Written by Selbi Rejepova

Without lenses, cameras would be futile. A lens is an instrument that mounts onto the camera body and serves to bring the light to a fixed focal point and direct it to either the film strip (film camera), or the digital sensor (DSLR or mirrorless cameras). Camera lenses consist of a sequence of curved glass elements in configurations that either bulge outwards (convex) or curve inward (concave).

Prime vs. Zoom

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, which means such a lens has a fixed angle of view that can not be adjusted. Prime lenses tend to have larger maximum aperture or f/stop than zoom lenses, which prove beneficial when shooting in low-light settings, as it enhances the chances of being able to capture subjects without the risk of motion blur from longer exposures. High-quality, professional prime lenses can achieve apertures as wide as f/0.95. Using prime lenses with wide apertures also allows for achieving the shallow depth of field, particularly advantageous in portrait photography, for a bokeh effect. 

Conversely, zoom lenses employ a set of lenses to enable various focal lengths within a single lens, offering greater versatility at the expense of speed. 

Lens Focal Length Types:

  • Ultra Wide-Angle Lens (8mm - 24mm) - at times referred to as fisheye lens for its ability to capture a very wide area of view, which results in a  distortion around the edges of the frame. 
  • Wide-Angle Lens (24mm - 35mm) - while it is characteristic for a wider angle focal lengths to distort the image, lenses of this size exhibit  minimal distortion that is not noticeable. They are ideal for capturing landscapes or when shooting in tight spaces. The captured subjects give the impression of being more distant than their actual proximity. .

  • Standard Lens (35/50mm - 70mm) - with an angle of view closely resembling that of the human eye, these lenses produce images that closely mimic our visual perception. Due to that, they are good for about any type of photography. Additionally, their large apertures, such as f/1.8 to f/1.4, facilitate exceptional performance in low-light situations and enable a pleasingly shallow depth of field.

  • Telephoto Lens (70mm - 300mm) - allow for capturing subjects from a distance making them ideal for scenarios requiring or desiring shooting from afar. Their ability to compress the background and subject, creating the illusion of proximity, offers a unique aesthetic perspective when selecting lens focal lengths. I frequently opt for using this lens for wide shots from a distance, rather than utilizing a 24mm lens, for instance, as it imparts a distinctive magnified effect, enhancing the sense of closeness between elements. These lenses often employ shallow depth of field. It contributes another facet to the process of making creative choices.
  • Super Telephoto Lens (300mm - 600mm) - optimal focal range for wildlife and sports photography particularly in situations where a photographer is either restricted in her/ his ability to approach subjects closely, or when you simply prefer not to be intrusive, such as when shooting weddings or events.
  • Macro Lens (60mm - 200mm) - allow for close-up shots of small objects/subjects commonly employed in product photography, or when capturing the intricate details of flowers or insects. They have the capability to capture subjects accurately reproducing them at 1:1 life-size ratios on the imaging sensor (or film). Opting for longer focal lengths would be advantageous when unable to approach subjects closely, such as when photographing insects.