Gear

My Top 5 Recommended Canon Lenses Under $600

Earlier this month I posted my top 5 Nikon lenses and now it's Canon's turn! If you are wanting to add a few lenses to your arsenal and you shoot with a Canon DSLR, check out my recommendations below. Please note that both of these articles are geared towards those who own a cropped sensor (for Canon, an APS-C) camera; if you own a full-frame camera (such as the Canon 5D Mark iii), you should be well on your way to understanding lens selection and will be in a whole different budget ball-park. However, I do note that some of these are compatible for both camera bodies AND I give just a few options that are closer to the $1,000 range. 

For those of you just getting started or wanting to find better image quality, here's a few lenses that can help! 

Best Affordable Canon Lenses - www.mommatography.com

  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 - Portrait/Fast Lens

    • If you're looking for a great affordable lens that can dramatically improve your photography, this is the one to start with. It's a no brainer at the price of only $125 on Amazon! I'm blown away at how great that price is; it is even $100 cheaper than the Nikon equivalent! With this prime lens (a lens that has a fixed-focal length or no zoom which means sharper images) you can get those beautiful blurry backgrounds or bokeh. If you've got a little more to spend and want to take it a step further towards great image quality and great performance in really low light settings, check out the 50mm f/1.4 for $349 on Amazon. Both of these lenses are compatible with Canon full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras. 

  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 - Portrait Lens

    • My good friend is a fantastic wedding and portrait photographer and this is her favorite lens. The extra focal length in the 85mm creates Bokeh that is absolutely beautiful. It is a great portrait lens! Once again, this is a fixed/prime lens and will offer sharp images with great quality. You'd be surprised at the image quality with this compared to your kit lens (if you have the 18-55mm lens)!  This lens is compatible with Canon full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras. Find this lens for $369 on Amazon

  • Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 - Everyday Lens

    • Okay if we were talking perfect lenses here, the next option of an 'all-around, every-day lens' might be the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L. BUT that lens costs FOUR TIMES the amount of this Tamron lens! The reviews about it are all over the place; it is a great lens, especially at the lower price. It's not as heavy and well-built as the Canon L lenses, but it is well made and the image quality is pretty dang close. To have a versatile lens that offers a good zoom range AND the ability to shoot in low light with that lovely f/2.8, that's a pretty happy thing. This one is worth looking into. Get it for $499 on Amazon. If you have the budget and want to find the next best 'walk-around' option, one of the greatest is the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L lens that goes for $999 on Amazon. Photographers love the reasonably fast aperture, a great focal length and very sharp images. 

  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L - Telephoto Zoom Lens

    • If you need more zoom than your everyday lens, this telephoto lens is a great buy. The f/2.8 version is $600+ more than this version, but the consistent aperture of f/4 even at it's maximum zoom is a good thing to have. The image quality of this L series lens is awesome; it yields sharp images, has fast focusing and is lighter than the more expensive versions. Keep in mind that this lens will be fantastic for well-lit settings such as outdoor sports where you can plan to use a fast shutter speed. Find it for $599 on Amazon. This lens is also compatible with both Canon full-frame and APS-C cameras. 

  • Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 - Wide Angle Lens

    • This lens is a great intro lens for wide-angle photographing (such as landscapes or interiors). It is also at a great price of $279 on Amazon. This lens will only work on an APS-C camera, not full-frame. At the top of our price line is another option, the incredible Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L wide angle lens ($999 on Amazon). Photographers rave that this lens boasts even greater image quality and sharpness than the 16-35mm f/2.8! If you're serious about landscapes or real estate images, this will give you a lot of bang for your buck. 

As always, be sure you consider your subject matter and then your budget to find out which lens is the next best choice for your camera bag. I hope these options can send you in the right direction for improving your photography! So much of it has to do with your lens. Don't forget that!

 

Sony Alpha A5000 - Review of a Compact Mirrorless Camera

Who wants a great camera but doesn't love the idea of hauling around a heavy bag full of lenses and a big' ol DSLR!? If you're in the market for an easier on-the-go option, today's post is for you. We're going to hear from another Mom who happens to be my lovely sister! She has sent me photos from this point-and-shoot camera and I am impressed. I never really LOVED previous point-and-shoot cameras I owned, so my first thought about them was always a big "no thanks"! Her experience with her Sony is definitely changing my mind. Check out her opinion and user review of the small but powerful Sony Alpha A5000. 


Hi! My name is Aarika and I wanted to share with you how much I have LOVED my Sony Alpha A5000. We got it for three hundred somethin' from Best Buy on Black Friday a couple years ago. It usually retails for $450 so we scored a good deal. 

Great Point and Shoot Compact Camera - Mirrorless Camera Sony Alpha Review

What I love MOST about it:

  • It is smaller than a standard DSL-R camera so I take it everywhere in my purse all the time. I know sometimes people get really nice expensive cameras and they hardly use them because they're bulky and hard to lug around. That's why we settled on a mirrorless camera.  

  • Although it is smaller, it has a great lens. I think the lens and camera quality give it the ability to take really great pictures that exceed the quality, depth and interest of a standard point and shoot. 

  • I use it on auto (always) and get great photos.  

  • I LOVE the videos it takes. The focus on the subject and the blurred background make the videos so interesting and beautiful.  

  • It has an awesome share feature where it can send photos and video right to your phone or computer.  

  • Although I don't own any other lenses, I like the idea that I could change out the lens if I ever became more interested in photography.

  • We purchased the three year warranty that covers drops, spill and loss and that gives me such peace of mind (especially having young kids).  

  • ALL the point-and-shoot cameras we used prior to having the sony never captured the kids in motion! So many shots were blurry. This camera can take pictures mid-sword fight that are clear and show the expression and detail of their faces (I usually I use the flash in those moments and am pretty happy with the outcome)!

Great Point and Shoot Compact Camera - Mirrorless Camera Sony Alpha Review
Great Point and Shoot Compact Camera - Mirrorless Camera Sony Alpha Review

Cons

  • I did have a hard time finding the right sized case for it and ended up buying one from a British seller on eBay which has been perfect!

  • My camera seemed slower to start up when I would turn it on after a year of owning it. I called SONY and learned the reason was that I needed to reformat my SD card. After doing that it is it back to it's usual snappy self.  

Great Point and Shoot Compact Camera - Mirrorless Camera Sony Alpha Review
Great Point and Shoot Compact Camera - Mirrorless Camera Sony Alpha Review
Great Point and Shoot Compact Camera - Mirrorless Camera Sony Alpha Review

To read more about mirrorless cameras, check out this great article. Here's a quote from that article explaining the benefit of mirrorless cameras: 

"Mirrorless cameras are interchangeable lens cameras that don't have the mirror and optical viewfinder that define a DSLR. In most other respects, they're extremely similar: with only a few exceptions, most mirrorless cameras these days are built around the same sized sensors as DSLRs, increasingly have similar lenses available, and can offer the same image quality."

If you're looking for a compact camera that quality-wise still packs a punch, the Sony Alpha models are definitely worth looking into! Check them out!

PIN IT!

Great Travel Camera - Compact Camera for On The Go
 

My Top 5 Recommended Nikon Lenses (Under $800)!

So you've had a Nikon camera for some time now and you're getting a little bored with the kit lens it came with. You want a new lens or two, but where do you even start? Today I'd like to get you headed in the right direction with some lens recommendations that hopefully won't cost much more than you paid for your camera body. It can definitely be a SHOCK to discover how expensive lenses can be.

Check out my top five lenses (okay, I mentioned seven :) for APS-C sensor cameras, or DX-format lenses, under $800. If you aren't sure what kind of camera you have, do a quick google search to find out if it's a crop sensor (DX) or a full-frame (FX). If you want to learn more about the difference between a crop vs full frame camera, read my article here. It's VERY important to know the difference when buying a lens.  

  • 1. Nikon's Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 or Nikkor AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8. I grouped these two lenses together because they are similar focal lengths and are perform similarly. Both are very sharp and allow you to shoot in low light. The 35mm lens will allow you to get closer to your subject (about a foot) and the 50mm requires about a foot and a half from your subject, so not quite as close. I like having a little more distance from my subject with my 50mm; it also gives me a little more bokeh (blurry background). The 50mm lens will be compatible on a full-frame camera, should you choose to upgrade your camera body, but the 35mm is not. Both are very affordable! Get the 35mm for $197 on Amazon. Get the 50mm for $216 on Amazon.

Best Nikon Lenses Under $800 - Top DX Lenses - www.mommatography.com
  • 2. For a telephoto/zoom lens I recommend the Nikkor VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6. This lens will give you a great range to zoom for wildlife, your kids sporting events, distant landmarks or landscapes while traveling. This lens is more affordable because it doesn't have a really low maximum aperture, but the Vibration Reduction will help you shoot at lower shutter speeds (to let in more light) without having blurry images. Other zoom lenses with a lower maximum aperture (such as f/2.8) can be $1,400 or more! Get this zoom lens for $497 on Amazon.

Best Affordable Nikon Lenses - Top Nikon Lenses for DX - W
  • 3. Wide angle lens - Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 is a great choice! I own this lens and have loved it; for landscapes and interiors it has been awesome. Distortion is common among wide-angle lenses, and this one handles it well; distortion is minimal. Having the constant f/3.5 aperture lets you shoot wide open in low-lit settings, even zoomed in. It is well built and a good price for $449 on Amazon

Best Affordable Nikon Lenses - Top Nikon Lenses for DX - W
  • 4. A great all-around walk-around lens is the Nikkor 18-200mm AF-S VR II. This lens is great for everyday photography, travel and will give you the right amount of zoom you need in those scenarios. The Vibration Reduction also helps create sharper images. Get it for $596 on Amazon. If it's in your budget and you don't need quite as much zoom, the fast Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM lens is a great replacer for your 18-55 kit lens. It has much better quality and can shoot in low light very well. Get that lower f/stop to let in more light on this lens for $799 on Amazon

Best Affordable Nikon Lenses - Top Nikon Lenses for DX - W
  • 5. If you are serious about portraits, the 85mm f/1.8 lens is beautiful. It is a fast lens to let you shoot in low light, and you'll get that great bokeh (blurry soft backgrounds). This somewhat telephoto fixed lens puts your subject farther away from you, but fills the frame and blurs the background. Get it for $477 on Amazon

Best Affordable Nikon Lenses - Top Nikon Lenses for DX - W

Once again, consider your subject matter and what you'll be photographing most. If you want to start simple and cheap, get a sharp fixed lens! You can't go wrong with one of those. If you have a Nikon lens you love, comment below and let us know!

 

Think More About Lenses, not Just Your Camera Body

Are you still confused about which lens to buy and why it matters so much? Is it hard to stop thinking about that brand new Canon camera body you want to badly? Stop for a minute, read my article and hopefully you'll understand why it's the lens that matters most when taking photos. 

Which Lens Should You Buy? Understand Lens Selection - www.mommatography.com

photo by www.photographybay.com

I've said it probably more than once, but I'm going to say it again; DSLR camera bodies these days are SO GREAT. You could spin in a circle and point to one at the store and be happy with it! Even bodies that were new 2-3 years ago are still GREAT. The difference is made when you are using a good lens. What do you need to consider when choosing a new lens? 

  • FOCAL LENGTH

  • MAXIMUM APERTURE

The focal length of your lens is the mm of length it offers. For example, the 18-55mm kit lens your camera most likely came with, zooms in and out from 18mm - 55mm. A 50mm lens is FIXED; it offers one focal length, doesn't zoom and that's that.

The maximum aperture means the lowest your f/stop # will go on your lens. Every lens has a limit to how 'wide' it can open up to let in light. For example, on that 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, at 18mm (zoomed all the way out) your f/stop will not go past f/3.5. At 55mm (zoomed in) your f/stop can only go to f/5.6. Lenses that offer larger maximum apertures, such as f/2.8 or f/1.4 will be more expensive, because they let in more light and are more versatile. If your budget can afford it, a lens with a larger maximum aperture is always a good choice! Unfortunately, they can get quite expensive. 

Something to Think About: 

  • Fixed lenses are good quality and offer SHARP images and a lot of the time, let in more light allowing you to take photos in lower-lit settings. About that budget? You can get a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens for only $125! The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is $216.95

  • Zoom lenses will allow you to zoom in and out on subjects without physically moving, but have moving parts so they aren't quite as sharp as FIXED lenses. 

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. What do spend most of my time photographing? What is my subject matter? 

  2. Which is more important, image quality or having an all-around lens with the ability to zoom? 

  3. What is my budget for gear? 

Once you determine what style or look you are going for, what you will be shooting and how much you have to spend, you will be ready to narrow down your lens selection and find one that works great for you! If you photograph products, food or take portraits, the 50mm fixed lenses mentioned above are an AWESOME addition to your camera bag, at a low price. Having that lower maximum aperture will change your photography! 

If you want MORE about understanding lenses, head to my article here about understanding lens selection!

 

Full-Frame and Crop Sensor Cameras - Understanding Lenses

Now that we've covered full-frame vs. crop sensor cameras, how do lenses collaborate with these types of cameras? Can we use any Nikon lens on any Nikon camera? Not exactly. I'll tell you why!

With a Canon camera, EFS is the term for a crop sensor lens and EF is the term for a full-frame sensor lens. With Canon, full-frame EF lenses can work on crop sensor cameras, but a crop sensor EFS lens doesn't work on full-frame cameras. 

Nikon's lenses for crop sensor cameras are called EF-S and the full-frame lenses are called FX. With Nikon, you can also use FX lenses on crop sensor camera bodies; however, if you mount an EF-S lens on a full-frame camera body, the edges of your image will be dark (vignetting). The image circle of the crop lens isn't big enough to record the image on the sensor and get the full photo; you'll get dark vignetting if you take a photo with a crop lens on a full-frame camera. The example below shows what the circle of view might look like through a full-frame lens. 

Full Frame Sensor vs. Crop Sensor - Working With Lenses - www.mommatography.com

Canon's crop lenses won't even mount on to a full frame sensor camera. Nikon's crop lenses will mount on a full-frame camera body just fine, but the functionality is basically toast because of the dark vignetting that will show in your image. You can get an idea of what this looks like in my example below; the circle-of-view on a crop lens is smaller.  

Full Frame Sensor vs. Crop Sensor - Working With Lenses - www.mommatography.com

Another thing to consider if you go with a crop sensor camera is the focal length of your lens. A crop sensor changes the focal length of your lens because it changes your field of view. To find your true focal length, you can use a focal length multiplier.

Nikon lenses have a crop factor of 1.5x. Canon's crop factor is 1.6x. To find the focal length, use the focal length of your lens and multiply it by your crop factor. 

Here are a few examples of how to calculate the actual focal length of your crop lens!

  • A Nikon 50mm lens would really be 75mm (50 x 1.5 = 75). 

  • A Canon 50mm lens would really be 80mm (50 x 1.6 = 80). 

So your 50mm lens would have a longer focal length, bringing you much closer to your subject because it acts like a 75mm lens. With crop sensors, you basically get free zoom :)

I will include my same example from the previous post to illustrate how focal length varies between a full-frame and crop-sensor camera. The image on the left was taken with a full frame camera; the image on the right was a crop sensor camera. The images were taken from the same spot with a 50mm lens.

Full Frame Sensor vs. Crop Sensor - Working With Lenses - www.mommatography.com

When it comes to lens selection, remember that on a crop sensor camera, your lens will be longer than it seems.

Don't get too worried about the full-frame vs. crop sensor camera dilemma if you're just starting out and budget is an issue. I've used crop sensor cameras for years; they are still fantastic cameras, especially when paired with a good lens. 

It is smart though, to think about which lenses you'd prefer to invest in; if you can spend a little more for the full-frame lenses it will benefit you greatly if you decide to upgrade to a full-frame camera in the future!