First lenses: Quality or value?
I'm a beginner, about to buy my first SLR, a 400D/XTi. I'm stuck trying to decide whether to A) put my money into one good lens in a range I use a lot B) cover a large focal length range or C) buy something cheap now and add/upgrade in a year..

What do you think is most important for a beginner's setup: quality or value?.

Disclaimer: I'm thinking something like 17-85 vs 18-55 quality differences, not professional kit, so neglect budget considerations. If it helps see this link for some pics with my old SD400:

Comments (16)

I'd go for focal lengths and budget. If you're a novice (like me), you'll discover more pleasure in having covered focal lengths between, say, 18-200, rather than having a really good lens that reaches only until, say, 55. Get the cheap (yet, still, good IMO) solutions to cover the basic needs (wide+tele) and then, later on, you'll see where and how you could invest more money..


Comment #1

A or B, but leave C alone. I personally like taking wild life distance shots and macros of spiders, bugs, and flowers. I guess I like to see thing close up that you can't get looking at it with your own eyes, but don't buy anything you won't be happy with. If it can't do what you want with clarity or performance, you be back on the net looking at what you should have got in the first place.Tim..

Comment #2

Don't forget the tripod, sorry but that's going to be another budget buster, but it's something to consider when going for distance.Tim..

Comment #3

And add more QUALITY lenses as you expand your range or need specialty items..

The lenses will stay with you long after your XTi is discarded...

S.**My XT IS Full Frame APS-C/FF of course!*****So is my 5D 35mm/FF**..

Comment #4

You say you are a beginner. Do you plan to become very good, or do you want to just dabble and take nice pictures..

If you want to get good at the craft, sooner or later you will want to have quality tools. Upgrading camera bodies is a normal part of digital photography. Lenses are like marriages. You can get a divorce later if you found you made a bad choice, but it will be expensive..

If you will want quality later, buy quality now. Whatever you spend now will look like a good deal in a few years..

Nothing is enough for the man to whom nothing is enough...

Comment #5

Aerobeaver wrote:.

I'm a beginner, about to buy my first SLR, a 400D/XTi. I'm stucktrying to decide whether to A) put my money into one good lens in arange I use a lot.

You can't go wrong on that one..

Provided you know what that range is, before you've really got into the camera..

B) cover a large focal length range.

This is seen as an alternative to A) with the alleged compromise being quality, right?.

Well, in theory, and according to lab tests and reviews, it may be true. That is why some people would recommend that a kit of, say, 18-55 plus 55-200 lenses is better than a single 18-200 - because the individual quality of the two lenses is better than that of the single 18-200..

But in practice, and for your purposes, will it be noticeable? I wonder. Don'r forget that lab tests and reviews are seeking out and highlighting what are very often very small differences at the margin..

I've got an 18-200 on my D80 and while I am prepared to concede that it may have some shortcomings compared to other lenses, in reality I'm getting great shots out of it and the real limitation is me..

The other advantage of the (say) 18-200 is that it is a great walkaround lens, you will be able to carry your new camera around with you wherever you go, more easily, and be able to shoot everything you want to without having to drag along the second lens..

I'm not saying B) is definitely the best option for you - only you can make that call - but I would say, don't overestimate the quality thing. A single wide range lens is not necessarily a major compromise..

Or C) buysomething cheap now and add/upgrade in a year..

Absolutely not. Why would you "add" later to a lens that isn't actually good enough? Why buy something that you're pretty sure you'll be ditching in a year?.

Also, you need to think about what "cheap" means. Does it mean a limited zoom range (or a prime), but good quality? Or are you thinking cheap = lower quality?.

If cheap = lower quality, then don't bother..

If cheap = limited range, then don't bother either. Get something you're going to use..

The cheapest lens you can get for a Nikon is the 50mm f/1.8. Great lens, but I wouldn't see anyone recommending it as a budget option for your first lens!.

Don't stress this one. There's no need to think you need to make a major compromise..

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #6

I looked at your photos, and you seem to have a nack for good composition. Therefore, I recommend that you consider the new 18-55IS lens PLUS the 50mm f/1.8. The former is a new lens that is getting good reviews, and it is inexpensive. The latter is an inexpensive lens that does very well in low light and produces reasonably good brokeh in portraits. Check B and H photo or for prices. This will give you two lenses that are capable of good photos while you learn your camera..

I definitely would not buy an "all-in-one" lens. These are notoriously poor. Instead, buy the inexpensive buy good lenses I suggested and begin saving your money for your first L lens and a good tripod..

Enjoy your new hobby, and good luck..


Comment #7

One other alternative is to just get the XTi with kit lens (18-55), and right now at many stores you can add the Canon 75-300 lens for $100!.

This will keep you going for a long time..

J. D.Colorful Colorado.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Remember.always keep the box and everything that came in it!..

Comment #8

The greatest of mankind's criminals are those who delude themselves into thinking they have done 'the right thing.'- Rayna Butler..

Comment #9

Next week we're delivering an 11x14 print to a vice president of a telephone company and an 8x10 print to the senior Canadian officer of an international stock brokerage company. These are framed pictures. Both ran in a major daily newspaper, and these are for them to use to decorate their offces (stock broker) and give to fiance (telco)..

Both prints look just fine, and both photos were taken with the Canon 18-55 inexpensive kit lens..

BEWARE there are a lot of postings here that seem to be based on quality standards that seem out of the ball park for amateur photographers..

Going back to your original question you can get perfectaly acceptable pictures from inecxpensive lens (depending on how you define inexpensive. Some peole think $300 is a lot of money, and others think $1200 is reasonable, it's $1800 that's expensive - a good basic lens, feet that work, and a way of making sure there's enough light, works fine for most pcitures..

Extra lenses / expensive lenses come into play when you need to take some sort of "special" picture the kids on stage during the concert is a special short, outside the normal situation. Or your brother's sailboat crossing the finish line first..

I would never buy the 17-85mm Canaon because it is far too slow (too small an aperture) at 85m, but thousands of people own and love the lens..

Mostly, it doesn't matter..


Comment #10

I think that a proper lens set up NEEDS to cover all the focal lengths you are going to use first and foremost. Yes, lens quality matters. Max aperture also matters. But if you can't afford to cover the focal ranges you need in great glass you are no where. I would consider something like the Tamron 18-200 or 18-250. It is something that you will always value due to it's single lens versatility when you don't want to carry around a whole bag for travel, hiking, all kinds of things.

Those lens will be useless if you ever get somethign like 17-40 or 70-200 2.8. I have a range of professional, fast Nikon glass, but still wouldn't want to be without my 18-200 for some things. Trust me, at the same length and aperture, the 18-Tamron super zoom may not be as sharp as say a 17-40L, but I guarantee you that if you shoot something with it at even 100mm and the 17-40 at 40mm and try to crop the image to get he same field of view the Tam is going to be WORLDS better. Get the focal lengths covered. Here's some examples of that lens I borrowed on an old 10D when I didn't want to risk my primary stuff on a beach fishing trip a week before I had a wedding:.


Comment #11

I always think it is funny when I get customers who want to buy a DSLR for it's ability to interchange lenses..

Yet all they want to buy for it is a lens that covers every range so that they don't have to change lenses..

I get this one at least once every day..

One of those things that make you say 'Hhhhmmmmmmm!!!!!'..

J. D.Colorful Colorado.

Remember.always keep the box and everything that came in it!..

Comment #12

OK....I'll bite....So if I were your customer, pretending I'm a first time DSLR owner and don't have a bag full of glass, and say I want a entry level body and to spend say under $500 on lenses what would you sell me? Normal range 2.8 3rd party lens? IF I shoot mostly indoors or landscapes, kids, family, etc. this is probably the best option. But if I want to shoot some wildlife, or daytime sports? What am I supposed to do if I need somethign longer than 50mm since my money is gone. Maybe a 70-300 IS, I can always back up right? 50 1.4? Now there's some quality and speed....if I can only get at the right distance. I wouldn't be without a prime, but it's not for the masses..

I'm guessing a 2 lens "kit" is what you are going to sell me even though neither lens offers any real IQ advantage over the 10x zoom, both are completely obsoleted if I decide to upgrade to better more specialized glass, and when I travel I have a loose lens to keep up with. The advantage of an SLR is that you CAN switch lenses, that doesn't mean that you want to all the time...

Comment #13

To be a bit more specific, I've been considering the Sigma 18-200 OS or the Canon 18-55 IS + maybe the 70-300 IS. I liked the idea of buying the 18-200 and having one lens that covered a huge range, allowing me to buy higher quality lenses in shorter ranges later. However, after going into the camera store, the 18-200 just seems too heavy to carry around on the camera all the time, whereas the 18-55 is super-light. So I'm leaning towards the 2 lens set. Opinions? Should I get the 70-300 now or hold off? (I'll probably get the 50/1.8 with any setup.).

Thanks for all of your advice!..

Comment #14

I've never picked up the sigma 18-200 OS, the Tamron is pretty light, suprisingly identical to their 17-50 or 28-75. The OS woudl be nice though. I can't imagine that the Sigma is bigger/heavier than the Nikon 18-200 VR which I don't find too big for walkaround. Then again, I'm used to lenses like 28-70 and 80-200 2.8..

Comment #15

Go for quality every time. A good lens is an investment. You'll still be using the same quality lenses long after you've upgraded the body..

It's a myth that you need to cover the full range of focal lengths - the truth is that you learn how to make the best use of the equipment you've got and sometimes having fewer lenses to decide which you're going to take with you can be a blessing in disguise! By a decent, fast, zoom in the 18-50mm range and you will be good for most general purpose needs. Add more lenses as and when you can afford them..

Confused of Malvern.

'The greatest fool can ask more than the wisest man can answer'..

Comment #16

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