When I purchased my first digital camera from Costco, a Nikon D5000, it came with a bag, a couple of lenses and DVD’s. It was a great place to begin my journey in digital photography. The lenses were good for a relative beginner in the digital world. They were “kit lenses.”
What does that mean? Basically it means they are not top of the line, they are good and produce a nice picture, but they are not the best or sharpest lenses. I soon learned that they also have a variable aperture, meaning if I was at 18mm with a 3.5 aperture, as I zoomed to 120mm the lens would move to 5.6 or more on its own. It all makes sense now but then I wasn’t sure why the aperture kept changing. Had I inadvertently moved something? No, because it is a kit lens it usually doesn’t have a constant aperture, meaning it doesn’t have the ability to maintain say 2.8 all they way through the zoom from 18-120mm.
This is valuable to know because if you are shooting in low light you want a zoom lens that maintains a constant aperture. This makes sense but is expensive. Prime lenses that have low light ability can be had for a decent price. I had a Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens that only cost me a few hundred dollars. When I wanted to move to a zoom lens, say a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8, the price skyrocketed close to $2500. Of course that particular Nikon lens is one of their best and pro quality. Suffice it to say that on any level a constant aperture zoom lens will cost you more. It will be better built and probably a little heavier but it will be worth it.
Since I am now shooting Fuji cameras I have purchased a “few” of their lenses. Many of them are primes because prime lenses are smaller and lighter and are available in larger apertures like 1.2 and 1.4. Fujinon lenses are top quality therefore some of the lenses, like the 56mm 1.2 I just purchased, will run you $1000. After shooting it for a few days I can say it is worth every penny. I like to shoot in low light and being able to open the lens up to 1.2 or 1.4 makes a difference. I can shoot at a lower ISO and get the shutter speed I want so the result is a sharp picture.
That being said I have two zoom lenses from Fuji. The first is the 18-55mm lens that came with my Fuji X-E2. It may be called a kit lens but it really isn’t. It’s build is superior and the pics are sharp as a tack. It does not have a constant aperture so I have to remember it is 2.8 at 18mm and 4.0 at 55mm. This is still quite good for this type of lens. I know Fuji is working on a 16-55mm 2.8 lens but it will be bigger, heavier and cost more.
My second Fujinon zoom lens is the 55-200mm. I use it for wildlife and am really surprised by its build quality and “the sharp as a tack” pics it produces. I was able to buy it during Fuji’s lens sale so I saved some money too. It too is a variable aperture lens so at 55mm the minimum aperture is 3.5 but when I zoom to 200mm the minimum is 4.8. Not bad but I would love it if it was 2.8 throughout the range. There is a 50-140mm 2.8 lens on the horizon for Fuji but I don’t have any details now. I am sure it will cost more and have a great build with a little more weight.
I hope this has helped explain some about lenses and apertures. Maybe it will help you in your choice of lenses. I know as I have grown this knowledge has definitely helped me. I may end up spending a little more money but in the end I am much happier.
Until next time, enjoy your camera and keep shooting!
© Vic Schmeltz