This is a very short guide to lens choice: please see my other blogs and fact sheets for  further information on terms such as focal length, aperture, depth of field (f values), perspective etc.

Rule 1:  Buy the best optics you can afford – this is the only rule to obey!!

When I started to diversify into the different areas of my photographic life the thought of swapping from lens to lens and which was the right one for the job used to make me nervous.  All the technical terms involved and the often lengthy descriptions felt like they were designed to make the field a mystery only available to the initiated who were likely to be a select few.   I decided that for me the best way forward was to think about what I wanted to produce in the way of images and fit the lens to that.  With the flood of information today on the internet and in published form life is easier particularly with photographic magazines willing to explain and illustrate the end results of a lens choice.

Focal length seems a good jumping off point for it determines both the angle of view (the amount of the scene that can be recorded by any given lens) and how much the subject will be magnified.  A low number (in mm) will indicate a short focal length and a high number (in mm) a long focal length. A short focal length gives a wide angle of view and a long focal length a narrow angle of view.

Of course it is far more complicated than that requiring us to decide whether we want to opt for an auto or manual focus lens, what f value the lens is capable of (the value which determines depth of field) and whether to go for a zoom or a prime lens.  And we have to choose the make of lens which might or might not be the same as a camera according to budget but will have to be compatible ie fit the camera body.

Types of lens Use
Wide-angle Short focal length less than 35 mm general use
Standard Similar to human eye 35 to 80 mm general use
Telephoto 80 mm upwards subjects appear magnified fills more of the frame – great for wildlife
Fisheye At least 180 degrees of view – ultimately circular
Macro Close up photography giving 1:1 view
Extension Tubes Hollow rings that fit between the camera and the lens – these help the lens focus closer thus increasing magnification. They come in various sizes.

There is a good book which has been around since 2010 by Ross Hoddinott (www.rosshoddinott.co.uk) called simply ‘Lenses for Digital SLRs’ available on Amazon (<www.amazon.co.uk) or from (www.ammonitepress.com)

Telephoto Lens

Telephoto Lens

Standard Lens

 Standard Lens

Wide Angle Lens

Wide Angle Lens

Macro Lens

Macro Lens