We get lots of “what camera should I buy” questions here at Photofocus. I personally don’t enjoy that question since it’s sort of like asking me “What sort of car should I buy?” I do have more sympathy for the “What lens should I buy?” question. Not the “Is the Nikon 50 f/1.4 really better than the 50 f/1.8 lens?” questions, but the “What lens should I buy generally?” questions.
So if that’s where you find yourself, here are some questions that you should answer on your own before you decide on a lens.
1. What is your current skill level? Are you a raw beginner or advanced amateur? The advice I would give to someone buying their very first serious camera would sometimes be different than it would for someone who’s been at this five years.
2. What subjects do you like to photograph? The lens I’d suggest for photographing birds is very different than the one I’d suggest for a food photographer.
3. Will you primarily be shooting indoors or outside? If you’re shooting mostly indoors you’ll have to consider a faster lens than if you’ll just be shooting outdoors.
4. How much money do you want to spend? Lenses are like most things – you get what you pay for. Knowing how much you want to spend will often have a big influence on what I’d recommend.
5. How long will you keep the lens? If you turn your gear over frequently, it might make sense to go with something less expensive than if you plan to use the lens over the entire length of your career.
6. How strong are you? Weight (and size) are important factors in lens choice. I know many photographers who were very excited to get a Nikon 200-400 F/4 lens until they actually had to hold it. The thing is a beast. Are you prepared to carry whatever lens(es) you buy? It’s a shame to buy a lens and then not use it because it’s too much of a hassle to carry it.
7. Which is most important? Price, quality, durability? An old businessman taught me a very important lesson early in life. You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick any two.
With this information in mind, you should be much better positioned to select the right lens for you.