Whether you’re a casual photographer or a professional, choosing the right lens for your camera might seem like a daunting task. With so many lens brands and features to choose from, it can become hard to pick a lens that exactly matches your expectations.
The only way to deal with this problem is to educate yourself about different lens characteristics, along with some of the most dependable brands and products currently available in the market
Things to Consider Before Buying Camera Lens
Zoom vs. Prime Lens
Lenses are categorized into two classes based on their zooming mechanism. One type has a variable zoom, while the other type has a fixed focal length, giving it a fixed zoom.
What is a Zoom Lens and its Types
When it comes to general use, where you need to photograph objects far and near, it is best to choose a zoom lens. A zoom lens has a variable focal length, which means it can zoom in and out and focus on subjects at varying distances. Choosing a zoom lens eliminates the need to carry multiple lenses, helping you reduce gear expenses. Zoom lenses are a good place to start for everyday photographers, enthusiasts, and beginners.
Zoom lenses can be further divided into six categories based on the focal length range.
1. Ultra Wide Angle
As the name suggests, these lenses have the shortest focal length range, allowing the widest angle of view among the lenses available in the market. However, their ultra-wide viewing angle also results in distortion, which is even more noticeable in fisheye lenses. Due to this, many portrait photographers refrain from using these lenses. Ultra-wide lenses best suit cityscapes, interiors, and panoramic landscape photography.
2. Wide angle
Wide-angle lenses also feature a wide viewing angles, but unlike ultra-wide lenses, they don’t distort the image as much. If you’re shooting lots of landscape and group portraits, a wide angle lens is suitable option.
3. Standard Lens
These lenses start from 35 mm, but their upper limit varies from brand to brand. Some are 35-70, while others are 35-85. This lens is the best choice for a new photographer or someone who wants a versatile lens that can capture many different settings efficiently. It is made to replicate the perspective and viewing angle of the human eye as closely as possible.
4. Short Telephoto
These lenses are perfect for portrait and candid photography. They’re preferred for their accurate perspective, fast shooting, and ability to photograph at a farther distance without compromising image quality.
Range: Starts from 100mm and can go up to 800mm
Telephoto lenses are ideal for shooting subjects at a moderate to far distance, making them the lens of choice for wildlife and sports photographers.
6. Super telephoto
Super telephoto lenses have the largest focal range, giving them incredible zooming capabilities. They are long and bulky and are typically used by specialist photographers to shoot sports, wildlife, and astronomical subjects.
What is a Prime Lens?
Prime lenses, also known as fixed lenses, have a fixed focal length and can’t zoom in and out. They are usually cheaper and lighter than their zoom counterparts; however, you also need to carry multiple prime lenses if you’re shooting subjects at different distances.
Prime lenses also have a reputation for producing sharper and clearer images, making them a good choice for portraits and studios. They are also well-suited for low-light shooting since they offer a larger maximum aperture. For beginners, a standard 50mm prime lens with an f/1.8 aperture is a good place to start.
Represented in millimeters (mm), focal length determines the convergence or divergence of light and how much of a scene is being captured. In simple words, it’s the angle of view. The focal length is inversely proportional to the angle of view: the higher the number, the narrower the angle of view.
Choosing the right focal length will determine how wide or narrow you can go in your photography. For example, an 18mm lens (a relatively shorter focal length) will have a wider viewing angle and lesser magnification. On the other hand, a 200mm lens (a larger focal length) will give you a narrower angle of view but greater magnification.
Since zoom lenses have variable magnification, they come rated with a range of focal lengths, for example, 24-70mm. Since prime lenses lack any magnification capability, they come rated at a single focal length, for example, 50mm prime lens.
The aperture is the opening in a camera lens that allows light to enter and hit the image sensor. Aperture is measured in f-stop numbers (f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8). A smaller f-stop number represents a larger aperture and vice versa.
Here are a few differences to know between narrow and wide aperture when buying lenses.
|Wide Aperture Lens
|Narrow Aperture Lens
|● Wide aperture lenses will have a smaller f-stop number.
● Wide aperture lenses allow more light to enter the camera. These types of lenses are especially useful in low-light situations. They are also preferred for their shallow depth of field.
● A shallow depth of field in wide-aperture lenses also creates a more pronounced bokeh.
|● Narrow aperture lenses will have a higher f-stop number.
● A narrow aperture allows less light to enter the camera. This is best suited for photography in bright light and where more depth of field is required.
● Since a narrow aperture gives greater depth of field, it also produces less bokeh effect.
It is natural for our hands to shake a little while taking a photograph without a tripod. But this shaking can cause pictures to lose their sharpness and become a little blurry, especially when taking long exposure shots. To eliminate this, some lenses feature image stabilization mechanisms. Even though most cameras today have in-built stabilization features, more and more manufacturers are also including it in their lenses.
The in-body image stabilization in a camera, combined with the lens’s stabilization, results in a sharper photograph. However, it is important to know that different brands have their own names for their in-lens image stabilization. Here is what some popular brands name it in their products:
- Canon: Image Stabilization (IS)
- Nikon: Vibration Reduction (VR)
- Sony: Optical Steady Shot (OSS)
- FujiFilm/Panasonic: Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
A lens mount is the part of a camera lens that attaches to the camera body. It is a mechanical interface that aligns the lens and establishes communication between the lens and the camera. Although you can use different lenses on a particular camera, they are not always interchangeable across different brands and cameras. That’s mainly why people try sticking to one brand because it’s not practical to keep buying different lenses as well as cameras.
Each camera manufacturer has their proprietary lens mount, making lenses unswappable in most cases. You can’t fit a Nikon lens on an Olympus camera. If you try to do so, you might end up damaging the camera and the lens.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, Micro Four Thirds is a common standard by Panasonic and Olympus, which allows you to swap lenses between the two camera brands. Similarly, L-mount is another case of collaboration between Leica, Sigma, and Panasonic.
Camera Lens Brands to Consider
The discussion about the best camera lens brands usually begins with Canon. It is an industry leader in the world of camera lenses with a focus on the premium. Canon’s Image Stabilization(IS) technology is infamous because it can capture high-quality photographs even in less-than-ideal conditions.
This technology is a part of many lens product lineups, such as the most popular L-series lenses. If color accuracy, high resolution, and aesthetic bokeh are the qualities you’re looking for, choosing an L-series would be a no-brainer. It is important to note that since Canon relies heavily on its name-brand reputation, its products are generally more expensive.
Some of the most popular products in this series include:
- EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM
- EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
- EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
Nikon is to Canon what iOS is to Android. Before Nikon became famous for producing cameras, it was known for its lenses. Nikon lenses have been long preferred by journalists and military photographers to shoot historical events.
In terms of quality, Nikon is on par with Canon. Nikon is known for its extensive product lineup, featuring lenses with different focal lengths, versions, and price points. Some of the key qualities of Nikon lenses are their high build quality and sharp results. Nikon is also popular with many new photographers because of its more competitive pricing without compromising on quality.
Nikon Silent Wave Motor(SWM) technology is a distinguishing quality that puts it above other brands. This technology allows for fast, accurate, and quiet autofocus, which is particularly useful for photography in environments such as weddings or nature photography.
Even though Sony was a latecomer in the camera and lens industry, it quickly started giving tough competition to major manufacturers like Olympus and Canon. Today, it is one of the most innovative camera lens brands, and its products are known for their accurate color reproduction and sharpness.
Sony’s E-mount lenses are one of the most popular lineups among professional and enthusiast photographers. Apart from E lenses, other lens products by Sony include FE and G Master(GM) lenses.
This includes products like:
- FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM
- FE 70-200 mm f/2.8 GM OSS
- FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
Sony also partnered with Zeiss, a renowned lens manufacturer to collaborate on several high-end lenses, such as the Batis and Loxia series, which are known for their exceptional image quality and build quality. This partnership allows Sony to offer a broader range of lens options for its customers and benefits from the expertise and reputation of the Zeiss brand.
Even though Olympus is not considered a giant like Canon and Nikon, it has a unique place in the world of lens manufacturers. In conjunction with Panasonic, Olympus introduced the Four Thirds System in 1936. This later developed into the Micro Four Thirds System, which is known for its smaller sensors and lenses.
Olympus is well-known brand among many photographers due to its lightweight and compact lens products. More importantly, these smaller lenses are on par with other brands in terms of the quality of photography. Many street and travel photographers prefer Olympus lenses due to this convenience.
Even though the Olympus’ product lineup isn’t as extensive as other big names, some quality options to consider are the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 and the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm 1:2.8 Pro. Olympus also offers a wide range of weather-sealed lenses that are dust, splash, and freeze-proof, which makes them suitable for outdoor photography.
1. Does the choice of camera lens affect photography?
Your choice of camera lens affects photography significantly. It impacts critical aspects of your photo, such as
- Sharpness and clarity
- Background blur
- Depth of field
- Viewing angle
- Level of detail
- Zooming capability
2. What are the key parameters to consider before buying a camera lens?
The key parameters to consider before buying a camera lens include:
- Prime vs. Zoom lens
- Focal length
- Image stabilization
3. What type of lens is best for long-distance photography?
Telephoto and Super Telephoto lenses are best suited for long-distance photography. The former has a focal range of 100 mm-800 mm, while the latter has a focal range of 800 mm-2000 m. They’re the preferred lenses for capturing wildlife, sports, and astronomy.
Whether you’re using cameras for vlogging or street photography, choosing the right lens can make a huge difference. Even though it might seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be.
Starting with the basics, like the focal length and aperture, is a good starting point. But just like with everything else, you learn with experience and experimentation. Although it might take you some time and experimentation to figure out which lens works the best for you, considering the basics covered above can help you zoom–in on the available options and pick the right one.