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This post was most recently updated on Feb 13th, 2022

Whether you are starting as a photographer or you’re a seasoned professional, there are a few must-have lenses. Some photographers like to move their feet for every shot, getting up close and personal. Whereas others like to shoot from far away without knowingly making themselves present.

Naturally, if you are a wildlife photographer then a telephoto zoom lens is a must-have, as you don’t want to scare away the subject, but this is a photographer who specializes in one discipline. Here we are talking about some must-have lenses for all photographers.

Whether you’re into fashion photography, portraiture, weddings, wildlife, street photography, architecture, real estate, night sky, adventure, action or many other avenues, these lenses are all great in their own right.

70-200mm f2.8/f4

Long lenses make capturing candid moments easier as the subject isn’t aware of your presence, they also allow you to get shots you would have missed if you had a wider lens. This lens is one of the most widely used in the photography world. It is versatile ranging from 70mm to 200mm.

You can capture standard field of view shots on the wide end and tight detail shots on the zoom end.

As an example you can shoot full-body portraits at 70mm providing the area is big enough, tighter landscapes at 130mm, and headshot portraits at 200mm. It is also a great lens for sports, wildlife, weddings, street photography and much more.

Regarding the maximum aperture: f/4 is standard and will get you decent low-light capabilities plus a shallow depth of field. But the f/2.8 aperture is the holy grail of 70-200mm lenses, the beautiful depth of field is simply stunning at f/2.8, plus you can shoot indoors for wedding ceremonies, graduations without low light issues.

The wider aperture will also let you shoot at faster shutter speeds so you can capture fast-moving subjects such as Moto GP or fast-flying birds. I swear by my 70-200mm as my favourite all-around lens, and my go too for fashion photography.

On the other hand, a long lens doesn’t allow you to capture the room or the view in its wholeness, often meaning you will miss out on a lot of the energy and atmosphere from the moment.

Specific Lenses

  • Canon 70-200mm USM II f2.8
  • Canon 70-200mm USM I f2.8
  • Canon 70-200mm USM I f4
  • Sony A 70-200mm f2.8

24-70mm f2.8/f4

A must-have standard zoom lens is the 24-70mm 2.8. The beautiful thing about this lens is its versatility. At 24mm it can be used for indoor real estate photography. It is also perfect for big wide landscape shots capturing all the eye can see.

It is also a strong contender for night sky photography and events such as weddings and parties. At the long end, you get a field of view close to that of the human eye, and the perfect focal length for portrait photography.

These zooms are hugely popular and come in many shapes and sizes. For instance, you can grab an 18-55mm kit lens or the more expensive 24-70mm 2.8 lens, which in my opinion is the holy grail of general-purpose zoom lenses.

Out of all my lenses, the 24-70mm gets the most action. It quite simply offers every focal length you need in any situation as a photographer, other than when a big zoom is needed for subjects very far away, but this is more of a specific area of photography lenses.

Ideally, your general-purpose zoom has a wide maximum aperture for low-light shooting and precise depth of field control, the f/2.8 is the one if you can stretch to it, but f/4 also works nicely.

Another appealing perk to this lens is its weight, it’s light, so you can throw the camera over your shoulder and shoot all day as opposed to the bigger 70-200mm which tires you out quickly.

This is more niche but worth mentioning as I have used mine for this. If you happen to venture into underwater photography and buy housing for your camera then this lens is also a great one to have for the water. At 24mm it takes beautiful wide underwater shots producing amazing clarity.

Specific Lenses

  • Canon 24-70mm f2.8
  • Canon 24-70mm f4
  • Sigma 24-70mm f4

50mm 1.2 ,1.4, 1.8

50mm 1.2 ,1.4, 1.8

Many photographers claim the 50mm is the absolute must-have. Claimed to be the creme de la creme of lenses. There are many reasons why this is thought to be the case.

One of the main reasons is the theory that this lens sees closest to that of the human eye (ignoring peripherals). If you work it out, the circa 45° field of view of the 50mm lens is a bit narrower than the approximated 55° cone of visual attention, and the 35mm lens is a bit wider at about 63°.

To put it more simply, both the 50mm and 35mm lenses see the world the way our own eyes do, give or take.

What many photographers love about this is it allows them to get creative within a field of vision they feel familiar with.

This lens undoubtedly produces some of the most beautiful portrait images of any lens out there, offering mind-blowing clarity. It is a nifty little lens, light and manoeuvrable which is a big perk for all photographers.

It also keeps you moving your feet. This is very important as a photographer. It is easy to buy a big zoom lens and get lazy, and although this is nice sometimes, especially if you are working a lot, it can take some of the magic out of photography.

Getting up close and personal to the moments is what it’s really about. And with this 50mm lens this is essential.

Specific Lenses

  • Canon 50mm f1.2
  • Canon 50mm f1.4
  • Canon 50mm f1.8

Magical Macro – 100mm

Macro lenses are specialised lenses that shoot images with a magnified ratio, of 1:1, which means they capture the ordinary and make it extraordinary. They bring out the close details of the most intricately beautiful things on the planet.

Whether it’s the fine details of someone’s inner eye or meandering the veins on a leaf, or the ever-changing pattern of a butterfly’s wing, this lens captures these details in a mind-blowingly beautiful way.

Macro lenses usually come in focal lengths of around 100mm, but there are some macro lenses at 60mm. Having fast apertures of at least f/2.8, the lenses allow lots of light into the sensor. This lens also shows versatility not just in close-ups but for portraiture too.

Specific Lenses

  • Canon EF IS USM 100mm f2.8

Conclusion

Listed above are four of the most important lenses any photographer should own. All offering different perks, but all arguably equally as important. Which one to buy first depends on what exactly you’ll be shooting most, but in reality, you can’t go wrong with any of these four lenses.

Happy shooting!