How to Choose a Camera Lens

Difficulties with the choice of photographic equipment can appear not only deciding which camera to buy. Almost all photographers are agonizing over which lenses to choose as well. There are many possibilities you can only realize with a lens.

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The lens is the camera's most significant element, especially if you are a professional photographer. Image quality and the device's capability, or rather its ability to shoot a specific object, depend on which type of lens you use in your camera.

Lenses come in either plastic or glass. Glass is naturally better. A high-quality, well-coated lens should be slightly bluish or purple, and the more transparent they are, the higher the quality of the photos will be. 

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Wide Variety of Camera Lenses

The lens is the camera's window into the world. Light passing through it forms an image on your camera's matrix. The resulting photo quality depends on optical glass elements characteristics, focal length, and other parameters.

To understand how to choose the right lens, you must first figure out what you have decided to photograph. There is hardly a wrong lens. As a rule, there can only be complaints about the lens if it does not correspond to specific tasks. For example, if you choose a macro lens for portrait photography, you will get great photos of the model's eyes, but not a portrait worthy of a graduation or family album. If you want to create stunning food photography, you can not capture all the fine details and textures of food with a wide-angle lens.

"98% of all lenses are better than 100% of all photographers." – Michael Reichmann.

Almost all companies indicate the lens aperture, denoted by the letter f, in the technical characteristics section. For example, f 3.5. The lower the number, the better. Of the two lenses with the same focal length, let's say 50mm and labeled 50/1.4 and 50/3.5, the former will allow you to shoot in bad lighting conditions.

The main types of photographic lens are as follows: 

  • prime, or fixed focal length lenses
  • zoom, or variable focal length lenses

Prime lenses

A prime lens offers only one focal length, for example, 50mm. It is an excellent lens when it comes to sharpness and image quality.

Of course, such lenses are not particularly convenient to use. To change the distance to the object, you have to move farther or closer to it. However, this limitation makes you study from which side it is better to photograph a person or thing, and therefore you can get more dynamic and original images.

Pros: superb image sharpness and quality, best low-light photos, shallow depth of field, wide aperture; quite small and lightweight.

The 4 Best Prime Lenses to Buy

Zoom lenses

Zoom lenses are a perfect choice, especially if you are a newbie in photography and aspire to try your hand at different genres, as you can get a telephoto lens from a wide-angle lens in almost a second. It allows you to take pictures of insects, portraits, architecture, landscapes, etc.

If you take any lens and carefully inspected it, you can see two values, for example, 5.8–24mm. This pair of numbers denotes the focal length. In this case, the focal length will be 5.8mm to 24mm.

Pros: portability, versatility.

Optical and Digital Zoom

Optical zoom is a significant characteristic of SLR or mirrorless cameras that use interchangeable lenses. It helps to photograph objects at a very high optical magnification without losing image quality.

Digital zoom enlarges, more precisely, cuts out the part of the image that you would like to see closer using the software. The resolution of the cut part – and quality! – will only suffer from this since there is no actual object enlargement.

How to Choose a Camera Lens

It is impossible to say unequivocally that a zoom lens is better than a prime lens or vice versa. Each of these types of lenses has its place and time of use. The more experienced the photographer is, the better he/she knows which lens and when to use it.

The 4 Best Zoom Lenses to Buy

Camera Lenses and Genres of Photography

Architecture Photography

Can't you survive a single day without walking the city jungle? Admire the old and modern architecture in reality and photography? Architecture and photography are completely different types of art, but they have a point of intersection.

Transferring a three-dimensional volume to a two-dimensional image often distorts the actual appearance of objects. When photographing architecture, of course, you want to fit everything you need into the frame, but often there is not enough space for this since you are standing on the street, and a large building is right in front of you. Consequently, a wide-angle lens is the most suitable for architectural photography

Without a doubt, the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L and Nikon PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3,5D are the best choices for starting architectural photography. They allow you to tilt the optical axis of the lens and compensate for perspective distortion.

Food Photography

In food photography, bright color dishes speak for themselves. If they look dull, you can decorate them with fresh herbs, tomatoes, chili, or various additional details: color cups, teapots, books, magazines, candles, etc. To make your food photo look natural and not staged, you may want to add crumbs to the scene.

The most suitable lens for focusing on details is a prime macro lens with a shallow field depth. I would highly recommend Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L and Nikon 105mm f/2.8G, as these are great for professionally shooting food.

Landscape Photography

As an aspiring photographer, you are probably curious about how beautifully to shoot landscapes using a camera.

Using wide-angle lenses such as Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G, Canon EF 16–35mm f/4L, Sony FE 16–35mm f/2.8, and Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art for landscape photography is always the better decision. Most landscape photographers choose these lenses for a reason: they give the most spacious view and allow you to get a complete picture of nature in the frame, from the foreground to the horizon.

Macro Photography

Almost everyone who enjoys taking photos tried at least once in life to take a close-up of a beautiful flower, bug, or another small object. There are several ways to get a high-quality, detailed macro image, but the easiest is with a macro lens.

A lens is classified as a "macro lens" only if it can achieve 1:1 or 1X  magnification. Lenses that can reproduce an object twice its actual size have a magnification factor of 2:1 (2x). 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L lenses are great for optimal results at close focusing distances.

Portrait Photography

Portrait photography requires a lot of knowledge and skills. Choosing the right camera lens is a significant factor in this genre. A wide-angle lens will not work for you for portraits, as they introduce distortion into the picture. In this case, a short telephoto lens is more suitable for you: the perspective display will be more natural.

For portraits, I recommend using lenses with a focal length of 50–85mm (in some cases up to 135mm). With a focal length of less than 50 mm, you will get distorted proportions of the model. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art, one of the best portrait lenses, has a fixed focal length and shallow depth of field.

Sports Photography

If you have ever seen football stadium photographers with their large, heavy, impressive camera lenses and tons of accessories, you probably agree that could surprise or may even inspire envy.

Sports photography requires a telephoto lens with a shallow depth of field since you will be away from the scene most of the time.

Many sports photographers work with Canon EF 70–200mm f/2.8L lens, but it is not cheap. If you can not buy it, do not be discouraged. In clear weather, the more economical Nikon 55–200mm f/4-5.6G lens is also suitable for sports photography.



14 comments

  1. This is such a huge help. There are 5 billion lenses out there, and it's hard to know which one to get.

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  2. Thank you so much for this wonderful information. I just got into photography,and I found your last post to be incredibly helpful. I'm eager to try out a new lens now.

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  3. While I'm not a beginner, I appreciate all of these tips so much. I always think there is more to learn, no matter what level you are on.

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  4. Canon!! Yeah!!! As a photographer myself I can safely say that the choice of lense can either encourage or discourage you from pursuing photography! Great article!

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  5. There are so many lenses and they are almost all super expensive. It is great to have these insights offered to us.

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  6. I have a friend who is into photography. I found the post so useful that I shared it with him. Thank you for the valuable information.

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  7. This would be a great guide to my friend who is starting taking a photography lesson. I am going to share this with her, thank you!

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  8. Your photos are so brilliant! I used to be interested in photography but I haven't had the time to focus on it.

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  9. Great post. There are so many lenses to pick from, and I like how you compared some lenses with pictures to show the difference in a photograph. If I was looking for a new lens for a camera this would be the perfect post for me. Thanks for your expertise.

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  10. I remember trying to learn photography years ago. There really is so much that goes into learning about all the different aspects of taking good photos.

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  11. This is so helpful. I really paid attention to food photography since I can relate to it more. So nice. Thanks!

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  12. I am a photographer myself and this article hits the nail perfectly. Great tips on choosing the best camera lenses. Not just for beginners, this is useful for everyone.

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  13. Glad I came over this post. Definitely a great read especially for me who has less knowledge about camera and lenses.

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  14. Really helpful for those of us that reall dont know much about lenses! THank you!

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