Let me put it to you this way. Would you be able to cook anything efficiently if you only had one knife and it was a butter knife? Or how fun would a hike be in your dress shoes?
We have different types of knives and shoes because they serve different purposes. The same goes for lenses.
A wide angle lens usually refers to lenses with focal lengths between 17mm and 40mm and will give you a very wide perspective. Great for landscapes, interior spaces and events like concerts.
“Normal” Lenses will have a focal length of about 40mm to 60mm. They are considered “normal” lenses because they most accurately replicate what the human eye sees. These are very flexible lenses and can be used for portraits and achieving a look that is similar to what people see.
Telephoto lenses go from 70mm upward. Low end telephoto (70-100) produce the least distortion and are ideal for portraits as the tend to slim down a person’s face. Telephotos are also great for sports, wildlife or anything where you are far away from your subject. The down side is they tend to be large and heavy.
As you can see each lens type offers something different. Personally, I like shooting on the wider side, so most of my lenses are between wide angle and normal. But I do always carry a telephoto in case an opportunity comes up where I’ll need it.
If you are starting out, go to a site like 500px.com and find photos you like. 500px will usually list the settings of the photo you’re looking at. With that information you can get an idea of the focal lengths you’d like to shoot with. Then look for a zoom lens that covers your needs.
If you want to shoot wide, get something that ranges between 16mm and 50mm, that way you’ll have both a wide and normal lens. If you like shooting long, find a lens that ranges between 55mm and up for the same reason.
Over time, you’ll learn the importance of having the right tools for the job.