Three Lenses Every Beginner Canon and Nikon Photographer Should Consider

Lenses can be both wondrous things to look at and use. But to the beginner, the world of lenses outside of the ones that come with the camera can be scary place. With so many to choose from, how can you pick the best ones to start your journey? 

The kit lenses that came with the camera you purchased will only take you so far, and then you will need to look at the many offerings for your brand of camera. The quality of your images relies heavily on the glass that you place in front of your cameras sensor, but where do you start? Here is a look at the three lenses every beginner Canon and Nikon photographer should consider.


Canon 50mm F1.8 STM

Regardless of what camera system you may use, the 50mm ‘Nifty Fifty’ is the first place you should look when you decide to move on from standard kit lenses. If you are a beginner and shoot with Canon you are in luck. The Canon 50mm f1.8 STM is possibly the best cheap 50mm lens on the market today. Primes lenses are the best way for you to improve your skills as a photographer as they make you move to compose your shot. The small footprint of this lens makes it enjoyable to use because it is so light and easy to handle. The 50mm 1.8 may not be the best lens ever built, and image quality may not match lenses that cost significantly more, but what you get here is a sharp lens that will help you improve your skills.

In our review we said:

“Canon’s 50mm f1.8 STM is an overall great lens for what it is; a cheap lens that is aimed at a specific consumer. It’s not going to deliver the best image quality and it’s not going to give you the looks that many third party manufacturers give you now. But what it will surely do is give you a starting point to work with.”

The Canon 50mm f1.8 has seven rounded diaphragm blades that help produce nice bokeh when shot wide open, images are sharp from corner to corner, and focusing is quick and quiet thanks to the STM (stepping) motor. The colors that are produced are nice, but not overly saturated, and while there is some color fringing, it can be fixed easily in post. While this lens will not deliver the world to you, if you work at it, and hone your skills with it, the Canon 50mm f1.8 can produce great images. The 50mm focal range is perfect for portraits, concerts, and street photography, and thanks to it’s maximum aperture of f1.8, it can shoot in low light situations easily. If you are shooting with an APS-C based camera (the rebel series and 70D, 80D, 7D etc) the focal range is effectively 80mm because of the 1.6x crop factor, which is something to keep in mind. Overall this is a fantastic lens for the price, and should be considered a must-have for every beginner.

Buy it now ($112.99): Amazon


Canon 50mm F1.8 STM Sample Images



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Canon 85mm F1.8


Another prime lens from Canon that every beginner should consider is the 85mm f1.8. In terms of bang for your buck, this lens wins hands down, and it is as close to an L series lens you can get without paying for the little red ring. The 85mm focal range is perfect for concert photography, weddings, pets, portraits, events, and street photography. Like it’s smaller brother the 50mm, this 85mm lens has a maximum aperture of f1.8 which means you can shoot in any lighting scenario.

In our review we said:

“Over the last year, I’ve used the Canon 85mm f1.8 for weddings, concerts, portraits, studio work, event photography, pet photography, and street photography. When I purchased the lens, I wondered if it was really a purchase that was worth making. Then I put it on my cameras and kept it on my 5D Mk II for a week and then my 7D for the week after. I didn’t look back.”

The 85mm f1.8 features nine elements in seven groups, and has eight rounded aperture blades. When combined the glass in this lens produces outstanding results. At f1.8 bokeh is beautiful, the image overall is a little soft wide open, but step down to f2.8 and this lens becomes a monster producing razor sharp images with beautiful color rendition. The lens is fairly compact and is light enough to stay on your camera for long sessions, and thanks to the ultrasonic motor focusing is lightning fast. When used on a crop sensor body the focal range is equivalent to 136mm. This lens is another must have for the beginner and pro alike, because it can cover a wide range of photography genres, and because of the quality of the images that it can produce at such a low price point.

Buy it now ($369): Amazon


Canon 85mm F1.8 Image Samples




Pro Tip: Take your pictures to the next level and protect the front element with this 58mm Hoya filter kit that includes a UV filer, Polarizer, and ND filter.


Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS


If you have been using your camera for a while and are ready to step up to your first serious lens, the best place to start would be with the versatile Canon 24-105mm f4 L IS. This is the most expensive lens on the Canon list, but it still represents amazing value. Canon’s L series line of professional lenses are legendary and they are hard to beat when it comes to build quality, and image quality. The 24-105mm focal range is incredibly versatile and you can go from wide to telephoto in just a few seconds. The lens is also weather sealed which means you can be out in the elements and will have nothing to worry about (if your camera is weather sealed too of course).

In our review we said:

“This lens is one of the most affordable L lenses in Canon’s lineup and can often be found used for an even better price. The fast autofocusing speed, silent motors, image stabilization, sharpness, color rendering, and zoom range make this lens a no brainer for most photographers.”

This lens is the perfect lens for running and gunning. One minute you can be taking a landscape shot and then seconds later you can be shooting a closeup portrait, all without switching lenses. The focal range is perfect for just about any kind of photography thanks to its wide to telephoto range. Image quality, as you would expect from a L series lens, is wonderful. Users will find that images are sharp, with gorgeous colors. The lens is also image stabilized which can help you nail the shot even at lower shutter speeds. It also comes in handy due to the maximum aperture only being f4. If you are ready to spend a little more you will not be disappointed. In fact you will be delighted with this lens.  The overall versatility of the 24-105mm f4 and its ease of use makes this a great lens for the beginner. Used you can find these lenses for under $500, but if you want piece of mind and prefer a new copy you’ll be happy with your outlay.

Buy it now ($799): Amazon


Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS Image Samples




Pro Tip: Make sure all of your gear is safe from inclement weather by using a good rain cover.


Nikon 35mm F1.8 G


Just as we mentioned above for Canon users, if you are a Nikon shooter you will also want to start out with a 50mm f1.8 lens for your camera. The NIKKOR 50mm f1.8 G is a fantastic lens, and it will be a huge upgrade from the kit lenses that came with your camera. The Nikon variant of the 50mm f1.8 is a solid lens and is perfect for beginners who want to learn more about primes lenses. The 50mm focal range is perfect for so many genres of photography, and thanks to the maximum aperture of f1.8 you will be able to use this lens in near darkness.

In our review we said:

“The Nikon 50mm f1.8g is light but well built. It feels solid when held. The finish is similar to the Nikon 40mm f2.8 G. It has a plastic feel, but a tough plastic, while it’s mount is metal. The surface and texture feels like you can get a good grip, when needed. Nikon has a good track record here. Their lower cost prime lenses always feel decent.”

The Nikon 50mm f1.8 is a cheap way to break into glass that is far superior to the kit lenses that Nikon supplies. The build quality is good, image quality is good, the bokeh is good, and focusing speeds are good. While it may not be the greatest lens you can purchase in terms of image quality, at this price point it is hard to beat especially when you are just starting out. Overall this lens is a solid, all round performer that won’t let you down. Using prime lenses is vital when it comes to developing your own skill set as they really make you think about composition. The equivalent focal range of this lens on a crop sensor will be 75mm. For the beginner Nikon shooter this lens is a no brainer.

Buy it now ($216.95): Amazon


Nikon 50mm F1.8 G Image Samples




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Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 Macro OS HSM



If you like the idea of carrying only one lens to keep things nice and light as you begin your journey with a Nikon DSLR you may want to consider the Sigma 18-200mm lens. Sigma have been making quality lenses for a while now, and this 18-200mm lens falls within their contemporary line up which means great build quality, and great image quality for little outlay. This lens covers every focal range that a beginner in the world of photography would find useful, which makes it great for landscapes, street photography, portraits, and wildlife.

In our review we said:

“New photographers just jumping into the DSLR game should definitely skip the 18-55mm or even the 18-135mm kit lenses and consider getting this lens instead. The Sigma’s 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 is an amazing all-around lens and in the right hands it can do some really amazing things.”

The Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 OS HSM will allow you to shoot wide angle landscapes one minute and then nature or portrait photography the next. With a quick turn of the zoom ring you can go from macro to telephoto, and it’s this versatility that makes this lens so good. Keep in mind the effective focal range of this lens on a APS-C body will be 27-300mm. The low price does not mean low image quality either. The Sigma 18-200mm produces sharp images, with just a little distortion on the wide end of things which can easily be fixed in your software of choice. Color reproduction is true to life and not too saturated. The image stabilization makes this lens easy to use on the telephoto end of things too. The lens is nice and light which means having it on your camera for long periods of time is not an issue. As a beginner if you want one lens to replace both of the kit lenses that came with your camera, and you want increased image quality, definitely check out this offering from Sigma.

Buy it now ($389): Amazon


Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OS HSM



Pro Tip: Make sure you have enough space to store all of your images. Carry extra SD cards.



Nikon 35mm F1.8 G

If you have a crop sensor camera (D3400, D5600, D7500 etc) and want a lens that is a 50mm equivalent, the the Nikon 35mm f1.8 is the lens for you. This Nikon lens is a little older, but do not let that discourage you from purchasing this amazing little piece of glass. The 50mm focal range is as close to what the human eye can see, so it makes this lens perfect for street photographers, documentarians, and event/concert photographers. The large maximum aperture also means that you can shoot with this lens in low light, and when paired with a camera that has good ISO capabilities this small lens delivers a large punch.

In our review we said:

”If you are a Nikon DX shooter, you should own this lens. It is a fantastic tool that will never let you down. The lens is extremely versatile and can travel anywhere. Out of all of my photography purchases so far, this has been one of the best. Even though I shoot full frame more often now, the Nikon 35mm f1.8G is still in heavy rotation. It is a work horse and it’s brilliant. When I have to show some fellow Nikonians why they need to move on from their kit lens, I let them borrow the 35mm 1.8 for a bit. They are generally hooked after that.”

While the lens is cheap, it doesn’t feel that way. Yes the 35mm f1.8 has a plastic case, but it is solid and nicely textured. Focus is snappy and quiet thanks to the Silent Wave Motor, and image quality is quite excellent with nice bokeh being produced when shot wide open. This lens is designed to be used on APS-C (DX Format) camera bodies, but it can also be used on Nikon bodies that have a crop mode. For the beginner this lens is another no brainer. The 52.5mm focal equivalent when used on a crop sensor is perfect for many genres of photography. This lens will help elevate your pictures and skill set to the next level.

Buy it now ($196.95): Amazon


Nikon 35mm F1.8 G Image Samples



What were your first lenses when you moved on from kit lenses? Let us know in the comment section below.

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.