Buying 101

Bellamy Hunt delves a little deeper into the camera-buyer’s mind.

So, now that I have imparted my wisdom on the generalities of lenses, it is time to fill you in on the finer points of what lenses you may want to consider buying. You see, not every lens is the same…I mean the basic principle is the same, but that is about it. Different lenses are used for different photographic situations, and trying to find the right one for you could take a long time without a little bit of help.

Now, there are a lot of different brands and systems, but I am going to focus (geddit?) on the 35mm format. Now I know that I am jumping headfirst into shark infested waters here, as everyone has their tuppence ha’penny to chip in. But I am going to steer clear of the whole film vs digital debate, other than to mention that if you have a digital camera and it is not a full frame (35mm equivalent) you should remember that the lens sizes are not going to be ‘true’. For example, most digital consumer and prosumer SLR’s are running an APSc sensor. The frame sizes vary for different makes, with Canon making the smallest at 22.2 mm × 14.8 mm. Though the difference is negligible so you can basically make the assumption that any focal length that is marked on the barrel of the lens can be multiplied by at least 1.6. So a 35mm becomes a 56mm, a 50mm lens becomes an 80mm and so on. This is great for the sports and nature photographers as a 300mm becomes a 480mm! Not so great for the people who like wide angle though, as you have to really go down low to get the wide lenses.

So, now you have figured out what your system is, it is time to start buying some lenses….but whoa there sonny Jim, not so fast. What do you want to take pictures of? And you should think about this very seriously, because buying lenses is expensive and it would be daft to buy something that you barely use or that does not suit your style. One lens that I feel every photographer should not be without is a 50mm (or equivalent) prime lens. This is a benchmark lens and one that can be considered to be closest to the human perspective.

Now me, I like primes, I like to keep a 20mm, 45mm, 50mm and 105mm in my line up. Others prefer zooms. When I am doing a job then I will use zooms I have found the 17-35mm 2.8 (Nikon or Canon) range and the 24-70mm f2.8 (Same again) to be more than versatile enough to cover most situations. Those of you with a APS-c might prefer a 14-24mm lens, to get those wide angles in. I could go on and on and on about what lenses to buy, there are so many that it is impossible to tell you. Just bear in mind what sort of shooting you want to do, and then test them out. If you have a friend with the lens, knock him over the head and ‘borrow’ it for a day, see how it feels. Or rent one, there are a few rental stores in Tokyo that have huge selections of gear (bear in mind many of them require membership or deposits).

Here are a couple of links. Unfortunately only in Japanese.

Aoyama Rental:


But what happens if you don’t want to buy new? There are many good reasons not to, not least being that in Japan the used camera market is healthy and strong. Alfie dropped some links in the last article, but here is a pretty good link to some of the stores in Tokyo.

I shall be knocking up a more comprehensive one in the future, hopefully with some outside Tokyo too. Watch this space.

Now all you need to do is get out there and go shopping. Just remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask to look at something, be respectful, be polite and if they haven’t got it on the shelf, ask for it as they sometimes have it out the back. Oh and finally, if you have got the cheek of the devil, a disarming smile or more charm than Sean Connery then it doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount.

Good luck and happy shopping.

About Japanorama

Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

We also welcome submissions of photos and articles for this site, so please get in touch via our contact page. Thanks. © 2015 All Rights Reserved

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