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The best DSLR lenses for all cameras
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’ve compiled 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 available in multiple mount options or found in similar iterations across the board.
Before you read: Here are some photography terms you should learn first
The best DSLR lenses
Editor’s note: We’ll regularly update this list of the best DSLR lenses.
Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens
It’s getting very old, but the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 continues to be one of the most popular lenses due to its ability to keep an f/1.8 aperture regardless of the focal length you’re using. Most lenses start closing the aperture the further you zoom in. This is a rare and expensive feature in other lenses, but it has limitations. The main one is that this lens is made for APS-C sensors, leaving full-frame camera users out of the game.
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM
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 14-24 f/2.8 lens has a wide aperture and quality glass. It’s for demanding users, and its price is no joke, but Sigma still undercuts the competition. The price changes a bit depending on the mount you need.
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 version of this lens, going with Sigma’s option will save you a ton of cash. Similar lenses from other companies can cost twice as much, but will not output twice the quality.
Also read: The best DSLR cameras you can buy
If I had to pick one lens to carry around with me at all times, a 24-70 f/2.8 would be among the best DSLR lenses to choose. The focal lengths available make it a great all-purpose lens to use for scenes, landscapes, portraits, and general shots.
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’s bag. This one has an f/2.8 aperture and impressive optics for the price.
Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM S
Those who want some serious zooming reach should take a look at the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM S. It’s made for sports photographers and can get up to 300mm with a constant f/2.8 aperture. It’s a beast of a lens, but it’s also costly. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the best DSLR lenses for getting up close and personal with your subject from afar.
Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro
A macro lens is another must for when you need to get really close to your subject. We are talking real close, as it can focus on objects as close as 12.3in, which is plenty close considering the 105mm focal length. This will be one of the best DSLR lenses for shooting insects, plants, and other small objects.
Also read: What is macro photography?
I often recommend a good macro lens because 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.
Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens
A super-fast lens with an f/1.4 aperture is an excellent lens if you have the extra cash. It will give you the edge you need in low-light situations and produce a shallower depth of field for your bokeh (blurry background). It’s available in Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Sigma versions.
Nikon/Canon/Sony 50mm f/1.8 DSLR lenses
The 50mm f/1.8 lens is by far my most valuable investment in photography — I shoot like 70% of my photos with it. These prime lenses have excellent image quality, the 50mm focal length is ideal for most purposes, and f/1.8 is plenty fast.
Most importantly, these 50mm f/1.8 lenses tend to be insanely affordable, making them among the best DSLR lenses you can get. You could take things a step further with an f/1.4 or an f/1.2 aperture, but those cost significantly more.
Nikon/Canon/Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 DSLR lenses
Each major brand has a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, but these lenses are meant for professionals. They all cost between $1,500 and $2,000, and sometimes more. These are excellent lenses for general-purpose photography, though, and they are every photographer’s dream.
Nikon/Canon/Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 DSLR lenses
We listed a fantastic 70-200mm f/2.8 lens above, but going with your camera manufacturer’s version tends to offer improved quality and support. Canon, Nikon, Sony, and other brands offer versions of this lens, which tend to cost over $2,000. Serious photographers won’t mind the investment, though.
You’ll see this number as a main feature in all lenses. This relates to the lens’s aperture. Aperture is the opening size through which light enters a camera. The wider the aperture size is, the smaller the f-stop number gets. For example, an f/1.8 aperture is wider than an f/2.8 one. You can learn more in our dedicated aperture guide.
Millimeter measurings signify the lense’s capable focal length. The focal length determines how zoomed a lens is, or can be. Some lenses offer variable focal lengths, which allow you to zoom in and out. Others have a fixed focal length; these are known as “prime lenses.” Learn more about focal length here.
The lens hood is made to avoid glare, reflections, and other light elements that may come from the lens’s sides, top, or bottom. This isn’t always an issue, and you don’t absolutely need the lens hood all the time. That said, you should leave the lens hood on at all times, just in case.
An APS-C sensor is smaller than a full-frame one. With that in mind, it’s important to remember a larger lens will need wider, bigger glass, and it’s usually more expensive. You can use any lens on a camera as long as it has the same mount. The only problem is that using an APS-C lens on a full-frame camera will cut into the image’s corners, creating a vignetting effect. This is why we usually recommend getting full-frame lenses, as these can be used on any sensor. The only APS-C lens in this post is the first one.
Everyone’s finances are different, and some affordable lenses can create amazing results, such as the 50mm f/1.8 options listed in this post. We have to say that if you’re going to splurge on any photography gear, though, it should be on lenses. Most photographers will agree that quality lenses are the most crucial investment in your gear bag. Good glass can produce sharper, cleaner, less distorted images. Using a great lens on an average camera body will produce great results. The same can’t be said the other way around.
Do you need to get more brand-specific? We’ve also created lists of the best lenses for Sony, Nikon, and Canon cameras. Additionally, it would help if you looked at other essentials and tips that can take your imaging to the next level.