Camera Lens – Types of Lenses Explained

If you want to capture enticing images, then you’re going to need a good camera lens. Thankfully, there are several camera lenses on the market to choose from. In this post, we will cover everything you need to know to choose a lens that’s suitable for your art and your lifestyle.

Types of Lenses Explained

1. Standard Lenses

Standard lenses are relatively similar to the human eye. It has a 50mm focal length where our optics are around 20 to 50mm (rested). As a result, a standard lens will capture more natural-looking images. The standard lens is roughly a hybrid between telephoto and a wide-angle lens. These lens types offer unnatural angles zoomed in/out images, but we’ll cover more on that below.

Any standard lens you pick up online or at a camera store will have a 50 to 55mm angle view. With a standard lens, viewers will recognize your images to appear more natural and easy to comprehend.

An amazing thing about standard lenses is that they are suitable for almost all styles of photography. Whether you’re doing portraits of landscapes, a standard lens will provide stunning images. Since they are so versatile, standard lenses are generally the best option for beginner photographers. 

Standard lenses are best for indoor photography because they have a wide aperture. Aperture is the size of the opening on the camera’s diaphragm where light enters. If you’re brand new to photography and want to take some stunning portraits of your friends for your portfolio, then a standard lens would be the most straightforward way to get your shots.

Advantages

  • They are more compact and lightweight. Therefore, they are much easier to travel with and have far more mobility than other lenses.
  • They are extremely easy to work with and have a straightforward design. Beginner photographers can produce higher quality images than more sophisticated lenses.
  • They shoot best in the low light. Since standard lenses have a wide aperture, capturing images in low light is incredibly easy. They also let you capture more light if you need it.
  • They are a much better value for money. Many photographers (especially beginners) don’t have a large budget for expensive lenses. Therefore, standard lenses are far more budget-friendly. 

Disadvantages

  • 1 or 2 camera bodies (mirrorless or DSLR)

If you want to take your photography game to the next level, standard lenses are quite limited.

2. Macro Lenses

Have you ever seen one of those immaculate pictures of a flower or insect where you could see every tiny detail? Those images are made possible by the macro lens. Macro photography is where you take a tiny object, like a bug or a leaf, and make it look ginormous. A macro lens can essentially capture images with fine details that even the human eye cannot see. 

The macro lens takes the size of your subject and blows it up to be proportionate to your camera sensor. Macro lenses aren’t only for close-up photography. Since they have a zoom capacity of infinity, they are suitable for portrait shots. They have a magnification ratio of 1:1, and that’s why they can capture all of those beautiful tiny details. 

Almost all macro lenses have a focal range of 100 to 200mm. Some special macro lenses have a magnification ratio of 5:1 and can even capture an image of an insect’s head. Macro lenses aren’t to be confused with zoom lenses because zoom lenses don’t capture the same quality. 

With all of the amazing images, you can take with a macro lens, you might think they are insanely expensive. Fortunately, you can find macro lenses in a wide range of different prices. Some macro lenses go for $500, where more powerful ones can cost you up to $1,500. 

If you’re a photographer who wants to advance their art or just looking for a new creative channel, we highly recommend you explore the world of macro lenses.

Advantages

  • They allow you to get a close focus and use magnification to capture stunning images with fine details.
  • You can essentially shoot nature shots at any time of the day. Nature photographers struggle to get good lighting, but since macro photography works with smaller objects, you can control the lighting much easier.
  • They make just about anything look cool. Finding interesting subjects to shoot can be challenging, but with a macro lens, the opportunities are endless right in your own backyard.

Disadvantages

  • Handling a macro lens isn’t easy. Due to their long design and shaping, traveling around with a macro lens can be incredibly tricky.
  • Although you can use a macro lens for other styles of photography, they aren’t as versatile as other lenses.

3. Telephoto Lenses

Telephoto lenses are skyrocketing in popularity among both beginner and professional photographers. They are incredibly versatile and are a great option if you want to make an advancement in your photography. Opposite of macro lenses, a telephoto lens allows you to capture a subject that’s far away without sacrificing the details. 

The focal length of a telephoto lens is around 60mm, but some are even further. Often, people think zoom lenses are telephoto lenses, but the two are different. Telephoto lenses can act as the role of either a zoom lens or a prime lens (stay tuned). When talking about lenses, it’s more important to focus on the focal length rather than the zoom capacity. 

One of the main benefits of using a telephoto lens is that your viewer can interact with the background of your images. You can capture a vivid background all the while keeping the subject the primary focus of the image. As a result, distance practically becomes irrelevant, and you can capture grand mountain ranges while simultaneously showcasing a beautiful river scene.

Additionally, telephoto lenses have an amazing focus feature. If you have ever seen those shots in nature where a bird rests on the branch and the entire background is out of focus, that was likely captured using a telephoto lens. Another great example of a telephoto lens is closeups of dangerous animals, such as lions or tigers in the wild.

Advantages

  • You can capture subjects that are extremely far away without compromising the details. This makes the telephoto lens an excellent choice for nature photographers.
  • They have an incredible depth of field. The depth of the field is what allows the photographer to sharpen the subject in their images.
  • With a telephoto lens, possibilities are endless. You can use one in nature settings or even in busy cityscapes.

Disadvantages

  • Telephoto lenses are much larger than other lenses and might be difficult to travel with. However, there are specific bags that are designed to carry telephoto lenses.

4. Wide-Angle Lenses

Photographers know that they have numerous options of lenses to choose from. The wide-angle lens is one of the most popular choices out there, but what makes this lens so special? To start, it’s best that we explain what exactly a wide-angle lens is. 

In short, wide-angle lenses can capture images that have a wider field of view than the human eye. However, this description doesn’t define the technicalities behind a wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens generally is below 35mm. This translates to about 66 degrees diagonal view. 

This short focal length is what allows the camera to distort the subjects in your photos, or make the subjects appear larger. The next time you go fishing, make sure to bring a wide-angle lens with you to make your catch appear massive. Some of the more intense wide-angle lenses are known commonly as fisheye lenses

If you’re into sports photography or extreme sports like surfing and skateboarding, a wide-angle lens is probably your best choice since you can capture things that wouldn’t normally fit the view of a standard lens. Also, real estate photographers who want to get a shot of a room crowded with furniture would fare well using a wide-angle lens.

Using a wide-angle lens is surprisingly simple once you get the hang of it. For all beginner photographers, we strongly recommend giving one a shot to try and expand your creative artwork.

Advantages

  • With a wide-angle lens, you can easily add a foreground to your images. If you need a specific subject in the image to be in focus, the wide-angle lens can help you capture it with ease.
  • They provide an excellent context for portrait photography. This ultimately gives you a lot more creative freedom whenever shooting portraits.
  • Since wide-angle lenses bring you closer to the subject while capturing more scenery, they are an excellent choice for cityscape photography.

Disadvantages

  • Wide-angle lenses tend to be more expensive than others. With that in mind, the investment is usually worth it considering the amazing photo opportunities.

What are Prime Lenses?

No matter what you like taking pictures of, there’s a lens that’s most suitable for you. Whether it’s a wide-angle lens, telephoto lens, or macro lens, you’ll find what you need to get that breathtaking shot. Almost all camera lenses fall under two main categories: prime lenses and zoom lenses.

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length. For example, a macro lens has a focal length of 100 to 200mm where a 35mm prime lens can only extend to 35mm. If you want to shoot further, you’ll need to buy additional lenses. You might be wondering why anyone would want a lens that doesn’t offer variable zoom? Well, it all boils down to overall image quality. 

Zoom lenses might be able to reach further distances, but because of their sophisticated abilities, their image quality tends to be lower. Perfectionists who want to obtain that unmatched image quality of a certain length and subject are far better off with a prime lens.

To make it easier to understand, zoom lenses are generalists and prime lenses are specialists. If you want a more versatile option, then a zoom lens might be the best choice for you. However, if you want that perfect high-quality image, you should grab a prime lens.

What Are Kit Lenses?

Kit lenses (also known as starter lenses) are typically what comes with a new camera. Kit lenses are great for beginners who want to get a good feel of their new camera but are often extremely limited. They are inexpensive, slow, and generally produce low-quality images. 

If you want to become a serious photographer, it would be wise to purchase a better lens as soon as you have the money for it. Otherwise, you’ll need to rely heavily on your creativity to capture anything interesting.

What About Size and Weight?

Although the size and weight of a lens is something to consider (especially if you’re doing nature photography), the subject is more important. The only time the size comes into play is when traveling with your gear. Longer lenses are definitely heavier and more tricky to carry, but as long as you have the right camera bag you should be fine.

The wider the aperture, the more heavy the lens. The reason for the additional weight is because lenses with a wider aperture typically have a more robust internal structure. Also, adding on any additional features are likely to increase the weight of your lens.

If you’re shooting without a tripod, we highly recommend you find a lens that’s more lightweight. The standard lens is extremely compact and easy to handle and is generally a more ideal lens for handheld photography. 

Whenever you’re traveling with your lenses, make sure that you have the appropriate bag to protect your lens from damages. Photographers who store their lenses in their suitcase often find scratches whenever flying on airplanes. More compact lenses (other than standard lenses) tend to be more expensive since they need to use lighter materials.

Conclusion

What do you think about all of the lenses on our list? Do you think you’ll give one of them a try? We hope this guide was helpful and you now know a little bit more about the different types of lenses out there. Remember, always choose a lens that’s most appropriate for your style of photography. 

If you have any experience using one or more of the lenses above, let us know in the comments. If you liked this article, share it with a friend who could learn a thing or two about lenses.

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