Popular DSLR Camera Lenses 2018-01-04T21:20:01+00:00

So you’re looking to buy a new camera lens for your DSLR…congrats! Camera lenses arguably are even more valuable than camera bodies since they tend to hold their value well. As long as you take care of that camera lens, you can re-sell it for a pretty good value. This is also good news if you’re looking for affordable lens options. If you buy from a reputable seller, used camera lenses are a good way to score quality gear while saving money.

Below, you’ll find a chart of some of the most popular camera lenses for DSLRs. This list is currently aimed at Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Is your favorite lens missing? Shoot me a message and I’ll get it added to the list!


What makes a camera lens more expensive?

Looking at the chart below, you’ll notice a wide range of prices when it comes to camera lenses. Some cost just a couple hundred dollars, while others are a couple thousand. There are several qualities that determine the price of a lens.

1. EF versus EF-S

Every DSLR camera body is either designated as full-frame or an APS-C (also known as crop sensor). This difference determines what types of lenses can be paired with your camera. An EF lens is designed to work with both full frame and APS-C Canon DSLRs. On the other hand, an EF-S lens can only function with an APS-C camera. Generally, full-frame cameras are more expensive, as are EF lenses.

2. Constant versus Variable Aperture Lens

Every lens name consists of the focal range it covers, as well as an aperture or f-stop value, denoted as f/#. If a lens’ f-stop is a range of numbers (for example, 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6), the lens has a variable aperture. This means that the aperture will change depending on the zoomed focal length. If the f-stop on the lens is a single number (for example, 70-200mm f/2.8), it has a constant aperture that stays the same even as you zoom in and out. For beginners, a variable aperture lens is fine. However, upgrading to a constant aperture lens will help you shoot better in low light situations. Also, constant aperture lenses are usually built sturdier and cost more than their variable aperture counterparts.

3. Aperture (f-stop)

A lens’ aperture will also determine its price. The higher the aperture, the more expensive the lens. Keep in mind that a high aperture actually means a smaller f-stop number. So a 50mm f/1.2 lens has a higher aperture and price point than a 50mm f/2.0 lens.

4. Image Stabilization (IS) or Vibration Reduction (VR)

Also known as Vibration Reduction (VR) in Nikon terms, Image Stabilization (IS) is a feature added to select lenses to help replace a tripod to take sharp photos. With an IS lens, you can shoot hand-held in low light situations and still pull off a focused shot. Thus, IS will add to the price of a lens, compared to a non-IS lens.

5. First or Second Generation

If there is an extra number attached to a lens, such as the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II, this means it is the newest version of a lens. Being newer, the second generation is always more expensive than the original, although it may have better features.

6. Third-Party Brand Options

For a long time, third-party camera brands were scorned. Today, these lens and accessory makers keep getting better and better, so buying off-brand DSLR lenses is a viable option. Not only do you get some quality glass, but you can save money as third-party brands tend to be much cheaper than buying Canon or Nikon gear. Third party brands to keep an eye on: Tamron, Sigma, Tokina, and Samyang, to name a few.

Which lens should you buy first?

With a sea of lens options out there, it’s tough to narrow down your top choices. If you’re new to the DSLR camera world, here are some suggestions. Keep in mind that if you are shooting on an APS-C crop sensor camera, the focal lengths listed below will be slightly zoomed in.

  • Stick with the kit lens. When you buy a new camera body, you usually have the option to purchase a kit lens that the manufacturer automatically pairs with your camera; generally, the kit lens is slightly cheaper if you buy it with your new camera, rather than separately. These days, the kit lens has dramatically improved and it tends to be a very useful mid-range zoom. Consider getting it.
  • Start with a mid-range zoom. The 24-70mm focal length is most loved by many photographers given its versatile focal length. The 24-105mm lens is also a solid choice.
  • Pick out a prime lens. The “Nifty Fifty” is usually recommended as the first lens every photographer should start with. It’s cheap and versatile and will help you learn how to frame and compose your shots without relying on a zoom. If you have the budget, a 35mm prime lens is also a great choice as the 35mm range is closest to what the human eye sees.
  • Invest in a telephoto lens. Beginning photographers rarely need a super telephoto lens when they’re first starting out. But if you want to invest in the future, a 70-200mm lens is a solid investment that you can grow into.

Need a camera for your lens? 

Check out Popular DSLR Cameras and Popular Mirrorless Cameras

Popular Canon Lenses

“L” Lens Designation – Canon Only

Canon awards the “L” title to a select line of professional lenses. Although not officially confirmed, many sources say that the “L” stands for “Luxury.” Indeed, a Canon L lens will be superbly built as it is the cream of the crop. Most Canon L lenses focus fast and are weather resistant. They are also priced higher than a non-L lens.

Note: you can sort the table below by clicking on the blue titles.

LensMSRPApertureLens TypeZoom or Prime
Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS$599.99VariableMid-RangeZoom
Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS II$1099.00FixedMid-RangeZoom
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II$1699.00FixedMid-RangeZoom
Canon EF-24-70mm f/4 L IS$899.99FixedMidrangeZoom
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro $599.99FixedMediumPrime - Macro
Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro$1399.00FixedMediumPrime - Macro
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II$549.99VariableTelephoto Zoom
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS$299.99VariableTelephoto Zoom
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II$1899.00FixedTelephotoZoom
Canon EF-100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS$1699.00VariableTelephotoZoom
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III$2199.00FixedWide-AngleZoom
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS$550.00FixedWide-AnglePrime
Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5$599.99VariableUltra Wide-AngleZoom
Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS$999.00FixedUltra Wide-AngleZoom
Canon 8-15mm f/4 Fisheye$1249.00FixedFisheyeZoom

Popular Nikon Lenses

On Nikon cameras, an FX sensor is the equivalent of a 35mm film frame; a DX sensor is smaller. Thus, Nikon DX lenses are optimized for use on Nikon DX DSLRs. When a DX lens is mounted to a Nikon FX DSLR, the camera’s DX-crop mode will turn on, resulting in a 1.5x magnification (crop) factor. In simple words, use DX lenses with DX cameras, and FX lenses with FX cameras.

Note: you can sort the table below by clicking on the blue titles.

LensMSRPApertureLens TypeZoom or Prime
Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G$196.99FixedFixedPrime
Nikon AF-S DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6$149.99VariableTelephotoZoom
Nikon AF FX 50mm f/1.8G$219.99FixedMediumFixed
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G$449.99FixedMediumFixed
Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G$172.99VariableMid-RangeZoom
Nikon AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR$199.99VariableMid-RangeZoom
Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G$479.99FixedTelephoto Fixed
Nikon AF-S DX 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G VR$499.99VariableTelephoto Zoom
Nikon AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR$949.99VariableTelephotoZoom
Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX$199.99FixedWide-AnglePrime
Nikon 24mm f/1.4 AF-S G$1999.99FixedWide-AnglePrime

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S$1899.99FixedTelephotoZoom
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