What lens should I buy?
That question is sent to me hundreds of times each month. The answer is always the same – it depends. It depends on your budget, your experience and the subject(s) that you want to photograph.
So without that basic information, I can’t tell you what lens you need. But I can tell you which lenses are popular according to Amazon.
Both Canon and Nikon offer very affordable 50mm F/1.8 lenses. Lenses like these are amongst the most popular because they offer a shallow depth-of-field with beautiful bokeh for very little money. They’re also what we call fast lenses, meaning that they have large apertures which permit the lens to work well in low light. Lastly, for the money, these lenses are amongst the sharpest you can buy.
Next up, the medium telephoto zoom. 70-200 mm lenses are versatile, sharp and while much more expensive than the 50mm lenses above, still are relatively fast offering the chance for low-light images that are sharp thanks to stabilization.
In this class, the popular kids are:
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS LensNikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Lens (NOTE: This lens replaces the old VR-I version which had vignetting problems on full-frame cameras.)
At the next level, we see the focal lengths diverge between the brands. The Canon shooter prefer the 24-105 mm focal length. Canon’s offering here is image stabilized and while not as fast as the previous choices, at a constant aperture of F/4 more than fast enough. Canon’s “L” glass is their best and this lens has been labeled the one most people would pick if they could have only one piece of Canon glass because of it’s versatility.
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
The Nikon users want even more versatility. The Nikon 18-200 is both wider and longer than its Canon counterpoint at this level, but similarly priced. It has virtually everything you’d expect from a professional lens except that it’s a DX lens. That means it’s designed to work with crop sensors.
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Lens
Of course there are some very good third-party lenses, particularly the high-end stuff from Sigma.But I’m going to focus this post on the most popular Canon and Nikon glass since between the two of them, they own the market.