How to choose the right lenses for my photography?

One of the best things about DSLR and mirrorless cameras (and their main advantage over your smartphone) is their ability to be specific. While taking photos with a device, you carry around in your pocket all day is easy, shooting with a dedicated camera gives you many more options to tweak depending on what you’re shooting. This is exactly why having an all-in-one lens that works perfectly for every photo, in every situation, just isn’t possible.

But lenses are not cheap, so figuring out which one to buy can be a challenge—the number of choices out there can be overwhelming, and the specs sometimes include concepts that novices don’t fully understand.

Still, it doesn’t need to be hard. It’s only a matter of assessing what you need, working out what you can afford, and making sure that the lens you choose actually fits your camera. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

WHAT TYPE OF CAMERA LENS SHOULD I BUY?

As we have already mentioned, there are many different types of camera lenses available for the keen photographer to purchase.

In our lens buying guide, you will find plenty of helpful lenses related information, including different types of camera lenses and their uses and how to identify camera lenses, which is essential for ensuring compatibility with your camera, and your photographic goals.

LANDSCAPE CAMERA LENSES

There are no hard and fast rules, but if you are looking to photograph landscape images, you are going to start your search in the Wide Angle lenses category. The wider field of view provided by these lenses enables you to fit in more of the scene before your eyes without having to scramble back to avoid cropping the edges. Wide Angle lenses can also be utilised to photograph in tight spaces, making them great for interiors.

Wide-angle lenses come in either zoom or prime variants, with prime lenses delivering exceptional image quality and zoom lenses providing more versatility, with the ability for you to hone the framing of your pictures with ease.

SPORTS AND WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY LENSES

For Sports, Wildlife and other types of action photography, you are on the lookout for a telephoto lens, which is the lens with the longest magnification. They come in prime and zoom variants, with zoom lenses being the most suitable for quickly framing your subjects as they are on the move. As pointed out in our buying guide, lenses that start at around 135mm are considered telephoto lenses, with the bigger the number, meaning the more magnified the lens.

If you have ever noticed the photographers at professional sporting events using incredibly long camera lenses, these are the higher-end telephoto lenses. Canon camera lenses for sports are easy to spot, being the big white lenses, while professional Nikon camera lenses are also commonly seen in the photography pit. Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?

STANDARD AND ALL-IN-ONE ZOOM LENSES

Another type of lens that is worth mentioning is the humble all-in-one zoom lens. Although this is a broad category with various ranges and price points available, with a little research, you may very well be able to find your holy grail lens – that one lens that can do it all. Depending on what your main goal is, your daily zoom lens may carry a versatile 24-105mm zoom range, in which case you can find something with a respectable constant aperture and premium image quality.

If you need a little more zoom due to spending your time photographing kids and similarly unpredictable subjects, you may have to sacrifice your aperture ratings slightly and, to some extent, your image quality for a broader-reaching zoom lens; something in the 18-300mm range.

PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY LENSES

If like many beginner photographers, you have been drawn to photography due to your love of portraits, your best place to start would be the single-focal-length or prime lens section. Generally, a normal to short-telephoto range (50-90mm) is good for getting a tight crop around your subjects without you getting up into their personal space.

If you have always wondered what the f-number on camera lenses means, now it is your turn to pay attention. You want a lens with a small f-number or aperture rating for portraits, which actually equates to a larger opening. This lens characteristic provides you with the much-desired out of focus backgrounds, which in turn helps to emphasise the importance of the foregrounds.

How to choose the right lenses for my photography?

Camera lens to fit your needs

There are camera lenses that are meant for specific needs, and there are those that won’t help you a bit. So, how do you know which one you should choose? What follows is a list of things that you have to be aware of before you run out to buy lenses.

Below is a review of the important features you can find on a lens and how the different manufacturers label them.

APERTURE

Maximum aperture is stated on all lenses. It tells you how much light the lens can get through to the sensor at its best. Much light means you can keep shooting in darker conditions without the image blurring due to camera shake. Aperture is provided as an aperture number, such as f/2.8 (or sometimes 1:2.8). The smaller the aperture number, the more light entering the camera.

Theoretically, the absolute best aperture you can get is an objective equal to 1, but in practice, the brightest lenses offer a maximum aperture of around f/1.2. Most consumers will be satisfied with an aperture number of between f/2.4 and f/3.2. Generally, the higher the aperture number, the cheaper is the lens. Telephoto lenses often have larger aperture numbers.

On zoom lenses, there are usually two aperture numbers (for example, f/2.8–f/5.6). The smaller aperture number indicates the amount of light you get with the widest angle, while the larger shows how much light you get at the maximum zoom.

FOCAL LENGTH

The first thing to consider when choosing your new lens is the focal length. The focal length is given in millimetres and specifies whether the lens is a wide-angle or telephoto.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. With a telephoto lens, you’ll naturally get closer to subjects far away. Telephoto lenses are also preferred for portraiture as they protect the facial proportions better than a wide-angle. With a telephoto lens, it’s much easier to get a blurred background since telephoto lenses have less depth of field than wide-angle lenses. Telephoto lenses usually have usually lower brightness and are more vulnerable to blurriness during the shoot if there is any camera shake. Telephoto lenses are usually physically larger than the wide-angle lens.

The cross between a wide-angle and a telephoto lens is called a normal lens. This is a lens that renders the environment as we see with our own eyes (in relation to distance and magnification). In the 135 format, a normal lens is 50mm. Everything with a smaller focal length is called a wide-angle, while larger focal lengths are called telephoto.

On regular compact cameras with 3x zoom, the focal length usually extends from 35 mm to 105 mm (according to the 135 format). It’s important to remember that focal length is connected with the camera’s image sensor’s size, allowing the focal length of a lens to change depending on which camera it is used. To avoid too much confusion, it’s common to explain the focal length equivalent to the so-called full-frame DSLR camera. Looking for a Yarra Valley wedding photographer? Look no further! Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

FIXED OR ZOOM

For most, the most appropriate choice would be a zoom lens. You get several focal lengths in the same lens, and therefore, you can get away with fewer lenses to meet your needs. Zoom lenses always have two focal lengths specified, for example, 18-55 mm, indicating the lens’s zoom range. If you want this translated into compact camera language, you can just divide the largest number by the smallest, which in the 18–55 mm case gives a zoom of about 3x.

A fixed lens, on the other hand, has some advantages. Fixed lenses are smaller and lighter and usually have better brightness than zoom lenses. It’s also easier to correct for various lens errors on a fixed lens than on zoom, so you’re likely to get improved image quality on a fixed lens (although this will vary somewhat based on price and producer).

Some consider it more artistically correct to use a fixed lens and consider using a zoom to be cheating, in a sense, but it’s up to each photographer to decide what works best for them.

CROP FACTOR

The various camera manufacturers use different sizes of image sensors in their SLR cameras. This can cause confusion in relation to figuring out the actual capacity of a telephoto or wide-angle lens. The most common trick is to convert the focal length to the full-frame equivalent. To make the conversion, you need the crop factor. For example, on Canon’s SLR cameras without a full-frame sensor, the crop factor is 1.6. This means that you must multiply the focal length by 1.6 to determine what it would have been on the 135 (full-frame) format. A range of 18–55 mm will be approximately equal to 29–88 mm. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.

IMAGE STABILISATION

Although you’ll find optical image stabilisation in more and more DSLR camera bodies, major manufacturers continue to swear by stabilisation in the lens. This is done by moving the elements in the lens, thus eliminating camera shake. Manufacturers such as Olympus, Pentax and Sony all use image stabilisation in the camera body so that you won’t find lenses with stabilisation from these suppliers. Below you can see the abbreviations other manufacturers use to specify that their lenses have built-in image stabilisation:

  • Nikon – VR
  • Canon – IS
  • Pentax – Image stabilisation in the cameras
  • Sony – Image stabilisation in the cameras
  • Sigma – OS
  • Tamron – VC

COLOR REFRACTIVE CORRECTION

Photography focuses entirely on the light, and the headache for lens makers is that light has some strange abilities. One of these is that the different colours of light bend differently when they pass through a lens. This can lead to colour shifts, particularly toward the edges of an image. To counteract this, manufacturers are using what they call a low dispersion glass.

  • Nikon – ED
  • Pentax – ED
  • Sigma – APO
  • Tamron – LD

DISTORTION

Distortion is a different lens error, where straight lines toward the image’s edges are bent either inward or outward. Most lens manufacturers take this into account during construction and correct it in the best possible way. However, you might still come across specifications indicating that the lens has a correction for this distortion.

  • Pentax – AL
  • Sigma – ASP
  • Tamron – AD

PERSPECTIVE / FOCUS SHIFT

Some lenses have the ability to correct perspective. For example, when shooting a high building, you may point the camera slightly upward, and the building will look thinner on top than the bottom. Lens perspective shift can rectify this. These lenses also have the option to change the focus plane so that you can improve or worsen the depth of field. As a common consumer, it is unlikely that you’ll need this type of lens.

  • Nikon – PC
  • Canon – TS

FOR NON-FULL-SIZE IMAGE SENSORS

After SLR cameras took the step into the digital world, something had to be done with the lenses—first and foremost, because the digital image sensor had a much smaller area than a traditional negative. Since the image surface is smaller, lenses can be made smaller and lighter. But at the same time, these lenses cannot be used with traditional film cameras or DSLRs with a full-frame image sensor.

  • Nikon – DX
  • Canon – EF-S
  • Pentax – DA
  • Sony – DT
  • Sigma – DC
  • Tamron – DI-II

FOR FULL-SIZE DIGITAL IMAGE SENSORS

The manufacturers also make lenses for full-frame image sensors, of course. These can also be used on regular film SLRs.

  • Nikon – Lenses are not marked with DX
  • Canon – EF
  • Pentax – FA
  • Sigma – DG
  • Tamron – Di

MACRO

How to choose the right lenses for my photography?

If you plan to take close-ups and extreme close-ups, you should get yourself a macro lens. The macro is intended for taking close-up shots of small subjects and creating crisp, sharp images. The small subjects transform and become life-sized. This camera lens is meant to help you come up with good quality photos even when taken at the closest distance possible.

Your macro lens should have a 1:1 magnification, even if it allows you to use a varied range of focal length. This magnification means you can take close-ups or extreme close-ups even without getting too close to your subject.

Macro is a feature many will recognise from compact cameras. It’s simply the ability to get very close to your subject and take a picture of the little things (insects, flowers, etc.).

  • Nikon – Micro
  • Canon – Macro
  • Sigma – Macro
  • Tamron – Macro

Other Considerations

You need to take note of other factors, all of which are of equal importance in determining the right choice.

Choosing the right camera lens depends a lot on what type of subjects or scenes you intend to shoot. The way you interpret a scene is also important, and how you perceive an image or subject. You can shoot a group of people with a wide-angle lens, while another photographer may want to use a telephoto. It all depends on what you want to create. 

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Determining your choice of subjects or themes will also help you gauge whether you’ll be shooting more in open areas or places with limited lighting.

When buying a camera lens, the best thing to do is to look around and compare before deciding on one type or brand.

Buy the right lens for you

Different cameras take different lenses, so make sure you buy a lens that’s compatible with your setup. For example, if you have a DSLR, buy a lens specifically made for your DSLR camera. It’s not only about the type, but brand too—a Nikon lens just won’t fit your Canon camera.

If you’re buying a lens from a third-party manufacturer, like Sigma or Tamron, you’ll need to be particularly careful when it comes to mount, since they make their lenses in different versions for each of the large brands (Canon, Nikon, and Sony).

Once you’ve decided what kind of lens you’re looking for and how much you’re prepared to spend, you can start digging into the lenses available. For mature systems like Canon and Nikon’s DSLR cameras, there might be 10 or 15 potential alternatives, though not all in your price bracket. For newer systems, like all the mirrorless cameras, you will have fewer choices and perhaps only one appropriate option. Stick to your buying criteria, and you’ll find the one that’s best for your needs.

As long as they’re well-treated, lenses will work for years and hold their value well. This means that if you bought a lens that didn’t turn out as you wanted, you could usually sell it with little loss, or you can save a bit of money buying second-hand. 

Picking a set of lenses is not an easy decision. The number of variables is too great to count, especially if you add all the old and third-party lenses available for cameras these days. You probably won’t find the best kit on your first try, or even your second and third. But, as you steadily learn your preferred style of photography, it will grow exponentially easier to decide upon the right kit.

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Your choice probably won’t be this clear-cut and successful; in most cases, it will take several tries before you have a good sense of the best lenses for your needs. Some people never really do, and that’s fine too – if you enjoy swapping out your lenses every so often, that is a perfectly fine way to enjoy photography. Behind everything, that’s what makes the most difference: enjoying what you do. If a given kit helps you enjoy photography, that’s more important than any technical considerations.