When starting out in photography, there’s so much to learn: rules of composition, the exposure triangle, how to use and modify light etc. Additionally, there’s the whole discussion of equipment that can make you go cross eyed! Learning which lenses you should buy and how you should use them can take a lot of time. Thankfully, in this post you’ll learn what prime lenses you should buy for your Canon camera when starting out.

When I started out in photography, my wife bought me a Canon T3 with a kit lens. While the 18-55mm kit lens that came with my T3 was very versatile and just fine for getting started, I quickly learned that in order to take the kinds of photos I was dreaming of (something with creamy bokeh, great color, and edge to edge sharpness) I’d need some better lenses. In that mindset, I’ll recommend the three prime lenses I think every Canon shooter should buy when starting out. These lenses are great to get that professional feel without breaking your bank!

The Nifty 50 – Canon 50mm 1.8

[Related Reading: The Ultimate Portrait Kit For Canon | Must Have Lenses for Portrait Photography]

The Canon 50mm 1.8 is often referred to as “the nifty 50” for a good reason. It’s the best lens you can buy for $125, period. On a crop sensor it’s more like an 85mm lens on a full frame camera, but for the money you can’t beat it. It takes beautiful images with plenty of sharpness and enough bokeh to make you feel like a rockstar. The build quality isn’t that great, but you’re getting started so I wouldn’t worry about that at this point. If you’ve never taken photos with a prime lens with a wide aperture before, you’re never going to go back. More light + more bokeh = more fun! When you’re ready to upgrade, the Canon 50 1.4 is only $349 and gives you a little bit more of everything. It’s well built, gives you some extra light and beautiful bokeh.

Pros:

  • Nice bokeh
  • Great price
  • Extra light
  • Small
  • Light weight

Cons:

  • Not as sharp as it could be
  • Not as much bokeh as it’s f/1.2 cousin (but you probably don’t need that anyway)
  • A little loud when focusing
  • Not the best build quality

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Canon EF-S 35mm f2.8 Macro

 

The Canon EF-S 35mm 2.8 Macro is designed specifically for crop sensor cameras (which is what you most likely have). While it doesn’t have as wide open an aperture as the 50mm 1.8, it makes up for a lack of light input by providing macro capabilities. Do you like those pictures of bees really close up? That’s macro! With this lens you can get those close detail shots you’ve seen of wedding rings, flowers, or products like watches and jewelry. It also has image stabilization, so if your hands are a bit shaky or you want to shoot at lower shutter speeds, you can do it with this lens. Moreover, this lens falls rights in that middle focal range. You might call this one the goldilocks lens—it’s not too close and not too far. It’s a very versatile lens that you can use in almost any situation from street photography to portraits. While it’s not quite wide enough for most landscape work, or tight enough for headshots, it’s ideal if you’re just starting out and want to practice a little bit of everything. Finally, while it’s not as affordable as the nifty 50, at $299, it’s really reasonable. If the 50mm 1.8 wasn’t such a great lens overall, this is the prime lens that I’d recommend you get first.

Pros:

  • Very versatile
  • Sharp enough to cut a steak
  • Great price
  • Macro for close up shots
  • Light weight
  • Image stabilization

Cons:

  • Only 2.8 aperture
  • Build quality isn’t great

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Canon EF 85mm 1.8

[Related Reading: Top 5 Must Have Fujifilm X Lenses]

The Canon 85 1.8 is one of my all-time favorite lenses. At only $369 this thing is a steal for the quality of the images it produces. It’s so good that I sold my much more expensive 85mm in favor of this one. I love this lens because it’s lightweight, well built for a sub-$400 lens, and takes incredible images with excellent detail and smooth bokeh. If you’re looking to get into portrait work or headshots, you won’t go wrong with this lens. It’s a bit tight on a crop sensor camera (roughly equivalent to a 135mm lens on full frame), but if you’re ready to start taking photos of subjects that are a little farther away, or want to create some mind blowing portraits, this is the lens you’ll want first.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • Very sharp!
  • Great price
  • Good build quality for the price
  • Quick auto-focus

Cons:

  • “Only” 1.8 aperture.
  • There’s not many negatives with this lens for the price.

Check Pricing and Availability Here

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Conclusion

Each of these lenses would provide an excellent foundation for a burgeoning Canon photographer. But remember that a camera and lens isn’t going to create great photos for you. They’re tools, not visionaries. When I started out, I got a few affordable lenses and spent most of my money on great educational resources from SLR Lounge. To learn more about how to take and edit amazing photos, check out our educational resources.