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With the entry-level and advanced amateur digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras today, the kit lens is generally an 18-55mm zoom, or thereabouts, and offers some kind of image stabilization.

Most people who buy a DSLR camera use the lens bundled with the camera and do just fine. After a little shooting, though, they realize there's a world of possibility out there for their photography if they add a few new lenses. That's what an SLR camera allows users to do: take the kit lens off and put other lenses on. At this point, however, sticker shock can set in; the best-rated lenses often come with a very big price tag.


The Bargain 50mm
Let's start with the easy bargains. Most camera brands have a "plastic fantastic" 50mm lens available. These are classic lens designs, perfected over the years, and have excellent optical qualities despite the bargain price.

A great focal length for basic portraits is 50mm. It's a slightly telephoto lens on most DSLR cameras, so it's flattering to the human face. It provides a working distance very comfortable for half-length portraits. In other words, with a 50mm on a DSLR, most users end up standing at a distance from their subjects that's really comfortable for most people - not too close, not too far.

camerabackBecause a 50mm f/1.8 provides a very large aperture opening, it's excellent for low-light work. Users can experiment with shallow depth of field; it becomes very easy to shoot at f/2.8 and get a person in focus and the background out of focus. A bargain 50mm is light, cheap, and optically perfect; and that's tough to beat.

Click Here to read Part 2 of the series on DSLR lenses, provided by the New York Institute of Photography (




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