Have you got yourself a premium camera? Well, now you need to get a top-notch lens for it. Otherwise, it’s no good. But how to choose a camera lens accurately? As you probably know, lenses play the most crucial role in getting the perfect shots with your DSLR. A high-quality lens can add life to the pictures you take with your camera. But all the lenses available in the market are not created equally. You can spend a lot of money on a lens, and still, that might not give an excellent quality service. As necessary as the lens is for your camera, it is not the easiest task in the world to choose a lens that pays off right and delivers excellent performance. To get the most out of your investment in a lens, you must consider many things before choosing to get one for you. Understanding camera lenses better and more specifically will help you pick the best lens for your DSLR. Let’s go over a detailed guide on how to choose camera lenses that is pretty simple to follow and easy to understand.
Table of Contents
How Zooming Works
This is where a lot of beginners get confused. Many manufacturers advertise a lot of types of zooming, such as 3x, 4x, 8x, and so on. Without knowing which one you prefer for your camera, you should never purchase lenses.
Zoom has become a crucial thing lately for any photo shooter. If you are into nature or anything, you will occasionally need to zoom in with your camera. That’s why you need a lens that will help you achieve your desired effects. If you are wondering how to choose a camera lens, take note that going with the right zooming is crucial.
Some entry-level models of DSLR and mirrorless cameras are mostly sold in kits as they are supplied with a primary zoom lens. That is typically 18-15mm or 14-42mm, which depends on the brand and the format of the camera you get. You should know that the cameras with interchangeable lenses don’t necessarily give better zoom capability than a compact camera.
The 10x lenses are optimal for interchangeable lenses that hold maximum zooming power. But it’s about more than zoom when it comes to lenses. You probably have noticed, the smaller sized cameras have more zooming power than a regular sized camera. That is because the regular sized cameras require multiple lenses to cover the same range than the smaller ones. Cameras with interchangeable lenses use much larger sensors, which helps to capture higher quality pictures than the compact lenses. But obviously, for that, it uses larger lenses.
Another thing that confuses people is how close the lens can bring an object. The number of zooms, such as 4x or 3x, only shows the widest to the narrowest angle of view range of that lens. But to get an idea of how close you can bring a subject with the lens, you need to consider the focal length or the zoom rating.
The focal lens range is mostly advertised by the DSLR and mirrorless camera lens manufacturers. Whereas the point-and-shoot type cameras usually advertise the zoom ratings of the lenses such as 8x, 10x, and so on. An important thing to know is that most focal points are advertised like 18-55mm, 24-120mm, etc. But if you see a single focal length number like 55mm, it means that it’s a prime lens, which doesn’t zoom at all. Prime lenses usually offer a marvelous depth of field control, sharpness, and great light-gathering ability.
Wide-Angle vs Telephoto
The key difference between those two is that the wide-angle lens takes a large field of view, where a telephoto lens reveals only a smaller angle of view. As you probably can tell, the focal length indicates the angle of view indirectly. A telephoto lens might have a focal length of 100mm, 200mm, 400mm, or so on, while a wide-angle lens only will be 18mm or 24mm. That goes to show the vast difference which will determine the field of view of your lenses.
As 50mm is referred to as the “Normal” focal length, the switch from wide-angle to telephoto happens around the 50mm line on a full-frame camera. There are so many types of DSLR or mirrorless camera lenses. Let’s discuss some of the various lens categories that are based on full-frame camera equivalent focal length.
The wide-angle lenses that are available nowadays usually cover between 15-35mm. Anything less than that falls under the fisheye lens category. Despite lenses that are wider than 14mm is considered fisheye, it might not always be the case.
The standard (Normal) lens sits around 50mm. As mentioned earlier, that is the fine line between wide-angle and telephoto lenses. Now for the telephoto lenses, they typically cover between 70-200mm. Almost all the lenses out there in the market will fall under these categories. But you may find super-telephoto lenses that start around 300mm. Also, the macro lenses come in multiple focal lengths. That allows you to get up close to the target with mesmerizing details.
Now, you got the essential camera lens guide for beginners. But, which one of these you should get? Well, the wide-angle lens is generally used for landscapes or in tight quarters. On the other hand, telephoto lenses are famous for sports or nature. The portrait lens mostly falls in the short telephoto lens range, generally from 50mm to 105mm. The length can always vary.
It’s certainly possible to shoot portraits with wide-angle lenses. But that tends to distort the photo. Most of the smartphones feature wide-angle lenses. As a result, you might find your nose to look more prominent in selfies. But this distortion can help to emphasize distance. And that’s why wide-angle lenses are famous for sports like skateboarding and other games of that kind.
As a macro lens is most of the time a telephoto, the most important thing here is the magnification or reproduction ratio. A usual macro lens generally has a reproduction ratio of 1:1. That tells if you shoot a photo of a coin; for example, the picture of the coin projected onto the sensor will be the same size as the coin itself. That goes to show you how much extra detail will be visible when you print it out or look at the image on a computer screen.
All about Zoom Lenses
The importance of getting the right zoom lens for your camera is very crucial. Prime lenses are fixed with just one focal length, where zoom lenses come in a wide range of focal lengths. Beyond the most basic 3x zooms, you’ll find 7x and 12x zooms. Those lenses are pretty accessible if you ask me and they often called “Superzooms.” You might also see 18-200mm or 28-300 figures.
You have to take note that zoom lenses are very different from a telephoto. It makes sense to have a wide-angle zoom that will spend its whole focal length range well short of the 50mm cut off point. Those are pretty good lenses that are high-powered for covering longer ranges. But those don’t have the optimal sharpness or brightness.
You will find many professional and high-quality zoom. Those offer excellent sharpness and brightness as well as the depth of field. The downside to these lenses is that it’s pretty expensive than the ones that are available in the market. Also, most of them will not provide you more than a 3x zoom rating. Make sure to head out to the manufacturer’s website and thoroughly go through the details and prices.
But if you don’t want to spend a ton on these professional lenses, you can always go with much more affordable options. There are hundreds of lenses that provide high magnification, and they are pretty affordable at the same time. But comparing those alternatives with a professional glass would be foolish. The professional lenses always ensure that you get the extra edge when it comes to your experience with the lenses. But the most important thing is to choose the right magnification that is compatible with your purpose.
Prime Lenses Explained
As mentioned earlier, prime lenses are fixed focal lenses that come with a single focal length figure. That means you’ll be able to get just one field of view with this lens. It’s a very worthwhile investment that you can get for your money. Those lenses ensure better picture quality, depth of field, and also works well in the low-light environments than the zoom lenses.
Also, it’s more efficient in the size of the lens you get. The “Pancake” lenses are pretty popular nowadays for the smaller mirrorless cameras. Those are ultra-low-profile primes that allow you to take those anywhere with you. For example, a 50mm f/1.8 is the quintessential prime lens. That offers a standard focal length and a bright aperture. To be more precise, this exact focal length is a very popular recommendation for most photographers who want to move beyond the kit lenses. Those lenses come at a relatively cheaper cost, deliver phenomenal image quality, and stunning performance in the darker environments.
Besides that, there are many more specialty lenses that are more common in prime lens forms, such as the macro and fisheye lenses. The portrait lenses are also offered as primes along with many other super-telephoto lenses. The thing about prime lenses is that it generally comes with a larger aperture. That’s great for shooting portraits as it helps to let in more light and allows for background blur. As for a standard kit zoom lens, you’ll need to start using the flash instances where you can still work with the light available when using a fast prime lens.
Prime lenses are a bit pricey compared to the zoom lenses. But some manufacturers make affordable lenses such as 70-300mm lenses. Those are relatively inexpensive than the lenses that are used to capture in pro-level sports or wildlife. Most people get a bit confused in the beginning about the prime lenses. But should be enough to give an idea of the practical implementations of a prime lens for your cameras.
What is Aperture and why it Matters
Aperture determines the performance that the lens is going to give in the low light conditions. Usually, the smaller the number, the better it is in these darker environments. As you might start searching for lenses, you might do a couple of double-takes when you are looking at the prices.
You may see a 50mm lens for 120 dollars and another lens that is for 1600 dollars from the same manufacturers. For both prime and zoom, there are a lot of things that can make a lens of an identical focal length pricier than the other one. The key difference is in the aperture or in simple terms, how wide the lens can open. As you’ve probably seen already, the aperture of a lens is measured in f-stops. And as mentioned earlier, the lower the f-number is, the more light you can capture with the lens.
To be more specific, a wide or fast aperture is used to separate a subject from the background. At the same time, a narrow aperture is used to keep foreground and background in focus.
For example, a 50mm lens featuring an f/1.2 will be brighter than a 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. But that necessarily doesn’t create the price gap that you often see. High-quality glass and construction play a huge role in making such price differences.
But the thing is, the most demanding professionals don’t prefer to use or won’t need an f/1.2 lens. But if you do a ton of shooting in the low light environments and don’t want to use a flash, the f/1.8 to f/2 range of apertures is undoubtedly worth checking.
Let’s compare some lens aperture to get clear on this idea even further. Most kit zoom lenses you’ll find out there features aperture that’s no wider than f/3.5. And even that is sure to lose its effectiveness as you zoom. That’s why you will see lens names are written as 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and so on so forth. That, for example, means that at 18mm, the widest aperture will be f/3.5, and at 55mm, the widest will be f/5.6. If you pay attention, you’ll see that it’s actually about a stop-and-half slower, which will let it less than half the light as it does at 18mm. Prime lenses with larger apertures sometimes allow in two, three, or more times the amount of light as a kit lens.
On the other hand, all the professional zoom lenses usually max out at f/2.8, and those are also specially designed to maintain this aperture throughout the whole zoom range. The 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses are pretty popular lenses manufactured these days. But those models will cost you over $2 grand.
If you are a person who loves to shoot outside or without a stand, you know how much of an issue the shaking can be. It ruins the whole picture. If you are focusing on a perfect shot, shaking can mess up the entire thing.
Luckily, you’ll find that a lot of mirrorless cameras come with image stabilization built-in to help eliminate the camera shake. But it’s pretty rare when it comes to DSLRs. So, if you want stabilization in your camera that doesn’t come with that built-in, you’ll have to get a stabilized lens.
Different manufacturers tag this feature in different names such as Cannon’s IS (Image Stabilization), Nikon’s VR (Vibration Reduction, Sony’s OSS (Optical Steady Shot), and so on. But all these serve the same purpose at the end of the day. You have to know that stabilization is not primal for still photography. Shooting at a fast shutter speed will also get this job done and keep things detailed and sharp.
But when you’re working in a low light environment at slow shutter speed, shooting videos, or even using a lens with a long focal length, stabilization becomes crucial. That’s why it is more common on zoom lenses than prime lenses. Prime lenses have a wider aperture that allows you to shoot at faster shutter speed anyways. So, that eliminates the issue of shaking automatically.
That goes to show; you only need to buy a lens with image stabilization if your shooting requires that type of gear. Having this feature will help to add a new layer to your shooting experience that will be richer and more enjoyable at the same time. Investing in a lens with image stabilization is a pretty worthwhile investment if you think about it.
What Are The Best Lenses To Get?
As you can probably tell, it’s a very subjective matter. It depends on what you want to shoot and what environment you have. And if you ask, “How many lenses should have if you are a photographer?” that also depends on your shooting preferences. If you like to shoot in different lighting environments and situations, there is nothing wrong with going for more than one lens.
You should have the proper knowledge of the definitions of camera lenses by now. Now, let’s go over different lenses to get an even more precise understanding of it.
It’s an ultra-wide lens. If you are into street photography, then it’s undoubtedly the best option for you. The wide lens will help to give you a more significant field of view, which allows for better group pictures and fantastic landscape images. Also, the aperture is pretty brighter than most kit lenses out there. That will help to capture night’s sky type photos in more detail.
As you probably know, telephoto lenses used for pro-level sports and wildlife are very expensive. But this option of 70-300mm lenses falls under inexpensive lenses. But that doesn’t take away from its ability to bring far-off objects up close. It’s great for you if you love to go out and take pictures in nature.
Those budget zoom lenses aren’t that bright when it comes to low light performance. So, it’s not recommended for you if you choose to shoot in darker environments. But for indoor sports or even a bit of wildlife photo shootings, those are excellent lenses for most photographers.
1:1 Macro Lens:
Macro lenses are famous for the fantastic reveal of scenes obscure by their small size. As macro lenses come in so many different shapes, the most important thing to consider is the 1:1 ratio. This indicates the maximum capacity to get real close to an object. But it is a bit pricier than a 1:1.2 or a 1:2. If you are on a tighter budget, there is nothing wrong with going either of those two alternatives. But if you can afford it and want the best precision and the sharpness, go for the 1:1.
Besides that, you need to consider what types of photos you are going to take with your camera. If you are going for skittish subjects such as bugs or insects, going for a macro lens with a longer focal length is a good idea. And you have to keep in mind that the brand of the lenses doesn’t have to match the camera. But you must see if the lens you are buying fits your camera and can be mounted easily.
As you can see, it’s more about choosing the lens that fits your needs than purchasing a very premium product that will not serve your purpose. An expensive product is not the best one when it comes to choosing lenses for your cameras. But if you want to purchase a premium product, make sure to check if it’s the right lens for your camera.
The size and the focal length of the lens is probably the most important thing you need to look for before you but a lens for you. Different sizes and focal lengths are appropriate for various purposes. So make sure to identify which one is the most suitable for your photoshoot.
Something a lot of people undertook, in the beginning, is the weight of the lens. It cannot be delightful if the lens weighs a lot. When you are focusing, it can create unease and even ruin your stability at points. So, you should always make sure to check the weight of the lenses properly. Also, the lenses nowadays come with a lot of advanced features. The features like image stabilization, low light boost might come in handy for your type of photoshoot. So, be sure to look out for the added features of the lens you choose to get.
Now you know everything that you need on how to choose a camera lens. It might be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you look at a few models yourself, you’ll start to get the hang of it very fast.
There are many things you need to consider if you want to invest in the right quality lens for your camera. Focal length camera, aperture, zoom type, and so many different things need to be considered. Those indicate the quality and performance of the lens. So, it’s essential to look at all of these individually while selecting a lens for your camera. That will help you pick the right one and give back the actual value of your money.
Also, as there are many types of lenses out in the market, you should identify what you want from a lens that is of premium quality. That will help you eliminate a lot of confusion. You have to be mindful that a product that costs a lot doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the best one that you can get for your camera. Hopefully, this guide that you just went through will help you pick the perfect lens for your camera quickly and without any confusion.