Buying Guides Lenses

Introduction to Lenses (DSLR and Mirrorless)

Today I'm going to introduce you to all types of lenses and hopefully help you make a good purchasing decision.

Hi! How are you ? I hope you’re okay 🙂 Today I’m going to introduce you to all types of lenses and hopefully help you make a good purchasing decision. This article is aimed mostly at folks who are not that photo gear savvy, so I’m keeping it basic.

Right now you are lost because it’s your first digital camera with a kit lens and you want to buy a new and better lens for it OR you don’t even have a camera yet. This is where you should be careful. Lenses and cameras are not cheap, and you don’t want to make a bad choice here. So let’s dive right in…

Lens Mount

Lenses are things that attach to your camera (duh…), but the way they attach is important. If you try to attach a lens to a camera body with different mount you can easily break both your lens and camera.

Some of the most popular attachment types or bayonets you might see right now are:

  • RF mount (Canon R)
  • Fujifilm X mount
  • Nikon Z mount (Or older F mount)
  • Sony E (or NEX)
  • etc.

This is reeeeeeeeeally simple.

Just look at your camera’s specs and look for “lens mount type” or “lens attachment”. Then just buy a lens with the same mount.

See ? Easy 😀


Sensor coverage

Now that’s a little more tricky. Stick with me… Not every lens fits every sensor size. Which brings us to sensor sizes…

Today most common sensor sizes are (from biggest to smallest):

  • Full frame (35mm film equivalent);
  • APS-C or Crop sensor (35mm divided by the crop factor which is specific for every camera brand);
  • MFT or Micro 4/3

So before buying a lens, dig through the specs and find out, does it cover a full frame or crop or 4/3 sensor.

That is cruicial. Because if you buy a lens made for crop sensor and take a pic on a full frame camera, this will happen:

Lens types

This is where everything goes to hell 😀 Arguments about which focal length is made for what, which lens is a portrait lens and blah blah…

But for now, let me just roughly explain what is what.

All lenses have two major parameters by which they are most often compared: Widest F-stop and focal length.

F-Stop – is an indication of how wide the aperture can become in order to let in more light. This is all you need to know as a beginner. Some F-stop numbers that you might see: 1.4 / 1.8 / 2.8 / 4 / 5.6 and so on. But remember that the lower the F-stop the higher the price..

Focal length – is basically how wide the angle of view of a particular lens is. I know that it’s not a correct definition… okaaaaay… Focal length is an optical distance from the point where light rays converge to form a sharp image of an object to the digital sensor or 35mm film at the focal plane in the camera. There… happy ? Complicated.

This is what it looks like:

Another point I want to mention here: focal length AND the F-stop number can be fixed or variable. So if you see a 70-200mm lens with F/4 then you’ll know that the field of view of this lens can be either a bit wider (70mm) or very narrow (200mm) and it’s lowest F/4 can be acheived on both ends.

Another example: 16-50mm F/3.5-F/5.6 means that it can go reeeeeeeeealy wide to a bit narrower 50mm (which is close to what a human eye can see) with a variable f-stop (F/3.5 at 16 mm and F/5.6 at 50mm).

Lenses with fixed focal length are called Primes and lenses with variable focal length are called zooms.

Finally… All that info was needed for you to understand what types of lenses mean what. They are:

  • Wide angle (Somewhere between 16mm-24mm);
  • Standard (24mm – 50mm roughly);
  • Telephoto (70mm-200mm);
  • Super telephoto (300mm – 600mm).

And they all can be either primes or zooms (24mm prime or 70-300mm zoom).

Autofocus or Manual focus

This is simple. If you want the lens to do all the focusing for you then make sure to grab the one with autofocus otherwise with manual focus. Sounds easy right ?.. not exactly…

If your camera is made by Sony and you want to buy a lens by, let’s say Sigma… will it have autofocus ? Maybe.. Because there are still lenses that are manual focus only. Be careful when buying a lens made NOT by the same manufacturer as your camera.

The safest bet would be: buy both, camera and lens from the same manufacturer and everything will be awesome.

Things you should not care about, as a beginner:

  • Filter thread sizes;
  • Elements and groups (you might see those in lens’s specs);
  • Minimum focus distance (unless you’re shooting macro);

Cool bonus features:

  • Image stabilization;

So that concludes my intro to lenses for beginners. Thank you all very much for reading this. I hope I helped you in any way to make and informed choice.

👇 I will assemble a photography kit tailored to your needs and budget. Book a buying consultation below! 👇

Still confused ?

I’ll help you make the right choice.

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