Do You Really Need a Fast Aperture Lens, or Do You Just Want One?

Fast aperture lenses certainly have plenty of benefits, but they often come with pretty hefty price tags. Do you actually need one?

When it comes to choosing lenses, fast aperture lenses are often lusted over by many photographers. Most fast aperture lenses tend to be the most premium lenses available. They let in a ton of light, render shallow depth of field, and generally produce some of the best image quality around. Although there is certainly a lot to love about fast aperture lenses, their premium statuses often come with equally premium price tags. Do you actually need a fast aperture lens for your photography, or is your GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) acting up? If you’re faced with this dilemma, let our latest original infographic help you decide if a fast aperture lens is right for you.

Although similar, needs and wants are fundamentally two very different concepts. The former implies a sense of necessity and requirement, while the latter is a matter of desire. When it comes to fast aperture lenses, whether you need or want one comes down to a variety of factors.

Whether you shoot in low light scenarios often is perhaps the most critical factor in determining if a fast aperture lens is necessary. If you primarily shoots events, concerts, or astrophotography, fast aperture lenses can be critical tools in your arsenal. It’s worth noting that many fast aperture lenses can cost at least as much as some camera bodies. Unless you’re a working professional photographer or an enthusiast with plenty of disposable income, they can be hard purchases to justify. We’ve seen some cameras in recent years that are capable of high ISO output that looks super clean. If you can’t justify the cost of a fast aperture lens, you may compensate for this if your camera produces clean high ISO results.

Many portrait photographers prefer to shoot with fast aperture lenses for the shallow depth of field that they produce when shot wide open. When photographers rave about a lens’ bokeh, chances are they’re talking about a lens with a fast aperture. This essentially gives photographers the ability to hide distracting elements surrounding a portrait subject in the out of focus areas of your frame. Fast aperture lenses aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to bokeh. If you understand the relationship between depth of field and the distance between your subject and your camera, similar effects can be achieved using lenses with slower apertures. It all boils down to whether you’re able to justify the costs.

If you don’t need a fast aperture lens but still want one, and you’ve got deep enough pockets , then by all means, treat yourself. It’s your money and you can do whatever you want with it. Here are a few of our favorite fast aperture lenses currently on the market if you’re looking for something to splurge on:

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.