Let's talk lenses
You might never have even thought about lenses before, but they are a fundamental part of your camera, and can drastically affect your photos. There are two basic categories of lenses; prime, which have a fixed focal length, and zoom lenses, which allow you to change focal lengths and zoom in and out.
Whilst the added flexibility of a zoom lens may initially make it seem the better option of the two - they are heavier, bulkier, and slower than prime lenses. With a prime lens you are restricted to one focal length, however you get sharper image quality.
Don't let this dissuade you from a zoom lens! For beginners looking to explore different focal lengths they are an ideal option, being versatile and much cheaper than purchasing a series of different prime lenses.
Within these two categories there are a variety of different lenses with differing focal lengths available. You might want to go for something that will allow you to take a pretty broad range of photos, or, if you want something more specific, a lens that is a little more limited. It really depends on the kind of photos you are after and what is going to work for you.
When buying a lens - think about compatibility. You don't want to spend money on something that isn't going to fit and work with the camera body you already have. Also consider size and weight - do you want to lug something really heavy around, or add a huge lens that means you can no longer fit your camera in your bag? There isn't a wrong answer, these are just all things you want to take into consideration.
Which lens should you go for?
With lenses I find it helps to think of it as, the higher the number, the more close cropped in you will be. So a 35mm lens will give you a much wider field of view than a 200mm option.
If you are after an everyday lens, many people recommend 35mm or 50mm as starting points.
Photo by @coltonallanphotography. Taken on a 50mm lens.
A "normal" lens for 35mm photography is 50mm. This will give you approximately the same viewing distance as the human eye - so what you see will be translated exactly into what the camera captures. Bear in mind that this will change if you are shooting at a different format - for 6x6 medium format cameras, for example, an 80mm lens will give you this natural look.
A 35mm lens gives a slightly wider than normal angle of view, expanding the amount of background you can capture alongside your subject. This is going to produce a slightly different field of view and look to what the human eye sees - if you're after something wider with a bit more of a unique look, this is a great option to start with.
Photo by Matt Day - The difference between a 35mm lens (left) and a 50mm lens.
Macro lenses allow you to shoot close-up, capturing tiny subjects or product photography. Wide angle lenses will allow for large landscape shots, getting as much in the photo as possible and a fish eye lens will exaggerate this, narrowing the image to create the distinctive warped shape.
Photo by @coltonallanphotography. Taken on a 200mm lens.
Different lenses have different depths of field, so will, of course, produce changing effects. Here's a rough summary of what you can expect to see from the more common lens options.
- Angle of view: Very wide, perfect for landscape photography.
- Depth of field: Everything is in focus. Impossible to have a shallow depth of field.
- Distortion of space: Makes things seem farther away than they actually are. Exaggerates the size of anything very close to the camera.
- Angle of view: Wide, great for street photography - this is similar to what the camera on your phone would capture.
- Depth of field: Pretty much everything is in focus unless your subject is very close to the camera.
- Distortion of space: Less spatial distortion than a very wide lens, but it still makes things seem farther away than they actually are.
- Angle of view: Normal, the way the human eye sees the world, versatile - great for most kinds of photography
- Depth of field: Easy to have a shallow or deep depth of field, depending on aperture range.
- Distortion of space: Very little or none.
- Angle of view: Medium telephoto, great for portrait photography and isolating a subject from the background
- Depth of field: Easy to get a shallow depth of field.
- Distortion of space: Makes things seem closer than they actually are.
- Angle of view: Telephoto, best for picking out a subject some way off, and compressing subject and background.
- Depth of field: Quite often has a shallow depth of field unless everything you’re shooting is quite far away.
- Distortion of space: Makes things seem significantly closer than they actually are.
Photo by @jordisalesr. Taken on a 28mm lens.
Cover photo by @jordisalesr
Author: Becca Knight