This is the ultimate question for thousands of people of whom are switching to digital and for those that are upgrading from their compact or bridge camera’s. Seeing i myself never owned a film SLR, i can not speak for the film buffs. Although those that do use SLRs, most will stick to the same brand, as they most likely have a range of lens they already invested in. Which brings us to the first topic.
You may have a camera, or brand for you new DSLR in mind, just because it has all the bells and whistles you want. But before you make your decision, first have a look at what lenses are available, and at what price.
Lens choice is not on peoples minds when choosing to upgrade from compact or bridge cameras. The main reason being the lens was fixed, so there is no choice. So why start now? Because you are about to make a huge investment in your camera, and once you have made a choice on brand, you pretty much stay with that brand, because of the huge investment you will eventually make in lenses. Nonsense, i hear you scream. Yes, nonsense if you have the cash. But who has that sort of cash. Most of us do not.
Today though, unlike in the past, if you had a Canon camera, you were limited (pretty much) to Canon lenses. Today you can choose from Tamron, Sigma & Tokina. Other brands are available, but lets stick to the affordable models. These three companies make models to suit all DSLR cameras, but you must check your choice of lens against your make and model of camera. Nearly all lenses by these lens manufacturers are compatible with Nikon and Canon, but even then, check the lens is compatible with your specific Canon/Nikon make of camera.
Although there are the budget models, each DSLR manufacturer have their own lens range. These lenses are typically of a better quality, but not always.
OK. What lenses will i need?
Lens choice is not only about the wallet, but about the style of photography. For the landscape photographer, a good wide angle (10-50mm range) lens is a must. Do you love taking pictures of animals, a telephoto zoom (100-600mm range) is for you. Love being up close, a macro lens would be preferable. Just need it for around town or on holidays, a good standard zoom (18-200mm range) is very handy.
You may not consider a fixed lens at first, but i have no doubt in the future you will purchase one. Why? Because they are ultimately better quality. You pay much more for good zoom lenses, for convenience, than you do for a top quality fixed lens (generally). So have a quick look at the range and prices of the fixed lenses also.
When you think you have made your choice then…
Lastly, have a look at the second hand market in your country. I know here in the UK, and in the US, there is a large second hand lens market. Not only is there an abundance of stores selling second hand goods, but sites like Ebay are flooded with them. So check them out also.
So what did i do? I chose the Nikon D80 as my first DSLR. It is compatible with many old lenses (give or take), and Nikon at the time was the only manufacturer of a 18-200mm lens. I do most of my photography on the move, and when travelling, so this was the perfect first lens for me. Now you can also get these types of lenses from Tamron (18-200mm & 18-250mm) and Sigma (18-200mm). I also have other Nikon Lenses. The 12-24mm f4 (for landscape and architectural photography), 35-70mm f2.8 (for a sharp wander around town lens) and the 24mm f2.8 & 50mm f1.8 (for portraits and parties).
Any questions, please ask.