Choosing a Lens
- Sat, 17 Apr 2010
Fixed Focal Length
Fixed lenses offer some advantages over zooms. They’re generally smaller and lighter, with wider maximum apertures and superior image quality. An ultra-fast (e.g. f/1.8) 50mm lens is perfect for low light, 85-105mm is ideal for portraits, while a fast 300mm (or longer) tele is a popular addition to any wildlife or sports shooter’s kit.
Most DSLRs come with a standard zoom; that is, one which spans the focal range from moderate wideangle to short telephoto. These ‘kit’ lenses are generally fine for most purposes, but there are alternatives that offer superior image quality and/or wider maximum apertures – at a price premium, of course.
Wideangles make subjects appear further away, enabling you to get more in the shot. Among the most popular wideangle zooms are the 10-20mm/12-24mm and 17-35mm ranges. Superwide lenses cause more distortion, especially when tilted off the perpendicular but, with care, can be used to inject drama into your photographs.
Telephotos make subjects appear closer. They’re ideal for sport and wildlife, where it’s more difficult to get as close as you’d like, while short teles are good for portraits. Telephotos increase the risk of camera shake, so consider one with Image Stabilisation if your camera doesn’t have it, or a wide maximum aperture.
Want a one-lens solution for your photography? Get a superzoom. While they rarely compare with shorter range lenses as far as image quality is concerned, an 18-200mm type lens offers the benefit of speed, convenience and a dust-free sensor. Good for general shooting at moderate print sizes.
Many lenses misleadingly feature the ‘macro’ moniker but a true dedicated macro lens lets you get close enough to reproduce your subject at life-size (or half life-size) on the sensor. Macro lenses (few of which zoom) come in a range of focal lengths, from standard to telephoto.