Focal length

What Are Prime Camera Lenses, and Why Would You Use Them?

In photography, there are two types of lenses: zoom lenses and prime lenses. Zoom lenses cover a range of focal lengths. If you’ve just bought a new DSLR, the kit lens that comes with your camera is almost certainly a zoom lens; most come with an 18-55mm lens, which means that lens covers every focal length between 18mm and 55mm. A prime lens, on the other hand, covers just one focal length. A 50mm lens is just a 50mm lens.

If, however, the 18-55mm lens that comes with your camera can be used as a 50mm lens, why on earth would you get a dedicated 50mm prime lens?

Prime Lenses Perform Better

Focal length is just one of the characteristic of a lens; the other important one is aperture. Just knowing the focal length of a lens doesn’t tell us a whole lot about how it will perform in the real world.

This image, like all the others in the article, was shot with a prime lens. For this photo, I used a $150 50mm prime. Even a $2000 zoom lens would have struggled to get this shot.

Focal length determines the field of view and apparent magnification of the lens, while aperture determines the depth of field and low light performance. All 50mm lenses will share the same field of view and magnification, but they can have vastly different apertures.

Looking back at our 18-55mm kit lens, at 50mm it probably has a maximum aperture of f/5.6. This isn’t especially wide, and won’t make pleasing portraits or perform great in low light. The 50mm prime lens, however, will have an aperture of f/1.8…

What Is a Telephoto Lens?

Telephoto lenses can be incredibly useful, but how is it different from other lenses, and when should you use it?

What Is a Telephoto Lens?

A telephoto lens is a lens that appears to magnify distant objects. To do that, they need to have a focal length longer than that of a normal lens, or a lens that approximates the optical qualities of the human eye. A normal lens has a focal length of between 40mm and 58mm on a full frame camera so any lens with a focal length longer than 60mm can be considered a telephoto lens. The longer the focal length, the more magnification there is.

The most common telephoto zoom lenses have a focal range of 70mm to 200mm. Any lens with a focal length longer than about 300mm can be considered a super telephoto lens as well.

On a crop sensor camera, telephoto lenses are those with a focal length longer than about 40mm, although the magnification will be minimal until about 50mm.

Let’s look at this in action. This photo was taken at 50mm, a normal focal length, on a full frame camera. The photo appears pretty similar to how things look with your eyes. The other photos were all taken from the same spot with a crop sensor camera; I don’t have a long enough full frame telephoto to really make the point clear.

This photo was taken at 45mm using a crop sensor camera. The full frame equivalent focal length is 72mm. You can see how the image is a little tighter on the car.

This photo was taken at 85mm, equivalent to 136mm on a full frame camera. Now the car totally fills the frame.

This photo was taken at 135, equivalent to 216mm on a full frame camera. We’re incredibly close to the car compared to the normal photo. It’s impossible to fit the whole thing in the picture.

How a Telephoto Lens Affects Your Images

The main effect of telephoto lenses is that, like a…

What Is a Wide Angle Lens?

A wide-angle camera lens can make for some pretty interesting photos, but how is it different from other lenses, and when should you use it?

What Is a Wide-Angle Lens?

A wide-angle lens has a field of view significantly wider than that of the human eye. In other words, it’s got a wider field of view than a normal lens, which has a focal length of somewhere between 40mm and 58mm on a full frame camera.

This means that, on a full frame camera, any lens with a focal length of less than 35mm is considered to be a wide-angle lens. The lower the focal length, the wider the field of view and thus, the wider the lens. Any lens with a focal length lower than 24mm may be referred to as an ultra wide-angle lens.

On a crop sensor camera, wide-angle lenses start at a focal length of around 24mm and go down from there. Ultra wide-angle lenses start at around 16mm.

Let’s look at this in action. This photo was taken at 50mm, a normal focal length, on a full frame camera. The photo appears pretty similar to how things look with your eyes.

This photo was taken at 35mm. It just qualifies as wide-angle. Notice how much more of the scene is showing.

This photo was taken at 24mm. This is the start of “ultra” wide-angle. Once again, even more of the scene is captured in the photograph.

This photo was taken at 17mm, which is as wide as my lens will go. The image looks completely different than the one taken with the normal lens.

How a Wide-Angle Lens Affects Your Images

The most obvious effect of wide-angle lenses is their massive field of view. You can just capture a huge…

How Does the “8x” Zoom on My Point-and-Shoot Compare to My DSLR?

Your camera may boast “8x zoom”, but most DSLRs do not advertise values like these. So how do they compare? The answer is more complex than you may think.

That “8x” value that doesn’t necessarily mean objects in the photo will look 8 times bigger than they do with your eyes. It just means things will be 8 times bigger than its most zoomed-out position—but two cameras in their most zoomed-out positions will not look the same size.

Every lens affects your image in a different way. A wide angle lens warps the perspective in the image so it shows more than you could see with your naked eye. A telephoto lens does the opposite, zooming in like a telescope to distant objects. These things are separate from the actual “zoom” function on your camera, so one 8x zoom lens may not make objects as large as another 8x zoom lens.

So how do we calculate how much bigger an object appears in a photo compared to your eyes, where you’re currently standing? To find that out, you need to know the focal length and field of view of the lens you’re using.

“Canon vs Nikon:”
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Focal Length and Field of View

In photography, the focal length of a lens is the distance between a the camera’s sensor and the internal components of the lens itself. This focal length determines how close objects look to your camera and what part of the scene actually fits within the picture—otherwise known as your field of view. A massive, telescope-like lens with a 1000mm focal length will make objects look very close. Lenses with smaller focal lengths will make objects appear farther away.

Many lenses can “zoom” to different focal lengths. For example, an 18-135mm lens will let you zoom from an 18mm focal length to a 135mm focal length.

Here’s an example. I shot the following two images with my Canon 650D and an 18-135mm lens.

The first photo was taken at the shortest focal length: 18mm. It’s a pretty wide field of view.

The next photo was taken in the exact same place half a second later. The only difference is that I’ve zoomed in to use the lens’ longest focal length, 135mm.

As you can see, the field of view is a lot narrower in the second photo than the first, because we’ve zoomed in on the mountains.

Here’s the catch, though. Different lenses, at their shortest focal length, will show things differently. Remember that 1000mm telescope lens? Even if you don’t zoom in with it, you’re still seeing things much closer than a camera with an 18-135mm lens. So focal length alone isn’t…

What Lenses Should I Buy for My Canon Camera?

The biggest advantage DSLRs have over smartphones and compact cameras is swappable lenses that suit what you’re trying to shoot. Whether you want a lens that can blur the background for great portraits or something that lets you zoom in close to the action, there will be one available.

Lenses, however, are expensive. With so many choices, you need to be make sure you’re getting the right one for your needs. A well looked-after lens will last for years so it shouldn’t be a throwaway choice.

If you’re already an experienced photographer, this article probably isn’t for you. I’m not going to be recommending any super expensive, professional quality glass. Instead, I’m going to look at some of the best options for beginner and intermediate photographers who are looking to shoot new things.

Before diving in, it’s important to note that Canon has two different lens mounts: EF-S and EF. EF-S lenses will only work on crop sensor cameras like the entry-level Canon EOS Rebel T6. EF lenses will work on all Canon’s DSLRs.

If You Want to Shoot Portraits

For portraits, there are two things you need: a focal length of between about 50mm and 100mm, and a wide aperture. This focal length range gives you natural looking portraits without too much distortion and the wide aperture lets you blur the background to nothing.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM fits both these criteria perfectly, and at $125 is an absolute steal. There are very few lenses this good, available that cheap. I still use the one I bought when I first started portrait photography regularly.

If You Want to Shoot Sports or Wildlife

Sports and wildlife photography are technically very similar: you want close up photos that show the action, but, whether because you’re stuck on the sideline or can’t sneak up on a wild…