lens. While prime lenses have a single focal length, zoom lenses offer a wide range of focal lengths to allow for more flexibility and changes in composition. To put it simply, they are lenses that allow the user to zoom in or out on a scene.
Obviously, a zoom lens is incredibly useful for when you need to shoot from a distance. But in any case, having a zoom lens (whether it’s a wide-angle zoom, telephoto zoom, or any other type of DSLR lens with a variable focal length) in your arsenal is always a good idea, as it will provide you with more options when it comes to perspective, composition, and more.
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG
Available for Pentax, Sony, Canon, and Nikon cameras, the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG is a telephoto zoom lens that delivers maximum performance at a very reasonable price point. It features Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements to minimize chromatic aberrations, fast and silent autofocus with full time manual focus override, and a macro switch to enable macro photography at focal lengths between 200mm and 300mm, with a maximum close-up magnification from 1:2.9 to 1:2.
Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD
A lightweight and compact telephoto zoom lens, the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD is highly ideal for outdoor shooting—sports, nature, wildlife, and more—and is designed to function with both DSLRs and film cameras. Like the Sigma, it has a macro switch that allows for macro shooting at a focal length range of 180mm to 300mm
with a maximum magnification ratio of 1:2. In addition to portability, this lens is also highly durable, has fast and accurate autofocus, and gives very sharp results.
BONUS: Tamron also makes Canon and Nikon lenses with this focal length range, both priced at $169.95.
Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G
Great for portraiture, travel photography, sports or action coverage, and more, the Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G is one of the most affordable options in the telephoto zoom arena. It’s a good starter telephoto for beginners, as it is highly versatile, lightweight and compact, and relatively easy to use. It features a manual zoom ring for precise focus control, quick and reliable autofocus (supported only in DSLRs with built-in focus motors), a wide range of focal lengths, and Super Integrated Lens Coating for improved light transmission and minimized ghosting and flare.
Pentax SMCP-DA 50-200mm f/4-5.6
Made exclusively for Pentax DSLRs, this 4x telephoto zoom lens is ideal for outdoor photography, as it is weather resistant and features a special protective coating to help repel dust, water, and other elements.
Features include superior optics for true-to-life image color and sharpness and a highly responsive Quick-Shift Focus System that allows for quick switching between auto and manual focus.
Sony 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DT
Designed for crop sensor DSLR cameras, the Sony 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DT is a great all-around telephoto zoom lens that covers 82.5mm to 300mm focal lengths and is ideal for shooting sports, wildlife, nature, portraits, and more. It’s equipped with Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) Glass elements for reduced chromatic aberrations, circular aperture blades for smoother defocusing and stunning bokeh, and a built-in Smooth Autofocus Motor (SAM) for fast, smooth, and silent autofocusing.
Canon EF 75-300mm F/4-5.6
The Canon EF 75-300mm F/4-5.6 is a compact and lightweight telephoto zoom lens with a very long focal reach. It delivers amazing zoom range, sharp image quality, and pleasing bokeh. It also offers a surprisingly wide angle of view (32°) for a telephoto lens, making it suitable for landscape shots.
Affordable and easy to use, this budget Canon lens is a great choice for new photographers who are just beginning to explore other lens options apart from the kit lens.
How to Buy a Digital Camera
1. Determine what you need
A mistake I see some digital camera buyers making is that they get sucked into buying cameras that are beyond what they really need. Some questions to ask yourself before you go shopping:
- What do you need the camera for?
- What type of photography will you be doing? (portraits, landscapes, macro, sports)
- What conditions will you be largely photographing in? (indoors, outdoors, low light, bright light)
- Will you largely stay in auto mode or do you want to learn the art of photography?
- What experience level do you have with cameras?
- What type of features are you looking for? (long zoom, image stabilization, large LCD display etc)
- How important is size and portability to you?
- What is your budget?
Ask yourself these questions before you go to buy a camera and you’ll be in a much better position to make a decision when you see what’s on offer. You’ll probably find the sales person asks you this question anyway – so to have thought about it before hand will help them help you get the right digital camera.https://da360a56a245c0803c5da779cd8113ff.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
2. Megapixels are NOT everything
One of the features that you’ll see used to sell digital cameras is how many megapixels a digital camera has.
When I first got into digital photography, a few years back, the megapixel rating of cameras was actually quite important as most cameras were at the lower end of today’s modern day range and even a 1 megapixel increase was significant.
These days, with most new cameras coming out with at least 5 megapixels, it isn’t so crucial. In fact at the upper end of the range it can actually be a disadvantage to have images that are so large that they take up enormous amounts of space on memory cards and computers.
One of the main questions to ask when it comes to megapixels is ‘Will you be printing shots’? If so – how large will you be going with them? If you’re only printing images at a normal size then anything over 4 or so megapixels will be fine. If you’re going to start blowing your images up you might want to pay the extra money for something at the upper end of what’s on offer today.
3. Keep in mind the ‘extras’
Keep in mind as you look at cameras that the price quoted may not be the final outlay that you need to make as there are a variety of other extras that you might want (or need) to fork out for including:
- Camera Case
- Memory Cards
- Spare Batteries/Recharger
- Lenses (if you are getting a DSLR)
- Filters (and other lens attachments)
- External Flashes
Some retailers will bundle such extras with cameras or will at least give a discount when buying more than one item at once. Keep in mind though that what they offer in bundles might not meet you needs. For example it’s common to get a 16 or 32 megabyte memory card with cameras – however these days you’ll probably want something at least of 500 megabytes (if not a gigabyte or two).
4. Do you already own any potentially compatible gear?
Talking of extra gear – one way to save yourself some cash is if you have accessories from previous digital cameras that are compatible with your new one.
For example memory cards, batteries, lenses (remember that many film camera lenses are actually compatible with digital SLRs from the same manufacturers), flashes, filters etc.
5. DSLR or Point and Shoot?
While digital SLRs are getting more affordable they are not for everyone. Keep in mind that they are usually bigger, heavier, harder to keep clean (if you’re changing lenses) and can be more complicated to operate than point and shoot. Of course there are some upsides also.
If you’re trying to make a decision between a point and shoot and DSLR you might want to read my previous posts titled Should you buy a DSLR or a Point and Shoot Digital Camera? and it’s companion piece How to Choose a DSLR.
6. Optical Zooms are King
Not all ‘zooms’ are created equal.
When you’re looking at different models of digital cameras you’ll often hear their zooms talked about in two ways. Firstly there’s the ‘optical zoom’ and then there’s the ‘digital zoom’.
I would highly recommend that you only take into consideration the ‘optical zoom’ when making a decision about which camera to buy. Digital zooms simply enlarge the pixels in your shot which does make your subject look bigger, but it also makes it look more pixelated and your picture ‘noisier’ (like when you go up close to your TV).
If you’re looking for a zoom lens make sure it’s an optical zoom (most modern cameras have them of at least 3x in length – ie they’ll make your subject three times as big – with an increasing array of ‘super zooms’ coming onto the market at up to 12x Optical Zoom).
7. Read reviews
Before buying a digital camera take the time to do a little research. Don’t JUST rely upon the advice of the helpful sales person (who may or may not know anything about cameras and who may or may not have sales incentives for the camera they are recommending).
Read some reviews in digital camera magazines or online to help you narrow down the field. There are some great websites around that give expert and user reviews on virtually every camera on the market – use this wonderful and free resource.
A little self promotion here – one such site is my Digital Photography Blog which is a site that collates the reviews of many sites from around the web. To use it best enter the camera’s model name that you’re looking for a review on in the search feature in the top right side bar. It’ll give you a link to a central page that has information on the camera as well as links to any reviews published online on that camera from around the web.
8. Hands On Experience
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of cameras head into your local digital camera shop and ask to see and play with them. There’s nothing like having the camera in your hands to work out whether it suits your needs.
When I shop for a camera I generally use the web to find reviews, then I head into a street in my city with 4 camera shops side by side and I go from shop to shop asking for recommendations and seeing the cameras live in the flash. In doing this I generally find the same camera or two are recommended in most shops and I get to see them demonstrated by different people (this gives a more well rounded demo). I also get to play with it and get a feel for which one I could see myself using.https://da360a56a245c0803c5da779cd8113ff.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
After you’ve selected the right digital camera for you it’s time to find the best price.
Once again, I generally start online (on a site like our store) and do some searches to find the most competitive prices on the models I’m interested in. With these in hand I’m in a good position to be able to negotiate in person with local stores and/or with online stores. I generally find that retail stores will negotiate on price and will often throw in freebies. Online stores are more difficult – most bigger ones don’t give you the ability to negotiate but smaller ones often will if you email them.
Don’t forget to ask for free or discounted bonuses including camera cases, memory cards, extra batteries, filters, free prints, cases etc. I even know of a couple of stores that offer camera lessons that you can ask to be included. Some stores will also consider giving you a trade in on older gear.
I generally do negotiating from home on the phone and only go into a store to pick up the camera after a price is agreed upon.