The 8 Best Lenses For DSLR Cameras to Buy in 2018

Get the perfect shot with these top lenses for your DSLR

There are so many different types of camera lenses and factors to consider, so you really need to do your research before diving into a lens purchase. To get started, it's important to figure out which lenses are compatible with which cameras, as well as what style of shooting is ideal for each one.

Typically, the most important lens specification to know is the focal length, which is represented in millimeters. A single number (e.g. 28 mm) indicates a fixed focal length or “prime” lens, while a range (e.g. 70-300mm) indicates a zoom lens. For an idea on what that means, remember that the human eye is said to have the equivalent focal range of about 30-50 mm on a full frame camera.

Still, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the variety and complexity of digital camera lenses. But if you feel you know enough to dive in, here’s a beginner’s list of the best lenses for DSLR cameras.

Best Canon Prime Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

For folks looking for an affordable, versatile Canon prime lens, your best bet is probably Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. It’s compatible with full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras, and features a 50mm focal length with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. It’s got an effective focal length of 80 mm on APS-C cameras and 50mm on full-frame cameras. It’s also got a stepping motor for smooth, silent autofocus for stills or video. All these specs make it an ideal tool for anything from portraits to nighttime photography, but, as we mentioned in the intro, it’s best if you already know what style of shooter you are. Lenses are very game-specific, and this prime lens from Canon is no different.

Best Nikon Prime Lens: Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus

If you’re a Nikon shooter in the market for a similarly versatile but affordable prime lens, check out the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G. It’s got more or less the same specs and features as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM at a slightly higher price point. It can be used for anything from portraits to action photography—you just have to have a Nikon DSLR camera (ideally an FX model). It’s fast, compact and a solid option for beginners and intermediate DSLR photographers. Images come out sharp and detailed, even in low light, and the build itself is sturdy with few signs of breaking or aging. Keep in mind, though, that this lens has a minimum focus distance of about 1.48 ft, meaning you can’t get too close to your subjects. For that, you’ll need a macro lens.

Most Affordable Macro Zoom Lens: Tamron Auto Focus 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD

Macro zoom lenses are among the most versatile of DSLR lens, with a wide range typically around 40-200mm. At 70-300mm, this Tamron lens is ideal for handheld shooting, particularly nature, wildlife, sports, and portraits. Like any macro lens, images will come back sharp and highly focused—almost too focused, if there is such a thing. Tiny, close-up images of insects and flowers are also possible, although, depending on the size of the subject, you may not be able to capture its entirety within focus. More distant subjects, however, will be highly focused and richly detailed through the zoom range. In the normal setting, the lens has a minimum focus distance of 59 inches, but with the macro mode engaged that distance shrinks to 37.4 inches. This makes it a versatile lens for a variety of purposes. With versions available for most Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax and Konica Minolta DSLRs, this Tamron is a powerful option for avid photographers on a budget.

Best Standard Zoom Lens: Sigma 24-105mm F4.0 DG OS HSM

Finding the best standard zoom lens isn’t easy. There are just so many options, but few are as well rounded as the Sigma 24-105mm F4.0 DG OS HSM lens for Canon (Nikon and Sony variants available as well). For its asking price, you’ll find a great combination of image quality and telephoto range with an emphasis on keeping the zoom ratio as high as possible without distorted shots.

A minimum focusing distance of 17 inches and maximum ratio of 1:4:6 make the Sigma good for close-ups and zooming. The 24-105mm F4 zoom comes complete with Sigma’s Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) that enables a fast, quiet and accurate autofocus alongside optical stabilization. The lightweight build material reduces the weight and size of the lens overall and, at 1.95 pounds, it’s easy to tuck into a bag. Beyond image capturing, Sigma has added USB dock compatibility, which allows the lens to connect via computer for updated firmware.

Most Affordable Telephoto Lens: Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM

For the money, Canon’s EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM lens is the best dollar-for-dollar value you’ll find in a telephoto lens. With a focal length and maximum aperture between 55-250mm and 1:4-5.6, the Canon is just as good at close-ups with a focusing distance of 2.8 feet. With optical image stabilization on board, the Canon can help compensate for natural hand shaking from camera users who have trouble keeping a steady hand while focusing.

The inclusion of OIS assists the Canon’s total reach and capturing of faraway objects when held in the hand witgout tripod. The lens also includes Canon’s Movie Servo AutoFocus technology, which ensures quiet adjustments to zoom length that won’t disrupt any subjects or the world around you. Adding polarizing filters is a snap, thanks to the front part of the lens not rotating. At just 1.2 pounds, the lens is compact enough that it can sit in a camera bag without taking up too much room or adding too much weight.

Best Ultra Wide Angle Lens (less than 24 mm): Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

Sigma is widely regarded as one of the top lens manufacturers in the industry, and is actually the largest independent lens manufacturer in the world. They are trusted to produce sturdy, dependable lenses for a variety of cameras and shooting purposes, and this ultra-wide angle lens is no different. With a focal range of just 10-20mm, you know it will deliver a huge depth of field, helping to capture entire buildings, large rooms and other colossal subjects. They are mostly intended for shooting architecture, subject-heavy landscapes and interiors. It offers quick focusing, precision settings, a sturdy build and bright and beautiful color reproduction. Versions of this lens can be attached to Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony DSLR cameras.

Best Nikon Wide Angle Lens: Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Lens

Nikon owners should look to the Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 lens because it is one of the first Tamron lenses to come equipped with an Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD), which enables hyper-fast focusing. That means this lens ideal for capturing action shots during races, sports or other fast-moving subjects. The Tamron also adds vibration compensation to assist photographers with steadier shots in hand-held mode no matter the outside condition.

Integrating full-time manual focus is another highlight, which allows a photographer to make adjustments in the moment without the need for switches or menus. This manual inclusion from Tamron allows for highly impressive results even under circumstances where a photographer’s depth of field is limited. Boasting sharper contrast than other lenses in its class, the Tamron was designed to focus on excellent performance and deliver a nearly noiseless experience all while thriving on fast-moving action shots.

Best Canon Wide Angle Lens: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116

One of the fastest and sharpest ultra-wide lenses available, the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 is a must-buy for Canon camera owners. Right off the bat, you’ll notice there’s a lack of built-in optical image stabilization, but there’s a rare number of situations where you’ll miss this feature given the f/2.8 aperture and focal length of the Tokina. Fortunately, that’s where the drawbacks end. The Tokina is a highly formidable wide-angle lens that performs strikingly well in low light, thanks to the high aperture that reduces ghosting, especially with strong backlighting.

Tokina’s choice of 11-16mm doesn’t leave much zoom to work with, but there’s more than enough depth to add just enough zoom to focus on the edges of the frame while emphasizing the center subject. Weighing only 1.2 pounds, the Tokina is another lightweight lens that’s perfect for on-the-go travel or just compact enough to carry around town.


At Lifewire, our Expert writers are committed to researching and writing thoughtful and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your life and your family. If you like what we do, you can support us through our chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn more about our review process.