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I am planning to buy a Canon 600D with 18-55 Kit lens. This is going to be my first DSLR. I can afford a 55-250 mm IS II Lens ( as Combo Kit ) or a 50mm F/1.8 Prime lens with my budget.

Please suggest which lens should I buy?

Which one will help me learn photography and satisfy most of the general purpose photography needs of a beginner?

Please note that with my current financial position, I may not be able to buy any more lenses at least for a year.

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We have a lot of similar questions kind of along these lines, but I couldn't find one asking about this particular trade-off. Others are either assuming the 50mm as a given, asking about replacing the 18-55mm with a 50mm, or throwing a 10× superzoom lens into the mix. –  mattdm Nov 9 '13 at 14:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

We have a lot of similar questions on the site already, such as this one, although that doesn't mention the longer zoom. The answer here really depends on what you want to do, which is a bit hard because you are just starting out. There is no one right "general purpose" answer, because what people do generally varies so much. Both lenses give you a different kind of versatility — the 55-250 for its telephoto reach and obvious zoom range, while the 50mm gives you very high image quality for the price and a wide aperture.

I personally don't own any lenses beyond 135mm, and don't miss them. (In fact, the 135mm is a manual lens I rarely even use; 77mm is my typical portrait lens.) But that would probably sound crazy to someone else. So, if you have to make this decision, think about how you already take photos and what you want to do. If you like to stand far away from the action and still get up-close photos, you might start with the zoom. If, on the other hand, you like to take portraits, the 50mm will probably suit you better. (On an APS-C camera like the Canon you are considering, 50mm makes a nice portrait length.) And the 50mm f/1.8 is noticeably more useful in low light.

You may also want to consider a prime lens in the 28mm to 35mm range — this is the very versatile "normal" focal length for this camera. See Why do people recommend 50mm or other prime lenses as starting lenses for learning photography? for some discussion on 35mm vs. 50mm on APS-C. Unfortunately, I don't think Canon offers a cheap entry-level lens in this range (unlike Pentax, Sony, or Nikon). There is a 40mm f/2.8, which I would actually strongly consider — see Which lens serves best as the only lens on a cropped body for a beginner: the 40mm f2.8 or 50mm f1.8? for some views on that.

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The 50mm on any DSLR is a 'forever lens' where the zooms (especially the budget ones) at those lengths tend to be an investment which depreciates fairly rapidly so I'd wait, see if you find yourself limited at 55mm and let someone else take the hit in the pocket and pick one up second-hand cheaply later on. –  James Snell Nov 9 '13 at 14:08
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That's an excellent additional consideration, James. –  mattdm Nov 9 '13 at 14:08
    
For a beginner who doesn't even know yet what they want to shoot, I think the advantages of the versatility of the kit lens outweighs the potential negative down the road of having a lens they no longer need. The kit lens allows them to explore different focal lengths much easier than swapping several prime lenses does. And as @mattdm has already pointed out, many times the kit lens is virtually free, especially with entry level bodies. In almost all cases you can sell the kit lens later on eBay or the like for more than the price difference between the camera w/kit lens and the body only. –  Michael Clark Nov 9 '13 at 20:48
    
Thanks mattdm and All , for your suggestions. I have decided to go with 50mm prime lens. :) –  Logesh kumar Nov 10 '13 at 9:33

Im going to suggest something completely different.

You outgrow the kit lens pretty fast. IQ comes from getting lots of light to the sensor, and 3.5-5.6, where the F3.5 is only at the widest end is simply too restricting, especially if you want to stop down just a bit to improve the performance.

Get the body without a lens, and add a fixed aperture F2.8 standard zoom (17-50mm), from either Tamron or sigma. It's large aperture that is close to a prime gives you a lot of headroom to play around with bokeh portraits at 35-50mm and speudo macro shots, while being an allround walkaround lens for holidays and flashless party photos. I know semi pros using tamron 17-50mm F2.8 for paid wedding photography and I use the sigma version for concert photography. Its like a crop version of the 24-70mm F2.8L on fullframe, and the IQ in real-life performance is close enough at a fraction of the price. The tamron is best for wide angle shots and the sigma is best for the long end (the portrait end), which is why I use that one. Before getting it I use primes - always switching between them, but now I just need to switch when I need 85mm (canon 85mm 1.8) and 135mm (Zeiss 135mm F3.5).

And if you intend doing bird hunting or something then you can save up for the 55-250mm which I heard is pretty good for the money and it is not that expensive so it is within reach. Doing it in this way saves you some incremental improvement steps (= waste money).

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I second this approach, although depending on your style you might even skip the f/2.8 zoom and just get a series of primes. There's also the caveat that sometimes the basic kit lens is cheaper than free — the difference in cost between kit or not is less than the easy sale price of the kit lens online. (Or in some weird cases, the kit itself is even directly cheaper.) More on this overall question at Should I buy a camera with kit lens, or body plus lens separately? –  mattdm Nov 9 '13 at 14:41
    
well, I went with only primes for a few years, and did feel a need for the fixed F (rather than fixed f hahah) standard zoom. other standard zooms Ive had were sitting in the closet, but this one is on the camera most of the time now. –  Michael Nielsen Nov 9 '13 at 16:48
    
you have the same advantages with the F2.8 std zoom, but with the kit lens it wont be long before the same guy comes back with questions like photo.stackexchange.com/questions/5493/… –  Michael Nielsen Nov 9 '13 at 20:49
    
(I think you meant for that last comment to land on the other answer.) –  mattdm Nov 9 '13 at 22:25
    
(Or maybe Michael Clark did.) –  mattdm Nov 9 '13 at 22:26

It really comes down to what you want to be able to do with it. If you want to immediately be able to take much higher quality portraits (and anything at a similar 85mm equivalent zoom range) then the 50mm prime wins hands down for the major increase in image quality over both the 18-55 and the 55-250.

That said, having only an 18-55 and a 50mm lens leaves a huge range of telephoto inaccessible to you. The 55-250 gives you much fuller coverage when paired with your kit lens, but as a super telephoto, the image quality isn't going to be spectacular.

Personally, I'd probably go with the 55-250. It's very similar in concept to the 70-300 I got for my 5D Mark iii when I first got it so that I could cover the telephoto focal range (on a APS-c body, the 55-250 is very nearly equivalent to the 70-300). It will allow you to handle any situation you encounter even if the quality isn't top notch. You can then buy lenses to improve quality at your leisure in the future but won't encounter photos you lack the lens to at least capture. If you really don't plan to need much telephoto though, then it might be worth going for the 50 prime.

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