Ted's Lens Buying Guide
A Guide to Buying Your Next Camera Lens
With so many lenses on the market, and with each of them appearing relatively similar to the layman, it is important to remember that in usage the difference between two lenses can be monumental. Any photographer in the know will tell you that the lens makes a huge difference towards the overall quality of the image, so with this in mind, it is important that your camera lens is well-suited to the task laid out before it.
Once you have gained some experience with the standard kit lens that your camera came with, you will probably start to notice its limitations and toy with the daunting task or purchasing a new lens. With lenses generally being categorised by their focal length or specific function, we have detailed the main types of camera lenses and their typical uses below, in order to hopefully make your choice a little easier.
Ultra-wide & Fisheye Lenses
If you have developed an interest in architectural, landscape or interior photography, you should start by checking out available ultra-wide lenses (also known as Fisheye lenses). With a focal length of 24mm or less (16mm on cropped sensor cameras), ultra-wide lenses are notable for their ability to take in a much wider scene, placing close by objects to the fore and making distant objects seem even further apart.
By their nature, ultra-wide lenses produce distortion, which can be difficult to harness but with experience be utilised for dramatic purposes. On some lenses this is exaggerated to create a rounded look, these are usually labelled as "Fisheye" lenses.
Wide Angle Lenses
Typically covering the range between 24mm and 35mm (16mm to 24mm on cropped sensor cameras), wide-angle lenses are used to fit an entire subject into the frame, such as a group shot, or a building front. This ability to capture more of the details that are laid out before you, make wide-angle lenses a popular choice for landscape photographers, as well as event and wedding photographers, who are trying to capture multiple attendees as well as the venue in their shots.
A noteworthy characteristic of wide angle lenses is the ability to enhance the appearance of the distance between the foreground subjects and the background of your images.
Standard Zoom Lenses
Covering a focal range of roughly 28-70mm (18-55mm in cropped sensor cameras), the lens that came with your camera would typically be considered a standard zoom lens.
With a view that is somewhat similar to what you can see with your naked eye, standard zoom lenses are good for a wide range of purposes, such as everyday snapshots, travel and portrait photography.
Telephoto Zoom Lenses
Telephoto lenses generally have a focal length in excess of 150mm (100mm on cropped sensor cameras), producing a narrower field of view, which makes them ideal for photographing distant objects.
Telephoto lenses are much-loved for their ability to bring faraway objects much closer, without you having to move your feet at all in the process. These characteristics make them the perfect option for wildlife and sports photography.
One thing to keep in mind, as a result of these performance characteristics, they are generally larger and heavier than other lenses in your kit.
One lens that can do the job of many, superzoom lenses cover numerous focal lengths, so you can mount them on your camera whether you are looking for wide angle or telephoto performance.
A convenient travel partner, the superzoom lens saves you from continuously changing lenses as you move around photographing various objects in various settings.
Even if the superzoom lens that you choose is a little on the larger size, you will save space when packing due to you only having to pack one lens for all of your shooting.
If you are looking at shooting close-up objects in detail, then a macro lens is the lens for you.
With a general focal length between 40mm and 200mm, some key features of a macro lens are a high level of image sharpness and the ability to vary the depth of field of your image, both of which make them popular as a portrait photography option as well.
The shallow depth of field that is possible when you shoot with a macro lens wide open has been used to create some stunning visuals, which can be extremely fun to experiment with, no matter what your subject.
Before You Make your Purchase...
As well as the obvious considerations, such as the brand and model of your camera, you also need to consider what exactly will be the primary function of the lens you are purchasing, before you head to the checkout.
It is also important to take into account the size and weight of the lenses that you are deciding between, so you can be certain that you will continue using the lens and get your money’s worth. If a lens is far too heavy and large for you to carry around all day, chances are you will end up leaving it at home when you pack your gadget bag.
When budgeting, be aware that what you get is what you pay for. While not everyone has endless amounts of money to spend on camera equipment, purchasing the cheapest option available can often lead to disappointing shots, which is a waste of money in the long run.
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