Elizabeth Halford Photography {the blog} » photography in plain English

5 reasons you should choose a new lens over a new camera

An entry level dslr with "big boy" 70-200mm lens and 580exII Speedlite. {photo courtesy of 4honor.blogspot.com}

This is a question I get often: “should I invest the money I’ve saved into a camera or a lens?” I think the answer is simple. Most dSLRS operate with {nearly} the same sensor, unless we’re talking the jump from crop frame to full frame sensor. Camera upgrades are merely bells & whistles. The lens has far more to do with the overall quality of an image than does the camera. Even the highest end camera is only as good as the glass attached to the front. Some other things to consider:

  1. Lenses never decrease in value. Cameras do – so while a lens is a true investment, a camera is not.
  2. You will still be using the same lenses a decade from now. Can’t say that for your camera.
  3. Excellent low-light photography is made more possible by faster lenses than by better cameras.
  4. When you look through your viewfinder, you’re looking through the lens, not the camera. The camera is a little darkroom in a box – the pictures come through the lens.
  5. Don’t let camera companies deceive you: why do you think they throw so much more into marketing their new cameras than their timeless lenses?

In short? If you have some money to invest in your photography and can only afford the lens or the camera, go for the lens.

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  • http://www.nektar.net.nz/ Nektar

    Great post!! Short, sweet, and so true!! Thanks for shedding the light on a really common issue!! Always enjoy your posts!

  • Naturalightphoto

    You forgot to mention: Something that lamens forget when buying a camera and a twin lens kit.. LOL – these cheap lenses are made fundamentally of plastic pieces, and layers of plastic throughout the lens etc.Forgo the twin lens kit, save your money and invest in high end prime or zoom. The lenses are made of glass. Like glasses you wear your eyes will see better out of better quality glass – not through plastic. Your lens is the EYE of your camera.

  • Holli B.

    I completely agree aith all of your statements, however I do have a question. I currently have a Nikon D80 and would like to switch to a D7000. I have a basic 18-105 4.5 and a 50 1.8. In this case, do I still get a lens, or the D7000? I’m thinking higher ISO here and hoping to get a faster zoom lens. THank you!

  • Steph

    I have a Canon T2i, should I invest in a full frame camera before investing in a high quality lens?  

  • Mamaduso5

    I started with a rebel xs with the kit lens, then I bought the 50mm 1.4, 55-250mm, 60 2.8mm macro, then I upgraded to the 7D.  Obviously my next purchase will be a lens and hopefully and L series lens.

  • Pd

    #2 only make sense if you already have a good body… if you only invest on lenses then you wont be buying bodies therefore you are going to use your body for decades too – so why not invest on a better body to begin with. Also what if the cheap body keels over?

    #3 is no longer true with the high ISO capable cameras. If you choose or have the f4L 70-200 and a f4 24-105 you can bump up the ISO of the aforementioned high ISO cam so that you can use these 2 lenses for low light photography instead of investing on f2.8L 70-200 and f2.8 24-70 saving you $$$. DOF is another argument.

  • Robyn

    This is so timely. I have been debating the same issue. I would love love love a post on the topic of full frame versus crop sensor.
    Robyn Farmer
    http://www.thefarmersnest.com

  • Anonymous

    I’ve covered just about everything in the world on this blog in the last few years. Use the seach bar and you’re sure to find it :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve covered just about everything in the world on this blog in the last few years. Use the seach bar and you’re sure to find it :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve covered just about everything in the world on this blog in the last few years. Use the seach bar and you’re sure to find it :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve covered just about everything in the world on this blog in the last few years. Use the seach bar and you’re sure to find it :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve covered just about everything in the world on this blog in the last few years. Use the seach bar and you’re sure to find it :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve covered just about everything in the world on this blog in the last few years. Use the seach bar and you’re sure to find it :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve covered just about everything in the world on this blog in the last few years. Use the seach bar and you’re sure to find it :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve covered just about everything in the world on this blog in the last few years. Use the seach bar and you’re sure to find it :)

  • maryanne gobble

    Nice post.  Found it through Brooke Snow’s site.  I’ve been shooting with a Rebel for about a decade.    Currently it’s the Xsi verstion.  I want to upgrade the body because of #3.  The Xsi only has usable ISO up to about 400, sometimes 800.  I also would like video capability for multimedia photo projects…     Also, using a lens for low light requires low depth of field.  Not always the best option for all photography.  Just my thoughts (:  Boy I want a 7D now!

    Oh, and I use a Tamron 17-50 mm 2.8.  Have a Canon 50 1.8 that just sits in my bag. 

    Maryanne
    neweyedea.com

  • Drobertsrn

    Great post. I see other sites debating the same question. Great glass seems to be the answer in this never ending debate. However, I think you need to start with a fairly decent body. Nothing against the Canon Xti but it is a beginner camera with limited cabalitity. If I were shooting with it I’d probably upgrade to either the 60D or 7D  at a minimum.  I also have read that the newer T3i is a very capable camera. 

  • Sunni

    I couldn’t agree more. If I’m going to invest into something, I’m going for the worthy glass, not the camera. Thank you for posting. I found this article via PhotoMint. I’m new here and am going to go read some of your “past posts.” And Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

  • Anonymous

     Oh thank you for letting me know! I love knowing where my readers have come from :)

  • Jacqui Watson

    Thank you Elizabeth, I was a little nervous getting a Canon 28-70 L 2.8 USM Macro last night for my EOS Rebel Xti, but the  lens is in perfect condition and your perfectly timed newsletter makes me even more excited for the Postman to arrive at my door!!!!!

  • http://www.madaboutgreys.com/ madaboutgreys

    Great post.  I wonder how many business photographers calculate whether the cost of switching will be covered by the extra business the kit can bring in?  The only point I’d take issue with is your comment about low light photography.  The other week I sold an A3 print of a shot taken at 128,000 ISO.  I would not have been able to get the shutter speed I needed without going to that ISO.  The print looked absolutely stupendous.

  • Tina

    Exactly my point…however I am looking to upgrade my camera body from the classic canon 40D to possibly a 7D. Any suggestions for a different model body? Trying to figure out which upgrade to make on a budget since I am getting ready to buy 2 new lenses. So any suggestions ate welcomed on to what I should do :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1206730545 David Evans

    I disagree on a couple of points. 1- Lenses decrease in value; otherwise, KEH is losing money because they sell used lenses at lower prices than new. 2. Newer cameras almost always have more improved sensors with better effective resolution and superior ISO. 3- Newer cameras also improve other features. For example, the AF system on the Canon 5D MK3 is superior to the Canon 5DMK2. AF might not be a big deal to a portrait or landscape shooter, but if you shoot events such as weddings and sports, then an upgrade is a must. Put a 70-200 on the MK2 and MK3 and you’ll never want to shoot with the MK2 again. And both are full-frame.

  • Kala

    Nope, I’m upgrading my old Canon rebel t1i before upgrading any more lenses. Making the switch to Full Frame. Although I will be getting the 50mm 1.4 at the same time… :P

  • cheryl

    Very interesting information, am a complete novice but do enjoy taking photos.

  • Jennifer

    I agree, Elizabeth. I was recently faced with this choice and decided upon an upgraded lens. It just makes more sense to me to have the superior glass before the latest and greatest body and be in a position to take full advantage of each. Not to mention the big improvement in image quality I have experienced using the professional grade lens on my “prosumer” camera body. I haven’t regretted the decision one minute.

  • Jojo

    Hi there,

    I do have the Rebel Xs with the kit lens. Is it better to upgrade to a new camera or better lens? My concern is when I shoot pictures my camera cannot do it fast, it show “busy” on the screen and I loose the next shot…
    I love photography by my budget is limited. Do u think a good lens would solve the problem?

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