Camera Lenses

Your most important single piece of equipment after the camera is your choice of optical glass to place in front of it and then look and capture memories through. There are various types of lenses, which we will discuss here.

Ultra-Wide Zoom

You can certainly broaden your view of the landscape with one of these lenses. Ultra-wide zoom lenses allow you to bring more area into focus and provides much greater perception of depth of field. The zoom range allows you to make small adjustments to the coverage of your shot for much more creative control.  We know these lenses by their designation, e.g. 10-22mm, 8-15mm also known as a fisheye, due to its extremely wide angle of view, 16-35mm and my favourite the 17-40mm. The lenses mentioned here are Canon, Nikon produce similar models of the same high quality for their own cameras.

Standard Zoom

This category of lenses has the most popular focal lengths, from wide-angle to telephoto, and a variety of apertures. We would consider these to be 17-85mm 18-55mm 1nd also 18-135mm; however, you can get the 24-70mm in this range, which is an L series as well as the 24-105mm. The “L” denotes for professional use and carries a higher price tag.

Telephoto zooms

Telephoto zoom lenses allow you to capture those small details normally missed with any other type of lens. You can capture far away action or fast-paced sports and even zoom in further for an intimate portrait with a blurred background, known as bokeh. The unique property of these lenses to compress images allows you to create a variety of very impressive captures. We would consider these lenses as falling within this designation, 28-300mm, 55-250mm, and 70-200mm. There are many more lenses within this group but you can already see that a pattern is emerging with the lens designations.


These lenses let you capture more by broadening the angle of view whilst also increasing the depth of field bringing more into focus. These lenses provide a unique perspective by expanding the apparent distance between the foreground and background. They are normally very compact and easy to carry and use. We would recognize these by their designations, such as, 14mm, 15mm, 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm.

Standard & Medium Telephoto

For a much more natural angle of view and perspective, closer to what we actually see with our naked eye, choose from one of these lenses. They are used with success for portraits and give images a much more natural depth of field. The lens designations would be similar to, 40mm, 50mm, 85mm and 100mm. The 50mm lens is the nearest lens to what we see through our eye and is therefore the chosen lens of choice for many photographers, including us.


Telephoto lenses allow you to appear to get much closer depending upon their magnification to the chosen subject. The longer focal lengths compress the distance between the subject and the camera allowing the user to capture more details and the moment. We recognize these lenses with designations like, 135mm, 200mm and 300mm. The higher the number the greater the magnification.

Super Telephoto 

This category of lens adds a very different dimension to our photography. In the Canon range, all of these lenses are “L” series lenses, which have better quality lens construction and “USM” for quieter, high-speed autofocusing. We recognize these lenses by their designations, 400mm, 500, 800mm. We have a 400mm and do sometimes use it to bring that distant landscape closer to us. These lenses can be large and can be impractical to carry along with other kit.


These lenses are used to produce amazing detail that would be otherwise impossible to capture and even detect by the human eye. They give new perspective to extremely minute subjects such as insects or the petals of flowers. We recognize these lenses by their designations, 50mm, 65mm, 100mm and 180mm.


Being able to physically tilt a part of the lens body changes the focal-plain perspective and allow you to obtain a wide depth of field even at maximum aperture, whilst still keeping the chosen subject in focus. Shift movements correct the trapezoidal effect so we do not distort the subject. These lenses are recognized in the Canon range by their preceding letters TS-E, and you can purchase a 17mm, 24mm, 45mm and a 90mm. All at considerable expense but often used by dedicated photographers.

Lens extenders

Lens extenders, available in 1.4x and x2 in the Canon range, which do, as you would expect, increase the lens length by the multiplication factor. A note of caution these extenders do not always work with all lenses so check before you buy. They are attached to the rear of the lens and then placed on the camera as you would usually add or change a lens.

F/ designations in lens descriptions

Just to further complicate things, there are then different f/ designations for lenses, which denote the width that is the lens maximum aperture, the amount of light that can be allowed through the lens on to the camera sensor. The lower the number the higher amount of light let through. I have produced a table below to give you an idea about the relative light gathering abilities of the lenses we can purchase. The more light the better in most circumstances dependent on the lenses chosen use.

Maximum   aperture

Light-gathering   factor over 0%

Lens   types


32   X

Very   fast prime lens


16   X

Fast   prime lens


8   X

Very   fast zoom lens


4   X


2   X

Zoom   Lens/some telephoto prime lenses


1   X

Prime lenses

You will hear this term used to denote some of the lenses we have already discussed. A prime lens is a photographic lens whose focal length is fixed. An example of this and one of my favourite Canon lenses is the EF (EF denoting a type of Canon lens fitting) 85mm (Medium telephoto) f/1.2 (The fixed focal length).

Though not as versatile as a zoom lens, the prime lens is usually of much better optical quality, can be lighter.. It has fewer moving parts and better chromatic aberration performance too. Prime lenses usually have a larger maximum aperture (smaller f-number) which means better low-light photography and a shallower depth of field when you need it.

Image stabilisation

Finally for the moment, we have IS (Image stabilisation) This is a group of techniques used to reduce blurring associated with the motion of a camera during image capturing. It compensates for pan and tilt (The upward and downward movement) of a camera. Camera shake is more evident when using slow shutter speeds or with long focal length (telephoto) lenses. Nikon have a similar system for their lenses known as Vibration Reduction (VR)  rather than the Canon (IS) we have discussed.

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