There are a lot of dominant qualities about SLR cameras, but what photographers tend to admire most is their ability to change lenses according to the shoot environment around them. With a number of different lenses to choose from, it can be overwhelming to come across different several terms, abbreviations, and specifications that need to be considered. Whether you're indoors, outdoors or at a distance, the selection for which lens to choose may seem endless and even tedious.
To help you decide on which lens goes best for your camera to capture the best quality photos, we are running a two-part lens series that will summarize all of the essential points to help fulfill your photography needs. In this first guide, we will walk you through different lens types, their uses and how you can determine which fits your camera.
If you are a beginner photographer, reading the name of a lense can be tricky and confusing, but if you comprehend the meaning of each part, it will ease your headache as you navigate your camera. There are a few aspects you need to keep in mind when choosing a lens, which includes the brand series, focal length, aperture, and image stabilization.
Here is an example as we breakdown a Canon EFS 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens:
Canon - Brand
EFS - Series
18-200 - Focal Length
f/3.5-5.6 - Maximum aperture
IS - Image Stabilization
While the numbers and different abbreviations might seem like gibberish for now, take a breather as we dive into the meaning and uses of each part.
Brand, Series, and Sensor Size
Buying a lens that is compatible with your camera brand is crucial, so, for example, if you have a Nikon camera, make sure you only use Nikon lenses. On top of matching the brands together, the lens also has to coincide with your camera’s model or series. Choosing the wrong lens for your camera can impact its functionality and its autofocus ability and quality.
Bear in mind that there are two different sensor sizes which are the full-frame sensors and the smaller image sensors. Checking the sensor size helps prevent unwanted effects impacting the quality of your photos.
The next important step to picking a lens is determining its focal length, which can feature one number or even multiple numbers. If you see a single number, it is fixed focal length commonly known as a “prime lens”. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the different lens categories below that are grouped according to their focal length: telephoto, zoom, prime, macro, and wide-angle.
Also known as a “long lens,” a telephoto lens is a type of long-focus lens that is designed to take photos of subjects at moderate to far distances. These lenses also let you choose the appropriate magnification for your chosen scene or subject.
As its title implies, a prime lens, or a "fixed lens," is a lens with a fixed focal length. Despite having an unchangeable set angle of view, these lenses are typically the most common amongst beginner photographers.
Unlike with the primes, zoom is a variable lens that provides the photographer with a functional range of different focal lengths in just one lens without having to change or switch.
Similar to fish-eye lenses, but not as wide, the wide-angle lenses capture a wider perspective that is similar to the perception of the naked eye. These lenses have the largest frame that is generally used for capturing photographs of landscapes, interiors, and architecture.
Macro lenses specifically lets you focus immensely close to a subject, making it appear larger than its actual size in the final image. Designed to take close-up photos of insects, flowers, and other tinier subjects, macro lenses allow you to see and show the real texture of the subject.
Measured in “f-stops,” the aperture describes the lens’ opening size by how much light is entering the camera. In basic terms, a higher f-stop number means there is a smaller opening and therefore, the camera is receiving less light. A small aperture number indicates a wider opening, which permits more light to go in for ideal for low-light photography.
Try out a lens that has its own image stabilization if your camera doesn’t have one already like most Pentax and Sony cameras. Image stabilization is used to magnify hand shaking as you capture the photo of the subject, and most importantly, if you are using a telephoto lens.
The following are the abbreviations used by some of the popular manufacturers stating their lenses feature built-in image stabilization:
Nikon – VR
Canon – IS
Sigma – OS
Tamron – VC
These are the beginner's basics to picking out a lens, but be sure to stay tuned for the second part of our series where we determine the best lenses for a multitude of photography scenes and subjects.