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Ask any experienced photographer, and they'll tell you that the single most important photography gear you can buy is the lens.
It's more important than your tripod, more important even than the camera you use.
The quality of the lens has a direct correlation on the quality of the photo, more so than anything else you use to create the image.
As such, it's important to invest your money wisely in a good, solid lens. In fact, if you're going to splurge on anything, make it the lens you use.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for what you need to know before buying a camera lens.
Think About the Price of the Lens
Not everyone is Jeff Bezos with billions of dollars in the bank. That means you and I have to adhere to budgetary constraints when we buy lenses.
The problem is that many of the best lenses are pricey. That's especially true of lenses with huge apertures, professional lenses, and specialty lenses.
There are some exceptions to that rule (like 50mm f/1.8 lenses). However, you better have a decent pile of money ready if you're going to buy a brand new, high-quality lens.
Of course, the way to get around that problem is to buy a pre-owned lens.
Not only does that allow you to stretch your budget and get the glass you want, but you might end up saving enough that you can get two pre-owned lenses for the price of one new one.
To do so, you need to visit Lensfinder.
Lensfinder is a marketplace by photographers, for photographers. It's not a free-for-all like eBay. Instead, it's a place where photographers can go to buy and sell their used gear safely and efficiently.
It's great - you can peruse the items on the marketplace, ask sellers questions right within the platform via direct message, and even pay for your items on Lensfinder via PayPal.
Lensfinder offers buyer and seller protection options, and if something goes wrong, Lensfinder has a mediation service as well.
Each seller on Lensfinder is also graded using a feedback system, so you'll know exactly what kind of seller you're dealing with before ever exchanging any money.
In other words, Lensfinder makes it easy to find affordable used lenses so you can fulfill your creative vision. What's not to like about that?
The Type of Photos You Take Will Determine What Lens to Buy
Though there are some great all-around zoom lenses that offer incredible versatility for a wide range of photographic pursuits, by and large, the type of photos you take will impact the type of lens you buy.
For example, if you want to explore street photography, you'll want something light, compact, and easy to carry like a 35mm or 50mm lens.
On the other hand, if portraiture is something you want to try, an 85mm lens is a top choice for many photographers.
If it's macro photography you're after, you'll need a macro lens; if it's wildlife, a telephoto zoom lens is the way to go.
You get the point...
If you're not to the point in your photography career in which you can justify buying five or six lenses for different purposes, you can always pick up a couple of extremely versatile lenses.
As I mentioned above, zoom lenses offer tons of versatility, particularly ones like 24-70mm, which gives you wide-angle to standard range on a full frame camera, or 70-200mm lenses, which offers standard to telephoto range.
Even some prime lenses are incredibly versatile, particularly at the 50mm focal length.
With a 50mm lens, you can take portraits, photograph street scenes, create landscape shots, and just about anything else you can think of.
So, after you set a budget, the next order of business is to consider what you want to photograph and then find a lens that gives you the power you need to create those photos.
Consider the Type of Camera You Use
Yes, lenses are more important than the camera, but the camera you use will play a role in the lenses you buy.
Aside from the obvious factors like not buying a Nikon lens for a Canon camera, you need to bear in mind the size of the camera's sensor.
That's because the way a lens works with a full frame camera, which has a sensor that's the equivalent size of a 35mm piece of film, is different than it will work on a crop sensor camera.
As you might have guessed, a crop sensor camera has a smaller sensor than a full frame camera, like the Nikon D810 pictured above. Their size varies from one manufacturer to the next, which means different cameras have different crop factors.
On a Canon crop sensor camera, like the EOS Rebel T7i shown above, the crop factor is 1.6x. That means that a 50mm lens will actually behave like an 80mm lens on a Canon crop sensor rig.
Nikon crop sensor cameras have a crop factor of 1.5x. A similar 50mm lens will act like a 75mm lens.
There are various other crop factors that range from about 1.3x up to 2x, so there's definitely a need to understand what the crop factor of your camera is.
That's because the smaller sensor produces a cropped version of the image. In other words, if you take a photo using a 50mm lens on a full frame camera, and then retake the same photo with the same lens from the same spot but on a crop sensor camera, that image will appear cropped or zoomed in. You can see the difference in the video above by Manny Ortiz.
That will impact the photos you take as well as how you take them, so you can understand why considering the type of camera you have is an important part of buying a lens.
When it comes to buying gear that's so important, be as informed as possible before you buy. Consider the crop factor, what you plan to photograph, and, of course, your budget, and you will be able to find a lens that suits your needs just fine.