Welcome to Post 2 of my “So You Wanna…” Series.
I’m going to tackle lenses in this post!
This post took longer than expected… between running my workshop and the holidays the time is escaping me!
Did you miss the first post, “So You Wanna Buy a Camera?”… no worries, check it out HERE.
Be sure to check out all of the links within the post- from writers more eloquent and thorough than I!
Lenses each have a different focal length. The way your eye sees the environment is close to equivalent to a 35mm lens (on a cropped sensor camera — it will say DX on the camera- which all entry level cameras are).
There are lenses that are wider than the naked eye (called ‘Wide Angle Lenses’). Some examples are 24mm, 10-20mm. Basically any numbers lower than 35. Typically the subject gets a bit more stretched, and wider, at the edges. Super wide lenses will give the appearance of being in a fish bowl, hence they are named “Fish Eye” Lenses.
Then you have telephoto lenses. These lenses show items more zoomed in than you’d see with your naked eye. Some examples are a 85mm, 135mm, 70-200mm, etc.
The image above was shot standing in one spot, just using different focal lengths!
Finally, there are lenses that cover a range from wide to telephoto like the 18-55mm & 24-70mm…
Lenses with just one focal length, the 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc. Are called “Prime” lenses. Lenses with a range, the 24-70, 70-200, 70-300 are “Zoom” lenses and can have different focal lengths and zoomed in and out.
My friend Kristin Dokoza wrote a fabulous blog post comparing lens focal lengths to demonstrate the differences on the Clickin Moms blog, “Lens Choices: how to decide which lens to use”
When purchasing a lens you will notice some more numbers after the lens with a “f/ ” in front of it. This is the aperture of the lens and refers to how wide the lens opens up to let more light in (yes, lower number… wider open). The lower the number, the better the lens. Also, the lower the number, the more expensive. We will cover aperture more in another post… but for now just know that a really nice quality lens has a low aperture (1.4, 1.8, 2.0, 2.8 are low numbers). For instance, the ‘kit’ lens, the 18-55mm, that we talked about in the last post has a variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6. This does not let a lot of light in. Also, it varies based on your focal length… so if you are shooting at 55mm (with the 18-55mm) you can only shoot at 5.6 and this is a major cramp in your style
Click It Up A Notch did a fabulously comprehensive description of the writing on the lenses. Continue on through their entire lens series for even more information about lenses!
Here’s a fantastic graphic demonstrating each aperture. It’s very similar to the pupil in your eye- the more wide open, the more light that is getting in. The wide open numbers are the lower numbers. Notice how f/22 lets only a very little bit of light in?
image from Expertphotography.com
How to Understand Aperture in 5 Simple Steps
So what do I recommend beginning with? I recommend getting a 35mm on a cropped sensor (either 1.4, 1.8, or 2.0) to start. This will give you a view of the world as you see it and allow lots of light in (again, we will talk about this later!) Yes, this doesn’t zoom. You know what does zoom? Your feet. Get up and moveIt’s cheaper than a high quality zoom lens. Canon’s 35mm is more expensive than Nikon’s – so for a Canon I’d recommend going with the 50mm 1.8 – but for indoors you might find yourself wanting more breathing room than this will allow.
Another thing to note… lenses are for life (generally speaking). Your lenses have an infinite shelf life (they may have to be sent in for repair and cleaning every so often but you can literally have them forever). Your camera is not for life. It will die eventually. The technology will degrade and it may not be worth it to fix the camera. So… invest in your lenses, even if it’s over time! (We will talk about which lenses to purchase next in a future post!)
Please research your camera and the lenses that work with your camera. All DSLR cameras have an arsenal of lenses… but some of them just aren’t made for certain cameras due to functionality. For instance, some Nikon cameras do not have a focus motor so you will need to purchase a lens with a focus motor (it will say AF-S). I don’t know much about Canon… but I know there are things to watch out for.
One more thing I’d like to cover is how DSLR camera lenses differ from a point and shoot or your iPhone with a lens built in. Digital zoom (on a point and shoot or iPhone) simply takes the same size image you are shooting and crops the image. The image is lower quality. Optical zoom, from your lenses, literally brings you in closer and allows the image to be high quality. Some more technical information on that here.
Questions? Comments? Leave me some below in the comments! I’m happy to help
Soooo… you will need to go ahead and purchase that camera that you are thinking about.
Go ahead… I’ll wait. Hit buy.
Want more? Well, next up is Post 3 – “What are these modes?!” We will be covering Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority & Full-On Manual… with some fabulous resources to get you going even further!