A guide to photographic lenses and their uses.
Camera lens guide for beginner photography
You can have the best equipment and all the toys in the world, but it is not guaranteed to make you a better photographer. Nothing can replace a good eye for detail and the imagination to get you to your goal. Because professional photographic equipment can be bought more easily these days, just about anyone can be a photographer. With the improvement in digital technology, you can get professional results without the top of the line cameras. Many beginner photographers make the mistake of purchasing a really great camera body and settle for average lenses. Although much can be done with a great camera body, it is the lens that “sees” the subject, and if your lens is constructed poorly, it doesn't matter how great your camera body is, the image will be poor. It is also important to use the right lens for the right job.
You get a variety of lenses these day, but are usually put into two categories: Primary lenses and zoom lenses. A primary lens is one whose focal length is fixed, whereas a zoom lens can change its focal length. Although zoom lenses are more versatile, many professional photographers prefer primary lenses. This is because you will find primary lenses are normally better constructed, with better elements inside the lens. Quality is sacrificed slightly for zoom lenses, as they have moving parts and is more complex. Really good zoom lenses can get really expensive...but then again all good lenses are.
Within primary lenses and zoom lenses you get different types of lenses. You have Fish eye, wide angle, standard, telescopic and macro lenses. Here is a brief breakdown and description of each lens and what you would use them for. This is just a guide and I encourage you to experiment and play around as much as you can.
Fisheye lens. You must have seen those images that seems so wide, that the edge of the frame looks curved. This is a fisheye lens. Fisheye's focal length is usually 8mm-14mm and is used to get the entire scene in that is too wide for other lenses. You will see fisheye lenses used in extreme sports like BMX, Skateboarding, etc. It is easy to over use this lens, so choose your frame carefully and don't kill the effect that this lens has, you don't want all your images to look the same do you?
Wide angle Lens. A wide angle lens can go really wide. You can go to about 14mm without it having a fisheye effect. You can get primary wide angle lenses and wide angle zoom lenses. This lens is great for capturing a really wide scene like a landscape, or if you are shooting in a small area and want as much of the scene in frame as possible. I am a big fan of wide angle lenses. You can get some interesting looking pictures if you shoot with a wide lens close to a subject. It changes the perspective quite dramatically.
Standard lens. Standard lenses are quite versatile. A standard lens is anything from 35mm to 85mm. These are good for any application, especially portraits. When you are photographing a person, it is important to make them feel comfortable, and every person is different. Some people don't mind having a camera in their face, others tend to get shy and intimidated when the photographer is right up close and they hardly know them! Ask the person you are photographing what suits them better. Sometimes its good to get a little distance between you and your subject. So an 85mm or even 105mm lens is great if you don't want to get too close.
Telescopic lens. These are the really big daddies! You have seen those photographers with their monster cameras on their monster tripods with a lens that looks more dangerous than Rocket launcher. They look massive and the purpose is in the name. Telescopic lenses are used for subjects that are far away. You can get telescopic lenses from 100mm to 800mm, even more if you are into astronomy photography. Telescopic lenses are best used in wildlife and landscapes when the distances are just too great for you to do anything.
Macro lens. Macro photography is great! With a macro lens you can really get up close an personal with your subject. A macro lens has a ratio of 1:1, meaning that your final image will be the same size as what you see through the lens. So if you wanted to get a close up image of an ant, you could get in really close so that its entire body fills the frame. Your photograph will be an exact replica of that frame at a ratio of 1:1, what you see is what you get!
There is another lens called a tilt and shift lens, this is a specialised lens and expensive! Just like the name suggests you are able to tilt and shift the elements inside the lens. This is good for interior or architectural photography. The tilt and shift functions serve to correct perspective within the lens. Lenses can distort images slightly, a tilt and shift lens can correct this. A tilt and shift lens can also have an effect on your image that makes it look like a miniature model.
This is just a very basic explanation of the various lenses and their application to photography. There are no hard rules for photography, it is an art, a way to express yourself. So don't let me or other photographers dictate to you how to take a picture, get out there and experiment for yourself. You may be surprised what a little knowledge and common sense can do for your photography. Good shooting!