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The camera lens you use is as important, if not more important, than the camera body you own. If you're buying your lens separate from the camera body or looking to upgrade beyond your camera's kit lens, there are things you'll want to consider before buying.
The right lens depends on the type of photography you're doing. For shooting landscapes and architecture choose a wide-angle lens to give you a wide field of view. Use a macro lens for extreme close-ups and close-focus photography. Telephoto lenses are ideal for sports and wildlife photography, letting you get close to your subject when you can't. A prime lens is the best choice for street photography and portraits.
For the uninitiated, understanding lens specs and jargon can be daunting. We're here to help you better understand the most important specs so you find the right lens.
Measured in millimetres, focal length determines how much or little you will capture in the frame. A smaller focal length number gives a wide field of view, whereas a large number has a smaller field of view. Generally speaking, focal lengths up to 35mm are considered wide angle, while those from 35-70mm are considered normal or standard. Anything above 70mm is telephoto. Knowing the type of photography you want to do will help you choose the right focal length for your lens.
Lenses fall into 2 basic types: fixed-focal length or zoom. A fixed-focal length lens, or prime lens, has a single focal length, such as 50mm or 200mm. A zoom lens can move through a specific focal range, such as 18-55mm or 70-200mm. Prime lenses produce sharper, higher-quality images than zoom lenses, and are great for low-light photography thanks to their larger apertures. Zoom lenses offer the convenience of multiple focal lengths in a single lens, so you don't have to spend time switching lenses for your ideal shot.
Aperture size is measured in f-stops: the smaller the number the larger the opening. A large aperture, such as f/1.4, f/2.0, or f/2.8 is great for photographing in low light, as the bigger opening allows the lens to gather more light for the photo. It also enables a shallow depth of field, great for defocusing the background to create bokeh effects.
Before you set your heart on a new piece of glass for your camera, ensure it's compatible with the camera body you have. For example, a Canon lens won't work on a Nikon camera. Also, make sure the lens you're buying has the proper mount, as camera lines within a single brand are often not compatible. For instance, a Sony DSLR A-mount lens is not directly compatible with a Sony mirrorless camera, which uses Sony E-mount lenses.
When you're tracking fast action or recording a video, autofocus keeps your images looking sharp. But in some situations, such as macro work, low light, and dealing with objects in the foreground, manual focus can be better than autofocus. Most, if not all lenses, can be manually focused, but not all lenses come with autofocus.
Shaky hands can turn a potentially great photo into a not so great one. When you're shooting handheld, image stabilization can help reduce camera shake, especially when photographing at telephoto ranges or in low light.
Camera Lens Buying Guide
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