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Description and Use of Photographic Lenses

Updated on August 19, 2014


Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. | Source

Photographic Lenses

Knowing some basic description and uses of photographic lenses is one of the first things that aspiring photographers should know.

Telephoto, wide angle, zoom, fish eye and tilt-shift lenses are just some of the main lenses used in photography. Not to mention other so called lenses such as extenders, extension tubes, couplers, tele-converters etc.

Knowing what lenses to use can help you choose the right lens for your photo project. Lenses vary in scope and ability. From wide angle to telephoto each has a specific purpose in photography.

A note about digital cameras. Any film lens when used in a digital camera will increase in focal length. A 600mm film lens will become 780mm.

Standard (55mm). This is the standard lens that is supplied with most cameras. Great for normal everyday shots of family, and general scenes. They are considered to be the closest to how the human eyes sees things.

Wide angle. These are usually in the range of 28mm to 35mm. They allow the photographer to take a wide view of the scene and they are mostly used at close ranges. If you take a piece of paper and roll it, the view shows only what fits at the other end. A wide angle expands this view. Their main application is for landscapes when you want a broad representation of the scene.

Fish eye lens.These are lenses that take a very wide hemispherical angle view of the subject, although called a fish eye it's really a wide angle lens. They range from 8mm to 16mm.They are very good at suggesting the Earth's curvature and the curvatures of round subjects and they will give the photo a convex appearance.

Zoom lenses. Lenses that have the ability to encompass several optical ranges, from 50mm to 200mm, the most popular being 80mm to 200mm. So you can shoot a portrait , turn around and shoot a subject some distance away,all with the same lens. They are good for creating special effects such as zooming away from the subject which gives a surreal effect to the photo. Zoom lenses are considered the workhorses in photography because of their ample latitude and ease of taking closes ups and long shots.

Telephoto lenses. These are the mainstay of nature and sports photographers. They mostly come in one size such as 500mm to 800mm. They are unbeatable when you need to shoot far away subjects without getting close. They are considered a must for nature photography.Keep in mind that all telephotos have a narrow angle of view. You get a close up view of the subject and not much more. They compress the distance between you and the subject and will usually blur the background. However their size, weight and costs puts them out of the range of many photographers. Because of their size and weight they also require the use of a tripod, since at their magnifications even the slightest movement will show on the final product. An alternative is to use a 400mm to 600mm lens and attach a tele-converter of 1.4 or 2.00, which increase the reach by 1.4 or doubles it, off course with some minor loss in quality.

Mirror lens. They are lenses which incorporate mirrors in their construction thus achieving a longer focal length and reach in a smaller package by reflecting light back towards the film or sensor. Because of their construction they mostly have a fixed aperture of about f/8, but they come with a much smaller price tag. They are prized by some photographers because of their unique characteristics of giving "doughnuts shaped" highlights to any out of focus details in the final product which to some adds a romantic feel to the shot.

Tilt-Shift lenses. They are excellent for certain and specific photographic purposes, especially architecture. With theses lenses the photographer can show lines in a tall building, that do not appear to get narrower the farther they are from the camera, in other words tilt-shift lenses eliminate the convergence of lines.


© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Don Bobbitt: Thanks

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Great Hub! I am crawling back into taking more shots with my Nikon equipment. I have explored the limits of smartphone cameras, and I miss being able to really reach out and take that long shot.

      Thanks for clearing the cobwebs in that corner of my mind.


    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      fotografo: thank you

    • fotografo profile image

      Image Dream 5 years ago from Italy - Rome

      Great article!

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      That's a great point!

    • FCEtier profile image

      Chip 7 years ago from Cold Mountain

      Another benefit of a lens hood is that it helps to protect the lens. It's saved me several times over the years!

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      Hmmm...I may have to get me one then! Thanks so much for answering my question.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      A lens hood is used on the lens to eliminate or reduce stray light that can be "caught" on the inside of the lens, thus can cause what appear as "light flashes" in the photo. They are not expensive and quite useful. The stray light usually happens when you face a strong light source.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      Great info here, but could you tell me what the purpose of a lens hood is? I see these on people's cameras a lot and have wondered what their purpose is and if I should have one...

    • FCEtier profile image

      Chip 7 years ago from Cold Mountain

      It's been my experience that buyers should invest the lion's share of their budget in good glass!

      Nice article.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 7 years ago from Virginia

      What a great and informative hub. Thanks for posting.