I’ve owned the Canon 600D for about three years now. I still only have the kit lens because I didn’t think I was ready to buy a new one and I have always been unsure of what lens I should invest in. I think now I’m ready to spend money on a lens but I’m not sure which one to get.

I take all kinds of photos but I like shooting portraits the most.

I guess I will need a lens with wide maximum aperture maybe f/1.8 max that gives me beautiful bokeh. Although a lens costs a lot so I was wondering if I could buy more of a "multi task" lens.

Since I live in Iceland there is beautiful landscape and nature wonders all around me so a specific portrait lens is maybe not enough.

So I’m looking for a lens with high aperture for taking portraits, a bright lens that can take photos in low light so I can use lower iso, a lens that I can still shoot landscape photos with and a lens that I can zoom even just a little bit if I’m taking family photos. Does this lens even exist?

Is there a portrait lens that I can use for shooting other things fx. photos of the northern lights?

I’m basically looking for a "general purpose" lens, but still focusing mainly on portrait photography.

  • relevant? photo.stackexchange.com/questions/39140/…
    – MikeW
    Nov 30, 2016 at 23:33
  • Which lens do you currently have? Which of these uses does it perform reasonably well? Which of these uses has it failed at?
    – user50888
    Dec 1, 2016 at 19:58

7 Answers 7


The best lens for multi-tasking is a zoom lens. That is exactly what it is good at.

You get to decide what trade offs you want. It sounds like you want an excellent general purpose lens, and also an excellent portrait lens. The first thing that comes to mind would be something in the range of a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens in the full frame format. It is one of those lenses that can be used for relatively wide perspectives but also somewhat tight and wide open for fairly good portrait work. On an APS-C camera such as your 600D, this would be something like a 17-55mm f/2.8 lens.

On the other hand, if you really do want to focus on getting lenses that are the best at the specific tasks you have in mind; you might want something like an 85mm f/1.8 lens or 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for portraits or a 14mm f/2.8 lens for the night sky.

It's all about a series of trade offs. Your budget, your kit size/weight, and the performance you desire from the lenses. You already have a general purpose kit zoom lens, so you really have everything you need to make an informed decision.

  • Do you shoot more at 17mm? 55mm?
  • Do you find yourself hitting the maximum aperture of your lens often and want to let more light in?
  • Do you need to zoom further in but aren't able to?

These are the types of questions you can ask yourself now so that you can make an informed decision, before you buy anything you may not need.


My advice:

Look at the focal length of the images you are taking and see about where you zoom to for those types of images. For me on APS-C it was 34mm and 18mm. Then look for lenses that are at that focal length or close to it (or offer the zoom range).

Your cheapest option will likely be picking up a couple prime lenses (a 35mm f1.8 should be about $150 USD new).

For portraits 35mm on a crop sensor is great, but 50, and 85mm are also very popular. You can get all three for less than most zoom lenses that would cover any large range and fall under f2. Ultimatley, shooting as an art and a matter of preference, so starting by identifying exactly where you like to shoot is a great place to start.


So I’m looking for a lens with high aperture for taking portraits, a bright lens that can take photos in low light so I can use lower iso, a lens that I can still shoot landscape photos with and a lens that I can zoom even just a little bit if I’m taking family photos. Does this lens even exist?

Not really. If you really want all of this in a single lens, you're going to have to compromise in one way or another. You want fast and cheap, the zoom capability is probably out. You want wide and fast, then cheap is probably out. You want a portrait lens, then a landscape/night sky lens is probably out. You want a lower-cost landscape/night sky lens, it's probably going to be slow. dSLR lenses are superb at being special-purpose tools; they mostly suck at being general purpose. That's why a dSLR is designed to have an interchangeable lens mount.

My advice? Look for two different lenses. For portraits, I'd recommend a short telephoto fast prime. Either the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, or the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, depending on your framing/working distance preferences (these lengths assume you prefer torso or head shots; if you prefer full body, then maybe an EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM or 35/2 lens). This will give you the "zoom" you may be looking for, as well.

For the landscape and night-sky shots, you may be able to get away with a slower lens, and I'd look at the EF-S 10-18 f/4.5-5.6 IS STM. It's a good low-cost ultra-wide. And used on a tripod with good technique, may not require higher iso for stationary subjects.


OP I was in the same situation like you... I owned a Canon 700D and the kit lens... I also didn't know what lens to buy next and after a year and a half of saving up and watching different reviews I went and bought a used Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM and a new Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM... now i only ever shoot with these two lenses since on the crop sensor they give me enough focal range for what I shoot and fairly nice bokeh... I hope my answer gave you some perspective and helped you out :)


I used the Canon 24-70L as my general purpose lens. The only problem I had with it was the weight which can become an issue if you are out shooting landscapes or doing something over a long period of time. But I think that is to be expected. I used the 85mm 1.8 almost exclusively for portraiture and it is incredibly sharp but I wouldn't call it a general purpose lens.

I also used the 17-40L mostly for landscapes but it was good for unusual portraits when doing strobist / off-camera flash work. This could be used for general purpose but you will need to move around a lot more to get the frame and composition you want.

If you are after a zoom lens I would recommend the 24-70 L if you can stretch your budget.

Something else that would be worth considering is the 40mm pancake lens. It's a cheaper lens and I found it to be very sharp. On a crop body it's great for portraiture. On a full frame camera (thinking about future proofing here) it's actually a really good walk around general purpose lens on a budget. And because of the form factor quite easy to carry around with you if you are out of the studio, on the street or out in the country.


I would say a 18-50mm f/2.8, this is the most versatile lens for an APS-C body, since you want something fast.

Otherwise I'll say the Tamron 16-300mm is the most versatile lens, but slow.

The Sigma ART 18-35mm f/1.8 is a good alternative to an 18-50mm f/2.8 but lack some focal length.


I think you're overcomplicating this and so are the answers you've received. The best general purpose lenses are over and over and over shown to be either 35mm prime or 50mm prime. If you need zoom for family portraits, step forward or backwards, or resort to your kit lens that you already have for those instances.

Get yourself a good wide aperture 35 or 50 and you'll be able to do every single thing on your list. Some of the most famous photos ever taken, in fact MOST of the most famous photos ever taken, were done with one of those two focal lengths. Portrait, Landscape, Street, Journalism (in your case this is equivalent to family - you're documenting your family), everything.

In fact survey after survey shows most people will resort to one of those two focal lengths more than any other. They are simply put the most versatile lens for all sorts of tasks.

I'm talking in terms of actual view so if you're on some type of crop sensor or medium format sensor, than you'll need to factor in that difference.

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