Just got your first DSLR or mirrorless camera? These are the best second lenses to buy to improve your photography

Cover image for best camera lenses
(Image credit: Future)

If you’ve just unboxed a new mirrorless or DSLR camera, it probably came with a kit lens. Often a mid-range zoom (such as 18-55mm), these bundled barrels are great for getting started. But because they’re built to a budget, their performance is usually limited. If you’re ready to take the next step with your photography, it’s probably time to look at the best second lenses.

Additional lenses unlock new shooting capabilities for your camera, letting you take better photos of specific subjects and settings. Fast prime lenses, for example, enable you to experiment with depth of field in street and portrait photography. Telephoto zooms get you much closer to your subject, with longer models ideal for capturing images of wildlife and action. You’ll also find macro, wide-angle and premium zoom lenses on the market.

With so many lens choices out there, it can be tricky to pick the right one for your needs and budget. That’s why we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites in the list below. As it’s impossible to cover all of the available options for every camera model and mount, we’ve instead selected a handful of top deals for the best mirrorless cameras and best DSLRs. Each has been chosen as a good example of what to look for when shopping for a second lens.

And remember: you don’t need to cover every focal length in your kit bag; it’s smarter to buy only the lenses you need for the photos you like to take.

Best second lenses for mirrorless cameras

Different manufacturers use different mounts for their mirrorless cameras, so you’ll need to pick a lens which fits your specific model. If there isn’t one listed below, take a look at our dedicated round-ups of the best Sony lenses, the best Canon RF lenses, the best Nikon Z lenses and the best Micro Four Thirds lenses (a mount used by Panasonic and OM System).

Best second lenses for DSLR cameras

Mirrorless might be the future, but there’s still an active market for DSLR cameras and lenses to match. Canon and Nikon are the only manufacturers to feature in our list of the best DSLR cameras, so we’ve focused on lenses to fit their models below. For further recommendations, check out our specific features on the best Nikon DSLR lenses and the best Canon DSLR lenses.

Chris Rowlands

Formerly News Editor at Stuff, Chris has rarely been able to resist the bite of the travel bug – so he now writes about tech from the road, in whichever Wi-Fi-equipped café he can find. Fond of coffee kit, classic cars and sustainable gear, if there’s one thing Chris loves more than scribbling, shooting and sharing his way around the world, it’s alliterative triplets.