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Understanding DSLR Lenses

Understanding DSLR Lenses

If you bought or want an entry-level DSLR, you may be wondering what the deal is with all the interchangeable lenses out there. We’re going to compare these lenses. This should answer some of your questions when you get ready to choose your next DSLR lens.

Understanding DSLR Lenses

Lens Labeling

Before we talk about the different lenses, it’s important for you to have a basic understanding of what the abbreviations, letters and numbers mean.

Focal Lens

Every lens is expressed in millimeters, and this is defined as the camera's focal length. Focal length has an effect on how much of a scene you can see through the lens. A short focal length allows you to stand close to your subject so that they fill the frame and things in the background seem farther away than normal. Wide-angle lenses have short focal lengths and a wide-angle of view. Examples of short focal lengths are 15mm, 20mm, 35mm. A long focal length allows you to stand far away from the subject so that it still fills the frame, but things in the background seem closer than normal. As the focal length of the lens increases, the viewing angle decreases. This means there is less in your shot. Examples are 85mm, 105mm, 300mm. 

Maximum Aperture

After the focal length range, there is the aperture number or range of aperture numbers. This indicates the lens’ maximum aperture. This tells you what the widest available aperture is for that lens. For example, on the Canon 50mm f/1.4 from, the widest aperture you can use is f/1.4. Remember that the smaller the f-number, the wider the aperture.

Kit Lens

No matter what brand of camera you bought, if it's an entry-level DSLR, it was offered to you with an 18-55mm kit lens. If you took them up on that offer, you got a great deal.  Because no matter what you bought, that kit lens comes cheap, and is well worth it. Like most bundle pricing, it's cheaper than buying the camera body and lens separately. Most experts agree that an 18-55mm is actually the perfect lens for most immediate photographic needs, with both a decent wide angle plus the ability to zoom in on far away objects.

Telephoto Zoom

Lenses in many ways are about reach, about bringing faraway subjects closer to your camera's sensor. With that said, your next investment should be in a telephoto zoom. Even when that kit lens is cranked to the max, it's only giving you a 55mm focal length, which is why has the Tamron 70-210mm F/4 Telephoto Zoom Lens ready for pre-order.

Ultra-Wide Angle Zoom

A wide-angle lens makes close-up objects appear farther away. They are useful for landscapes because they allow you to fit a lot into an image. If your DSLR camera kit includes an 18mm lens, remember that this will give you the effect of a 27mm Full-Frame DSLR. You’ll want to look at lenses in the range of 10mm to create this "wide-angle" effect.

Understanding DSLR Lenses

Macro Lens

When you really want to get up close and personal without personally getting close, a macro lens is the way to go. Typically, macro lenses have a fixed aperture of f/2.8 and sometimes f/2.5. When you're not photographing spiders, water drops or stamps, you can use these for portraits and other "normal" shooting.

Understanding DSLR Lenses

There are several lens choices and all will give you a different and distinct image. Part of the creativity of the photographer is in selecting the right lens to capture the vision of your subject the way you want to present it.

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