If you're like most beginning photographers, you probably had a bit of sticker shock when you bought your first gear.
Today's cameras aren't cheap, nor are lenses - good ones, anyway.
In the past, that meant that most of us had to either scrimp and save to get one great lens or just muddle along with the cheap kit lenses that usually come with cameras.
But that's not the case anymore...
I discovered a way that you can get multiple lenses while saving a ton of money.
I'll expound on that in a bit, but first, let me offer up a list of the top three lenses you should have in your camera bag.
Ask a group of photographers to name the first lens a new photographer should buy, and I'm willing to bet the majority of them will say a 50mm prime.
Many 50mm prime lenses have huge maximum apertures like f/1.2, f/1.4, or f/2, giving you greater flexibility for shooting in low-light situations. The bigger the aperture, the more expensive the lens, though, unless you find great deals on pre-owned 50mm lenses, of course.
Those massive apertures are also great for blurring the background in portraits.
Additionally, because they're a fixed lens with fewer elements, 50mm primes (well, all primes...) tend to be extremely sharp - much more so than their zoom counterparts.
These lenses are also incredibly versatile, making them a great walkaround or travel photography lens.
You can take portraits with great background blur, pleasing landscapes with a narrower field of view, intimate street scenes, and you can even reverse-mount a 50mm lens and use it for macro photography, too.
Because of that versatility, a 50mm lens is a great learning tool. It can expose you to different genres of photography while also forcing you to learn how to "zoom with your feet" in the absence of a zoom.
That means you'll develop a better understanding of composition and framing, and with their great low-light performance, you can learn more about lighting as well.
The nice thing about zoom lenses is that they're incredibly versatile. That's why camera manufacturers often include a zoom lens as the kit lens that comes with the camera at purchase.
But your kit lens has limitations, including the build quality (they don't want to give away a top-notch lens!) and its zoom range.
Usually, kit lenses are of the 18-55mm variety, which is fine, but as you gain skills, you'll want something more robust.
A 70-200mm zoom fits the bill.
Like the 50mm lens discussed above, 70-200mm lenses are incredibly versatile.
On the 70mm end, you can take portraits with a nice field of view and slight compression for a pleasing look.
On the 200mm end, you have plenty of focal lengths to take photos of distant subjects like wildlife and still fill the frame.
And with the wide range of focal lengths in between, you can take photos of sporting events, nature, cityscapes - you name it.
These lenses are typically built tough, too. That means you can go out shooting in the rain or snow, and by and large, these lenses will perform admirably.
Additionally, higher-end 70-200mm lenses have large apertures, making them both versatile and fast.
And if you can find a deal on a pre-owned lens, that means you get excellent glass and save money too.
What's not to like about that?!
There's a lot of landscape photography enthusiasts out there, and if you count yourself among them, a good wide-angle lens will likely be your favorite glass.
Wide-angle lenses are great for landscapes because they offer such a vast field of view.
That means that you can capture more of the scene in one shot, more closely replicating what you see with your own eyes.
In other words, something like a 24mm lens will be able to capture the vastness and grandeur of a landscape much more easily than either of the other lenses discussed above.
Like 50mm lenses, 24mm lenses typically have large maximum apertures for low-light shooting and excellent optics for sharp results.
That makes them ideal for shooting landscapes during the day and the night, and even for tackling astrophotography as well.
You can even use a 24mm lens for group portraits, street photography, and photos of events, like concerts or weddings, in which you want to capture large crowds or venues.
In other words, like the other lenses listed above, a 24mm lens is a great choice if for no other reason than it's a versatile piece of glass.
How to Get All These Lenses Without Breaking the Bank
As I mentioned in the introduction, camera lenses aren't cheap, especially higher-end models.
But if you commit yourself to looking for the right lenses in the right places, you can often find great deals.
I recently came across a great website for doing just that - Lensfinder.
As the name indicates, the site is all about lenses, so you don't have to sort through cameras, tripods, flashes, and other gear that you don't need.
With an easy-to-use search engine, you can type in the specs you're looking for in a lens and have a look at the matching listings.
And since Lensfinder's listings are of used gear, you can find what you're looking for at much better prices than you'll find on new glass.
Talk about making the most of your budget!
And don't think that this is some sort of Craigslist for lenses where you run the risk of getting ripped off...
Lensfinder has a built-in protections, like a communication system so you can ask questions quickly and easily about the gear you're interested in.
And once a transaction is complete, there's a rating system, so everyone knows how the experience was for you.
Speaking of transactions, you can pay via PayPal, and in the future, you can pay via wire transfer or with a credit card, too.
Maybe the best part of Lensfinder is that you can also sell your old gear.
List your items for free, and if they don't sell, you don't pay a dime. If they do sell, there's a nominal 3.99 percent transaction fee.
That's a small price to pay for getting eyes on your old lenses!
At the end of the day, we all want to have great kits with awesome gear, but the cost is prohibitive to a lot of folks.
But Lensfinder changes that dynamic by offering a marketplace where people like you and I can buy great pre-owned lenses in a way that's safe and secure, and sell our old lenses when the time comes.
If you want to add a lens or two to your bag, be sure to check out what Lensfinder has to offer.