Though many new photographers focus their attention on the camera they buy, it actually has less to do with great photos than the lens that you use.
As such, it's important to give lenses some love in the gear-buying process.
In fact, you'd be better off using the camera you have or buying an entry-level camera and then finding a higher-end lens to work with that camera, than if you buy a brand new, high-end camera and use a low-end lens.
Camera lenses are that important!
In this camera lens guide, I offer up a few tips for what to look for when buying a lens.
Guide to Camera Lenses: Price
Obviously, price is the most significant factor for most people when buying anything.
The problem is that most of us don't have an enormous budget, and a lot of good lenses are not cheap.
That's because you really do get what you pay for when it comes to camera lenses.
Cheap lenses have cheap optics, aren't constructed that well, and don't give you the sharp results with minimal aberrations that we all want.
For example, if you took a photo with your camera's kit lens (the lens that came with it), and compared it to a photo taken with an 85mm f/1.4 lens, the latter would be sharper, clearer, have less distortion, better color contrast, and so forth.
That makes the higher-end lens worth it because it has a significant impact on the quality of the images you take.
Unfortunately, an 85mm f/1.4 lens runs around $1,600, making it out of reach for many photographers.
There are other options for great lenses, like the 50mm f/1.8 shown above, that perform well and are inexpensive.
Buying pre-owned lenses is also a smart move because you can often find higher-end lenses for far less than what they cost new.
That's especially true if you look for used lenses in the right place, where there are buyer and seller protections in place so you're sure you get the lens you pay for.
Lens Buying Guide: Lens Purpose/Versatility
Another important factor to consider when buying a camera lens is the purpose of the lens.
For example, if at this point you take photos of a variety of subjects, a good all-purpose lens like a 24-70mm zoom might suit you the best.
On the other hand, if you've been behind the camera long enough to know that macro photography is your passion, buying a macro lens would make sense.
Along with that is the need to think about the versatility of the lens you buy.
Again, if you take photos of all sorts of subjects, you need a lens that can accommodate such varied subject matter.
As mentioned above, zoom lenses offer all sorts of versatility, particularly those in the wide-angle to short telephoto range.
These lenses allow you to shoot wide for landscapes, shoot at a standard focal length for things like portraits, and give you enough range on the short telephoto end to capture things like wildlife from short distances.
Editor's Tip: Find the lens you need at a price you like.
Camera Lens Features: Aperture is Important
The aperture of a lens controls the amount of light that is allowed in. The larger the aperture the more light; the smaller the aperture, the less light.
When looking for a lens, the aperture range is an important factor because the wider the aperture goes, the better the lens will perform in low-light situations.
For example, a lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 will produce better images in low-light than a lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6.
Additionally, aperture is one of the factors that influence the depth of field of an image, or the area of sharpness in the photo.
Large apertures produce a small depth of field, so if you find a lens with a large maximum aperture, it can help you create a soft, blurry background like the one shown above.
Many lenses that have large maximum apertures are pricey (though the 50mm f/1.8 mentioned earlier is quite reasonable).
But, again, if you buy pre-owned lenses, you might be able to find a good deal on a used lens that allows you to get a higher-quality lens for less.
There are other factors to consider when buying a lens, to be sure. But if you bear these three factors in mind, you'll be in a good position to get a lens that works well for you and works well for your budget!