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Choosing Your Lenses

Choosing Your Lenses

Agreed, a picture speaks louder than a thousand words, but most times, it’s dependent on the lenses that go with your camera. Again, there are different lenses to suit different photographic needs. Whether it’s landscapes, portraits, close ups, wildlife, sports or even architecture, there’s a lens for everything. And even before you rush out and buy a lens based on these suggestions, it’s best that you try out the lenses you’re interested in before you buy them. Also, be sure to use a tripod or rest the camera on a sturdy surface, along with using identical settings for each lens. Okay, let’s get started!

Low Light Photography

Do you want to do low light photography without a tripod or the flash? Do you want to do portrait photos while blurring the background? These applications call for a faster lens, which can let in more light.

Wildlife Photography

Taking photos of the wildlife? Well, nature photography requires more expensive lenses. To be honest, 500mm and 600mm lenses are commonly used by bird photographers. Your typical 100 to 300mm zoom lens is just not long enough for great photos. Also, lenses longer than 300mm are both incredibly expensive and really heavy. So, if you really want to do this type of photography on a tight budget, you might want to consider buying a used manual focus gear. You can find a decent used high-end manual focus telephotos quite inexpensively, compared to their autofocus counterparts.

Sports Photography

By its very nature, sports photography tends to involve rapid motion of fast moving players, cars, etc. In that case, they require lenses that can let in either plenty of light, the use of flash, faster film or high ISO settings on a digital camera. Professional photographers rely on fast lenses. Fast telephoto lenses, especially fast telephoto zooms, are really expensive though. Get the fastest (largest aperture) lens you can afford. You’ll need a long telephoto zoom, unless you’re planning on shooting very close to your subjects. For example, you won’t need a long lens to shoot skateboarders in an urban setting, but you will if you’re covering a football or basketball game.


Generally, photographers use lenses of about 85mm to 135mm in length when taking head and shoulder portraits, depending on the look they’re trying to achieve. Some fashion photographers even use 200mm and 300mm telephotos for a particularly flat effect. You can take photos of people with 50mm and shorter lenses for waist up or full body shots.

Nature and Underwater Photography

In nature or underwater photography, where there are few straight lines, fisheye lenses can be a useful tool. Not to mention, for taking cartoon-like bulging noses in your pictures. Yes, fisheye lenses are for crazy, trippy photography as well. A fisheye lens is a wide angle lens where no effort has been taken to render parallel lines as parallel. Instead, only lines that pass through the center of the frame are straight. All other lines appear as curves, becoming increasingly curved as you near the edge of the frame. This line curvature has the effect of making near objects seem closer and more distant objects seem further away, as they fall off. If you’ve ever looked through a glass peephole viewer in a door, you already know the kind of effect you’ll get.

Close Ups

Macro lenses are specifically designed for shooting objects up close. Many lenses and cameras come with a “macro” setting, but true macro lenses will produce images that are life size and that enable you to get incredibly close to the subject you’re shooting.


Wide angle lenses enable their users to take shots with a very wide perspective. They are useful for landscapes and for getting in nice and close to your subjects, while still fitting a lot of them in. Wide angle lenses come both as prime lenses, but are also being found at the lower end of telephoto zoom lenses. Be aware that very wide lenses will sometimes distort your image a little (or a lot), especially at the edges of your photos where they can be quite curved. At the extreme end of the wide angle range are fisheye lenses, which purposely distort your image in a curved way to get more into the shot. Again, this is a style of photography that many love, but it is an art to get it right.

Cheaper or Expensive Lens?

This advice is particularly for those who go for professional cameras, like the Canon EOS. If you’re shelling out so much money for the camera body, buying the cheapest lens you can find is not merely false economy, it’s downright foolish. It’s like spending massive amounts of money on a high-end CD player and amplifier and then plugging them into a pair of toy loudspeakers. Just as the final sound of your music will be hobbled by the toy speakers, the final quality of your pictures will be hobbled by a cheap lens.

So, there you have it. You’re now at least equipped with some definitions and starting points for shopping for your next lens purchase!

~ Zahid H. Javali