Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Different Types of Lenses

If you're just starting out with a DSLR camera, you probably have a standard kit lens which is just fine. For those of you with a fancy point and shoot camera, you might have a fixed lens. Even so, getting a better idea of the different types of lenses available and how they work will help you decide what lens you might like to get next or if you'd like to upgrade to a camera with interchangeable lenses in the future.

So let's check out the usual suspects and how to use them!

1. Zoom Lens
The zoom lens is what most kit lenses are. This is your out and about everyday lens to capture real life. It's a great multipurpose lens for documenting birthdays, holidays, family, friends, vacations. You can zoom in close or pan out for a wider angle view. Many zoom lenses even have a macro feature. Even though it's not a true macro you can still take nice up-close pics of flowers and butterflies, etc. My zoom lens is a Canon 24-70 2.8 "L" lens. I love 24-70 mm. A 70-200 lens is really great too. I used to have one but sold it because I didn't use it enough. Of course, I often wish I had the 70-200 lens.

2. Prime Lens
Prime lenses have only one focal length. In other words, there is no zoom. If you want to get closer to your subject, you walk closer. If you need to fit the entire wedding party in the shot, you'll need to get back (or switch lenses.) Having to rely on your feet to zoom makes prime lenses more active lenses. You'll find you have to be more aware / creative and really work the subject to get the composition you want. Primes also have the benefit of being lighter, usually producing better quality photos and are often more affordable. They are great for shooting details, product shots and portraits.

That being said, I really love my 50mm 1.2 prime. Now that's professional quality glass... an aperture of f/1.8 or f/1.4 in a 50 mm prime is great too. We actually own a 50mm 1.8 as well. Most of the time I shoot with my 50mm lens. I'd love to get a 35mm prime. If it were up to me, I'd have nothing but primes... but I do love zooms too. Oh, I want them all.

3. Wide Angle Lens
Wide angle lenses are often used to get the big picture or to evoke strong emotion in a setting. They are great for when you want to tell a story. The thing to remember is the wider the angle the more distortion you'll get. In this example there's a rock in the foreground (by the bush) and it looks like it could cover a pair of patio chairs but it really wasn't that big in real life. This is the distortion.

The closer you are to the subject, the more distortion you'll experience when using a wide angle lens. Of course it always depends on what you want when you take the shot and I still love this photo of the vintage Belmont Hotel in Dallas.  35 mm, 28 mm, 24 - 15 mm (ultra wide angle) are considered wide angle focal lengths.

4. Fisheye Lens
Fisheye lenses are actually ultra wide angle lenses that bend the horizon and convey wide open spaces. It creates a fun distortion. A true fisheye lens is for full frame cameras and the curve will be pretty close to 180 degrees. I had a fisheye lens that worked only on crop body cameras and it did not create a complete fisheye. However in this example you can see somewhat of a curve. Fisheyes can be used for portraits if you want to do something crazy and are best for when you want to be extra creative and bend the horizon or other lines.

5. Telephoto Lens
Telephoto lenses bring you really close to the action and take you to places you can't reach, like in the middle of a flock of flamingos. They are great for trips to the zoo, sporting events, graduations, bird watching and any situation where you want to get close from afar. Telephoto lenses have even more shallow depth of field so they blur the background more and make subjects really stand out. They come in either prime or zooms (the 70-200 is considered a telephoto zoom.) I often used my 200 prime for portraits, especially if I really needed to blur the background. Of course when I retired from shooting professionally I sold my 200 prime telephoto lens. Again, I kinda wish I still had it. I'd like to have every lens.

6. Macro Lens
Macro lenses offer endless creativity and subject possibilities because when you start to look at things up close, you suddenly have the coolest stuff to photograph! Take this macro image of a rose, taken my husband B. I just love that the rose fills the frame. If you ever find yourself thinking you have nothing to shoot, try shooting in macro. Because of the macro function these lenses have very shallow depth of field, even at small apertures like f/16. So if you are shooting wedding rings and you want all the rings in sharp detail, you'll need to use a small aperture like f/22 and probably a tripod.

If I had to pick my favorite types of lenses for sure I would include a prime, macro and wide angle. I also really enjoy the multipurpose function of a good zoom lens.

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