Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.
- Yousef Karesh
Before taking a class on Photography it might be a good idea to get your own Camera and your first Lense!
One can easily be overwhelmed when choosing their first Lense. What Type ? What Brand ? Focal Length? 200mm, 300mm, 90mm. Fixed? Zoom? Wide Angle? Telephoto? It's easy to see how difficult this choice can be especially with so many different terms and things to choose from!
Don't Worry! Superprof is here to help you, future Photographer, in navigating this dense jungle- objective: Your first Lense!
See where you can find photography courses here.
Photography Lenses : What Focal Length should I choose?
When Choosing a Lense the first question one should ask is what is Focal Length?
Focal Length , usually represented in millimeters (mm), is the basic description of a photographic lens. It is not a measurement of the actual length of a lens, but a calculation of an optical distance from the point where light rays converge to form a sharp image of an object at the focal plane in the camera.
The focal length tells us the angle of view—how much of the scene will be captured—and the magnification—how large individual elements will be. The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view and the higher the magnification. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view and the lower the magnification.
In layman's terms a Short Focal length will have more "Information" than a Longer Focal Length when you've just changed the lense and haven't moved the camera.
Let's Focus on the most used types of lenses :
- Standard Lense : As you might have guessed, a Standard Lense will most closely approximate what you see naturally. A Standard Lense will have a Focal Length anywhere Between 35mm and 85mm . This is ideal for Portraits and day to day shots where the Photograph should closely resemble what the Human Eye see's.
- Wide-Angle Lense : What we see through the View finder is Exaggerated, that is to say, a distortion on what the Eye would normally see. Anything under 25mm is considered to be a Wide Angle Lesne. These are great for confined spaces where you need more information in the photo but have less space, but also a great choice for landscape Photography because of their shallow depth of field.
- Telephoto Lense : The Telephoto Lense is the best friend of the Wildlife photographer as this allows a Close up of the subject without disturbing it. Telephoto Lenses are those with a Focal Length above 70mm.
The Choice of Lense is always determined by the need of the photographer, and with a little experience and practice reaching for the right lense will become second nature!
Still don't know what Focal Length is right for you? Here are some tips :
- Go on Flickr and pick a variety of photos that you like. Save them and set them aside.
- The majority of Photos will have their EXIF data on the bottom right of the page which will give you the relevant Lense information.
- Once you have done this for a variety of photos a pattern will start to emerge and you will understand what Lense you prefer!
You can also look at the blogs of some Famous Photographers in order to see their Lense of choice.
What about Macro Lenses ?
Macrophotography, or extreme close-up Photography, is a type of photography in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size. Very specialized lenses are needed to accomplish this job and the result is always astonishing!
If taking photographs of Insects interests you, a Macro Lense is a must! There is no other way once can capture such small detail without them!
The trap in which one should not fall is that most non-macro objectives include the word macro in their description. Oh Marketing!
To be sure to choose a macro lens, you have to look at its data sheet in the line "minimum distance of focus". If it is 140cm, it is not a macro objective. Better to get closer to 30cm.
Remember that a a macro lens is classically a lens capable of reproduction ratios of at least 1:1, just be sure to always check the data sheet!
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What about Fixed and Zoom Lenses? What's the difference?
The main difference between a Zoom and a Fixed, or Prime Lense, is that one zoom's (The Focal Length can be adjusted) and the other doesn't. Before you rush to any conclusions there are pro's and con's to both, or better, one set is better suited for a particular situation. Once again knowledge and preparedness are the Photographers best ally. (And Light!)
|Advantages to Prime Lenses||Advantages to Zoom Lenses|
|The Quality of the Image. Prime Lenses are usually made out of better glass not to mention that they allow for larger Maximum aperture meaning that the image will be more stable and will require less light.||Versatility and ease of use. Not having to constantly change Lenses also makes for a cleaner camera!|
|Prime Lenses weigh less as they have less parts, however you will have to carry more of them!||Heavy! Zoom lenses can be heavy but then again one Zoom can hypothetically do the job of 3 or even 4 Primes!|
|They tend to be generally less expensive than Zoom Lenses||The Price fluctuates according to quality and of course Focal Lengths available.|
Photography lenses : Focal Ratio?
The Second most important piece of information to consider when buying a lense is the focal ratio.
These f-numbers that are known as “f-stops” are a way of describing the size of the aperture, or how open or closed the aperture is. A smaller f-stop means a larger aperture, while a larger f-stop means a smaller aperture. Here are some examples:
- 50mm f/1.8 this denotes that this Fixed 50mm lense has a maximum aperture of f/1.8
- 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 this zoom Lense has an aperture that can vary between f/3.5 and f/5.6
- 28-70mm f/2.8 this zoon Lense has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 regardless of focal length.
The advantage of a large aperture is the ability to shoot in low light conditions as more light comes into contact with the sensor or Film, also important to remember is the artistic quality of large aperture which results in more varied Bokeh which is the term for out of focus objects.
Basically, the bigger the aperture the more expensive the lense...
The Maximum Aperture settings for a professional photographer depends on the situation or the effect of the photograph:
- Interior Shots : f/2.8 or higher is ideal
- Over cast exterior : If you are using a fast shutter speed a f/3.5 is recommended.
- Full sunlight : No matter the Aperture everything will show!
Always be sure to plan your shoot ahead so that you will be better prepared!
The most important thing when deciding what lense to use or bring is of course the subject of what you will be photographing. As we touched on before a Landscape shoot might need a wide angle lense in order to get a better sense of the size of the environment as opposed to a Wildlife photographer who will of course never leave his home without a Telephoto or Super Telephoto Lense (300mm-600mm)!
Note: You can search Superprof for online photography courses.
Should I choose a stabilized photo lens?
Stabilization prevents "camera shake" when the camera is not stable or when a Zoom Lense is at maximum Focal Length . In the case where a tripod is used, it is not useful to have a stabilized Lense.
It is still a big advantage to not have to take out your tripod all the time!
This technology also reduces the shutter speed by about two stops, which can be useful in low light conditions.
Of course, this option has a significant cost when you start. Better to invest in a tripod than in a stabilized lens in this case!
In addition, some cameras are equipped with a Sensor-shift image-stabilisation system: thus making the stabilized lens an unnecessary investment.
On the other hand, the stabilizer of a lens will only prevent camera shake. Motion blur will not be prevented. This is when the photographer's talents come into play! (And his sturdy hands!) In order to make that photograph into a work of art tweaking the shutter speed or altering the f/stop will go a long way!
Photography Lenses : What Lense should I choose when first starting out?
When first starting out good advice can go a long way! Photography itself is hard enough, and that's without factoring in the hours and hours one will spend using and talking about equipment!
Superprof has decided to give you a hand, and we have agreed that the ideal camera for a beginner to intermediate is a Nikon Reflex (or Canon equivalent) with a 18-55mm Zoom Lense.
It's important that a beginner have fun with photography, this is the first step, learning about framing, depth of field and all the rest will come in due time!
It might also be useful to include a fixed lense in your first kit because it will go a long way towards helping you improve your photography skills!
As we touched on before, one of the advantages of Prime Lenses is the ability to work under lower lighted conditions.
Every Lense house has affordable fixed lenses in their catalogue, favorites include and are not limited to the Standard 50mm F/1.8 or a 35mm F/1.8. They should run anywhere between 250 and 400 Dollars.
What brand of Photography Lenses should I look into?
Choosing a Lense is also choosing a manufacturer. It might be a good idea to begin by having a Lense which is made by the same house that manufactures your Camera, this will avoid any possible need for an adapter which will inflate your budget unnecessarily!
Canon and Nikon are of course the most trusted and recognized popular brands, but this doesn't mean that other companies such as Sigma or Tamron are lacking. As always the internet is a great source for choosing and comparing lenses with a plethora of forums and reviews dedicated to Lenses and monitored by professionals.
Samyang for example is a South- Korean brand which makes very good Lenses even though they are notorious for not having the ability to Autofocus which can be a pro or a con depending on your needs!
In order to give you a hand in this very exciting and loaded time here is a Table with Canon, Nikon, Tamron, and Sigma lenses arranged and organized according to their price and Focal Lengths:
|Lense Type / Budget||Less than 350 Dollars||Between 350 à 800 £||Between 800 à 1500 £||More than 1500 £|
|Grand angle||Canon 10-18|
Nikon 35 2
Samyang 14 2.8
|Canon 17-40 4L|
Nikon 10 2.8
Samyang 14 2.8
|Canon 16-35 2.8 L|
Nikon 16-35 4 VR
|Canon 14 2.8 L|
Nikon 14 2.8
|Standard Zoom||Tamron 17-50 2.8||Canon 17-85 IS|
Sigma 17-50 2.8
|Canon 24-70 2.8 L|
Nikon 17-55 2.8
Sigma 24-70 2.8
|Nikon 24-70 2.8|
|Telephoto Zoom||Canon 75-300 4-5.6|
Nikon 55-200 4.5-5.6
|Canon 70-200 4 L|
Tamron 70-200 2.8
|Canon 70-200 4 L IS|
Sigma 70-200 2.8
|Canon 70-200 2.8 L IS|
Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR
Some more interesting advice :
- Make a budget and plan for a contingency that exceeds it by 20-40%
- Start by searching for your dream Lense. You''ll be surprised by the opportunities out there!
- Finally get the best deal you can find!
Contrary to the fashion usually put forth by new advertising campaings and the likes, technology hasn't drastically evolved, especially for the beginner, much over the last 3-4 years and an economic find might actually be the best lense for you! Knowing what you want will go a long way towards making sure you get a great deal!
There are also many websites that offer the possibility to rent equipment. www.borrowlenses.com/Lenses is a great site for trying out equipment before you buy it! Check it out!
Are you interested in discovering easy tips to improve your camera skills? Check out our article!
In closing :
- After answering the question What camera Should I get ? Comes What Lense should I buy? Take care and study both attentively as they will be with you for years to come and will shape your first contact with Photography.
- Understanding the Focal Length you need comes after you ask yourself What do I need it for? Remember that a Longer Focal length is better for capturing farther objects within a narrower field of view as opposed to a Shorter Focal Length which will give you the best capabilities when confronted with a subject such as a Landscape.
- Maximum Aperture is the second most important question. The Larger the Aperture, or the f/stop for those who have been reading, the more able you will be to shoot under less ideal conditions (Places with less light)
- A Lense with stabilization features is not imperative in your first kit! (But don't forget your tripod!)
- A Beginner in photography would be wise to think about a 50mm F/1.8 Lense or a 18-55mm Zoom, as long as the price isn't sky high.
- Always try to choose The same Lense Company as your Camera unless you stumble upon that dream Lense you've been researching and dreaming about!
Read about shooting photographs in black and white!