Congratulations on taking the giant photographic leap to an interchangeable lens camera! Sure, your phone has served you well (and will likely continue to do so) but now it’s time to spread your picture-taking wings. And as cool as your new DSLR or mirrorless camera is now, it won’t reach its true potential until you take a deep dive into the world of lenses. It’s a somewhat sad fact that most interchangeable-lens camera buyers never take off the kit lens that came with the camera, which sort of defeats the purpose of having an interchangeable-lens camera. This is why we’ve put together this guide to help make sure you know what to look for in lenses, and thus get the most out of your new camera.
Your first step
If you’ve yet to pull the trigger on a new camera, make sure to check out the lens options available for the brands and models you’re researching. Sure, it’s unlikely that anyone needs to buy a dozen lenses for their camera, but the larger the collection available, the more variety you will have to choose from, from wide-angle to telephoto and everything in between. Above all, make sure the specific type of lenses you need for your personal photographic style are available for your system of choice. For example, if you primarily photograph landscapes, you’ll want a different type of lens than if you plan to shoot mostly portraits (we’ll get into the specifics in a minute).
When you buy an interchangeable lens camera you’re entering a relationship with the specific hardware mount determined by the brand, so this is not a choice to take lightly. For example, Nikon DSLRs use the F mount and Canon DSLRs use the EF and EF-S mounts. Canon’s EOS-M series mirrorless cameras use a completely different mount, called EF-M. With the exception of Panasonic and Olympus, who share the Micro Four Thirds mount, virtually every manufacturer sticks to its own mount. And while they are all interchangeable-lens cameras, you cannot use Nikon glass on a Canon body and vice versa (well, sometimes you can but this involves using a mount adapter and almost always sacrifices some functionality).