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Choosing a New DSLR Lens

Updated on June 3, 2014

Prime Lenses are Ideal for Portrait and Product Photography

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Nikon DSLR Prime Lens - 50mm

Prime Lenses (Also Known as Fixed Lenses)

Two of the main types of DSLR lenses include prime lenses and zoom lenses.

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, while zoom lenses can go from one focal length to another, depending on the specific lenses range.

Zoom lenses work well for beginner photographers, as well as photographers who don't want the hassle of switching lenses between each shot, however they rarely match the quality of prime lenses.

Prime lenses are typically smaller, lighter and more compact than telephoto and zoom lenses.

Prime lenses work great for experienced photographers, because they typically have larger aperture ranges than zoom lenses, allowing photographers to shoot well in many different lighting situtations.

Telephoto Lenses Allow for a Range of Zoom Lengths

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Canon EF 50mm Prime Lens

Telephoto Lenses (Zoom Lenses)

Unlike prime lenses, zoom lenses have focal ranges that vary between a certain minimum focal length and a certain maximum focal length. Zoom lenses come in a wide array of focal lengths, and have become increasinly popular because photographers can use these lenses for a wide variety of shots without having to switch lenses at a crucial time.

Though zoom lenses are typically lower quality than prime lenses, modern technology has reduced the quality difference between the two types of lenses. Also, the wide range of telephoto lenses available allows photographers of all levels to find the zoom lens that fits them best.

Zoom lenses are typically bulkier lenses, heavier in weight than prime lenses, and have smaller aperture ranges as well. However the amount of telephoto lenses on the market can change all of those things. This is because pricing for zoom lenses can vary from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

The largest benefit zoom lenses offer is having several focal lengths available. This comes in handy for those who enjoy landscape photography, street photography, sports photography and more. The advantage of a zoom lens is that it enables you to frame the subject precisely.

DSLR Lenses for Beginners

Wide Angle Lenses are Ideal for Landscapes and Creative Captures

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Wide Angle Lenses

Wide angle lenses, also referred to as fisheye lenses, have extreme wide-angle lenses with an angle of view of up to 180 degrees or more, with noticeable distortion.

Wide angle and fisheye lenses vary greatly, especially in the amount of distortion the lens creates. The distortion of the final image is proportionate to the wideness of the angle of the lens.

The most extreme version of the wide angle lens is the fisheye lens. Fisheye lenses are used when distortion is desired, while wide angle lenses can be used to make areas and landscapes appear larger, but with minimal distortion.

This is a style of photography that many love but is an art to get right.

As their name suggests, these lenses enable their users to take shots with a very wide perspective. Wide angle lens and fisheye lenses are popular among landscape photographers, real estate photographers and photographers looking for a more unique image.

You can find a wide range of wide angle and fisheye lenses as both prime DSLR lenses, as well as telephoto zoom lenses.

Pro Tip: Very wide lenses will cause image distortion to some level, ranging from small distortions to large distortions, especially at the edges of your photos. This can be used to great effect but can also be quite frustrating at times.

Want Great Close-Up Shots? Opt for a Macro Lens

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Macro Lenses

Macro lenses are designed for photographers who enjoy capturing small objects with extensive detail.

This type of DSLR lens is a popular choice for nature photographers, product photographers, as well as those who use their DSLR for technical purposes. This is because macro lenses can focus to infinity while still providing sharp images with high resolution.

Macro lenses use something known as the reproduction ratio, which is the ratio of the subject on the film plane compared to the actual size of the subject being photographed.

Typically, macro lenses have reproduction ratios that far exceed 1:1.

Macro lenses range greatly as far as price goes, and with this lens in particular, you typically get what you pay for.

Although many DSLR lenses offer a ‘macro’ setting, only true macro lenses have the ability to produce images that are life size, allowing the photographer to get in incredibly close from the subject you’re shooting.

Photograph Taken with a DSLR Holga Lens

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LensBaby Spark for Canon DSLR Bodies

Creative Lenses

Besides telephoto (zoom) lenses, prime lenses, wide angle lenses and macro lenses, photographers have the option of a number of creative lenses designed for more abstract/fine art photography.

Two of the more popular "creative DSLR lenses" include the Holga DSLR lens and the LensBaby.

Holga photographs have been famous long before the creation of the DSLR, and for a long time, photographers had no option for Holga photography other than using an SLR Holga camera.

Today however, DSLR lovers can purchase Holga lenses for their DSLR bodies that allow them to replicate the unique look of a Holga image.

A Holga lens is a plastic DSLR attachment that is known for producing grainy, low resolution images with a heavy vignette. One of today's most prominent documentary photographers, Lynsey Addario, is known for her terrific work using an SLR Holga camera.

LensBaby is a brand of lenses that offer photographers extensive, if not endless, creative freedom. With three main bodies, including the Composer, the Muse and the Control Freak, these lenses feature a ball and socket mechanism and interchangeable aperture discs that allow the photographer to swivel the lens and control the look of the final image captured.

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