A camera lens is an optical lens or an assembly of lenses, used in conjunction with a camera body and a mechanism to make images of objects. These can be either on photographic film or on another type of media, capable of storing an image chemically or electronically. There is no major difference in principle, between a lens used for a still camera, a video camera, a telescope, a microscope, or other apparatus, but the detailed design and construction are different. A lens may be permanently fixed to a camera, or they may be interchangeable with lenses of different focal lengths, apertures, and other properties.
You want to make sure you have best camera lenses and here we will assist you in finding the best one with the help of the following criteria.
Ultra-Wide angle lenses have a focal length of around less than 24 mm, (in a 35 mm-format), this means they can take in a wider scene than is typical, though they’re not only about getting all of a subject into a shot. Rectilinear ultra-wides help keep straight lines, while fisheyes will reproduce buildings with curved walls.
Because of the wide field of view, shots with an ultra wide angle lenses typically feature a large depth of field. Images tend to pull in subjects that are close, and push away more distant ones making them appear further apart. Perspective distortion of ultra-wides can give a “falling-building-syndrome”, (where vertical lines converge), but this can be corrected in post-processing, or minimized with good technique. While often seen as a specialist lens, ultra-wide angles can be used in a number of ways. Typical uses include landscape, architecture and interior photography. Even the distortion can be used creatively, especially when using fisheye lenses.
Typically covering a focal length between 24 mm and 35 mm, wide-angle lenses are available as primes or zooms and come with either variable or a fixed maximum aperture. Offering a wide field of view, they often also boast close minimum focusing distances. Wide-angle photographs can magnify the perceived distance between subjects in the foreground and background. Wide-angles suffer less distortion than their ultra-wide counterparts, but you still get an exaggeration of lines and curves which can be used artistically. Many people only reach for a wide-angle lens when trying to get the whole of a subject in frame, whether that’s a building, a large group of people or a landscape. However, while those are perfectly good uses of one, they can also be used for interesting portraits where you want to place a subject in a situation. Just be careful not to distort faces unflatteringly, by shooting too close.
The kit lens your DSLR, or interchangeable lens mirrorless camera came with. is probably an example of a standard zoom lens, covering a focal range of around 35-70 mm. Lenses with better optics and faster maximum apertures are also available.
Many photographers consider a 50 mm prime, (in 35-mm-format), as a normal lens, as it’s said to reproduce an image with an angle of view which feels “natural” and similar to what you see with your eyes, even thought this isn’t technically true.
Standard zoom lenses and normal primes sit between wide-angles and telephotos, in terms of image characteristics, and are much more like you see things, with the human eye. Normal prime lenses tend to have faster maximum apertures which can allow for a shallow depth of field and lower light shooting. As their name would suggest, normal or standard lenses are versatile lenses which can be used for almost all sorts of photography whether street, documentary, landscape, or portrait. Because normal prime lenses tend to feature faster maximum apertures, they allow you to shoot with a shallower depth of field and in lower light.
Telephoto lenses are those with a focal length in excess of 70 mm, though many people would argue that a “true” telephoto lenses are ones which exceed 135 mm. They focus on a much narrower field of view than other lenses, which means they are good for focusing in on specific details or distant subjects. They are generally larger and heavier than equally specified wider lenses.
Because they have a narrower angle of view, telephoto lenses bring far away subjects, closer. They can also have the effect of compressing the sense of distance in a scene and making objects appear closer together. A narrow depth of field means that a subject can be in focus with a blurred background and foreground. In addition to being used to photograph subjects you can’t, (or don’t want to), get close to, such as sports or wildlife, telephoto lenses can be used for shooting portraits and even landscapes, where their normalization of relative size can be used to give a sense of scale.
One of the more specialist lenses, macro lenses are technically those which are capable of reproducting ratios greater than 1:1. However, the term is frequently used to refer to any lens which can be used for extreme close-up photography. Macro lenses typically have focal lengths somewhere between 40-200 mm. Macro lenses normally have excellent image sharpness, though it’s worth noting that when working at close distances they also have a tiny depth of field. You can often end up with a shot of an insect where only a fraction of it is in focus.
Though normally used for close-up photography, (at which they excel), macro lenses can also be great for portraits, thanks to their typical sharpness and focal lengths.
Unlike a wide-angle lens, a fisheye is not corrected for distortion. Because of this, fisheye lenses have an extreme 180 degree angle of view and an image characterized by “barrel distortion.” A regular wide-angle lens is corrected for distortion by adding corrective lens elements. As a result, the angle of view is reduced considerably, but with an image that is considerably less distorted. A wide-angle lens will always have an angle of view that is less than that of a fisheye lens of the same focal length.
There are two distinct kinds of fisheye lenses: diagonals and circulars. The diagonal type of fisheye is the most common type and the most preferred. These lenses map a 180 degree angle of view “diagonally” across your frame’s sensor, so that the image area is filled in with pixels. It’s for this reason that diagonals are often called “full frame fisheye lenses.” A circular fisheye, on the other hand, creates a circular image centered within your camera’s frame. Circulars have a much shorter focal length than the diagonals. If you’re in the market for a circular and you’re shooting with a full frame camera, you’re looking at a focal range of 8–10mm.
Pancake lenses are primarily valued for providing quality optics in a compact package, typically with a wide-angle-to-standard focal length such as 28mm or 40mm. The resulting camera and lens assembly may even be small enough to be pocketable, a design feature which is usually impractical with conventional SLR bodies and lens assemblies.
Pancake lenses can be very short and flat because they do not need large amounts of optical correction, i.e., extra lens elements. The problem arises when such lenses have too short a focal length to fit in front of the retractable mirrors used in reflex cameras. In such a situation, a pancake lens focuses in front of, rather than on, the focal plane, (film or light sensor), of the camera. This has necessitated the design of retrofocus lenses that refocus the image further back, which is why such lenses are longer and bulkier than their “pancake” equivalents. Thanks to their simple design, pancake lenses are often inexpensive.
If you want to buy a lens that will attach onto your camera, this is known as the lens mount/compatibility. Camera manufacturers generally make lenses with proprietary mounts which will only fit their devices, sometimes having multiple lens mounts for different camera lines.
The major exception to this is the “Micro Four Thirds” lenses, which can be used on respective Olympus and Panasonic cameras. Third party manufacturers also make lenses with mounts to fit various brands. It’s important to know which mount your camera uses before heading out to buy a lens.
Example lens mounts for DSLR’s include the Nikon F-mount, Canon’s EF or EF-S, the Pentax K and Sony’s Alpha (A) mount. For mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, these are things like the Canon EF-M, Fujifilm XF, Nikon 1, Sony E, Samsung NX and Pentax Q. As mentioned earlier, Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras take any Micro Four Thirds mount lenses.
Focal length is expressed in mm and a higher number means a bigger zoom, while a lower number mean the lens can be used for wider shots. As a rough reference, the human eye is said to see about the equivalent of 30-50 mm on a full frame camera, (more on that later). A number lower than 30-50 mm will take in a bigger view than you naturally see, while higher numbers mean focus will be on a smaller aspect of your view. If the lens has a focal length range with two numbers (say 24-80 mm) this means it’s a zoom lens and is capable of zooming and being used at any point across that range.
However, if there is a single focal length number, (50 mm for instance), it’s a prime lens, so taking in more or less of the view will require you to get closer or further away from your subject. Traditionally, primes have been considered to be optically superior to zooms, because trade-offs have to be made when producing zoom lenses. But, that’s not to say that some zooms are not better than some prime lenses.
To make the ability to understand focal length even more difficult, the same focal length lens gives different views on cameras with various sensor sizes, because of the crop factor (the sensor only takes up part of the projected image). As a result, many manufactures give a 35 mm-format equivalent on lenses designed for cameras with smaller sensors, and in this article, descriptions are based on 35 mm-format. Therefore, if your camera has a smaller sensor, and there’s a good chance it does, you’ll need to consider this when deciding which lens you need.
If you’re using a full frame camera, there’s no calculation needed, a lens will give you the field of view you’d expect from its number. If your camera has an APS-C sensor (Nikon DX DSLR’s, Sony NEX…), it has a crop factor of 1.5 – meaning you multiply the lens focal length by 1.5 to get its equivalent 35 mm-format focal length. For Canon APS-C cameras that number is 1.6, for Micro Four Thirds cameras it’s 2.0 and for the Nikon 1 series it’s 2.7.
That means a 35 mm lens would give a field of view equivalent to 56 mm on an APS-C camera like a Canon 70D and equivalent to 70 mm on a Micro Four Thirds camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M1. On a Nikon 1, it would act like a 95 mm lens does on a full frame camera.
Maximum aperture is shown in a number of ways, but whether it’s f/2.8, F2.8 or 1:2.8, it all means the same thing and refers to the maximum amount of light which the lens can gather. Lenses with larger maximum apertures, (slightly adding to the confusion of these, are the ones with lower numbers), are capable of gathering more light.
As a F1.8 lens is able to use more light than an F4 lens, this means it could be used in lower-light situations, without having to use a flash, and is capable of producing a shallower depth of field, (the part of the image that is sharp), as shown below. Some zoom lenses have a variable maximum aperture meaning that it changes depending on focal length. So, while a 18-200 mm F3.5-5.6 lens would have a maximum aperture of F3.5 at 18 mm, it would be F5.6 by the time you zoomed to 200 mm.
Image stabilization, (IS), is a family of techniques used to reduce blurring associated with the motion of a camera, or another imaging device, during exposure. Generally, it compensates for the pan and tilt, (angular movement, equivalent to yaw and pitch), of the imaging device, although electronic image stabilization can also be used to compensate for rotation.
Image stabilization enables photographers to take pictures under lighting conditions that, once upon a time, would have been considered too “iffy” for capturing sharp, still images. Depending on the make, model, and vintage of your IS-enabled camera or lens, image stabilization allows you to capture sharp pictures at shutter speeds three, four, or five times slower than previously possible.
The rule of thumb for capturing sharp, handheld imagery is that you shouldn’t handhold a camera at shutter speeds slower than the equivalent focal length of the lens. This means a 500mm lens shouldn’t be handheld at speeds slower than 1/500-second, a 300mm lens slower than 1/300-second, a 50mm lens slower than 1/50-second, and a 20mm lens slower than 1/20-second.
Add image stabilization into the mix and suddenly you can capture sharp images of still objects with a 500mm lens at speeds down to 1/60-second, a 300mm lens at speeds down to 1/30-second, and a 20mm lens at speeds down to 1/2-second.
The problem is that, while setting up a new camera for the first time, many shooters turn the camera or lens’s image stabilization on, and never look back, figuring “if I need it, it’s on,”, but depending on your particular camera or lens, that may or may not be such a good idea. Image stabilization only allows you the ability to capture sharp images of static subjects at slower speeds. Moving objects will be equally blurry or streaky—and in some cases blurrier or shakier with the IS turned on.
An autofocus optical system uses a sensor, a control system and a motor to focus on an automatically or manually selected point or area. Nearly every modern lens is produced with autofocus, but there is some information about autofocus that is important to know for the next time that you choose a camera or lens.
For example, autofocus Nikon lenses have one of two labels: “AF” and “AF-S”. Both of these labels mean that the lens is capable of autofocus, albeit in different ways. “AF” lenses do not have an autofocus motor built into the lens and instead rely on the camera itself to focus the lens. This is done through use of a screw-drive type motor, pictured below. However, not all Nikon cameras are capable of focusing these lenses because some cameras lack the screw drive motor. Entry level Nikons such as the D40, D5000, and D3000, all lack this screw drive motor. (Note: this does not mean that these cameras do not autofocus, only that they do not autofocus with non “AF-S” type lenses) This is a huge reason to step up to the next camera class, (D90, D300, etc.), because it opens the door to a much wider range of lens compatibility.
The other autofocus Nikon lens, designated “AF-S”, is much simpler to understand. These lenses have motors built-in directly to the lens and will autofocus on any modern Nikon camera. Also, some AF-S systems are faster than a screw driver system could ever be, so many of the new Nikon lens versions are all “AF-S” type lense
Canon lenses on the other hand, are much simpler to navigate. Every modern Canon “EOS” lens autofocuses on every Canon EOS camera body. “USM”, or ultra sonic motor lenses, mean that the motor is built into the lens, but every Canon EOS camera can still focus every Canon lens.
Each camera and lens manufacturer has a little different system. If you shoot a brand like Sony or Pentax, make sure to do some reading both in the manual and online to explore the various autofocus options. There’s nothing worse than dropping a good chunk of change to find that your lens doesn’t autofocus on your camera body.
Most lenses have a switch that turns autofocus on and off. If you find that autofocus doesn’t work well for the shot you’re trying to take, (for example, if there’s a stick in front of part of the bird), then you have to flip that switch on the lens before manually focusing. Some newer lenses feature a full-time manual override mechanism, which means that you can adjust the focus manually any time you want, without first flipping the manual/AF switch on the lens. This is only useful in one-shot modes, after the camera has finished autofocusing, and while you still have your finger on the shutter-release button. At this point you can manually adjust the focus and then press the shutter-release button the rest of the way to take the photo. Note, that if you manually adjust the focus before pressing the shutter-release button halfway, then the autofocus will still kick in, (if you haven’t disabled it via the switch on the lens) when you press the shutter-release button, which usually isn’t what you want.
Camera lens filters still have many uses in digital photography, and should be an important part of any photographer’s camera bag. These can include polarizing filters to reduce glare and improve saturation, or simple UV/haze filters, to provide extra protection for the front of your lens. The most commonly used filters for digital photography include polarizing (linear/circular), UV/haze, neutral density, graduated neutral density and warming/cooling or color filters.
Filters should only be used when necessary, because they can also adversely affect the image. Since they effectively introduce an additional piece of glass between your camera’s sensor and the subject, they have the potential to reduce image quality. This usually comes in the form of either a slight color tint, a reduction in local or overall image contrast, or ghosting, and increased lens flare caused by light inadvertently reflecting off the inside of the filter.
Filters may also introduce physical vignetting, (light fall-off or blackening at the edges of the image), if their opaque edge gets in the way of light entering the lens, (right example). This was created by stacking a polarizing filter on top of a UV filter while also using a wide angle lens — causing the edges of the outermost filter to get in the way of the image. Stacking filters, therefore, has the potential to make all of the above problems much worse.
Lens filters generally come in two varieties: screw-on and front filters. Front filters are more flexible because they can be used on virtually any lens diameter, however, these may also be more cumbersome to use since they may need to be held in front of the lens. On the other hand, filter holder kits are available that can improve this process. Screw-on filters can provide an air-tight seal when needed for protection, and cannot be accidentally moved, when relative to the lens during composure. The main disadvantage is that a given screw-on filter will only work with a specific lens size.
The size of a screw-on filter is expressed in terms of its diameter, which corresponds to the diameter usually listed on the top or front of your camera lens. This diameter is listed in millimeters and usually ranges from about 46 to 82 mm for digital SLR cameras. Step-up or step-down adapters, can enable a given filter size to be used on a lens with a smaller or larger diameter, respectively. However, step-down filter adapters may introduce substantial vignetting, (since the filter may block light at the edges of the lens), whereas step-up adapters mean that your filter is much larger, (and potentially more cumbersome), than is required.
The height of the filter edges may also be important. Ultra-thin and other special filters are designed so that they can be used on wide angle lenses without vignetting. On the other hand, these may also be much more expensive and often do not have threads on the outside to accept another filter, (or sometimes even the lens cap).
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