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Understanding Different Types Of Camera Lenses: Lens Guide

Have you ever been captivated by a wonderful photograph? Do you want to click such photographs on your own? It’s certainly a fulfilling and creative exercise. A pursuit that will let you capture the many facets of the world around you.

As with all creative tasks, the right equipment is important. You need to know what effects are possible, and what will allow you to create them. When it comes to photography, an important aspect is the types of lenses that you use.

There are many types of camera lenses, and they are to be chosen depending on the subject and the lighting. Correctly-chosen types of lenses will capture crisp, detailed photographs, while a lens that is unsuited to the photograph will leave you with dull and even blurred images.

Here’s a guide to help you decide on the right types of lenses so that you can go ahead and choose one depending on your needs, budget, and photography aim.

Zooming in on Camera Lenses

It can be confusing to zero in on the right types of camera lenses given that there are so many out there. Don’t worry. As you will soon learn, all types of lenses can be grouped into some broad and basic categories. These depend on their specific features and the effect you want in your photographs. 

First of all, though, you should know of two concepts that will throw more light on the right types of lenses to choose. The first of these is the focal length, and the second is the lens aperture.

  • The focal length is the distance between the central point of the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus. It is usually expressed in millimetres. In different types of lenses, the lower the focal length, the wider the scene that will be captured, while the higher the focal length, the greater will be the magnification.
  • The lens aperture refers to that part of the camera lens through which light passes to reach the image sensor. This opening can be made smaller or larger, and the different settings are called f/stops. In various types of camera lenses, lower f/stops provide more exposure while higher f/stops give less exposure.

With that in mind, let’s now look at the basic types of camera lenses and which are the right ones to pick.

Standard Lenses
A standard lens has a mid-range focal length. This can be about 50mm. These produce images that look realistic, as their angle of view is closest to the way the human eye can see. A typical standard lens has a fixed focal length and wide aperture, meaning that it can be used in low light conditions. These types of lenses are very popular because they are versatile. You can use them for a wide variety of photographs, from landscapes to portraits and more. 

Macro Lenses
Macro lenses are used when you need a close-up. They are designed to provide high levels of sharpness and contrast. This means that with a macro lens, you can shoot subjects such as insects, animals, and plants. These types of camera lenses are perfect for times when you need detailed photographs that bring out all the qualities of a subject.

Telephoto Lenses
Telephoto lenses give you very high magnification. This means that you can use this lens to photograph a subject at a distance. To enable this, they have a long focal length. These types of camera lenses are commonly used when you cannot get close to the subject. For example, when you are shooting wildlife, or when you’re shooting an athlete or sportsman.

Wide-Angle Lenses
There are times when you need a short focal length to capture as much as possible. This is where wide-angle lenses come in. There are also extreme wide-angle lenses, known as fisheye lenses. With these types of camera lenses, you can create the impression of capturing almost 180 degrees of a scene. Therefore, wide-angle lenses are popular when it comes to landscapes. They can also be suitable for interiors where you need to capture a large area.

Specialist Lenses
Some photographers have unique needs depending on the nature of their subjects. These are typically professionals. They use types of lenses such as tilt and shift lenses for perspective control, soft-focus lenses for portraits, and infrared lenses for light outside the normal spectrum. These are not for general photography and are used to create special effects. Use these special types of camera lenses when you’re clear about capturing a specific subject in a specific manner.

Zoom and Prime Lenses
Many of the above types of lenses can be further categorised into zoom lenses and prime lenses. A prime lens has a fixed focal length, and a zoom lens can be zoomed in and out to provide a range of focal lengths. Zoom lenses are more flexible to use and are good to experiment with. However, many prime lenses are designed to provide better quality photographs, especially in dim lighting.

Getting the Whole Picture

The right types of lenses are critical to taking a great photograph. However, there are also other aspects that you should know.

One of them is called “the crop factor”. When it comes to types of camera lenses, this refers to the effective focal length. It’s something to be aware of when it comes to cropping the subject being photographed.

Then, there is the question of focus. Most types of lenses come with auto-focus, but some trained photographers prefer a manual focus. Some lenses remain silent when focusing, which is important in cases of wildlife photography. In such situations, a small sound can make a difference. 

Overall, when choosing a lens, you ought to keep in mind what sort of photographs you primarily want to take. Aspects like focal length and aperture will help you narrow down your choice. Most camera manufacturers themselves make lenses, but if you research online you will find some specialist brands, too. Take your time. Do keep in mind that the right types of camera lenses are a worthwhile investment that you can use for years and years.

To take truly memorable photographs, consider this online photography course that will tell you more about types of camera lenses, and also aspects such as depth, light, and advanced techniques. Then, armed with your camera and the right types of lenses, you can go forth and capture the world in your unique manner.

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Shaw Academy

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

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