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Ask David: I want to upgrade from my 18-55mm lens. What’s next?

Ask David: I want to upgrade from my 18-55mm lens. What’s next?

This question comes from reader Heart Cruz (awesome name by the way). Heart owns an 18-55mm digital SLR kit lens, and although she’s gotten a lot of use out of it, she’d like to know which lens she should purchase next. This is an easy one. You should get a 55-200mm lens. Here’s why.

Capture most of the zoom range with no overlapping.

The 18-55mm lens you’re currently using captures most of the close range subjects. At the 18mm end, this lens is a true wideangle. It allows you to zoom out to fit more of a room into the frame for landscapes. At the 55mm end, it’s a handy normal lens, which is great when you want an unbiased and undistorted view of your subjects as you would see them with your own eyes.

But I’m sure you’re aware that your 18-55mm doesn’t do so well when you’re trying to zoom across long distances. A telephoto will do the job, and that’s what you’d get with a 55-200mm lens. Right now, you’ve got about half of the zoom range. A 55-200mm lens will give you the other half. It will allow you to zoom in to get as much as 4x the magnification you get at 55mm. This is really handy when your subject is faraway, and you can’t walk towards it to get more of it into the frame.

Somewhere around 75mm, you’ll have an ideal portrait lens too. Portraits tend to look better when you’re a little zoomed in. The zooming flattens facial features ever so slightly. It’s called the telephoto effect, but I wouldn’t judge you for calling it the “schnoz eliminator.”

The telephoto end helps with macro photography too

If you don’t own a proper macro lens, you can start using the 200mm end of this lens for macro photography. You won’t get the same level of magnification, but it definitely works. I’ve certainly gotten some decent results with it. Of course, it all depends of the look you’re trying to create. Don’t forget to use a tripod.

When it comes down to it, a 55-200mm lens is the perfect compliment to the 18-55mm lens you already own. It not only only completes your zoom range (except for some extreme cases), it gives you a portrait and macro lens that’s great for a semi-pro such as yourself.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the price. If I recall correctly, I bought my F4 55-200mm lens for around $250. You can get more expensive ones that give you a bigger aperture, but since I’m pretty sure you’re just starting to get into the DSLR world, I’d suggest you stick with the F4 version. It’ll give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Good luck, and enjoy your new lens! Don’t be shy about showing me the pictures you take with it.

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About the Author ()

David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.

Comments (6)

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  1. Ray Mitchell says:

    I recently purchased a Sigma 18 250mm lens for 3 reasons for my Nikon D5000 camera. I own Nikon 18-50 and Nikon 50 to 200mm lenses. 1? I no longer have to concern myself with making lens changes, 2/ Sigma has a good reputation 3/ as an enthusiastic amateur photographer I am very satisfied with the photos with all aspects of the new lens.

  2. Xander says:

    @Jimmy I haven’t looked at other brands, but a Nikon 18 – 200mm appears to be much more expensive than a 50-200mm.

  3. Keith says:

    You have considered only focal length in answering this question. Optical quality also needs to be considered. the digitalpicture.com review of the Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM Lens states

    “Overall, the Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM Lens is not a great performer optically. “

  4. mike says:

    i think the answer would depend on what kind of photos Heart would like to take. if she needs the reach, then the 55-200 would be the good choice, or maybe a 75-300?
    Personally, i would get a 50mm F1.8. it’s in the same range, but i learned so much about aperture and depth of field with the f1.8. i was able to do things that i would not be able to try with the kit lens, or the 55-200. plus the prime is cheaper. :)

  5. Paulo says:

    I want the lens Canon EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM…^_^

  6. Jimmy says:

    So what about an 18-200mm? it combines all those features and saves you having to change lenses. The only problems I think is that it only goes down to F3.5 (in th Canon anyway).

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