Choosing Camera Lenses
Choosing camera lenses demands both knowledge of and experience with different types of camera lenses. Although knowing which lenses work best in given conditions is important, a photographer also chooses a particular lens to produce a specific photographic effect. Light, composition and subject matter of a scene all influence photographers’ choices of lenses.
Although some will take landscape shots with telephoto lenses, most photographers opt for the wide-angle lens. Because a wide-angle lens has a wider field of vision than the human eye, it can take in more of a topographical expanse. Consequently, the wide-angle lens is one of the preferred landscape camera lenses.
A wide-angle lens can focus on the foreground and background simultaneously, another ability that the human eye lacks. Wide-angle camera lenses are best for large, dynamic landscapes where background and foreground both catch the eye’s attention. However, a photographer should refrain from using a wide-angle lens if he wants to focus in on the details of a single, distinct subject.
A zoom lens allows the photographer to widen or shorten the lens’ focal length to increase or decrease the magnification of the subject. This feature makes the zoom lens a popular camera accessory in many types of photography, ranging from landscape to portrait photography. However, because zoom lenses have small apertures (or lens openings), they are not well suited to taking pictures in low-light conditions.
Zoom lenses have replaced the fixed focal length camera lens in most camera models, especially with the advent of digital cameras. When choosing camera lenses, bear in mind that an optical zoom lens and a digital zoom lens are different.
While an optical zoom lens magnifies the image, a digital zoom lens crops the image after the maximum zoom is reached. Essentially a digital zoom enlarges and crops the image seen in the viewfinder instead of magnifying the subject. This digital enlargement results in lower resolution and, therefore, a poorer quality image.
When choosing camera lenses with zoom capabilities, photographers should look for high optical zoom capabilities rather than being deceived by claims about digital zoom capability. Pictures are of much better quality with an optical zoom lens.
The difference between a zoom lens and a telephoto lens is subtle. A zoom lens enlarges and magnifies the image. In contrast, a telephoto lens brings the subject “closer” to the photographer, reducing the distance between objects in the photograph and the camera’s lens. This allows a telephoto lens to show greater detail than the human eye could see at the same distance.
Fixed-Focal Length Camera Lens
A fixed-focal length camera lens is a permanent, non-adjustable lens found on some low to mid-range quality cameras. Often (but not always) doubling as a wide-angle lens, fixed-focal lenses tend to work well for low-light photos.
A fixed-focal length lens can do wonders for beginning photographers by helping them learn the art of photography. Without zoom capabilities, the photographer must give more thought to basic photography composition to produce good quality shots. Consequently, a budding photographer may learn the basics of good photography faster if by choosing a fixed-focal length lens.
Fixed-focal length camera lenses are less common than they once were, in part because most mid-range digital cameras now have built-in zoom lenses.
The Macro Lens
A macro lens is used to take extreme close ups of objects. Its short focal length allows the photographer to take pictures at close distances without distortions. The resulting image is as large as, or larger, than the original subject.
Choosing a macro lens has been complicated by digital camera settings. Originally, a macro lens was an extension tube for the camera lens. However, today’s digital cameras often have a macro setting. Although the setting replaces the traditional lens, it still
produces the same effect as the previous macro lenses.
Macro lenses or macro settings are best used for magnifying the details of already small
objects. For example, a photographer can use his macro setting to photograph ripples in water, the dew on a flower petal or the crevices of a rock.
Fisheye camera lenses distort the subject image, producing photos with curved and convex appearances. The fisheye lens was first developed for astronomy photography that seeks to capture as wide a range of sky as possible.
Today, the fisheye lens has become popular with landscape photographers, as the lens distortion curves horizons and hints at the earth’s curve. A portrait of a person taken with a fisheye lens has the distortion similar to what’s seen when looking through a door’s
Front of Lens Accessories
Choosing among different camera lenses isn’t an issue for most mid-range cameras because they already have built-in lenses that cannot be changed. While single lens reflex (SLR) cameras have interchangeable lenses, their steeper prices tend to make them a tool for professionals or serious amateur photographers.
For the hobbyist who doesn’t have an SLR camera, front of lens accessories that mimic the effects of certain lenses are available. A front of lens accessory is a disc that clips onto the front of a camera lens to provide specific effects. While some front of lens accessories filter out light, others mimic the effect of a wide-angle or fisheye lens.
Photos taken with a lens clip on accessory lack the quality of those taken with camera lenses designed for the same effect. As choosing a lens is not possible with many cameras, front of lens accessories increase the average photographer’s options.