What lens should I buy? Part 1


What lens should I buy? It’s a question that gets asked a lot in every Sony forum and to be honest I never gave it much thought, I just asked what they wanted to shoot and recommended a lens without thinking why people asked the question in the first place. There are a few basic guidelines to what a lens is best used for based on the focal length (mm) of the lens. This is only a guideline as rules are made to be broken.

There’s almost always more than one lens which does what you’re after, so the next step is working your way through the options which are available. What do you want to shoot? How much stuff do you want to carry? How much do you want to spend? What brand do I buy, 3rd party or original? There is actually a lot to consider when lens shopping.

Lens Type Focal Length (approx)
Best Use
Wide Angle 28mm or lower Landscapes and Interiors
Standard Anything from 28mm to 85mm Portraits, Group Portraits
Telephoto Anything from 85mm to 300mm Portraits and Sports
Super-Telephoto 300mm or higher Wildlife and Sport

Now I know what the whole street is doing .... the new spy lens

Wide, Long, Prime, Zoom, Fast, Slow, SSM, Macro, Fisheye, Tilt and Shift

As there are so many types of lenses that have so many functions here are some of the basic concepts behind a lens

• The wider the lens, the lower the focal length (in mm). Wide lenses have a wider the field of view when you look through your camera

• The longer the lens the higher the focal length (in mm). Longer lenses have a narrower field of view when you look through your camera

• A prime lens can’t zoom. It has a fixed focal length (e.g. 50mm) in “general” they will sharper and faster than a zoom.

• A zoom lens can be “zoomed” in and out. Zooming may affect your aperture. Some lenses cover a large zoom range other a much smaller. Zooms with a “constant” aperture over the whole zoom range tend to be more expensive. Zoom lenses can also be wide/standard/telephoto

• A fast lens will have a very low minimum (opening) aperture e.g 1.8 or 1.4 the fastest lenses tend to be prime lenses

• A slow lens will have a higher minimum (opening) aperture e.g 4.5 or 6.3 the slower lenses tend to be the “all in one” Zoom lenses

• SSM, SAM, are Sony names for a focus motor built into the lens, that way the camera doesn’t use the older screw drive system, where the AF motor in in the camera body. Other manufacturers use other names but the principal is the same

• A true macro lens will allow you to focus down to 1:1, so your subject is life sized, exactly the same size as your camera chip set. Therefore when you look at the photo on the screen it is a lot bigger than in real life. Many manufacturers push the term macro to its limit for marketing purposes.

• Fish eye is a special distortion created by a type of wide angle lens. Not all extremely  wide angle lenses are fish eye but all fish eye lenses are very wide

• A Lens with a tilt and shift feature is a relatively rear lens (but becoming a lot more common). You can be very selective with your field of focus by adjusting the angle and position of the lens elements. Toy lenses like the “lensbaby” use this feature to create interesting results


About shotbyscott

Just another photography blog.. I also like all kinds of accessories
This entry was posted in Glass, to Zeiss or not to Zeiss? ... is that a question, whats in your bag and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What lens should I buy? Part 1

  1. Pingback: What lens should I buy? Part 1 | shot by Scott's Blog | Prime Lenses

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