The 8 Best Lenses For DSLR Cameras to Buy in 2017

Get the perfect shot with these top lenses for your DSLR

There are so many different types of camera lenses and factors to consider, so you really need to do your research before diving into a lens purchase. To get started, it's important to figure out which lenses are compatible with which cameras, as well as what style of shooting is ideal for each one.

Typically, the most important lens specification to know is the focal length, which is represented in millimeters. A single number (e.g. 28 mm) indicates a fixed focal length or “prime” lens, while a range (e.g. 70-300mm) indicates a zoom lens. For an idea on what that means, remember that the human eye is said to have the equivalent focal range of about 30-50 mm on a full frame camera.

Still, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the variety and complexity of digital camera lenses. But if you feel you know enough to dive in, here’s a beginner’s list of the best lenses for DSLR cameras.

For folks looking for an affordable, versatile Canon prime lens, your best bet is probably Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. It’s compatible with full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras, and features a 50mm focal length with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. It’s got an effective focal length of 80 mm on APS-C cameras and 50mm on full-frame cameras. It’s also got a stepping motor for smooth, silent autofocus for stills or video. All these specs make it an ideal tool for anything from portraits to nighttime photography, but, as we mentioned in the intro, it’s best if you already know what style of shooter you are. Lenses are very game-specific, and this prime lens from Canon is no different.

If you’re a Nikon shooter in the market for a similarly versatile but affordable prime lens, check out the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G. It’s got more or less the same specs and features as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM at a slightly higher price point. It can be used for anything from portraits to action photography—you just have to have a Nikon DSLR camera (ideally an FX model). It’s fast, compact and a solid option for beginners and intermediate DSLR photographers. Images come out sharp and detailed, even in low light, and the build itself is sturdy with few signs of breaking or aging. Keep in mind, though, that this lens has a minimum focus distance of about 1.48 ft, meaning you can’t get too close to your subjects. For that, you’ll need a macro lens.

Macro zoom lenses are among the most versatile of DSLR lens, with a wide range typically around 40-200mm. At 70-300mm, this Tamron lens is ideal for handheld shooting, particularly nature, wildlife, sports, and portraits. Like any macro lens, images will come back sharp and highly focused—almost too focused, if there is such a thing. Tiny, close-up images of insects and flowers are also possible, although, depending on the size of the subject, you may not be able to capture its entirety within focus. More distant subjects, however, will be highly focused and richly detailed through the zoom range. In the normal setting, the lens has a minimum focus distance of 59 inches, but with the macro mode engaged that distance shrinks to 37.4 inches. This makes it a versatile lens for a variety of purposes. With versions available for most Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax and Konica Minolta DSLRs, this Tamron is a powerful option for avid photographers on a budget.

Getting into the mid- to high-end range, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture lens is among the best standard zoom lenses you can find. It’s got a focal range of 17-50mm, making it ideal for wide-angle landscape photography. But, with a minimum focus distance of 11 inches, it’s also an ideal option for portrait photography. Images will return in high contrast with impressive brightness, and the fast f/2.8 aperture offers power and versatility in spontaneous low-light conditions. With styles available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony DSLRs, it is a serious contender for one of the best mid-range standard zoom lenses you can find.

Ascending the ladder, we reach the realm of telephoto lenses. These lenses typically have focal ranges north of 70 mm. With a relatively narrow field of view, these lenses are ideal for shooting distant objects or the specific details of close subjects. With a focal range of 70-300mm, this Sigma lens offers an impressive, high-powered tool for shooting sports, landscapes, action and even portraits. It’s got a 1:2 maximum magnification at 300mm, a super multi-layer coating that cuts back on flare and ghosting and a 34.3 - 8.2 degree angle of view. There are compatible versions for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, Minolta and Sony DSLR cameras.

Sigma is widely regarded as one of the top lens manufacturers in the industry, and is actually the largest independent lens manufacturer in the world. They are trusted to produce sturdy, dependable lenses for a variety of cameras and shooting purposes, and this ultra-wide angle lens is no different. With a focal range of just 10-20mm, you know it will deliver a huge depth of field, helping to capture entire buildings, large rooms and other colossal subjects. They are mostly intended for shooting architecture, subject-heavy landscapes and interiors. It offers quick focusing, precision settings, a sturdy build and bright and beautiful color reproduction. Versions of this lens can be attached to Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony DSLR cameras.

Because Canon and Nikon are the two most well-known camera makers in the world, it seems fitting to offer recommendations for the top wide-angle lenses produced by each. For Nikon shooters, there’s the Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G. This is a fast lens for Nikon DSLR cameras, ideally of the FX format. As a prime lens, you will not be able to change the focal length, but if you’re in the market for a powerful, high-performance, wide-angle Nikon lens, this is your guy. It’s got a proprietary Nano Crystal Coating that pretty much eliminates ghosting and flare effects, and it’s got a super fast aperture that allows for bright, faithful contrast and color reproduction in any light conditions.

If you’re an avid, seasoned photographer in the market for a mid- to high-end, wide-angle Canon lens, you’ll definitely want to check out this one. As the primary competitor to Nikon’s 28mm option, this Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 lens is a high-precision wide-angle lens for serious shooters. It’s compatible with Canon EF DSLRs only, and allows for a broad viewing angle and large depth of field. This brings large areas into focus and makes an excellent tool for shooting architecture and landscapes, with sharp, high-contrast images. It’s lightweight, compact, and sturdily built—not just one of the best Canon wide angle lenses, but one of the best in the category.

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