Here in this article we are focusing on a number of typical situations that kit-lens-toting photographers often find themselves in. For each example, we’ve highlighted some of the factors that should be considered when trying to find the right lens for the job. While these are factors which are relevant whatever camera and lens system you’re using, in each case we’ve also highlighted a couple of lenses that would be a good choice for specific set-ups without blowing the budget.
If you want an all-day / travel lens
When you’re on holiday or traveling, you probably don’t want to be lugging several lenses and cameras around with you – unless you’re the most dedicated of photographers, that is. It’s often the same if you’re trying to enjoy a day with the family and don’t want to spend all day changing lenses and moaning about your back.
As such, a good all-day or travel lens would be one that was easy enough to carry around, but still offered you the freedom to capture shots from landscapes to portraits, and zoom in on distant objects. For Micro Four Thirds shooters, that could be something like the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140 mm f/3.5-5.6, or the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II if a DX Nikon is your DSLR or choice.
If you want to do street photography
Street photography can be done with almost any lens, though a 300 mm F2.8 might raise a few eyebrows from your subjects. However, a focal range of around 35-50 mm is often seen as the ideal for capturing the moment in urban areas.
Unless you want all of your subjects looking directly at the camera, you’d probably be best served by something discrete. It’s also important that street photography lenses feature a fast maximum aperture for lower-light situations. This means that something like the Fuji XF 23 mm f1.4 R Lens would be a great selection. The Sigma 35 mm F1.4 DG HSM has also been very well received by many DSLR street shooters.
If you want to photograph your kids running around in the garden
Many people shell out for a DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera when they have a child, but by the time that child starts running around, the kit lens struggles to keep up, both in terms of aperture and focal range. This is especially true if you’re trying to photograph the kids running around in the garden or on the sports field.
This means you need something with a bit more reach, but probably without the bulk and weight that a professional lens would bring. A zoom lens will allow you to keep your shots framed as you want while your subject moves around in front of you. So, if you feel you just need some added reach, the EF-S 55-250 mm f/4-5.6 IS II could get you closer to the action. But if you want a bit more speed (and to be the best equipped parent at the game), there’s the Canon EF 70-200 mm f/4L USM.
If you want to take landscape photographs
While the kit lenses which come with most cameras are surprisingly good at the wide angle end, you could find that they don’t quite go far enough for some of the landscape images you try to take. So, unless you’re able to keep moving backwards, you’re going to need a new lens.
Focal length is key here, and you’ll only get some landscapes if you’ve got an ultra wide angle lens. You could go for either a prime or a zoom, but most people in this situation are probably going to be best-served by a zoom. A lens like the AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24 mm f/3.5-4.5G ED could be good for APS-C Nikon shooters, while the Olympus 9-18 mm f/4-5.6 ZUIKO would do the job on Micro Four Thirds cameras.
If want a lens which will make you improve as a photographer
After a while you might find that you’ve simply outgrown your kit lens. You suddenly find that it’s stifling your creative ambitions and preventing you from taking the photos that you want, even if they are within its focal length reach.
This is the ideal time to get yourself a fast prime lens, and the good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to do it. Getting something like a Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35 mm f/1.8G or the Sony E 50 mm f/1.8 OSS will mean you can play around with shallower depths of field, and shoot naturally in conditions that would have otherwise required a flash. Because they are primes, it also means you need to zoom with your feet, which will in turn probably mean you spend more time thinking about how you compose shots. Never a bad thing.