6 things to know before buying your first lens: A guide for beginners


Having a great camera allows you to capture high quality images. Of equal importance is getting the right lenses - they are considered the most important part of the camera and should be chosen wisely. There are plenty of choices available. Here is information that can help you get a lens that fits your need.

Focal length

This is the distance from the centre of the lens to the sensor; it is normally expressed in millimeters. For starters, if you are looking for a wider shot, go for the lower number. Similarly, a longer zoom will give a wider shot. If you are looking for a photo that will fit more into the frame, wide angle focal lengths of 16, 24 and 35 mm will give you what you need. A telephoto lens with a focal length ranging from 50 to 100 mm will help you get close to the subject. The f2.8 aperture is preferred to allow enough light to pass through.


You need to consider the amount of light that enters your camera as this definitely affects the quality of your photo. Aperture measures the amount of light that can enter the camera. It is normally represented by the letter f and some corresponding figures. If your camera comes with a small aperture number, lets say F1.2, it basically means that the opening is wider and more light will come into the lens making the device suitable for shooting in low light environments.

Fixed vs Zoom lens

You will definitely be torn between a fixed and zoom lens, and therefore learning about their pros and cons will help you make a decision. Prime lens will help you incorporate more light into the shots, allowing you to tweak and correct any errors easily. They normally come with a fixed focal length of between 35 and 85mm, the lenses have no zoom capability, are easy to use, and offer high quality images at a lower cost. They are suitable for portraits as they have a wider maximum aperture and give high quality images than what you can get from the zoom lenses.

On the other hand, a zoom lens gives you a chance to adjust to a range of focal lengths. They are bigger and heavier and cost relatively more when compared to fixed lenses, however, they are more versatile due to the fact that they give a variety of focal lengths. The fact that they are large and bulky means that one has to live with the idea of carrying heavier loads while travelling.

APS-C or full frame lens

The fact that most manufacturers offer both makes buying lenses more confusing. If you own an APS-C Camera but in the future you would want a full frame body, you may question whether you should buy a lens that will work on APS–C bodies given that they are smaller and lighter and would comfortably fit a full frame camera, or go for one that fits the full frame body, one that will be larger and costlier. Ideally, one should make the decision and stick to a given choice in the future; this makes the lens buying process easy and eliminates confusion that may pop up later.

Image stabilization built-in

With an inbuilt image stabilizer, you will take photos in low light when using lower ISO or smaller apertures. With them you will get sharper images, especially when working in a low light environment. Although these lenses cost more than the non-stabilized types, it is important to think whether it is really required before you put in more money.

Summary of lens type

Fixed lens: come with a fixed local length, are straightforward to use and offer quality images and cost less.

Zoom lens: Can be adjusted to a wide range of lengths, are bigger and heavier, also tend to be expensive.

Telephoto lens: Described as the largest, heaviest, and costliest option. They are powerful, ideal for shooting in outdoor environments like sporting and wildlife adventures.

Macro lens: Allow clear focus when close to the subject, magnify small objects and can give macro effect with other lens.

Wide Angle lens: Can capture an angle wider than the eye, and are therefore especially useful for landscape or different angles in a room. They have a wider view than normal lenses.