After learning about aperture, shutter speed, and iso, (Refer to the Essential Basics Tutorial) you must learn what types of lenses are out there and the functions of each kind. There are three things you need to know how to do regarding lenses:
1) There are different kinds of lenses for different purposes.
There are different types of lenses that you can use: Standard lenses, Prime lenses, Telephoto Zoom Lenses, Macro lenses, and Wide angle lenses. We’ll get to that later in the article, but it’s extremely important.
2) Not all lenses will work with certain cameras.
Remember that not all lenses can work for full frame cameras. (Refer to APS-C or Full Frame). Some lenses, with certain cameras, will have severe vignetting, or black edges. Others won’t even be able to autofocus.
3) Consider third-party lenses as well as brand-name lenses.
Brand name: These are lenses that are produced by the company you bought your DSLR body. For example, if you bought a Nikon D5000 and the bought a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens, then that lens is a brand lens.
Third Party: Third party lenses are those made by such companies like Sigma, Tamron, Rokinon, and Tokina that build lenses that are able to be used with cameras such as Nikon or Canon.
When considering when to buy third party lenses or brand lenses you have to think on which you have more benefit on. If the third party lens has good aperture, good build quality, silent focusing , good contrast, and makes sharp images, then go for that. You don’t want to waste money on such lenses that give you the same quality but a higher price! The reason why brand names cost so much is because the companies put their name on it and say, “Oh , since our name is on this then we have better lenses then other companies.” FALSE! Not all third party lenses are that bad, so try to find some third party lenses to save your bucks and also save you money on other equipment or a nice dinner to that awesome Chinese Restaurant.
Many times though, brand lenses DO have better construction, but they cost much more. For example, a Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 is $1500, and a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 is $450. While the Nikon does perform better, are you sure that the extra little bit of performance is worth a whopping $1000 more?
What are you taking pics of?
When buying lenses, you have to consider what types of photos you want to take. Do you wanna take a picture of the prodigy soccer player Lionel Messi scoring a goal against his rival team Real Madrid, or take a picture of a smoking hot model with that $750 dollar studio you bought the other day? (Refer to Starting your own Studio for $750)
Are you going to be outdoors or indoors? Do you want to take close ups of insects, or panoramic pictures of their natural habitat? Wildlife or weddings? What about architecture, house interiors, or landscapes? Sports? Do you want to take of pictures of things close up or far away?
By considering the ways you can take photos, you are eliminating choices and narrowing your decision on the type of lenses you want to buy. By doing this, it allows you to find the lens that is best for you and the lens that will benefit in making your own photos.
Different Types of Lenses
Kit lenses are the basic lenses that you get when you purchase a bundle when buying a DSLR. For example, when you buy the Nikon D3100, your kit lenses would probably be the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S. Then an additional lens 55-200mm f/4-5.6G AF-S would also be included. These are what could be considered the first basic lenses that you can possibly get. Although you won’t get the specialties needed to fulfill your photos, these are some pretty good lenses for their price so low. While buying Canon, it’s mostly the same. The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S and the 55-250mmf/4-5.6 EF-S lens. While buying the kit lenses, you must consider that these will not have the qualities that you might want. I strongly recommend you to skip them!
BOTTOM LINE: Try to avoid them, buy a camera body only
Useful for: Portraits, Candid, General-purpose, Indoor sports
Prime lenses are lens that have only one specific focal length. Although primes don’t give you the ability to switch between different zoom length when taking a picture, they still have their advantages in picture quality and aperture. Prime lenses tend to be sharper and better than zooms (Refer to Primes vs Zooms). For primes, the aperture range tends to get bigger, allowing the lens to be more efficient. Focusing is speedier too.
Although there are some limitations when it comes to taking photos, such as physically moving yourself to adjust the right amount of zoom you want, prime lenses are economical (cheaper than zooms) and efficient.
BOTTOM LINE: Primes are economical, have great maximum apertures, but sacrifice a bit of versatility.
Useful for: Sports and wildlife photography
These types of lenses are very popular for sports photographers. With telephoto lenses, sports and wildlife photographers can bring far away subjects extremely close. Some telephotos are zooms, such as the Canon 70-200 f/2.8, and some are primes, such as the Nikon 300mm f/2.8.
The longer the focal length, the more motion blur you’re likely to get. Like Canon and Nikon Cameras, the lenses that have more focal length have an addition IS or VR that can be used to keep the image more still. IS means Image Stabilization (for Canon lenses) and VR means Vibration Reduction (for Nikon). IS and VR help create sharper exposures when shooting photos of moving objects at far distances.
BOTTOM LINE: If you plan on shooting wildlife or sports, get one. Make sure it’s an f/2.8 or f/4 constant aperture.
The Nikon 300mm f/2.8 is a telephoto (prime) lens with Vibration Reduction
Useful for: Product photography, close-up photography
Macro lenses are designed for many close ups, so you can take pictures of those small little hairs on your girlfriends arm. (jk) Macro lenses are used for extreme close ups. Many cameras and lenses that aren’t labeled as macro lenses come with a macro setting, but it doesn’t count as true macro. Although it may seem like you are focusing on a small bug really close it’s not. True macro brings small things to life size so you can have an even bigger picture of tiny objects. This is known as 1:1 magnification. Fake “macro” lenses really only have 2:1. Macro lenses are good for entomology. You can definitely find something worthwhile in this field of lenses. However, they’re a bit expensive, and unless you really enjoy taking close-ups, you could save your money for something else.
BOTTOM LINE: Buy it if you really enjoy close-up photography. Be warned though, they can get pricey.
Standard Wide Angle Zoom Lenses
Useful for: General purpose, Landscapes
Most wide-angle lenses are standard zooms, typically around 17mm or 18mm zooming to around 50mm. These are incredibly versatile lenses that can be used for candids, normal events, group shots, and landscapes. However, don’t mistaken them from kit lenses. Kit lenses have crappy aperture ranges, from f/3.5-5.6, while good standard wide-angle zooms will have constant f/2.8 apertures.
This is a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 Lens
… and the picture produced by it…
BOTTOM LINE: Standard wide-angle zooms can do mostly anything, and every photographer should have one. Don’t mistaken the quality f/2.8 ones from the crappy kit lenses, though.
Fish Eye Lenses and Extreme Wide-Angles
Useful For: Landscapes, Interiors
Fish eye lenses are wide angle lenses that intentionally distort the photo, allowing the photographer to “play” with the surroundings. Fish Eye lenses make fun and creative pictures. Although not used so much in professional photography, fish eye lenses can give your portfolio and extra X-factor.
This is a Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fish Eye lens
Extreme wide-angles are different. They usually have similar focal lengths as fisheyes, such as 8mm or 10mm, but do not have any distortion. They are excellent at making vast terrain seem epic, by widening the perspective, useful for architecture, landscape, or interior design photography. Extreme wide angles will make larger objects seem larger, and smaller objects seem smaller. Some wide angle lenses are prime lenses, but others are zooms.
BOTTOM LINE: Get a fish-eye if you want to have fun, distorted photos, but otherwise save your money for something else. For landscapes, usually a standard zoom would do, but if you are an avid landscape photographer who wants to make their landscape photos have epic perspectives, go for an extreme wide-angle.
Overview on what to choose
Figure out your priorities in what you’ll be shooting. Most people will typically start off with a standard wide-angle zoom, then add either a prime or telephoto lens depending on their needs. Then, consider getting a specialty lens, such as a macro, extreme-wide angle, or macro.
The price of the lens usually depends on the range of aperture and focal length. Typically, the longer the focal length and the larger the aperture (or the lower the f-stop number), the more expensive the lens will be in each specific category. A Canon 50mm f/1.8 is cheaper than a Canon 85mm f/1.2. A Canon 70-200 f/4 is cheaper than the 70-200 f/2.8. The exception to this generalization is the 50mm prime lens, the very cheapest lens you’ll find, ever. The 35mm f/1.8 is more expensive. In addition, at extreme wide angles, wider focal lengths will be more expensive.
5 Tips on Buying Lenses
Tip 1) Always take time when finding lenses that suit your photography needs
- Choosing a lens that fits your requirements is like choosing a name for a baby, it takes time and you want it to have the ability to show your expression to photography.
Tip 2) Remember to try out lenses
- Try to find a shop that sells legit lenses that you can try on your DSLR before purchasing. Sometimes a photographer might not like the structure build or ergonomics of the lens. Be sure that you examine carefully the build and especially what it looks like through your view finder. You’re going to be using the lens a lot, so even the smallest disparity will become astronomically annoying as time goes on.
Tip 3) Be sure to check the compatibility
- Make sure the lens will work with your camera. (See the full-frame article for more info).
Tip 4) Buy used
- Buying used camera equipment on Craigslist and eBay is one of my favorite things to do. They have absolutely phenomenal deals that will save you a ton of cash.
Tip 5) Keep your lens safe
- When purchasing a lens, you might want to buy a filter in order to protect the real glass inside. The filter can as be used to block some UV light if you want but usually it is made for protection. Keep the lens clean and use certain tools to help clean it every now and then.
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