This week in my digital classes we went a baby step beyond understanding general apertures and depth-of-field and began discussing the possible lens variation in depth of field range depending on focal point. Since I’d had some great email questions about understanding which lens to use, or what new lenses to buy, I also pointed a great tool, DPreview.com–it reviews tons of lenses and camera bodies with incredibly in-depth tests and comparisons.
Of course, it’s easy to see their reviews, dig a new lens or camera, and still feel gunshy. Because lenses are expensive! It’s hard to plunk down cash for something you haven’t even tried out. But there’s another resource you might consider: gear rentals.
You can rent gear locally at PhotoSource. They have a lot of equipment to choose from if you look at their chart: http://www.photosource.biz/services/rental/ Of course, I cannot say how available these rentals are, but it is a good option, and supporting one of our only photo stores is really important–they are an undervalued and essential resource for photographers. The rental fees vary depending on the market value, but getting to play with a lens or camera body for a week will certainly help you figure out of you really want that new toy or not.
If they don’t have what you’re after, you can always ask them to get it. Until they do, you could also try an online rental company like BorrowLenses.com. This will get you further in your decision making than simply looking at amazon reviews. Most people don’t realize that there are multiple brands of lenses that work with your camera body–Sigma and Tamron are well established, and newer brands like Venus and Lensbaby have some interesting lenses, too.
Different lenses also have different purposes–some people who are interested in shooting insects and flowers might want a macro lens, whereas someone interested in sports photography would be better off suited for a telephoto zoom lens…there is no wrong lens; they all record light. But each lenses will work better than others for specific types of photography subjects. I don’t believe in any universal “everyone should have this lens” kind of statements, but this article is still pretty helpful: http://www.digitaltrends.com/photography/camera-lens-buying-guide/