Selling the Next Lens: Expanding Your Customer’s Creative Experience for Fun and...

Selling the Next Lens: Expanding Your Customer’s Creative Experience for Fun and Profit


As the market for digital SLRs continues in robust expansion mode, and the compact interchangeable-lens camera market has caught fire with consumers and manufacturers, it’s hardly surprising that interchangeable lenses have become a hot topic as we enter the holiday season.

With the current focus on personal creativity and doing more with pictures, savvy consumers well understand that the greatest advantages of shooting with a DSLR or compact system camera is the ability to change lenses. It allows them to pick the precise type of lens that best suits their subjects and shooting style—from ultra wide angles to super telephotos and everything in between—and to expand their shooting range and enhance their picture-taking experience.

To get the most out of a camera, picking a second lens is a crucial decision where knowledgeable dealers can really help their customers while bolstering their bottom line.

The First Lens Sets the Stage
The most popular first lens bought with a DSLR is a short zoom (sometimes called a standard zoom), such as the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lenses offered by every major camera maker with their DSLR starter kits. The 18-55mm, equivalent to a 28-85mm lens on a full-frame pro camera, provides wide-angle to medium telephoto coverage and a 3x tele-to-wide zoom ratio. Compact, lightweight and inexpensive, the 18-55mm is a great starter lens for general shooting, but suggesting a two-lens outfit to your customers is a good move because it is mutually beneficial. And while I don’t have the stats to back it up, I have a hunch that purchasers who experience the real benefits of switching lenses are more likely to buy a third or fourth lens from the store that sold them their outfit.

Start with a Two-Lens Outfit
A good example is the Nikon D3100 two-lens kit, currently available at a street price of $699.99 with a normal zoom AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.6-5.6G VR lens and a compact AF-S DX Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6G VR telephoto zoom. This combo deal delivers a nonoverlapping zoom range from 18-200mm, covering an equivalent range from 28mm wide angle (for indoor shots and vistas) to 300mm super telephoto (for sports and nature), and it saves your customers somewhere between 50 and 100 bucks on the cost of the second telephoto zoom lens.

Alternative “First Lens” Choices
An alternative is to skip the mid-range zoom and offer the camera body with a long-range wide-to-telephoto zoom to be used as an all-in-one lens. An excellent example is the Tamron AF 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro lens, a fine performer that focuses down to 1.5 feet over the entire zoom range, provides a macro magnification of 1:3.7 at the 200mm setting and is $289.95.

Recently, experienced shooters have been going whole hog and opting for an ultrazoom lens. The Tamron 18-270mm Di II VC PZD ($629), with its class-leading 15x, 27-419mm equivalent range, built-in Vibration Compensation (VC) and advanced piezoelectric (PZD) autofocus motor is a popular choice as a “universal lens.” It’s also great for shooting in dusty or challenging places where lens changing is a hassle or could cause sensor contamination.

The Wide, Wide Zoom: Great for Tight Spaces and Wide Vistas
Ask your customer, “Do you take lots of pictures indoors—interior views, kids in the family room, groups of friends and relatives gathered around the table?” If so, an ultra-wide-to-wide-angle zoom like the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM ($479) with 16-32mm equivalent range is the perfect second lens. It comes in Nikon, Canon and Sony mounts.

Other lens makers offer models in the 10-24mm (15.5-37.2mm equivalent) and 11-18mm ranges. Any one of them makes it easy to get everyone into the picture, shoot in tight spaces and capture all the action from an intimate perspective. They’re also useful for shooting landscapes.
The Super Telephoto: It’s for the Birds . . . and More
If you discover that the person standing at your counter often takes pictures of birds and other small, skittish woodland critters, or they’re into shooting sports from the bleachers, there’s nothing like a really long telephoto zoom lens to ring their chimes.

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM ($549) delivers the equivalent of a 109mm medium telephoto to a 465mm ultra-telephoto, a range that’ll let them capture dynamic portraits or that great catch in the outfield. This big gun is also great for handheld shooting because it has IS (image stabilization) to prevent shake-induced blur, and its aperture is fast enough to let users shoot at high shutter speeds to stop action, especially with the latest crop of DSLRs that deliver superb image quality at high ISOs.

Telephoto Macros: Super for Close-ups and Portraits
If your lens purchaser shoots extreme close-ups or portraits, show them a prime (single-focal-length) macro telephoto. When it comes to taking pro-quality close-ups of, say, flowers or coins, nothing beats a good single-focal-length macro lens like the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 AF Macro ($499) or one of the highly regarded 90mm, 100mm or 105mm macros made by Nikon, Canon and Tamron. All these lenses get down to 1:1 life-size for extreme close-ups, and each one provides the superb imaging performance that only a single-focal-length lens specifically calculated for macro photography delivers. They also have wide apertures (f/2.8 to f/3.5) that provide greater focusing precision, and all are superb for shooting portraits, especially wide open where the shallow depth of field can give stunning pictorial effects.

Fast Prime Lenses: An Increasingly Popular Choice
While zooms are the most popular lenses due to their framing flexibility, many enthusiasts are gravitating to wide-aperture non-zoom or prime lenses. Lenses in the f/1.8-2.8 range let in more light to shoot in really dim conditions without bumping up the ISO too high and getting “digital grain.” And shooters can create dramatic effects in portraits and landscapes by exploiting the limited depth of field at maximum aperture, creating a beautiful softness in backgrounds and foregrounds to make the subject pop.

Sony has pioneered the resurgence of fast primes lenses with such outstanding (and affordable) examples as the Sony 85mm f/2.8 SAM ($249.99), the SAL 50mm f/1.8 DT AF ($149.99) and the DT 35mm f/1.8 SAM ($199.99), which provide equivalent focal lengths of 132mm, 78mm and 54mm, respectively. They fit both Sony Alpha and Minolta DSLRs.



With the ongoing upsurge in the compact system camera category can lenses be far behind? No indeed, and there are some fascinating options. One that’s generating lots of buzz is the 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom, for the new Nikon 1 J1 and 1 V1 cameras, that is the equivalent of a 10x, 27-270mm all-in-one ultrazoom and has a three-speed power drive, a retractable lens mechanism for compactness and VR image stabilization built in. $749.95.

At the other end of the 1 Nikkor spectrum is the flat, super compact 10mm f/2.8 (27mm equivalent) prime lens that extends a mere 22mm from the camera body and comes in four matching color choices. $249.95.

Other interesting compact system lens choices for consumers include the new E-mount ultra-high-performance Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm f/1.8 ZA and the moderate telephoto E 50mm f/1.8 OSS prime lenses for Sony NEX cameras that are slated to retail for $999 and $299, respectively.

And from Pentax, for the charming little Pentax Q, the 3.2mm f/5.6 Fisheye lens ($129.95) and 18mm f/8 Toy Lens Telephoto, a 100mm-equivalent medium telephoto lens that gives a toy camera effect that should be pretty cool for shooting vintage-looking portraits ($79.95).

The main thing to think about when selling the next lens is determining which ones work best with your customers’ present lens arsenal to extend their photographic range in a direction that includes the type of pictures they shoot most often.

To do this effectively you’ve really got to get to know who they are, what kinds of pictures they take now, and where they want to go with their photography. In other words, more than any other photographic accessory, selling lenses is all about relationship marketing.