CAMERA 101: LENSES

Wednesday, December 28, 2016



For years I thought it was the camera body that meant higher quality images and better photos, and whilst to an extent it's true - a higher MP and full frame with give you a clearer and more detailed image - it's really your choice that lens that makes a big difference.

The lens controls the amount of light you allow in, how much you can see and how you see it - a 10mm lens will give you a wide angled curved effect and capture more of the surroundings whilst an 85mm lens will be have closer focal length and more compression, capturing only what you're focused on and blurring out outside context.

Lens can be purchased by focal length, prime or zoom fix and by how low the aperture drops; for example you can buy a Canon 50mm 1.8 lens for £70 or 50mm L 1.2 lens for nearly £1000, due to the quality of glass used in the lens, lens materials and the lower aperture (I should point out the 1.8 is very plastic hence lower cost). It's always important to see how low the aperture on your lens drops and whether it's fixed or changes when zooming - prime and zoom lens with fixed apertures mean that whatever focal length distance you're using, the aperture will stay consistent. If you buy a zoom lens however that has an aperture range of 1.4 - 4.5 for example for a zoom of 28mm-50mm, the lowest aperture you can get at 50mm will be 4.5.

Types of lenses

Fixed/Prime - same focal length, no zoom, good for continuous shooting and gives more control to you for focusing.
Zoom - Can zoom and focus between two lengths, sometimes with fixed continuous aperture or relative e.g 18-55mm 2.8-4.5 (relative) or 22-85mm 1.2 (fixed)

I personally like lenses with low apertures, because it means you don't have to rely heavily on ISO to increase brightness and exposure, which leads to noise in the image. However, it depends on your usage - someone on safari would need a higher aperture combined with a high shutter speed to capture sharpness when moving and prevent loss of detail. I've found that 1.8 - 3.5 is a good aperture range for taking photos whether it's for your blog or personal snaps as it still gives a lovely blackground blur but keeps enough detail in focus.

So what are the various lenses good for? 10-35mm is ideal for landscapes and wider shots i.e getting more in. You'll be able to capture more in frame and it adds a curved effect which looks good in street and architecture photography. 50mm is the 'true eye' focal length, similar to what we see with our usual sight distance; it's an all-rounder, good for product shots, portraits, fashion and for closing in on subjects in busy or larger areas at a further distance. 85mm and over is classed as telephoto, and is good for extremely close detail; think makeup, beauty, with a lot of blur and a lot of clarity in detail. If you're looking for something a little more slick, alternate between 50mm and 85mm!

There are lots of great lenses out there to buy, and I usually stick to Canon but have found my Sigma 35mm great on both my 70D and 5D Mark III. So even if your DSLR only has 15MP or 26MP, the lens and how you use it will make a HUGE difference to the outcome of your images.

Happy snapping!

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