In the old film days experienced photographers always knew that it was wise to save on the camera body and spend on lenses. We are not talking to the people who can afford it all but to those that have tighter budgets. With film you could chose the film you liked and put it into any camera body. Of course more expensive bodies had also then a lot of desirable features but clearly the image was created by the lenses and the film.
In the digital world it is a bit different because the cameras include the sensors as the film equivalent. To no surprise higher priced cameras may have better sensors (higher resolution, less noise and more dynamic range). To get the most out of your cameras you have to spend on good lenses and they cost. Still the old rule holds that a lower cost camera with better lenses can outperform a higher grade camera with lower quality lenses. This means if you buy a new camera you should always think also about the lenses that you want/need.
Most of the entry level DSLRs have actually very capable sensors but many of their owners will hardly ever experience their full quality. Why? Because they often just buy the kit lenses and never spend on any better glass.
What to do? Try to think about the whole system: camera + lenses. We know this may get you scared because you see the whole investment. Of course lenses you own can play an important role too. If you own cheap consumer lenses from manufacturer X then it does not matter to stay with the same brand because they won't get the best out of your cameras anyway.
Don't forget that lenses hold their value much longer than camera bodies. On the other side they also lock you into a camera system.
Our lens samples below are based on our full frame cameras:
- Nikon D800 a
- Canon 5D Mark II.
If we use cameras with smaller APS-C sized sensors we most of the time use mirror-less system cameras.
Zooms are practical. But good zooms are large, heavy and expensive. With cheap zooms you waste your image quality. Clearly some of the kit zooms got better over the years but still lack compared to really top (means nearly always expensive) zooms.
Some of our top zooms:
- Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS: Small for its range and maximum aperture, good quality/price ratio at about $1,200
- Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR II: Heavy and big because of f/2.8 maximum aperture, you get what you paid for at about $2,400
As you can see top zooms cost. With some prime lenses you can save a lot of money, size and weight. Here are some of our reasonable priced primes with excellent image quality:
- Canon 50mm f/2.8 Macro: Small and light with slow AF. excellent price/quality ratio at about $300
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM: Good price/quality ratio at about $400
- Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G: Small and light with fast AF. top price/quality ratio at about $220
- Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8 G: Top price/quality ratio at about $500 (f/1.4 version would cost you about $1.700)
Before we buy new lenses we often consult the lens reviews at Photozone.de.
Before you buy a new camera think about your palnned system. Start with a small set of good primes. You will be surprise what you can do with the camera and 50mm (or 50mm equivalent) prime lens alone.
Over the next weeks we plan to show our base camera/lens sets.
Learn more about Lightroom from our e-books: