So you have your kit lens that came with your DSLR, but you’re feeling like it’s holding you back. Now you’re wondering which Canon lens to buy first.
I felt the same way in the beginning and I didn’t know what direction to go.
Prime or Zoom?
So many choices! But after doing a little research, I was so happy with the decision I made. Here were the factors I considered:
1 – PORTABILITY
This narrowed my search down right away. Originally I was looking at possibly a telephoto lens but if I wanted something portable, it just doesn’t fit the bill.
Alright, so now we’re down to wide-angle, macro, or standard. I love it when these things are quick!
2 – USABILITY
My criteria for usability was a little more strict. I wanted something that was great in low light situations, and had the capability to be used indoors so that I could catch candid moments when necessary.
I also wanted something that was versatile where I could capture that beautiful bokeh (or dreamy soft background), but also be able to take establishing landscape shots that really give me the overall feeling of a place. Macro lenses don’t fit this description so out that goes!
I was now left with wide-angle and standard to choose from.
Helpful hint: In case you’re wondering what the difference is, wide-angle lenses have a focal length of less than 35mm where as standard lenses have a focal length similar to how we see the world which falls between 35-70mm.
I really liked the wide field of view I could capture with the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f4.5-5.6 IS STM. But then I also liked the idea of grabbing a 50mm lens for versatility. Canon has three options, the f 1.2, f 1.4 and f 1.8 (otherwise known as the nifty fifty).
Onto narrowing it down further!
3 – APERTURE / FAST LENS
What made you want a DSLR camera? For me, one of the reasons was that my point and shoot didn’t allow me to get that bokeh (or beautiful shallow depth of field) that I wanted in my photos.
For this I needed something with a wide open Aperture like f 1.4. A lens with an Aperture like this is considered a fast lens because with such a wide open Aperture, you can let in more light and use a faster shutter speed. A lens like this would also fit the bill for the low light situation I noted above.
Here’s why: Think of how big your pupils get in dark situations, well cameras work the same way. And with an Aperture like f 1.4 your pupil would be nice and wide and therefore better for taking photos in low light.
This narrowed my search down to selecting one of the 50mm lenses. Great almost there!
4 – PRICE
Who am I kidding. Every time I saw a Canon Ad on Instagram for that beautiful 70-200 f2.8 IS II USM lens, my finger hovered sooo low over the purchase button. It was always something crazy like $750 off! But then I’d look at the price of the lens ON SALE being $2,300 CA and go to put another couple of dollars in my piggy bank. Maybe one day 70-200, maybe one day.
Really though, at this point, my decision was between these three lenses:
- Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM
- Canon EF 50mm F1.4 USM
- Canon EF 50mm F1.2L (the L lets you know it’s a professional lens by the way)
I loved everything I was reading about the 1.2. The quality of the bokeh at 1.2 was amazing, the colour contrast was great and it was small enough for me to take on my adventures.
Then, I looked at the price… It was $1000 more than the 1.4! What the heck!? For my first lens, there’s no way I was going to purchase that. I’d be too scared to use it!
So, this brought me to the 1.8 and the 1.4. The 1.4 was about $150 more than the 1.8 at the time and I could swallow that pill much easier if necessary.
The last thing to check was the quality of the lens and then I’d make my selection for the very first lens to add to my camera bag!
5 – QUALITY OF THE LENS
Alright, so now I was down to either the 1.8 or the 1.4 and here’s what I found in my research:
- Lens mount is made of metal (less prone to wear than plastic)
- 7 Blade Aperture – average number for good quality bokeh
- Adequate colour quality
- Stepper Motor Technology (this is what STM stands for and it is a quiet and smooth autofocus system)
- No distance or window markings (I wanted to have a distance scale to be able to see where focus to infinity would be in my Astrophotography)
- Not as sharp as the 1.4 in the center of the photo at open Apertures like f1.8 and f2
- Lens mount is also made of metal (less prone to wear than plastic)
- 8 Blade Aperture – according to my research, the number of blades is what makes the difference between good bokeh and not so good bokeh, and the more blades, the better
- Good colour quality
- Quiet Ultrasonic Motor (this is what USM stands for on the lens in case you’re wondering – these motors are less noisy, faster, and usually more accurate when autofocusing)
- This one had a distance scale, yes!
- Sharper than the 1.8 in the center of the photo at open Apertures like f1.8 and f2
Honestly, after reading all this the decision was pretty easy for me. I really wanted lens with a distance scale so that I could easily focus to infinity for my landscape and astrophotography. Plus, I also liked that the 1.4 had better colour quality. I sure love those vibrant tones! Since lenses are an investment, I decided to get the one that checked all the boxes outside of price.
I broke the mould and went for the 1.4 instead of the classic entry-level 1.8 nifty fifty.
What I love about this decision though is that I never have to upgrade this lens. I’m so happy with what it allows me to capture in terms of that dreamy soft background and I don’t feel like it’s holding me back in any way. In fact, sometimes I feel it makes me look better at photography than I actually am. But I’ll take it!
However, it may not be the one for you and that’s totally okay! The Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM Lens is Canon’s best-selling lens for a reason which is a combination of it’s amazing price and good quality. It’s certainly much better than it’s predecessor, the Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II. So just be sure, if you’re getting the 1.8, to get the right 1.8 which is this one right here:
SAMPLE PHOTOS OF THE CANON 1.4
Here’s some sample shots taken with the Canon 50mm f1.4:
If you’re looking for a great all around lens that you can take with you on your adventures, that gives you the ability to capture that beautiful shallow depth of field, and results in crystal clear images, well you know what my suggestion is!
If you’re in the beginning stages of DSLR photography, make sure to check out our FREE 8 Essential Tips for DSLR Photography Beginners. It might just knock your socks off! Plus, there’s a little something special at the end.
These are the tips that gave me creative control over my photos. Now, I actually understand how to use my DSLR to get the feeling I want and capture the moment each and every time!
Click here to sign up for the FREE 8 Essential DSLR Photography Tips for Beginners!