Is it worth buying an EF-S lens?

If you’re thinking of buying an EF-S lens for your camera, you might want to read this post first or you could make a very expensive mistake.

Now, this isn’t about lens quality — there are some fabulous EF-S lenses on the market as you’re no punt aware. No, it’s about a hidden and often overlooked issue: future proofing your equipment investment.

EF-S lenses all have one major drawback: they’re designed specifically for crop sensors. It makes them cheaper, lighter and easier to manufacture because they don’t need such large optical elements. Trouble is, they’re not compatible with full frame bodies as I explained a while ago in this post: Why won’t EF-S lenses work on a full frame body?

Is that a problem? Not necessarily.  If you can absolutely guarantee you’ll never want to upgrade to a full frame sensor, EF-S lenses are perfect.

BUT, if you’re like most photographers, you’ll want to upgrade to full frame in the future. That makes buying an EF-S lens now not only an unwise decision but potentially a costly one too as you’ll need to purchase a new set of lenses when you do.

Top tips on buying a new lens…

Invest in the lens

It may seem strange but think of the camera as consumable. The lens is the bit you want to keep and use for many years to come. Investing in the best lens you can afford now could save you money in the long term. If it lasts you longer it won’t need replacing as often.

Make sure you prioritise usage over want

I’d love to own an EF 500f/4 lens. In fact, I nearly bought one once (probably best not to mention that to Mrs. LightMatters!). 

What stopped me?

Usage. As much as I really wanted the lens I doubt I’d use it more than a handful of times each year. That’s a lot of money to invest in something I’m not likely to use that much. Sure, I’d have had bragging rights but trying to impress someone in a club or forum isn’t really going to help my photography.

What exactly are you going to use it for?

A lens is a tool and as such it does a particular job. What that means is some lenses are better suited to a particular type of image than others. For example, the EF16-35f2.8L is a great little lens and I love mine to bits but it’s not much use for wildlife photography.

Think about what kind of images you want to make and use that to drive the buying decision.

Be aware of cropping factor

If you’re using a crop body, you’ll no doubt be aware of cropping factor (the apparent increase in focal length because of the smaller sensor size when compared to a full frame body).

Crop factor is great at the telephoto end yet really hurts you if you want to go wide. (This is arguably an area where an EF-S lens might be worth the investment if you do a lot of wide and super wide images)

Over to you…

This is a very subjective post and I’m completely biased having made the decision several years ago not to buy any EF-S lens. Why? Because I knew at the time I wanted, one day, to upgrade to full frame.

As such I’d really appreciate your views. What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Is there a compelling reason to invest in this family of lenses?

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