Types of Lenses:
Which Ones Are Right For You?
Now that you've invested in a D-SLR camera, what lens should you buy? First, you need to understand focal length, the most important lens specification
What is focal length and why do I need to know about it?
Focal length defines the distance from the first glass element of a lens to the point of focus. The distance is typically measured in millimeters (mm). Generally, the larger the mm rating on a lens, the more magnification the lens provides. Focal length determines how much you can fit into a photo. Wide-angle lenses fit more into your photo and work nicely for indoor pictures as well as landscapes. Telephoto lenses allow you to enlarge a subject when you cannot get physically close. These are ideal for wildlife photos.
Now let's check out the different types of lenses and how they affect the types of photos you take.
Types of Lenses
Fixed Focal Length (includes fixed or prime lenses and normal lenses)
Non-zoom lenses have only one focal length and are known as fixed or "prime" lenses. Fixed lenses generally offer good image quality, higher light sensitivity, and are smaller and lighter. Fixed lenses are ideal for portrait photography when you are taking a lot of pictures at the same focal length.
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Short-Range Zoom (includes zoom or compact zoom lenses)
A short-range zoom lens is a standard, all-purpose lens, typically around 18-55mm (3x optical zoom equivalent). It lets you vary the focal length somewhat with a shorter range for zooming in and out. These are ideal for everyday photography, but do not allow for distant zoom capabilities. Some of the newer compact zoom lenses feature vibration reduction (VR) to compensate for camera shake, and provide incredibly crisp, clear images.
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Long-Range Zoom (includes telephoto and zoom lenses)
A zoom lens allows you to vary the focal length and makes the lens more versatile, dramatically expanding your shooting options. When you zoom in, the focal length increases; as you zoom out, it decreases. Generally 70-200mm or higher (up to 600mm), long-range zooms are great for dramatic shots of distant objects. They allow you to get close to your subject from a distance. Specific long-range zooms or telephoto lenses have a focal length higher than 70mm. However, the longer the focal length, the more likely it is to produce blurry photos, especially when there isn't enough light. Newer models are now being manufactured with image stabilization to correct this.
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Specialty Lenses (includes macro, fisheye and ultrawide angle lenses)
Macro lenses are used specifically for extreme close-up work as they can take clear photos of a subject that is very close. They enable amazingly detailed life-size shots of objects such as a flowers, insects and jewelry. Fisheye lenses purposely distort or curve your image, which provides a nice artsy touch to a special photo. Ultrawide angle lenses are ideal for expansive landscapes and group photos. They offer huge fields of views and versatile shooting options, and usually have a focal length of less than 18mm or 28mm. Wide angle lenses allow you to fit everyone in the photo — no more making them shift positions and squeeze in!
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Image Stabilization: The latest, greatest lens feature
Many lenses now come with built-in optical image stabilization (sometimes referred to as vibration reduction), which moves the lens elements in an attempt to counteract sensed motion of the camera. This results in fewer blurred photos and is especially useful when you are zooming in low light or with slower shutter speeds.