Best DSLR Camera Lenses

Updated August 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
123 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best DSLR camera lenses

Last Updated August 2019

No matter how great your DSLR camera is, you won't get the best results if you don't have the right lens. A camera is only as good as the lens you use with it, after all, which is why any budding photographer should be careful to select the best DSLR camera lens to fit their needs.

Finding the right lens for you can be tough, especially if you're just starting out with photography or you've recently switched to a DSLR from a point-and-shoot camera. There's a great deal of lens-specific lingo that you need to wade through, which can be baffling to all but the pros.

We've put together this shopping guide to cut through the jargon and help you locate your perfect DSLR camera lens.

Consider the type of photographs you take most often before buying a DSLR camera lens. Not every lens is good for every task.

Key considerations

Types of DSLR camera lenses

  • Kit lenses: Kit lenses are the standard DSLR camera lenses that come with your camera body if you purchase it as a bundle. Kit lenses are all-rounders, allowing you to zoom out to get wide-angle landscape shots or zoom in for portraits or basic macro photography. However, as is often the case, they tend to perform adequately for a number of purposes rather than do just one thing extremely well.

  • 50 mm lenses: These are "prime" DSLR camera lenses – lenses with a single fixed focal point. They're perhaps the most widely used prime lenses because they're great for portraits and street photography. Although they lack the ability to zoom in and out, they take sharper, crisper photos than lenses with the ability to zoom. They also tend to have a wide aperture, so they're good for low-light photography, such as taking pictures at live music events, particularly at small, intimate venues.

  • Wide-angle lenses: Wide-angle lenses can be either prime lenses or have a variable focal range. They're designed for when you need a wider field of view to fit a lot in the frame. If you regularly shoot panoramic landscapes or architecture, you'll need a decent wide-angle lens in your arsenal, but they're not much use for portraits or close-ups.

  • Fish-eye lenses: Although they're a bit more niche than some lenses, many photographers love experimenting with fish-eye lenses. These ultra-wide angle lenses bulge out at the end and offer a 100° to 180° field of vision, resulting in a wide panoramic or hemispherical image with a degree of visual distortion.

  • Macro lenses: If you're interested in all things tiny, a macro lens is what you need. Macro lenses are perfect for taking pictures of insect life, close-ups of flowers, and detail shots for e-commerce. For insects and other mini beasts, you're best off with a macro lens with a longer focal point, so you don't have to get in too close and potentially scare off your subject.

  • Telephoto lenses: It isn’t just the paparazzi who need telephoto lenses. Since you can zoom right in to photograph your subjects from afar, telephoto lenses are ideal for wildlife photography, stadium concerts, and sporting events. Telephoto lenses can be pricey, however, particularly those with extremely long focal lengths.

Primed for action

This excellent prime DSLR camera lens has a fixed focal length of 50 mm and f/1.8 maximum aperture. It's a fast lens with impressively sharp focus and a built-in stepping motor. As such, this Canon lens is perfect for portraiture, photographing moving subjects, and snapping shots in poor light conditions.

DSLR camera lens features

Focal length

The focal length of a DSLR camera lens refers to the distance (in millimeters) from the point of convergence in your lens to your camera's sensor when the subject is in focus. It tells you how much of the scene will fit in your snaps. That might sound confusing, but the salient piece of information is that the lower the focal length, the wider the shot and the more you'll fit in each frame. Lenses with 14 mm, 20 mm, 24 mm, 28 mm, and 35 mm are wide-angle lenses that fit a lot into each frame. You’ll fit less in your photo with a 50 mm to 100 mm lens, but the scene will be magnified.

Aperture

The size of the aperture determines how much light can come through the lens and hit the sensor. The lens aperture is expressed as the lowercase letter f followed by a number, so it’s often referred to as the "f-stop." The lower the number, the larger the aperture, and the more light can enter the camera. A camera with an f-stop of f/1.8 has a larger aperture than one with f/22. Lenses with large apertures are great for action shots because you can use a quicker shutter speed in regular lighting without the image darkening. Larger apertures are also ideal for shooting in subpar lighting conditions.

Lens mount

Every camera manufacturer has its own lens mount; for example, Canon lenses are only compatible with Canon camera bodies. The only exceptions are Olympus and Panasonic, whose DSLR cameras use a Four Thirds mount. Third party manufacturers sometimes make each lens with a variety of lens mount options to fit different cameras.

Image stabilization

Some lenses have image stabilization to help prevent blurred images when taking photos without a tripod or similar. Unless the body of your camera has image stabilization, we'd definitely recommend a lens with this feature. It's particularly important with telephoto lenses because these produce more image shake with long focal lengths.

EXPERT TIP

Be sure to put the lens cap back on your DSLR lens when you put your camera away to avoid scratches.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Although prime lenses are less versatile, you often get sharper images using them.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Always check that your chosen lens is compatible with your DSLR camera body before buying.


Staff  | BestReviews

DSLR camera lens prices

DSLR camera lenses come at a very wide range of price points. Basic prime lenses tend to be the least expensive, sometimes as little as $30 to $50, but you should expect to pay closer to $100 for a name-brand model.

Mid-range DSLR camera lenses cost around $300 to $800. You can find all kinds of lenses in this price range, including macro lenses and more basic telephoto options.

High-end camera lenses can cost several thousand dollars, with professional-grade models costing as much as $20,000, which would be overkill for the vast majority of photographers.

Budget-friendly functionality

This Yongnuo lens is a great alternative to a name-brand prime lens if you're looking to save some money. The wide f/1.8 aperture allows in plenty of light for fast shutter speeds and low-light photography, as well as producing a shallow depth of field. Surprisingly sturdy for the low price, this lens is compatible with both full-frame and APS-C format cameras.

Tips

  • Pay attention to sensor format compatibility. DSLR cameras either have APS-C or full-frame sensors (the latter are generally found on high-end professional models). Lenses that are designed to be compatible with full-frame cameras work fine on cameras with APS-C sensors, but not the other way around.

  • Choose the right lens for your camera. While you can buy adapters to get around lens mount compatibility issues, you’ll generally get better results with lenses that fit your camera without an adapter.

  • Think about focus. The vast majority of modern lenses offer an autofocus function, but many also allow for manual focus, which advanced photographers may appreciate.

  • Size matters. Check the size and weight of your chosen camera lens, especially if you're buying a large telephoto lens. Some can be quite unwieldy.

Other products we considered

With thousands of DSLR camera lenses available, spanning all kinds of brands and types, picking out just five is a challenge. We considered a huge number of other lenses that might be of interest. If you're looking for a wide-angle lens for a Canon, the Canon EF-S Lens is an exceptional choice. The optimized lens element placement gives excellent image quality, and the circular seven-blade aperture produces soft backgrounds. The Canon EF USM Macro Lens is a superb choice for capturing tiny objects and close-up details, though it also shines for human and animal portraiture. Although it's too pricey for most budgets, the Nikon AF-S FX is incredible in situations where you can't get close to the action. It's the wildlife photographer's lens of choice, but it also works well for concerts and sporting events in large venues.

A "fast" lens is one with a large maximum aperture. The larger the aperture, the quicker the shutter speed you can use, which is great for taking pictures of moving subjects.

FAQ

Q. How should I store my DSLR lenses when I'm not using them?

A. To avoid scratches, put both the front and rear lens caps on your lens before storing it, and put it in a suitable case to help protect it. You can buy both soft and hard cases for camera lenses.

Q. What's the correct way to clean a DSLR camera lens?

A. You can use a soft, clean, damp cloth to remove any dust and smudges from your camera lens. Alternatively, you can buy specialty lens-cleaning products or lens-cleaning kits that contain cloths, a mild cleaning solution, and other useful cleaning tools.

Q. Do I need to use a monopod or tripod to get good photos?

A. While a monopod or tripod isn't essential for most photography, certain types of photos and lenses could benefit from tripod or monopod use. When trying to get a close-up with a macro lens, you'll often get a much sharper image with a tripod or monopod. They're also great for telephoto shots, long exposures, or for use with lenses that don't feature image stabilization.

The team that worked on this review
  • Alvina
    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Vukan
    Vukan
    Post Production Editor

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey