Which Lens Should I Use

Posted on by learndigitalphotography in Blog, Cameras, Digital Cameras, Digital Photography, Digital Photography Basics, Digital Photography Tips

Arguably the most important weapon in a photographers’ arsenal, lenses are also one of the most variable. From the widest 10mm fish-eye to the longest 800mm telephoto, optics are available in every conceivable size, weight and focal length. Due to the smaller sensors used in many of today’s digital SLRs, however, focal lengths vary depending on the model in question.  But whether you’re a landscaper looking to capture dramatic sunsets or an architectural fanatic looking to isolate fine details, there’s a multitude of options that fall into four categories. Here’s the low-down.

On full-frame digital SLRs standard lenses fall between 40mm and 55mm, though 50mm is the accepted norm. You’ll need a 35mm lens to get the same field-of-view on digital SLRs with the smaller APS-sized sensor. Closest to the field-of-view of the human eye, standard lenses offer an undistorted perspective and are often used for flattering portraits. Just for the record, the true field-of-view of the human eye is 43mm!

With shorter focal lengths and wider angles-of-view than standard lenses, wide-angle lenses are employed by landscape and reportage specialists. Remember you’ll need a shorter focal length on many digital SLRs than a 35mm or full-frame digital model. This need for shorter focal lengths on many digital SLRs has produced a raft of new models. A 17-35mm model, such as the one shown below, gives a field-of-view equivalent to 25-52mm on a full-frame SLR.

If you’ve ever wondered how photographers fill the frame with small subjects such as petals and insects, the answer is the humble macro lens. Allowing for 1:1 (life-size) reproduction and focusing from as close as 2in, true macro lenses are specifically constructed for close-up photography. They are commonly available in focal lengths between 50mm and 180mm.

Any lens that weighs in with a focal length above 50mm is said to be a telephoto lens. Short telephotos (between 70mm and 120mm) are ideal for portraiture, while longer focal lengths (between 135mm and 300mm and above) are perfect for sports and wildlife. Remember, the magnification of a lens on most digital SLRs is increased by around 1.5x, so a 200mm lens is equivalent to a 300mm on a full-frame camera.


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2 Responses to “Which Lens Should I Use”

  1. Gilbert Rivera 25 February 2008 at 11:18 am #

    which is the best lens for protrait.

  2. Bernie Conrad 2 March 2008 at 9:44 pm #

    Hi Dan!
    I just want to say thanks for all the information I’ve recieved from your news letter
    I’ve been shooting with a point and shoot Kodak DX7590 for about 4 yrs.and have recieved a Sony A100 DSLR camera for the holidays. I really like that camera,.
    I have this favorite place near my home in Roy,WA it’s a lake that harbors a few eagles lots of ducks an occasional Herron and just a great place to shoot.
    The problem I have though is exposure, some shots are perfect but some I have to do some radicle changes to get the picture exposed right.
    I know its all about my light meter on the camera is there a middle section I can set in and out of the woods. It’s not always sunny up here but it is pretty and green here
    Bernie C.