Photography can be one of the most expensive hobbies you can get into. Depending on your interest, you may be buying a DSLR or mirrorless camera with spare batteries, memory cards, flash units, and even extra lenses.
The most important thing to spend your money on is good quality lenses. These are long term investments and are critical to the quality of the images you will capture. Therefore, it is necessary to decide early into your photography hobby which system you will be using. Lenses are made for specific camera types, for example, Nikon lenses on a Nikon camera or Sony lenses on a Sony camera. While an adaptor can enable some lenses to work on other cameras, you always get the best quality results staying with a native combination.
Lenses come in three forms – fixed to the camera, interchangeable prime, and interchangeable zoom. A prime lens has a fixed focal length and if you need to “zoom” then you “zoom” with your feet – move closer of further away from your subject. Zoom lenses have a variable focal length within a range and you can move closer or further away by using the zoom function of the lens. Each type of lens has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the subject matter you want to photograph.
Prime lenses are better in low light situations and for where you want to create a super nice background blur, that bokeh in the background, which can make an image look like magic. This is very often useful when creating portraits. Zoom lenses enable you to have fewer lenses to carry around as they can cover various focal lengths. Also, they give you more flexibility on what you want to include in your image.
In the 1980s, prime lenses provided the best image quality while zoom lenses provided inferior image quality. However, today’s zoom lenses are virtually as good as the prime lenses and suffer very little image quality reduction. Your choice of lens depends on what you want to photography and your budget.
The range of lenses available today is large and can make choosing difficult. As a general guide, lenses range from ultra-wide-angle (such as fish-eye) through to very long telephoto. A typical wide-angle lens is 24mm and normal is 50mm. The ideal portrait lenses are 85mm or 105mm. Telephoto lenses start at 135mm and a very long telephoto lens is 1,200mm.
If your interest is creating portrait images, a prime 85mm or 105mm lens would suit you well. However, if your interest is general with a mix of this and that, then a zoom lens 24mm to 200mm or 24mm to 300mm would be an ideal choice as it covers a wide range of focal lengths.
Many photographers consider a tripod an essential tool in their image creation process. Tripods are used to minimize camera movement so you can capture sharp images. They are essential also for long exposure images where you want to capture the night sky or a landscape in low light. Ensure you invest in a sturdy tripod – some of the cheaper ones do not provide the stability you need. The tripod needs to be able to support the weight of your camera and lens so check this when considering your purchase.
To summarise, know what you want to use your camera for. Invest in the best quality lenses your budget will allow. A tripod is an essential tool of trade and needs to be carefully selected also.