This video is helpful at showing the creative possibilities available while using different camera lenses.
http://wistia.com/learning/get-creative-with-lenses (Image credit: wistia.com)
With a limited budget, I always advocate spending more money on lenses as opposed to cameras. Cameras are just like any other technology purchase, as they get older, new ones come out with more features and the old ones just lose value over time. Lenses are different though. They hold their value over time, and in some cases their value increases as manufacturers raise prices to match inflation. When you buy a lens, you can reasonably expect to be using it for the next 20 years, even with new cameras as they come out.
It doesn’t just make good financial sense to spend more money on lenses though. A good lens on an inexpensive camera will offer much better image quality than a cheap lens in an expensive camera. These days, DSLR cameras are so good, that even the lower-end models can take beautiful photographs if you have the right lens.
What’s in my bag?
I currently use three different lenses on my DSLR. Most of the time I use a 24-105mm f4L IS. This is a really nice walk-around lens because it covers images from wide-angle to short telephoto zoom. It also has image stabilization, so I can still get pretty sharp shots even if I don’t have a tripod with me. The primary drawback of this lens is weight, it’s definitely heavier than a lot of other lenses in this focal range. Also, while it’s not as costly as the highest quality lenses in this range, it’s not an inexpensive lens by any means.
For a regular telephoto zoom, I use the 70-200mm f4L. For a telephoto, it’s not too heavy, and it produces very sharp images. It doesn’t have image stabilization, which can be a drawback because a stronger zoom will amplify any camera shake from holding it. I use it mostly outdoors in brighter light, or on a monopod indoors when I need to. It’s also one of the least expensive lenses in Canon’s professional L series.
The last lens I have is a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. Prime lenses don’t zoom, which throws some people who aren’t familiar with primes. I’ve had people borrow my camera with this lens mounted, and turn the ring on the lens and be surprised to find that it will change focus but not zoom. Prime lenses are great in low-light situations. This 50mm lens gathers over 4 times more light than either of my other two lenses, which makes it perfect for indoor shots at night. It’s also very small, very light, and inexpensive. If you have a DSLR with just a kit lens, there is no better way to improve your photography than to spend $100 on a nifty 50.
My next lens will most likely be a stronger telephoto, somewhere in the 300mm or 400mm range. It would open up a lot more wildlife shots for me. While the 70-200mm will be great for wildlife you are close to (in a zoo, for example), 200mm is still a little short if you are further away from an animal as in the wild.
After watching this video, an ultra-wide angle 16-35mm f2.8L (or the less-insanely-priced 17-40mm f4L) would really provide a lot of creative possibilities. Someday maybe I’ll try one out.