Basic Types of Camera Lenses
Do you have a camera lens FOMO? We’ll break down the types of camera lenses out there and how can you use each of them to shoot better photos. Let us know your thoughts and how you can use each lens in your own photography!
1. The Standard Prime Lens
The Standard Prime Lens (or just Prime Lens) provides a fixed focal length. If you have a 35mm Prime Lens, you will only shoot in 35mm. The Prime Lens is most commonly used in situations when the subject is mostly stationary and you, the photographer, can move around. These include Portrait, Wedding, Landscape, and Streetscape.
The benefits of Prime Lenses include generally higher quality images compared to zoom-capable lenses, lighter weight, great for low-light or night photos.
The downsides are that, obviously, you CAN’T zoom in if you want to, you need to carry multiple lenses in most cases, and you risk losing a shot while switching lenses.
2. The Zoom Lens
Speaking of Zoom Lenses, the Zoom Lens might be your catchall lens. Whether you’re at a sporting event, hiking outdoors, or in a situation that requires shooting far away and up close, the Zoom Lens can work for you!
Zoom Lenses can come in different focal lengths. Generally, you might find a Zoom Lens that goes from 50mm to 200mm. That means you can get a nice family photo at the end of your hike (50mm) or you can get a close-up shot of that deer you saw along the way (200mm)!
The downsides of a Zoom Lens are that they are usually heavier than Prime Lenses, not quite as sharp as proportionally priced Prime Lenses, and the aperture setting doesn’t usually go as low, meaning low-light shots aren’t as easy to get.
When you get outside of Prime and Zoom Lenses, you start to get into specialty lenses. You would use a specialty lens depending on the situation you are in. There are typically 4 specialty lenses: Fisheye, Wide Angle, Macro, and Telephoto.
3. The Fisheye Lens
The Fisheye Lens is commonly used for situations when you want to see a lot of scenery in one shot. Real estate is one of the most common uses, as Fisheye Lenses allow for a single photo to show an entire room (such as the bathroom). But Fisheyes can be used for landscape photos, abstract art shots, cityscapes, and more. Because of the nature of Fisheye Lenses (major distortions), they aren’t useful in most common situations, such as portrait or wedding photos.
4. The Wide Angle Lens
Wide Angle Lenses are a compromise between Fisheye and Prime Lenses. They do as their name implies… capturing wide fields of view. Most commonly used in landscape photos or night photography, they do require a certain amount of post-processing (photo editing with software) to avoid some of the distortion inherent in the lens.
They are lightweight like Prime Lenses and capture a clear image of most of the field of view, but aren’t useful for close-up, portrait, or when you want that blurred background (known as bokeh).
5. The Telephoto Lens
On the opposite side, you have the Telephoto Lens. You probably know these as the lenses that cameramen use on the sports field to get those super close-up shots of the action. Not ALL Telephoto Lenses have to be that big though. You can get a decent Telephoto Lens that you can take on your nature hike to get those up-close shots of wildlife.
They are also great for capturing that image with a great deal of bokeh (the blurry background). Imagine those shots of animals in the wild with everything blurry in the background. The downside of Telephoto is they are generally heavier, need a tripod to get the shot stable, and are expensive.
6. The Macro Lens
Finally, you have the Macro Lens. You can use a macro lens for that EXTREME close-up! When you see a bee on a flower or the snowflake before it melts, you’re seeing a Macro shot. These lenses can give you the best detail for your money, but that can be a lot of money for a good lens.
Again, they are specialized, so you wouldn’t use them in everyday photography or even in portrait/wedding shots (except for the posed shots like of the rings). Because they need to be focused so well, focusing times typically take longer than a typical Prime or Zoom Lens.
How to Use Different Types of Camera Lenses?
Want to learn more? Here is a list of articles related to camera lenses.
- Camera Lenses Explained
- How to Choose the Ideal Lens for Your Photography
- Top Lenses for New Photographers