Camera Lenses- Crafting perfect visionBuying Guides in Camera Lenses

Lens is an essential element to good photographs. It's not just our camera. People usually spend thousands of dollars on a good camera and neglect the lens. We should always make sure that we buy a good camera lens when purchasing a camera. Another way to put this is, buy a good camera as well, but don't neglect a good camera lens. The reason being simple, our camera is just the 'holder' for the photograph. It's the lens, which crafts the perfect picture with our every shot, therefore, a good lens is essential for clear and sharp photos. With most compact digital cameras, we can't change the lens. So in that case, don't just buy a good camera; ensure it also has a good lens. Although, we should avoid a plastic digital camera lens because it doesn't have the clarity of a glass lens.

Many of us get confuse with the model of lens, hence to get rid of such confusion we should stick with camera lenses from well known manufacturers like Nikon, Canon and Pentax. We should also make sure that we purchase a lens that works with our camera too. For example, a Nikon camera lens usually won't work well with a Canon camera.

Types of Camera Lens

The most common lenses are: Wide Angle, Normal and Telephoto. The type of lens is determined by the Focal Length of the lens. A Zoom Lens is simply a lens that can change Focal Length from a Wide Angle to a Telephoto (or in the mid of both).

There are a number of things to be considered when purchasing a camera lens:

Lens Focal Length

The Focal Length of a lens determines the amount of magnification and angle of view the lens can see. The Focal Length is measured in mm. It's the Focal Length that determines if the lens is a:

  • Wide Angle- small magnification, wide angle of view, 20mm to 35mm

  • Traditional or Normal- 50mm

  • Telephoto- high magnification, narrow angle of view; 105mm to 300mm.

  • Zoom- A Zoom lens can change its focal length to zoom in. A Zoom lens might have a Focal Length of between 50mm and 150mm.

Some lenses are interchangeable between film cameras and digital cameras, but we need to be aware that the effective focal length changes between film and digital. The focal lengths mentioned above are for FILM cameras and need to be multiplied by 1.6 to get the effective focal length on a digital camera. So, using a film 35mm lens on a digital camera has an effective focal length of 56mm. What does this mean? It means that we won't get as wide angle on a digital camera as we would on a film camera using the same lens. A 35mm lens, which gives a medium wide angle on a film camera, acts as a traditional lens on a digital camera.

Lens Speed

The 'speed' of a digital camera lens also defines a lens. The speed is determined in f-stops and is similar to the f-stop aperture setting on our camera. Faster lenses are more expensive and usually heavier.

Focusing Distance

This is the minimum distance from the camera lens that a subject must be to be in focus. We need not worry about getting a camera with a close focusing distance; rather we should concentrate on a telephoto instead.

More Advanced Features (More expensive lenses have more advanced features)

  • Vibration Reduction- This feature keeps images sharper when shooting in low light. They help to counter any vibration in the camera. We should always try to get this feature in our prospective digital camera.

  • USM (Ultrasonic Motor)- This feature of Canon lenses gives us a high speed auto focus, but the main benefit is the motor, which is almost silent, so we don't disturb people around us when our camera is focusing.

  • Filter Thread- When purchasing a half-decent lens, it should have a filter thread. This is a thread that allows us to screw on a filter (such as a polarizer) to help when photographing difficult situations. Even if we don't need filters right now. It's handy to purchase a lens with a thread, so we can add a filter later.

Final Remarks

While it is important to choose good quality camera lens for beginners, it isn't as important as good composition. It's advisable, not to fall into the trap of thinking we can only take a great picture with an expensive top-of-the-line lens. This is because; a badly composed picture won't look great with a great camera lens. Generally the more expensive the lens, the better it is. More expensive lenses usually have a higher number of glass elements in the lens, which also makes them heavier. But, a good rule is to only add to our lens collection only when we have a specific need for a particular digital camera lens.