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Photography: Types of Camera Lenses

Updated on January 16, 2017
A camera lens
A camera lens

This is an introduction to various types of Camera Lenses, the most important part of a camera, their characteristics and specific usage.

What is a Lens

In simple words, a lens is the eye of a camera. Technically speaking, a lens is an optical device which transmits and refracts the beam of light. Generally, the lenses are made of high quality glass or plastic. There are two major groups of lenses, Simple and Compound. A simple lens can be described as a single element lens. Compound lenses are collection or group of simple lenses.

There are many types of simple lenses, including Bioconvex, Planoconvex, Positive Meniscus, Negative Meniscus, Planoconcave, Bioconcave. (See the image)

Usages of Lenses
A lens is the most essential and most valuable part of Cameras, Telescopes, Microscopes, Film Projectors, Spectacles, Goggles etc. Besides them, lenses are used on large scale in optical machinery.

Types of Simple Lenses

Types of simple lenses
Types of simple lenses

Compound Lens

Compound Lens
Compound Lens

Camera Lenses

Camera lens is a very high quality compound lens fixed in a cylindrical body. Camera lenses are coated with a special transparent anti-reflective thin film which does not allow the light to reflect. The anti-reflective increases the quality of the lens. Camera lenses are expensive and many times their prices are equal to or more than the body of a camera.

In Single Lens Reflex cameras, known as SLR Cameras, you can remove the lens from the camera and use another lens.

You can find the specifications of a camera lens on the front side of the lens, which includes Focal Length, Highest Aperture, Diameter, Brand Name etc.

There are many types of Camera Lenses. Different types of camera lenses are made for the specific requirements of the photographer. Please read the table at the last part of this article, describing the angles of views of the lenses of various focal lengths.

Here is an introduction to various types of Camera Lenses:

50mm Normal Lens
50mm Normal Lens

Normal Lens

A normal lens is one which gives natural field of view, i.e. a view which is natural for human eye. So a normal lens gives us a normal angle of view.

24mm Wide Angle Lens
24mm Wide Angle Lens

Wide Angle Lens

The field of view depends on the focal length of the lens, and the size of the censor. Lower focal length gives you wider view, longer focal length gives lesser field of view. Wide angle lenses have lower focal length, so they give us a wide view.

Telephoto Lens

Telephoto lens has higher focal length. These lenses are used to take photographs of objects which are far away, like a person on other side of the road, or even the moon.

500mm Telephoto Lens
500mm Telephoto Lens

Zoom Lens

A zoom lens is a lens with variable focal length. So most Zoom lenses can work as a Telephoto lens, Normal lens and wide angle lens. Some zoom lenses have variable higher focal length, so they are used for telephotography. Some Zoom lenses have normal and lower focal length, and they are used for wide to normal view photography.

Zoom lenses is collection of too many lenses, so the sharpness and quality of the image is slightly decreased.

In digital cameras, besides the optical zoom, there is another zooming known as digital zoom.

By using a zoom lens, you can go closer or away from the object without leaving your point.

28mm to 200mm Zoom Lens
28mm to 200mm Zoom Lens

Macro Lens

Macro lenses are used for extreme close up photography. The special design of macro lens allows you to take images of the object in larger size than the original size. By using macro lenses, you can take high quality photographs of small objects like grains, insects, flowers, coins, stamps etc.

Normal digital cameras have 'macro mode' for taking close up photographs.

Photograph taken through a Macro lens
Photograph taken through a Macro lens
500 mm Mirror Lens
500 mm Mirror Lens

Mirror Lens

Mirror lenses are compact telephoto lenses. Normal telephoto lenses with higher focal lengths are bigger in length and are heavy, but a mirror lens of same focal length is shorter and light weight, when compared to the former. A mirror is used in this type of lens which reflects the image. This helps the lens to keep it compact. (See image)

Mirror Lens Design
Mirror Lens Design | Source
Fisheye Lens
Fisheye Lens | Source

Fish Eye Lens

Fish Eye Lens is an ultra wide angle lens. The focal length of such type of lens is very low, and it captures a view between 180 to 185 Degrees.

Focal Length and Angle of View

Here is a table of focal lengths of various types lenses and corresponding angles of views. (In Degrees)

Focal Length
Digonal Angle
Vertical Angle
Horizontal Angle
0mm Fisheye Lens
16mm Wide Angle Lens
35mm Wide Angle Lens
50mm Normal Lens
70mm Lens
100mm Tele Lens
200mm Tele Lens
500mm Tele Lens
1200mm Tele Lens

You may like to join Photography Equipment Page Here

Also watch video below for more on camera lenses.

The Properties of Camera Lenses


Submit a Comment

  • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

    Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

    When it comes to choose a camera many people are confused. Choosing a camera lens depends on what kind of photographer you are.

    Thanks for this useful and informative article.

  • wqaindia profile image

    Ashok Goyal 4 years ago from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India

    Wow, awesome. Alas I knew the camera tricks too.

  • BeatsMe profile image

    BeatsMe 4 years ago

    I've been quite interested in photography but not this interested, I guess. I didn't bother to learn about the different camera lenses. I always only rely on what is in the camera and just use it. I'm guessing that they're just the simple and normal lenses that you've mentioned. Great hub.

  • Sonali Singh profile image

    Sonali Singh 4 years ago

    Nice hub and well explained. Voted up

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

    Great info, I definitely need a new camera and all the parts that go with it, I am using my phone at the moment to take photo's so this is really good, voted up and shared, nell

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Great summary of the different lenses and their uses. I love photography and need to get a new camera soon.

  • Angelo52 profile image

    Angelo52 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Good explanation of the lenses mentioned. Thumbs up and shared.