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I am looking for a budget friendly lens to gift a photographer just starting out. He currently uses the Sony α6400 with an 18-135 lens. What would be a good budget friendly lens to add to his collection? He really enjoys moon shots, as well as night photography.

Would a telephoto zoom lens (e.g. the Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3) or a fast prime (e.g. the Sigma 30mm f/1.4) be better for a beginner looking to expand his collection?

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    Questions seeking specific product or service recommendations, where the answer is likely to be either entirely personal or short-lived as a result of changing markets, are off topic here. Please rephrase your question to describe the problem you're trying to solve or what you do not understand that prevents you from determining the answer yourself. Nov 16 at 6:53
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    @RomeoNinov I'm not sure this is one of those "short lived" questions. It's more about whether a slow telephoto zoom lens or a fast wide angle prime lens is a better gift for a new photographer. Of course the "correct" answer will depend on which the photographer in question would rather have.
    – Michael C
    Nov 16 at 8:27
  • @MichaelC, maybe. But OP need to edit the question to make it more "abstract". Nov 16 at 9:03
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    @RomeoNinov You have enough reputation to edit questions yourself :-)
    – Philip Kendall
    Nov 16 at 12:42
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Easy: A fast prime

A 210mm focal length won't enable a shot that the 135mm can't get with cropping. It's also 50% redundant coverage with the kit lens. Basically, it only bonuses a dim 135-210mm zoom compared to present equipment, and you have to swap lenses for that extra 75mm. You can use a oft-overlooked yet cheap extension tube to make the kit lens reach farther and with a higher zoom ratio than the proposed "upgrade"; I've seen sets of 3 mag factors for under $100/set. A cheap (~$100) mirror lens at 500mm might be good for moon shots; they can be soft, but it puts a lot of pixels across the disc, something to consider, and can be fun to have aside from the moon.

An f1.4 aperture on the other hand, will enable TONS of shots that you simply can't/won't get at f4.5: pro-looking portraits, handheld indoor, fast actions, etc. Then consider the better contrast and sharpness you get from primes compared to entry-level zooms, and it really turns to a no-brainer, imho. Years ago, after I got my first prime, I noticed people describing my shots as "good" instead of "neat".

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  • This answer would be the best, most correct answer if the OP were buying a lens for you. That doesn't mean the intended recipient has the same preference. At only 24MP, cropping photos from the Sony α6400 is fairly limited before pixilation begins to be an issue. 210mm is 155% the length of 135mm, and vs. 135mm will enable the subject to appear 1.5X (2.4X by area) larger without loss of resolution. Mentioning extension tubes without also mentioning their main disadvantage (loss of the ability to focus at distances very far beyond directly in front of the camera) is also not helpful.
    – Michael C
    Nov 20 at 0:07
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Lenses are a very personal decision. Only the new photographer can truly answer which lens they would rather have at this point in time. Why not give them a gift card to B&H or Adorama, and let them decide what they want? Both B&H and Adorama are reputable businesses that have been meeting customers' expectations for a long time.

Of the two lenses you've suggested, the 55-210mm would be better for moon shots. Even though it has a narrow maximum aperture (the higher the f-number, the less light the lens allows through) and we usually take photos of the moon at night, the moon is receiving direct sunshine except for the rare eclipse. But the moon is very small in the night sky, much smaller than our brains perceive it to be. So the longer focal length is more important than a fast aperture for taking photos of the moon.

On the other hand, the 30mm/1.4, with its much wider maximum aperture (f/1.4 lets in over 8X as much light as f/4.5, and over 16X more light than f/6.3), would be better for pretty much any other kind of "night photography", including constellations of stars in the night sky as well as night landscapes.

Which one would be more desirable for your intended recipient can only be answered by them.

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I would absolutely go with a 30 1.4

With a 1.4 you get the gift of beautiful bokeh and out-of-focus backgrounds that makes photography feel creative. For photographing around the house, making coffee, playing with kids, details, still life... it is a pleasure to use 1.4 lenses to create things that your eye just doesn't see. That is one of the joys of photography. Creating images that we don't necessarily see every day.

Everyone is right with all their comments. This isn't to put anything up against their answers. I have an entire camera case of gear. Lets just say there isn't a lens I don't own. But when I put my pro cameras away, and leave my grab-and-go camera on the dresser... it has a 35 1.4mm on it for daily life work.

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I know that the 50mm is a long standing favorite of manyt, but anything you can get in the 30-40mm range really makes you think through your shots and gives you a lot of room to explore. I personally love going to my Sigma 35mm 1.4 as an all-around lens. (Recently attached an old Konica 1.8 40mm lens to my Nikon Z6 and have a blast with it)

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  • This doesn't really answer the question, nor does it provide explanations about what you say. Why would any particular focal length make you think through your shots more than others? OP also mentioned moon shots.
    – MrUpsidown
    Nov 23 at 13:58
  • I recently just attached a Konica 1.8 to my Z6 as well and have been LOVING it. (I also got a Konica 28 2.8 an just as fun)
    – Jerome
    Nov 24 at 14:07
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Pancake

I concur that it varies a lot with the individual photographer, but I'll go out on a limb to suggest a very small lens. It increases the amount of time you're willing to carry your camera around with you, hence opportunities to practice. Also, I find that a mid-length fixed lens encourages "frame with your feet" where the photographer is more engaged in the world being photographed, rather than an outside observer.

As an example, the Sony E 20mm f2.8 https://www.dpreview.com/products/sony/lenses/sony_e_20_2p8

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    The pancake MAY be of disappointing quality. I acquired a Sony 16mm f/2.8 and was surprised about its relatively low optical quality compared to what you'd usually expect from a prime lens - even a cheap one. Nov 20 at 3:35

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