Lens Basics: A Common Sense Guide
(Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L)
|Wide Angle Lens|
(Canon EF-S 10-22mm)
- Prime v. Zoom. Prime lenses are lenses fixed on a single focal length. If you buy a 50mm prime lens, you will only be able to shoot at a 50mm focal length. Zoom lenses cover a range of focal lengths. for instance, a 17-85mm lens will give you a zoom range that covers most types of general photography. Prime lenses are generally sharper and faster than zoom lenses, so you are more likely to get better image quality with one of these lenses. Zoom lenses are very convenient, and they can be very high quality lenses. But generally speaking, they are slower (they have a smaller maximum aperture) and are not quite as sharp.
- Wide Angle v. Telephoto. Wide angle prime and zoom lenses let you cover a broad area in one photograph, and they tend to emphasize a feeling of depth. Objects in the foreground will appear larger relative to objects in the background when compared to the way your eyes see things. Telephoto prime and zoom lenses let you "get close" to objects far away. These lenses tend to de-emphasize depth, since objects in the the foreground will not be as large relative to objects in the background when compared to the way your eye sees things.
- Pro v. Consumer. Not all lenses are made equally. Professional lenses use higher quality glass, they're faster and sharper, and they are built to be more sturdy. They are also larger and bulkier than consumer lenses. Consumer lenses are more affordable and convenient for those on a budget, but not all consumer lenses are created equal either. Some consumer lenses are fantastically sharp and useful. Others, to put it bluntly, are not. Unfortunately, many of these lower quality lenses are "kit" lenses that come with entry level cameras.
- Full Framve v. APS-C. If you have a full frame camera (many professional cameras are full frame), you need to make sure you buy lenses made for full frame cameras (Canon calls these EF lenses, and Nikon calls these FX lenses). If you have a smaller, APS-C sized sensor on your SLR camera (this is true of most consumer DSLR cameras), you can use both types of lenses. That is, you can use both Canon's EF and EF-S lenses or Nikon's FX and DX lenses.
- IS/VR v. Non-IS/VR. Most current lenses being made now have image stabilization (IS); Nikon calls this Vibration Reduction (VR). This is a great newer feature of lenses that help you get sharper images when hand-holding. If you hand-hold while shooting, this can be extremely helpful, especially in low-light situations. If you only shoot on a tripod, this feature is pointless, and in fact, you'll want to make sure you have it turned off when shooting with a tripod.
|The effect of a wide-angle lens on perspective|
(Canon EF-S 10-22mm)
|Macro Lenses let you focus closely on your subject|
(Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L macro)
Up Next: Mid-Range Zoom Lenses