Ready to move beyond the lens that came with your DSLR? Here's what to choose
for extraordinary photos.
Are your pictures just okay -- not spectacular? If so, the problem may be your lens. The kit lenses sold with most DSLRs today are true bargains, but can be limiting. Engineers designed them to have compact proportions, light weight, and small price tags. Made for average photographers, shooting in average conditions, with average subjects at average shooting distances, they excel at producing average pictures.
If you want something better than average, that kit lens may frustrate you. Just as you wouldn't use a wrench to drive a nail, you probably shouldn't pick up an 18-55mm f/3.5-4.5 kit lens to capture a distant athlete, a tiny insect, or a tight interior.
Think back on the pictures that inspired you to buy a camera in the first place. Were they National Geographic-type shots of big animals in the wild? (You'll need a super telephoto.) Colorful floral close-ups that reveal every stamen, pistil, and pollen grain? (That takes a macro.) Expansive Big Sky landscapes that capture heaven and earth in all their glory? (Go for an ultrawide-angle.)
Here's what you need to know about stepping up to each of these lenses, including an example from a third-party lensmaker designed to fit a variety of digital SLRs.