So many lenses, and so many to choose from! What are you using? What is another one I should buy? And what are the best ones to buy or use for the type of photography I want to do? This is a question that so many photographers question themselves as they get their new cameras and strive to figure out what to do next. So, in this article, I hope to help you out with the basic questions of lenses, the technical things you should know and then what they do. So, let’s go:
1- There is a huge variety of lens types out there. And you need to know the types of lenses so that you can determine what you need to be looking for in order to direct yourself in the right direction as you make decisions of what you need. So, let’s start with the basics:
A- The normal lens. What is normal today? Back when I sold the older 35mm lenses, the 50 mm lens was usually the standard lens. And as I described this to my customers, I would tell them as you look in the camera, the subject appears the same as you looking at them in size without the lens as with a lens. Take the camera and look through it, and then take the camera down from your eye and look at the subject, and they don’t change in size or image. So, they look the same size looking through the lens as you do without the lens. Today, with the digital camera, according to the technical world, the standard lens is around 28 to 30 mm. So, when you get your new camera and it comes with an 18- 58 mm lens, the standard lens is in the middle there somewhere around 30 mm. Check it out and see if 30 mm approximately is the same as looking at your subject with or without the camera.
B. The Wide angle lens.
The wide angle lens is mostly used for the scenery shots. (Notice I said mostly. There are other reasons to use it, and I will get into that later). With the wide angle shots you get much more beautiful and delightful scenery. This is the most preferred lens to use.
C. The Telephoto lens:
The telephoto lens is used to bring something that is far away, up close. Perfect for wildlife photography, and sports photography.
D. The macro or micro lens:
Photo by : Lanny Cottrell
The macro or micro lens is used for taking pictures of close-ups. I mean real close ups. In some cases you could get a bug to fill the entire screen. It gets real close to things. And usually the nice thing is that it focuses all the way back to infinity, and so it can be used as a normal lens, depending on it’s focal length.
E. The Zoom lens.
The zoom lens is a very popular lens because it a a combination of some of the above lenses all built in to one lens, but, variable. So, say we use the 30 mm lens as a reference point and the standard normal lens. That would mean that everything above 30 mm becomes a telephoto lens, because it pulls things closer to you than the normal eye sees. The bigger the number, the closer it gets to you. Using the mm number then a 60 mm would bring in something twice as close to you. If you go the other way from the standard 30 mm lens, and go backwards, then you are in the wide angle area. And what it does is actually push the subject back further in order to get more angle in to the picture. So, if you had a 15 mm lens, it would push the subject back by 1/2 in order to get that much more angle into the picture. Now, if you had a zoom lens that had a 15mm to 60 mm zoom capability you would have a wide angle lens, through the normal range, then through to the telephoto range, all in one lens. Sounds like a magic lens, right? It is, but, has it’s drawbacks. We will get into that in a moment. But, there are lenses that start at 70mm to 300mm. Wow, now that is just a variable telephoto lens. No normal or no wide angle at all. That would be a little more than double what your eye sees, to about 10X stronger than what your eye sees, or pulls the subject in 10X closer. Nice lens, right?
Now, let’s look at some other ideas of what lenses can do for you:
2- The ideal portrait lens:
So, you want to become a professional portrait photographer. What lens would be the ideal portrait lens for you? Let’s take a look.
Photo by Lindsay Alder: Posing 101
A wide angle lens is NOT a good lens to take portraits of people. As you get close to a person, you will find that it tends to enlarge things that shouldn’t get enlarged as you try to fill the frame. This is a very beautiful girl, but, I think she is much more beautiful as you get the bigger lens, don’t you agree. I know she does not have that big nose. So, as you take a portrait of people, most photographers will choose a “small” telephoto lens. It will make them look more in proportion to what they really are. I am guessing that the above photos were based on the older version of using film. So, let’s say you could use 50mm to 150mm to get the same results today using your digital cameras.
3- The ideal sports lens:
photo by: shootdigitalpicslikethepros.com
Wow! Look at the size of those lenses! It looks like they need a wheelbarrow to carry those lenses around. Well, actually they probably had to have a wheelbarrow to carry the money it takes to purchase a lens like that. They are big, they are powerful, and they cost a LOT of money. But, here is the details on some of the ones these sports photographers use. Standing on the sideline of a major football game, they have a high speed camera, I mean one that shoots about 10 frames per second, and then you will notice they use a tripod to hold this beast of a lens and camera still, and also notice that the tripod or monopod mounts on the lens, not the camera to center balance this. And then the size of the lens is about 1000mm. What kind of pictures do they get? Like this:
Photo by: Photoanswers.co.uk
Photo by: photographymad.com
Photo by: Photography -on -the -net
So you can imagine that you can get that kind of photo while being safely away from the danger of some of those sports. It takes great practice and a lot of SD cards to get the “good one”.
Problems with certain lenses and what to do to correct them:
Problems? No, I just want one lens that will be perfect for everything. Wrong! There is no such thing. That is why every manufacture creates so many different lenses. Here are some issues that you need to be aware of, and biggest issue that most people forget to look for as they search for their ideal lens for their ideal job is: aperture opening.
Every lens has some limitations. And it has some specs that everyone needs to be aware of. Let’s take a moment and look at some specs, and I will try to translate this into something that makes sense.
We have listed here a manufacture that is making an extremely wide angle lens. It is a 10mm lens with an aperture range from F2.8 to F22. There is a bunch of stuff that we don’t really need to know, but that is about it. Notice that this manufacture makes this lens for all camera manufactures except the German based cameras. So, it’s minimum aperture will go down to F2.8. That is not bad for a wide angle lens. Now, here is your test. What if that number said F3.5 or F4? Would that change your opinion of this lens? What would we be using this wide angle lens for anyway? Mostly scenery and landscape photos, right? What if this lens was at F4 and it was at dusk? and you forgot your tripod? See the problem now? So, watch the F-stop on those lenses. Usually you can get wide angle lenses fairly cheap, but, they will be at F3.5 or F4 if they are cheaper lenses.
Let’s go to the real problem lenses that most people find they get themselves in trouble with. The Zoom lens or variable lens. If you look carefully through a zoom lens, and move the zoom ring, or move the zoom part up and down the barrel, you will notice the lens barrel inside moves something inside the lens. So, here is the usual problem with a zoom lens:
EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
There is the actual specs of a lens that sells for $1699 American dollars. Wow! it’s a lot of money. At 100 mm, the F stop is at 4.5. At 400 mm the F stop is at 5.6. This lens, by the way, has an image stabilizer in it. I wonder why? Because you are magnifying your shake itself at 400mm, but, the lens needs a lot of light to shoot it. You just don’t have much ability to get light through this lens. Let’s look at the lenses if they were not zoom lenses, but, fixed at 100mm and 400mm:
From the same manufacture, the 100mm lens, without it being a zoom lens, just 100 mm is at F2.8. So, if you like to shoot in lower light, then you don’t want a zoom lens. Let’s look at the 400mm lens:
The same manufacture makes this lens at 400mm at F4.
Now, if light is an issue, and you make your living out of shooting in low light, almost all the camera manufactures make a lens just for you:
I am going to pick on Canon, just for fun. Now most camera manufactures make a lens like this, but, for sake of photos, we will use their picture this time:
This is a Canon 85mm F1.2 lens. It is not a zoom lens. It is just a fixed lens set at 85mm, and that is all. It was meant for photographers who make a living shooting in extremely low light. Low light photography is a specialty type of photography and there is a special group of photographers who need this lens.
It retails for $1899.00 on the Canon website. Why is this single lens so expensive? If there is something you can do to be in awe, you will need to just look at the glass and the workmanship in this lens itself. This is a marvel of workmanship for sure. I am going to give you the detailed information of such a lens and then you can see if this is something you would need in your set of tools: Retaining the impressive optical performance and large aperture of the original EF 85mm f/1.2L USM, this new medium telephoto lens uses a Ring-type USM, high-speed CPU and optimized algorithms to achieve an autofocus speed approximately 1.8x faster than the original. The high-speed AF and circular aperture create a shallow depth-of-field that brings attention to the subject and blurs the background, which is ideal for portraits and weddings. The floating optical system, which includes an aspherical lens element, suppresses aberrations and ensures excellent imaging performance.
Now with that being said, you are wondering just how many lenses are there? I am going to give you a complete list of lenses from Nikon. This will give you an idea of how many different lenses there are, and also to realize that the one reason there are so many different types of lenses is that there are that many different types of photographers out there who require different things from the camera manufactures.
AF-S DX NIKKOR
10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED
Compare AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm F3.5-4.5G ED
Sale!AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor
10.5mm f/2.8G ED
regular price Reg. $774.95
Compare AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED
Sale!AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor
12-24mm f/4G IF-ED
regular price Reg. $1,149.95
Compare AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED
14-24mm F2.8G ED
Compare AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm F2.8G ED
AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED
Compare AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED
AF-S DX NIKKOR
16-85mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR
Compare AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR
AF-S DX NIKKOR
16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
Compare AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
16-35mm f/4G ED VR
Compare AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
Compare AF Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D
Sale!AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor
17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
regular price Reg. $1,499.95
Compare AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED
Compare AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED
AF-S DX NIKKOR
18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR
Compare AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR
AF-S DX NIKKOR
18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Compare AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
AF-S DX NIKKOR
18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
Compare AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
AF-S DX NIKKOR
18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Compare AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
AF-S DX NIKKOR
18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Compare AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II
Compare AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II
Now that you have seen just how many lenses one company makes, maybe that scared you or confused you. But, I hope that one thing I have helped you with is to realize that as you start taking pictures, you will find that there is some type of photography you really like to do and you will get really good at it. Let’s now take a look at what a few trade photographers might put in their bag to use as their tools:
* The Wedding Photographer:
Would probably want a few lenses. Thinking that he would be using lenses to take pictures of the following things, and this is the lenses he may need:
A – Portrait lens ( bride, bride and groom) Probably around the 85mm lens maybe 1.4 for some low light photos of the bride through the window.
20mm lens to get a picture of all the people in a group shot. Probably will be using flash with this either inside or outside.
70-300mm zoom lens: to capture the guests mingling in the crowd, and so you can get good candid photos.
85mm macro lens to get a good close-up of the rings. Got to have the jewelry in the picture collection.
So, we have around 5 lenses that the wedding photographer would probably want. A wedding photographer will have more than lenses in his bag. He will have flashes and other equipment, but that is not in this subject at this time.
* The wildlife photographer:
This photographer, to do it right, has to be a bit tougher than one can imagine. I have seen the lenses and the arsenal that they bring, and it is shocking to get the types of photos they want. But, you have to have great respect for the wildlife in their habitat, and you must stay back from them if possible, not to bother them. So, they will carry big, big lenses usually. So, sometimes the same as the sports photographers:
The big lens: the 800mm lens will probably be on their list. If not, the 200-500 zoom lens will be in their bag. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a teleconverter either to magnify the lens they have. Or probably all 3 of these lenses. But, sometimes you are not always that far away, so, you will get the 80-400 mm lens as well to get the smaller, less dangerous animals that you can get closer to.
So, that is the necessary lenses, plus they will probably have a nice wide angle lens or two for the great scenery they will be in, plus the tripod and lots of SD cards because they will take a huge series of these animals with the motor drive running to get the “one” perfect shot.
* The Street photographer:
The street photographer a good arsenal of lenses. Just looking at the types of photos you take as a street photographer, you can see that you need to be far away from your subjects, typically, and you will need to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Plan that as you pick your camera as well. But, as far as lenses, most street photographers will usually go with the zoom lenses so that they can frame their photos the way they want. The street photographer usually has to blend in with the crowd. So, not a bunch of lenses. So, if you could have one lens that would do it all let’s pick this one: 18-200 mm lens. OR 55-200 lens.
* The Landscape photographer:
The landscape photographer is in need of wide angle shots, in order to get the most of what they see. But, they will also need to be prepared for other things, just being in the wild. But, here is what is typical for them:
20mm lens, also the possibility of having wildlife show up while doing their landscape (happens all the time), so, maybe a 18-200 mm lens, and, oh yeah, the flowers will come out as well, and you have to have a close up lens, so: 85mm macro lens.
* The Portrait Photographer:
portrait of Emma Watson, by: fanpop.com
The portrait photographer has, besides the lighting he or she has to have, a variety of lenses in order to make the person look great. As I mentioned above, you do not want to use any type of wide angle lens on a person. Usually a very sharp, small telephoto is the ideal lens for a good portrait photographer. Especially if the person has incredible good skin. That needs to be shown off. Lens: 85mm. Ahh, I brought up a good point: what if the person has a bad complexion? That is usually fixed on the computer in today’s world. They used to make soft focus lenses, but, I could not find, as of this printing, any more soft focus lenses. So everything to clear up acne or poor complexion is done in the computer now. I have seen a few portrait photographers use a small zoom lens say: 55-200 zoom to get further away from the subject. I am not a fan of zoom lenses when doing portraits, but, I know some portrait photographers who use it quite successfully.
* There are many other types of photography out there, but this covers what most of the world does. There are those specialized photographers, such as those who get paid to take pictures of forensics, who take pictures of food, homes, cars, industrial stuff, etc. So, that may be why there is so many other types of lenses. So, I hope you get the idea from the above examples.
SO, GO THROUGH THIS CAREFULLY AND UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU NEED AND WHAT LENS IS RIGHT FOR THE RIGHT JOB. THEN THE JOY OF PHOTOGRAPHY WILL COME THROUGH.
I have been a photographer for many years. Worked in retail selling cameras and accessories for over 20 years. Taught many photo classes, and have even been a judge in several county fairs. Now, I want to share photo instructions and entertainment with all other photographers around the world.
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