A variety of lenses offer a variety of possibilities. There is an especially suitable lens for every picture.

How can I find the most suitable lens for my DSLR?

A good lens is vital if the photo is to turn out well. The lens also determines the look and quality of the photos. It is a light-gathering optical system for the camera that produces an exact copy of a motif. When it comes to selecting the most suitable lens, there are two prime criteria of importance in addition to the actual purpose that should be taken into consideration when purchasing: focal length and aperture.

Gritt Hiersemann (Professional Photographer Jena/Germany) recommends: «When purchasing a single-lens reflex camera, attention should be paid to which brand is chosen. While the majority of the technology is integrated more in the camera housing in the case of Nikon, in Canon cameras the same type of technology is contained in the lens. Attention also needs to be paid to the fact that not every lens fits onto every camera; certain connections are brand specific. »

Two primary criteria when it comes to choosing the most suitable lens

The interplay between the aperture and the focal length produce a sharp photograph.

The focal length

When choosing a lens, the decision has to be made between a fixed focal length and a lens that can zoom.

The advantage offered by fixed focal length lenses is that they are more compact in design, while the zoom lens is more flexible in use. Particularly those travelling who would like to be prepared for every eventuality are best served with this piece of equipment. A zoom lens is also the best choice for amateur photographers who do not want to invest in a number of different lenses. Even though the flexibility of a fixed focal length lens is less, the pay-off is that these lenses produce sharper and more brilliant photographs.

The focal length is a defined and unchangeable property of the lens. The different sensor sizes in the cameras provide the so-called crop factor. Depending on the size of the sensor, the detail of the photograph taken changes even when the same lens is used. The photo sensor of many common digital single-lens reflex cameras in APS-C format is smaller than the small-photo format 24 mm × 36 mm (full format) by a factor of 1.5 (Canon) to 1.6 (Nikon). This has the result that a lens with a 50 mm focal length on an APS-C camera appears to be a lens with 80 mm focal length on a full-format camera. In practice, however, this is of less relevance for hobby photographers because the crop factor is only of significance in a small-photograph format and it ultimately depends on what experiences someone has had with their own camera.

The aperture of a lens is an important technical aspect.

The Aperture

With the help of the aperture, with which the range of the lens is regulated, the amount of light that should be allowed to go through the opening in the lens is determined.

The ratio of focal length to the width of the aperture opening is described as the exposure time, which is labelled either 1/x or f/x. The larger the number x under the fraction line when calculating the exposure, the less light passes through the aperture. This means that the larger the number "x" under the fraction line when calculating the exposure time, the shorter the exposure time, which means less light passes through the aperture. The other way round, this means: The smaller "x" is, the longer the exposure time, which in turn means that more light passes through the aperture. If the photographer would like, for example, a sharper background and a blurred motif in the foreground, the exposure time chosen should be longer.

Five types of camera lens

With wide-angle lenses, dynamic panorama photographs and photographs with large angles of view can be taken.

Wide-angle lens and fish-eye lens for sensational panorama photographs

Wide-angle lenses are available in various sizes, as well as with or without a lens shade. But there is one thing that they can all do: They can all take fantastic photographs, without there being a lack of space. Particularly in the case of landscape photographs, architecture photos, group photographs and photographs taken indoors, the wide-angle lens is an advantage for the photographer. The interplay between various lenses makes for a focal length of 16-35 mm and a large depth of field despite the large aperture opening. This can be used as a design medium, for example in order to emphasise the foreground with the effect that the background appears very far away. The combination of these effects with the large angle of view results in fantastic panorama photographs being taken.

  • Focal length: 16-35 mm
  • Depth of field: Large, even in the case of a low f-number
  • Suitable for: Large photograph sections, panorama photographs, landscape photographs or real-estate photography
  • Tips: The camera should be held as horizontal as possible; it makes sense to use a tripod.

Gritt Hiersemann recommends: «It depends on what you would like to do. If you are a landscape photographer, you should definitely own a tripod.»

Pros: Large depth of field; large photograph sections

Cons:
Motifs located outside of the middle of the photograph appear more significantly distorted compared to a standard focal length of 50 mm; not suitable when taking portrait photographs

Precise close-up photographs are best taken using macro lenses.

Macro lens for successful close-up photographs

If the photographer would like to photograph food, flowers, small animals or insects, a macro lens is most suitable. With a magnification of 1:2 or 1:1, fascinating close-up photographs are possible. Even though such macro lenses are comparatively a little heavier, such lenses are recommendable for nature photographers. It is ultimately the case that those who photograph with a macro lens find it difficult to go back to not using one.

For those who seldom have to do with macro photography, it doesn't make any sense for them to invest in expensive extra lenses because with a close-up lens, a reversal ring or an extension tube, standard lenses can be tuned in order to take macro photographs.

Gritt Hiersemann recommends: «If you want to save a little bit of money, but still want to photograph an ant or a bee on a flower, in other words in the macro range, you don't have to spend a lot of money on macro lenses. […] You can buy extension tubes. You can buy a set of three for a relatively low price when compared to the effect achieved. You screw these between your existing lenses and the camera, and this creates the exact same effect as with a macro lens: You can go up close and then have fantastic macro photographs afterwards. »

Due to the fact that the exposure time with macro lenses is longer than is the case with other lenses and small animals tend to run away before you have taken the photograph, it is also possible to choose a tele-macro lens. A further possibility is to choose a lens with a 100mm focal length. This makes a large distance to the motif possible without losing any desired properties of the photograph being lost.

  • Focal length: 60-100 mm
  • Depth of field: Low in the case of a low f-number
  • Suitable for: Nature photographs, plant photographs, insect photographs
  • Tips: Maintain a minimum distance between the object and lens

Pros:The best imaging properties in the close-up range, this allows motifs to be better isolated, many manual set-up possibilities

Cons: Sharp pictures are usually only possible at a limited distance to the object being photographed, limited light intensity

There is a special lens for every purpose, though the standard lens is the most flexible even if it can't do everything.

Standard lens

A standard lens is the optimum lens for those getting started because it has all the important focal lengths for the majority of purposes. The majority have an aperture that can be smoothly set using the aperture ring and focus ring making diverse sharpness set-ups possible. Whether photographs of nature or holiday photographs, a standard lens can usually be flexibly utilised when a wide focal width of 35-55 mm and converging lens are used in conjunction with the input from the sensors. The lens can be safely stored and so taken everywhere and can be quickly taken out at the right moment.

  • Focal length: Mostly 35-55 mm
  • Depth of field: Depends on the size of the sensor and, as a result, the focal length of the lens for a certain angle of view
  • Suitable for: Daily situations, photographing nature, holiday photographs

Pros: Easy to transport, suitable for practically all motifs, very flexible set-up possibilities

Cons: No panorama photographs

Portrait lens

Portrait lenses in most cases have a set focal length that excludes a distortion of the image which is actually an advantage with other lenses, but it is not wanted here. With the fixed focal length, the sharpness is set by changing the distance to the position of the motif being photographed. Such a lens is also usually cheaper and brighter and provides particularly sharp photographs. This means, for example, that for a camera with a crop factor of 1.5 or 1.6, a 50 mm lens can be used as an "all-rounder" because it does not contain a photograph-specific distortion. Fixed focal length lenses of 80-85 mm are also popular in portrait photography. A fixed focal length of 70-105 mm is recommended for full-format cameras.

  • Focal length: Fixed focal length 50-85 mm or 70-105 mm
  • Depth of field: Depends on the size of the sensor and, as a result, the focal length of the lens for a certain angle of view
  • Suitable for: portrait photography

Pros: Brilliantly sharp photographs

Cons: Little flexibility, no zoom function

A telephoto lens is large and heavy, but it does allow objects that are very far away to be enlarged to the maximum extent possible.

Telephoto lens

The larger the focal length of a lens, the larger the possible magnification of the object to be photographed. This is the exact purpose of a telephoto lens. Thanks to its high focal length and the limited depth of field, far-away objects, for example at sports events or in nature, can be photographed in a good quality. This allows precisely defined photograph sections and a high image quality to be achieved even from a long distance.

  • Focal length: 150-1300 mm
  • Depth of field: Limited depth of field
  • Suitable for: Sports photography, concert photography, nature photography, travel photography

Pros: Overcomes distances excellently to the motif to be photographed

Cons: Relatively cumbersome and heavy

Summary

One lens is not like the other. Something that is the most normal thing in the world for both hobby photographers and professionals alike, always seems to surprise those new to photography: Lenses often cost more than the actual camera itself. It quickly becomes clear that each lens is for its own specific purpose. In order to take photographs from farther away, the telephoto lens is the right piece of equipment, if the motif is close on the other hand, a macro lens is to be recommended. If the goal is to take photographs that take in large landscapes, then the wide-angle lens is a good choice, and when people are to be photographed, a standard or portrait lens is to be recommended.

A tip from the professional to finish off: «What I would recommend would be: Definitely buy yourselves a bag for the camera. Time and time again I see people on the beach with the camera around their necks and not even a cover on the front of the lens and everyone can see the camera. The camera needs to be packed in the bag, the sensor can otherwise quickly become dirty and it is really expensive to have the sensor cleaned. You can save yourself this hassle by being careful with your equipment.»

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