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Lens Types Explained

Prime Lens
A prime lens is a lens that has a fixed focal length. It is often contrasted with a zoom lens . Prime lenses do not physically change at all, and the only way you can get a close up of a subject is to move closer. If you get too close the subjects features will begin to blur and distort. A decent prime lens will give sharper pictures than a zoom as they are optimised for sharpness and clarity where zoom lens have to sacrifice this clarity to enable a range of focal lengths.
Using a Prime Lens means you will have to put more thought into the composition of your shot as you have to physically move to get the composure you are looking for.
Prime Lenses cost less than a similar standard Zoom Lens as there are less working parts to a Prime Lens.

Prime Lenses were the only lenses available at the start of photography and a 50mm f/1.8 was pretty much the slowest lens available, nowadays zoom lenses are very popular as they cover a longer range but if you do not own a Prime lens then you are missing out on a treat, the sharpness and clarity you get with a prime lens is impressive compared to zoom lenses.

The criminal thing about Prime lens is the price, compared to zoom lenses they are great value another reason to seriously consider adding at least one Prime Lens to your photographic kit, ok it will not be the most frequently used lens due to the conveinence and range of a zoom lenses but with the right skill it will produce some of the sharpest and clearest pictures in your photo library.

Optical Zoom Lens
An optical zoom lens is a true zoom lens, the focal length changes by shifting a zoom mechanism inside the lens itself, this allows you to magnify the scene before you take a photograph. An optical zoom lens produces higher quality images than a digital zoom.

Digital Zoom Lens
A digital zoom lens is not a genuine form of zoom but rather it is simulated that enlarges a portion of the image using the cameras own software. Obviously the closer in you zoom the less able the software is to simulate the zoom effect and the quality of the image suffers.

Standard Lens
A standard or normal lens is simply a camera lens of standard focal length (typically between 35mm and 105mm). Standard lenses have a wide range of uses and due to their simplicity are often of a very high quality and are rugged and durable.

Wide Angle Lens
A wide angle lens is used to capture an image of a large scene but are relatively useless for close up images as they will distort the subject you are focusing on. A wide angle lens transmits a sensation of open space to your images and is typically a lens with a focal length of less than 50mm, although exact definitions do vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. You can also get a super-wide angle lens with a focal length of less than 24mm. Which will give an even more obvious sense of space and widen the angle of the photograph further.

Telephoto Lens
Telephoto lenses bring the subject you are focusing on closer to you, and it is important to use a tripod or keep a steady hand as any shaking will be amplified with a telephoto lens. More expensive telephoto lenses have optical stabilisation systems built into the lens itself to compensate for camera shake, and it is definitely worth spending more money on a telephoto lens. Due to the zoomed in nature of the final photograph imperfections in the lens will affect the image quality far more, so you cannot get away with using budget telephoto lenses as much as with other types. A medium telephoto lens has a focal length of between 85mm and 135mm, while a long telephoto lens is between 135mm and 300mm, and a super telephoto lens is anything over 300mm.


Macro Lens
A macro lens is unique in that it can focus from infinity to extremely close allowing you to take pictures of very small objects and having them fill the frame and displayed in all of their glorious detail. This is not to be confused with a close-up lens which does not focus to infinity. Macro lenses can produce images at a 1:1 ratio.

Fisheye Lens
Fisheye lenses are at the fringe of wide angle lenses and offer a distorted perspective on the world; they distort the scene to offer a 180 degree image shown on a flat, two dimensional photograph. Some fisheye lenses produce an even greater field of view (as much as 220 degrees in some cases).


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