After The Kit Lens; Tips On Expanding Your Optical Options Page 2

On a Nikon D-SLR, for example, a 75-300mm zoom becomes the equivalent of a 112-450mm, so if it's within your budget, opt for the model with Image Stabilization. Short of that, buy the fastest zoom you can afford so that you can use higher shutter speeds.

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, photographed with a Tamron 18-200mm zoom at 18mm (above) and again at 200mm (below).

A tele-zoom will get you close to the action.

Go Wide
For the same reason that the telephoto effect of a lens is exaggerated by a fixed amount when used on a D-SLR, wide angle lenses lose their sweeping angle of view. For instance, a 24mm lens is considered wide angle when used on a film SLR but it becomes the equivalent of a mundane 38mm on a D-SLR. If you want to go truly wide, you must reach for something in the 10-15mm range. One practical option is the Tamron 11-18mm zoom. Available for around $600 (street) it's an f/4.5-5.6 and although it's not as compact as a kit lens, it's an absolute must-have for travelers and folks who shoot landscapes or cityscapes.

Get Close
If close-up photography is your thing, buy a macro lens. Many zoom lenses are labeled "macro zoom" but it's not the same thing. A genuine macro lens will allow you to capture an image that's as large as 1/2 life size. The closer you get to a subject, the shallower the depth of field becomes. You can compensate to some degree by using a very small aperture, f/22 or even f/32. That means you're going to need a tripod to steady those long exposures.

The venerable "normal" 50mm lens becomes an ideal 80mm f/1.8 when attached to a D-SLR.

You can easily see the hair-like fibers that are connected to this flower that was shot with a Canon 50mm macro lens.

A 75-300mm lens becomes the equivalent of a 450mm on a Nikon or Sony D-SLR.

Have Fun
For pure fun, take a look at a Lensbaby. Depending on how you twist its flexible barrel, part of your image will be reasonably sharp and in focus while other parts will be blurry and distorted. Or you can make it completely fuzzy. It's all for creative effect, of course. If you've ever been intrigued by soft-focus techniques, this is the lens for you. The 3G model, which you can lock into position after making adjustments, sells for $270, while the Lensbaby 2.0 is available for $150.