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When buying entry level cameras, are lenses really more important than the body?
Is lenses which make your photographs, not camera bodies?

I am planning to get a DSLR, but before I do, I would like to know which part I need to concentrate on more while buying a DSLR, body or lens?

Lenses can be upgraded, but the body is not as like that. So what are the features I need to notice while getting a body.


Any modern DSLR will be just fine, you don't have to invest too much in the camera body (maybe not get the lowest-end model, but the second-lowest-end model is usually quite nice and will do everything an amateur will need for at least a few years - for Canon this is the 650D/T4i, I don't know the model numbers for other brands).

Also, the "bad" kit lenses are usually so much better than any point and shoot and will do just fine - 18-55 is a little too short for my taste but 18-135 is an extremely useful range (18-200 is even better but much more expensive, I went with the 18-135 when I was in your situation).

What you have to invest in is not the camera or lens - you have to invest in the photographer - you need to learn the basics and the common techniques and then take lots and lots and lots of pictures (and look at the pictures looking for ways to get better, otherwise you won't learn from them).

A photography workshop or two may also be a good investment.

Learning how to take good photos will improve your images much more than a better camera or lens.

After you'll be doing this for a while hopefully you will know what is holding you back and upgrade the specific piece of equipment that will most help with your style of photography (for example, for me, right now, lighting equipment is more limiting than the camera or lens so this is where I'm investing)

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    +1 for the "try it out first, then see what you're lacking" approach. I used exclusively a 28-70/2.8 on my crop sensor camera for a long time, before adding a 20/2.8 (for convenience and wide-angle, since 28 mm on APS-C is close to a normal lens and a zoom works poorly for single-handed use) and 70-200/4L (for reach). Both of these address specific needs that I identified in my own actual use. Doesn't mean they would be a good match for anyone else, but for me, they have both been excellent investments (and the 28-70 still sees plenty of use, too). – user Oct 31 '12 at 10:07

You are actually getting it wrong! It is the lenses which you would probably have with you for years maybe even decades. The body you will keep upgrading. My suggestion would be getting a decent enough body and invest on Lenses.

If you are starting getting a mid level camera with the kit lens. And for a start get the 50mm prime. The kit lens is good enough for learning and you can take great shots. A 50mm prime is almost a must have!

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    I'd rather recommend a "normal" lens for your chosen sensor size. 50mm for full-frame, ~30mm for crop/aps-c. – Berzemus Oct 31 '12 at 8:23
  • +1 for for "getting it wrong", but also agree with Berzemus' comment on a normal lens rather than a 50 mm lens specifically. – user Oct 31 '12 at 10:04
  • im planing to get a canon 550d, so the lens kit comes along is not sufficient? and its good to have a 50mm prime. Am i right? – Hariharan Anbazhagan Oct 31 '12 at 10:14
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    The kit lens is an easy way to get started -- you will need some lens that fits on the camera body, and the kit lens makes that decision very simple. It is a good way to simply get started taking pictures because it covers a range which is useful to most photographers, though not ideal for everyone. When you feel a genuine need to expand, you will have a much better idea of what your needs are. A larger maximum aperture, a longer lens, better macro capability, or something else? That depends on your use. Then, consider getting high quality - yes, it's expensive, but they age very well. – user Oct 31 '12 at 12:14
  • I agree starting with the kit lens, but as soon as you tried a 'real' lens ( even the 50mm prime for 100 euro ) you don't like the kit lens anymore :) but to start you want to have flexibility to try different possibilities so you could settle for a kit lens. you can use it for years... maybe a better option is buying the body and a 2nd hand kit lens. and then look for your next great lens while you try out the camera. – FLY Oct 31 '12 at 13:06

I look at the answers and particularly comments, and I see proponents of prime lenses. The simple fact is that starting out, the kit lens really isn't such a bad deal.

And yes, that's said by someone who has two L-series lenses and another high-quality non-L. How can I say something like that?

Simple. Unless you have a very good idea what kind of photography you want to get into as you are starting out, any lens you buy is going to be a poor fit in anything but the short term. It's better to not spend much at a lens before you have a better idea what your particular needs are.

That is not to say that you should get a bad lens. Few lenses these days are really bad, however. They may be more or less good, but just about any lens on a modest or better DSLR of modern vintage is going to beat the living daylights out of just about any digital compact camera from a picture quality point of view, particularly in non-trivial situations.

Something like a 18-55 or 18-135 on an APS-C camera body will get you started. As you gain experience, you will start feeling its limitations in certain areas. Whatever the reason, you are going to see it in your particular daily use, and then you can look for equipment that fit those particular criteria. Here's just a few examples of things you might encounter:

  • Maybe you need a longer focal length to get closer to your subject without physically moving closer.

  • Maybe you need a larger maximum aperture because you want a more shallow depth of field.

  • Maybe you want to get more into macro photography.

  • Maybe the convenience of not needing to physically switch lenses is a large consideration for you.

  • Maybe you feel the need for better optical resolution.

  • Maybe you have a need for a lens that handles flare excellently.

  • And of course, it's possible that your particular itch won't even be scratched with a different lens!

I used a EF 28-70/2.8L as pretty much my only lens on an EOS 50D for a long time, and it worked great. However, there were times when the zoom range was a limiting factor, but I didn't want to compromise too much on final image quality. In the end, for me, I felt the right choice was to get a EF 20/2.8 (for both convenience and wide-angle; I sometimes end up wanting to use the DSLR single-handed, and a zoom lens lends itself poorly to such use) and later on an EF 70-200/4L (for the extended reach). All three of these see plenty of use in my case, but that certainly doesn't mean that someone with different priorities would make the same choices.

A prime lens may or may not be a good choice. Shooting with a prime lens requires a different mindset compared to shooting with a zoom lens. (One isn't necessarily "better" or "worse" than the other, they are just different.) Prime lenses have historically tended to have better image quality, but these days there are zooms available (and at somewhat reasonable prices, too) which have similar optical properties in a significantly more convenient but bulkier package. Again, the question of which one fits your needs better is something that only you can answer, and it's a question that should be answered with some experience under your belt rather than what you think that you will need.

Generally, and in practical use, lenses last longer than camera bodies. It makes sense to start with a reasonable package (and a 550D/600D and a kit lens certainly isn't the worst choice from any point of view, if you want to go with a Canon DSLR), and then upgrade in bits and pieces later as you feel the need for something that your equipment at the time cannot do. Just don't think the kit lens will have much in terms of resale value; other lenses certainly will, though, and high-quality lenses tend to keep their value very well on the second-hand market.


Get an 18-200 lens. It is a great all rounder, and won't put you wrong for most of your photography.

Body: get a good mid-level as mentioned above. You will definitely upgrade your camera body sooner than you think. Once you get the hang of DSLR photography, you will want a faster and yet faster body. :)


as a beginner, you should focus on process and skill, not stare blindly at technology. ALL cameras and lenses (except maybe the very lowest entry level models) will as a beginner be way more capable than your skill level will allow you to fully exploit.


Best advice I can give is buy a 2nd handed body with something like a kit lens 18-135 or an 18-55 and buy a telelens later. Try everything out build experience and knowledge.

Must have lens is the 50mm prime, it's the best buy I ever did! Around 100 euro for a high end lens! But you don't really need it to start. The kit lens will do fine to start.

Then when you know a bit more upgrade the body and/or lenses and go from there.

  • The 18-135 or 18-55 are most definitely zoom lenses. – user Oct 31 '12 at 15:02
  • with zoom I mean a long distance lens. of course you can 'zoom' with a 18-55 :) I'll edit my post. – FLY Oct 31 '12 at 15:20
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    That is not what (I dare say most) people here mean when they say "zoom lens". A zoom lens is a lens with a variable focal length. A telephoto lens is a lens with a long focal length (or rather, a small field of view). Big difference. – user Oct 31 '12 at 15:30
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    Yeah I already got it the first time :) but tele was the word I was looking for. – FLY Oct 31 '12 at 15:35

As has already been mentioned, in DSLR systems, lenses are upgraded a lot less than bodies, as the optics on lenses is over engineered to provide the best image quality available, and the manufacture techniques o the glass makes it pretty damn well. Whereas the technology in bodies is constantly being developed and so bodies are constantly being upgraded by camera manufacturers.


The optical quality of lenses is gradually getting better, but lenses will still be usable on many digital cameras in 10, 20, 30 and more years. Many photographers use lenses from the film era. For lenses look at what you would like to do and then decide on a lens that would allow you to do this most effectively. If you wish to shoot small subjects such as insects and small flowers, you will want a macro lens.


Bodies will be upgraded more regularly than lenses and are in fact much less of an investment when you go into the professional range. For example, Canon's most expensive stills DSLR is a bit less than $7000, which is nothing compared to their most expensive lens, $120K, the EF 1200mm f/5.6, which is no longer produced.

In a body, look for the features that will most compliment your lens choice in what you want to do. For example, if you wish to shoot in low light situations, like at night or indoors, you will want a body that has good high ISO/low noise capabilities.

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