What lens to buy

A friend of the blog messaged me to say he was trying to decide which lens to get for his dSLR, relatively limited budget but happy to buy second hand. He enjoys macro photography, landscapes but would also love to capture birds and wildlife on a forthcoming trip to California (visits to San Francisco and Yosemite planned already. He tells me he’s weighing up between a Canon 10 to 18, a Canon 70 to 200 L, or a 50 1.8 plus another.

That’s quite a question. For years, I travelled with 17-85mm and 75-300mm lens, both image stabilised for my Canon 20D and pretty much covering everything you’d need as a general amateur. The 300mm will get you significantly closer to birds than a 200mm as well as being great for your kids sporting events and shooting bands from the pit at music festivals.

But in recent years I was using a low-cost but excellent quality Sigma 24-200mm for trips where I wanted to travel light. Not quite the range of the two separate zooms, but total weight much lower in your hand luggage and over your shoulder. Wide enough for most landscapes and architectural shots, portraits and reasonable zoom to get to those birds and animals provided you’re not too far away.

If pristine quality for selling isn’t a requirement then carry a pocket digital with you two for more candid street photography on your trip and for getting quite close (almost macro) for rare flowers and other things you might spot on your travels. Alternatively, there are those bridge camera with enormous zoom ranges, such as the Nikon P900 which goes from 24mm to 2000mm (that’s an 83x range).

Bottom line is it’s down to budget, how convenient carrying one or two lenses is rather than three or four, or whether you’re worried about professional quality, full frame versus consumer 2/3 frame or the tiny CCDs in pocket cameras. There are, of course, professionals who use nothing but an iPhone for everything and they have no choices whatsoever to make regarding which lens to buy and carry!