The Only 3 Lenses You’ll Ever Need

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Lenses can serve a very specific purpose – excelling at one style of photography but falling short in others. There is no one lens to rule them all which is why I am recommending 3 types of lenses that will satisfy the majority of your photography needs; macro, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses.

While the lenses below are specific to the Canon EF mount the recommendation for a macro, wide, and telephoto lens stands true for all body types.

Table of Contents

Macro Lenses

Macro lenses are strong at background blur and close-ups which makes them best for shooting food, flowers, products, portraits, and night photography.

Photo by: Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Vintage Canon FD 50mm lens on a vintage camera body

Budget Pick – CANON 50MM F/1.8 STM

The 50mm is esteemed as one of the greatest lenses of all time, and this lens is truly as nifty as they claim. I often recommend the nifty 50 as a great starter lens for new photographers, however, it does have some limitations and is not the only lens you’ll ever need.

Pros:

  • Price – New, this thing runs about $160
  • Wide aperture
  • Small and lightweight

Cons:

  • Not Wide
  • Long minimum focusing distance, .45 m (18 in)

Upgrade Pick – Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro ART Lens

The Sigma 70mm lens packs a lot into their lens for a far better price than competing lenses. While it’s not perfect, it provides great image quality and is a huge step up from the 50 mm lens.

Click here for an in-depth review.

Pros:

  • Sharp!
  • Color retention
  • Weather sealing
  • .26 m (10 in) minimum focus distance, almost half the distance of the 50mm lens

Cons:

  • Slow focus – manual and auto

Wide Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses can fit a lot more into the same size photo than other lenses, which makes them best for landscape, street, architectural, and real estate photography.

Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

Sigma Lens on a Sony a7II camera body

Budget Pick – Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

A focal length of 35 mm or less is generally accepted as wide-angle, so you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with this 17mm lens.

Pros:

  • It’s pretty darn wide for its price range
  • Weather sealing
  • Small and lightweight in comparison to other wide-angle lenses

Cons:

  • Vignetting
  • Distortion

Upgrade Pick: Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM | A

Sigmas have built a reputation for sharpness and sturdy builds, and the ultra-wide Sigma 12-24mm lens is no exception.

Pros:

  • Ultra-wide view
  • Great image quality
  • Weather-resistant
  • Half the price of Canon’s similar build
  • Built-in lens hood

Cons:

  • Big and heavy
  • Doesn’t support filters.
  • Barrel distortion and dimmed corners at wider angles

Telephoto Lenses

Telephoto lenses typically refer to lenses with a focal length of 100mm or more and make objects closer than they appear. Telephoto lenses are great for shooting subjects where getting physically close is not an option, such as wildlife, sports, and concerts.

75-300 mm Lens

Budget Pick: Canon EF 70-300 F4-5.6 IS II USM

After many years of research, I have determined this lens is just too hard to compete with. It has the longest focal length available before a significant price jump and the image quality will make it hard to believe it’s a budget lens. Seriously, I highly recommend the Canon EF 70-300 mm lens.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • One of the longer zooms in this price range
  • Image stabilization

Cons:

  • Highlights can have a halo effect
  • No weather sealing

Upgrade Pick: SIGMA 150-600MM F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM S (SPORTS) LENS 

Sigma’s 600mm lens is one of the longest focal lengths available, so you are sure to never miss a shot again. Be sure to have a tripod or monopod handy as shooting handheld with a lens of this size may get tiresome. But, using a lens with a 600mm focal length is a great way to shoot wildlife without interfering with their habitat. Or, you know, getting too close to a bear.

Pros:

  • Fast Auto Focus
  • Sharp images
  • Color Retention
  • Weather Sealing

Cons:

  • At 12 inches in length is could exceed the maximum lens length at sporting events and concerts
  • Weight – 6 pounds it will be hard to shoot handheld for long periods of time

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Author Bio

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Delaney is a project manager by day and a travel and wildlife photographer by night who is using her skills for translating complex technical language into easy to understand concepts to make photography achievable at all skill levels. You have questions; she has answers.

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