These lenses give you so much bang for the buck, they're practically
No doubt, the greatest bargain in gear today is the kit lens. Bundled with entry- to mid-level DSLRs for about $100 to $140, these exploit the smaller-than-35mm sensors of consumer cameras to provide an equivalent focal length of about 28mm to 80mm or 105mm. In our tests, all brands have proved sharp, though often they're slow (f/3.5-5.6), show distortion at the wider end, and are plasticky. The best deal is, naturally, in the kit; sold separately they cost more. So if you're buying a DSLR, buy the kit lens -- you'll never regret it.
• Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S USM ($140, street)
• Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX ($170, street)
• Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko ED Zoom ($250, street)
• Pentax 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMCP-DA AL ($110, street)
• Samsung 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Schneider D-Xenon (kit only)
• Sigma 18-50mm F3.5-5.6 DC ($110, street)
• Sony 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 Digital ($190, street)
50 and Fabulous
Not long ago, photographers would pay $500 or more for a high-speed portrait tele. Today, you can get a 75mm or 80mm f/1.7 or f/1.8 lens for $100 or less. New. In the box. With U.S. warranty. In fact, you may already have one. These are the 50mm lenses designed as inexpensive normal lenses for full-frame 35mm SLRs. On a digital SLR with a 1.5X or 1.6X lens factor, the equivalent is 75mm or 80mm -- a great focal length for portraits and candids. The wide aperture gives you a much brighter viewing image than that dim f/3.5-5.6 kit lens and enables autofocusing in lower light. And, because you use only the central sweet spot, images are very sharp. Some of these lenses have been discontinued in recent years, but so many of them were made, it's not hard to find used versions.
• Canon 50mm f/1.8 EF II ($80, street)
• Konica Minolta 50mm f/1.7, fits Sony Alpha 100 (discontinued but widely available, $100 or less)
• Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor ($115, street)
• Pentax 50mm f/1.7 SMCP-FA (discontinued but available used for $50 to $100)
See our Best Buys for Cameras