If I’m on a budget, should I spend more on a camera or a lens?

We have compiled a list of the TOP50 questions that we hear on our workshops. From gear, to settings, to composition, and shooting styles, we have decided to post three questions and answers a week till we get through them all.

We hope they answer some of the questions that you may have. Here is today’s question.

Question: If I’m on a budget, should I spend more on a camera or a lens?

Answer from David Topping: Few people can afford to buy a pro-level camera along with several premium lenses when they’re just getting started in photography (or even when it’s time to upgrade). It’s likely you’ll have to make a choice between spending more on a better camera or a better lens (or lenses).

So, what’s the best choice? The answer is simple: always invest in the best lens you can afford.

Your choice of lens affects image quality more than your choice of camera. There are many excellent entry- to mid-level cameras capable of producing high-quality images – if you are using a high-quality lens. A good lens can be expensive, but the price reflects features and a level of performance that an entry-level lens simply can’t deliver. The low price of an entry-level lens may be appealing, but it’s achieved by using inexpensive materials. This trade-off means that image quality is compromised, even though your camera is likely capable of producing better images.

In comparison, a premium lens incorporates more elements of higher quality, resulting in finer detail and better control of lens aberrations and distortion. The result is superior optical performance, no matter which camera you’re using. Better lenses also offer large maximum apertures for better low-light performance and greater control of depth-of-field; the large aperture also improves the performance of your camera’s autofocusing system. And with their rugged construction, these lenses will stand up to professional use; that means they will continue to perform for you for many years, long after your current camera has been retired.

The newest cameras from your preferred manufacturer can be enticing, but camera technology is constantly improving and there will always be an even more attractive model on the horizon (typically within 18 to 24 months). That means the camera you have now will lose its value quickly when newer models are introduced.

On the other hand, a good lens is an investment that will outlast any camera body. And, if you choose wisely, it will retain its value for many years and will continue to work with new camera models. Even if a new lens model is eventually introduced, there’s often no need to upgrade if the version you have has been performing well.

Eventually, you will probably want to upgrade your camera body to take advantage of newer technology, added features, and improved performance. But you don’t need to do that every time a new model is released. Instead, skip a generation or two and add a premium lens to your system.

Of course, no equipment is going to make you a better photographer, but a premium lens will ensure you get the highest quality images. The rest is up to you.

Happy Shooting,

Northof49Photography

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Kevin A Pepper

Kevin is a photographer and educator based in Waterloo, Ontario. His first love is photographing nature, regardless of the season or weather condition; the Ontario landscape and its wildlife are his inspiration. But you will also see other styles of photography in his portfolio. From street photography to urban exploration of abandoned buildings and architecture, he loves to capture it all with his camera for his corporate clients and his growing personal portfolio. Kevin’s images have been featured in Canadian Nature Photographer, PHOTONews Canada, Photo Technique Magazine, The London Free Press, The Weather Network, and National Geographic Online. His diverse client list includes the City of Cambridge, Olympus, GORE Mutual, TVO, and African Lion Safari. Kevin also operates “Northof49 Photography”, a company launched in 2012 dedicated to teaching amateur photographers through International and Canadian-based workshops. In the coming year, Kevin will be leading workshops in Iceland, Mongolia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Provence, and numerous destinations across Canada. Website: www.kevinpepperphotography.com