It’s no secret that cameras get the lion’s share of attention from photographers. We all love to drool over the latest models and marvel at the thousands of autofocus points they have; however, we need to stop paying so much attention to cameras and we should focus more on lenses.

For those who have been around photography for a while, the headline of this article will resonate well. However, for those younger and who have come into the world of photography, when manufacturers promote their cameras more than anything, you might have a more challenging time believing that great lenses are far more important than the latest cameras.

Cameras are great, but …

The OMDS OM-1 with the Olympus 8-25mm f/4 Pro attached.

Let me start by saying that there’s nothing wrong with buying new cameras. I just purchased a new camera myself (OMDS OM-1). So, if you like buying new cameras when they come out, go for it. However, if you buy a new camera because you believe it will help you create better quality images, you might want to read on.

You can own the latest Sony a1, the Canon EOS R5, the OMDS OM-1, heck, even the Nikon Z 9. Still, if you’re putting low-quality lenses on these cameras, you’ll create images with issues. Low-quality lenses can render soft images. They’re more prone to distortion, flaring, ghosting and more. Poor lenses also will not be able to resolve all the detail from the cameras’ sensors.

The combo of high-quality cameras and low-grade lenses won’t create terrible images that will make your eyes bleed. You’ll be somewhat pleased with them. However, you’ll leave a lot on the table. Of course, this works the other way as well.

Your old camera is capable of more than you think

Great lenses
My Canon Rebel T1i with the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS attached. It’s incredible how much life great lenses can breathe into cameras.

You could own the Canon EOS RP, an Olympus E-M10 IV or the Nikon Z5, which are considered entry-level cameras. If you put great lenses on these cameras, I guarantee the overall image quality will be better than the premium cameras with lower quality lenses attached to them.

You can even try this experiment with older cameras as well. For example, I have a Canon Rebel T1i. This camera, launched in 2009, features a run-of-the-mill 15.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, a whopping nine autofocus points, and it rattles off an earth-shattering three frames per second.

With low-quality lenses attached, the images it spits out are muddy and soft. However, the images sing a completely different tune when I attach my 24-105mm f/4 L series lens. A single high-quality lens can make all the difference. It’s a setup that I still use today. Nobody is none the wiser when I create and post images from this combo.

It’s all about great lenses

If you get to a point in your photography career when your images don’t bring much joy and happiness to you, I encourage you to buy a pro-grade lens or two instead of a new camera. If you own a camera produced in the last seven to eight years and have only used consumer or prosumer-grade lenses, you haven’t witnessed what your camera is capable of when it comes to image quality.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering why I would suggest you buy lenses that — in some cases — cost more than the cameras themselves. You’re really questioning this if you use prosumer cameras and not pro-grade bodies. The answer is simple. A camera is only as good as the lenses used with it.

Lenses are the lifeblood of photography

Trust me when I say there are no terrible cameras on the market. You will be surprised at how much potential there is in your beginner, mid-range or even a much older pro-grade camera. Overall image quality has, and always will be, about your skill level and the lenses you use.

Yes, larger sensors capture more detail, and new image processors can help render nicer colors. Of course, you also cannot disregard how far autofocus and IBIS systems have come in cameras. Still, the quality of the glass you use will have the most significant impact on the quality of your images.

Also, don’t forget that different lenses help us create a much larger variety of images than any camera can. Want to create shallow depth of field? Buy a lens with a fast aperture. Need more reach? Buy a telephoto or super-telephoto zoom. Lenses play the most important role in the images we create. In addition, pro-grade lenses are built tougher, they use better coatings and they use faster autofocus motors. Your whole photography experience can be changed by just using a great lens.

There will be those who disagree, but image quality is all about lenses. Lenses are the lifeblood of photography. If you need or want a new camera for its advanced autofocus capabilities, IBIS or any other technological advancements, go for it. However, if you genuinely want your images to shine, splurge and buy great lenses that will breathe new life into your current camera.

Not sure which lenses to buy? Check out our lens roundups, which will steer you in the right direction, here.