Quality glass is crucial for capturing great images with your DSLR camera. The best DSLR lenses are hard to find in a sea of options, but in this article we have put together a list of some of our favorite picks for starting your lens collection. Since we are not keeping the list specific to unique brands, we have chosen lenses that are available in multiple mount options, or that can be found in similar iterations across the board.
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Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best DSLR lenses regularly.
1. Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens
The Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 is one of the most popular lenses due to its ability to keep an f/1.8 aperture regardless of the focal length you are using. Most lenses start closing aperture the further you zoom in.
Sigma’s beloved lens is available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, and Sigma mounts. The price is also unheard of for a lens of this kind. It launched at $799, but now goes for about $639 on Amazon.
What’s the catch? The Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 lens has one major flaw — it is made for APS-C sensors. Full frame users are out of luck!
2. Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens
Everyone should have a good wide angle lens. They are the best for landscape shots and can more easily capture large subjects in a single frame. Sigma’s 12-24 f/4 may have a tighter aperture, but it has quality glass made to avoid distortion, which is a more important factor for a lens of this kind.
The Sigma 12-24 f/4 is for demanding users, and its price suggests that. It starts at $1,233.99 for the version with the Nikon mount. Canon users will have to pay $1,323.
3. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens
A 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is a must for professionals and photo enthusiasts. While each brand has its own version of this lens, going with Sigma’s option will save you a ton of cash with a price point of $1,079. Similar lenses from other companies can cost nearly $2,000.
If I had to pick one lens to carry around with me at all times, it would be a 24-70 f/2.8 like this one. The focal lengths available make it a great all-purpose lens to use for scenes, landscapes, portraits, and general shots.
4. Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2
Need to zoom in further? A handy 70-200mm lens is another piece of equipment that should be in every photographer bag. This one has an f/2.8 aperture and amazing optics for the price. It’s worth the $1,299 price tag.
5. Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens
This is Sigma’s flagship zoom lens, made with Sports Photography in mind. What makes it a “sports” lens is mostly its sturdy construction and great handling. It also has great quality glass and enough optical length to get up close and personal with athletes. The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens costs $1,259 right now.
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6. Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Macro Lens
A macro lens is another must for those times when you need to get really close to your subject. We are talking real close, as it can focus on objects as close to 0.3m, which is plenty close considering the 90mm focal length. This will be good for shooting insects, plants, and other small objects.
The reason I often recommend a good macro lens is that it is not exclusive to macro photography. You can use this lens for general purposes; it will make for a great portrait lens or fixed zoom alternative.
7. Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens
If you have the extra cash, a super fast lens with an f/1.4 aperture is totally a nice lens to have. It will give you the edge you need in lowlight situations, as well as producing a shallower depth of field for your bokeh (blurry background). It’s available in Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Sigma versions, with prices starting at $680.79.
8. Nikon/Canon/Sony 50mm f/1.8
My 50mm f/1.8 is by far my most valuable investment in photography — I shoot like 70% of my photos with it. These prime lenses have great image quality, the 50mm focal length is ideal for many purposes, and f/1.8 is plenty fast. Most importantly, these 50mm f/1.8 lenses tend to be insanely affordable. Canon’s can be had for just $125. Sony and Nikon charge $298 and $196.95, respectively.
9. Nikon/Canon/Sony 24-70mm f/2.8
Each major brand has a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, but these lenses are meant for professionals. Canon’s costs $1,699, Nikon’s is $1896.95, and Sony’s iteration goes for $1,848.19. These are amazing lenses for general purpose photography.
10. Nikon/Canon/Sony 70-200mm f/2.8
We listed a couple great 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses above, but going with your camera manufacturer’s version tends to offer improved quality and support. Canon, Nikon, Sony, and other brands offer their versions of these lens, and they tend to cost over $2,000. Serious photographers won’t mind the investment, though.
Now you are ready to pack your bag with a worthy arsenal of glass to take on your photographic adventures. Regardless of your shooting needs, this list should get you started in the right direction.
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