Camera Lenses FAQs

This article covers the 10 questions I get asked most often about buying camera lenses. It includes What Lenses Do I need to Get Started? and What is a Lens Mount?

If you are new to buying lenses it pays to plan ahead. There is no need to rush in and buy a wide range of lenses to cover ever photo opportunity you might meet from day one. But it is a good idea to consider what are the most common photo opportunities you are likely to encounter when first starting out.

Most people who are new to Digital SLRs look for flexibility in their early purchases. Popular choices are an 18 - 55mm lens and a 70 - 200mm lens. These focal lengths cover the majority of shots in most situations. If you have more specialist subjects in mind such as sports and wildlife you will need to consider lenses away from these more standard focal lengths.

If you are looking for that extra bit of quality from a lens be prepared to pay more. A good lens will add extra contrast to your shots as well as extra sharpness.

camera lenses

What is a Fast Lens?

A fast lens has a large aperture. Lenses with an aperture of f/2.8 or below are deemed to be a fast lens. The large aperture size means that you can use a fast shutter speed and still achieve a bright exposure. As you might expect fast lenses are popular for use in low light as they increase the possibility of being able to hand hold your camera to get a photo.

What is a Kit Lens?

Digital SLRs at the lower end of the price spectrum usually give you the option of buying the camera body on its own or with one or two lenses. The option that includes the lenses is commonly known as a kit. A kit that comes with one lens usually includes a wide angle lens. The quality of kit lenses can vary, but it is an economical way of getting started.

What Lenses do I Need to Get Started?

A lot depends on the type of photography you are interested in and what your budget is. A standard suggestion is to start off with two lenses. One to cover wide angle subjects such as landscapes and a second lens to give you some form of telephoto capabilities. The beauty of taking the Digital SLR route is that you can build your camera system over time, adding lenses or improving lens quality as budget allows.

Is One Brand Better Than Another?

Canon and Nikon are the most popular brands, but I would not say that one brand is better than another. If your budget is unlimited I would suggest buying either a Canon or Nikon Digital SLR and then buying their best lenses to go with it. For the rest of us some form of compromise is required.

You can also buy lenses from third party companies such as Sigma, Tokina and Tamron. These companies makes lenses that are compatible with Digital SLRs made by other companies such as Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax. Lenses bought from third party companies tend to be a bit cheaper than those from the main brands.

What are Canon EF-S Lenses?

EF-S are a type of lens made by Canon specifically for their Digital SLR cameras that do not have a full frame sensor. Nikon produce a similar type of lens. This is the Nikon DX range.

Related Pages

Camera Lens Introduction
Buying Your First Lens
Camera Lens Types
Camera Lens Brands
Buying Second Hand Lenses
Lens Sharpness
Digital SLR Crop Factor
Caring For Your Camera Lens
Common Lens Faults
Camera Lens FAQs

Why Are Some Lenses More Expensive?

Camera lenses can be broken down into different quality categories. Professional lenses offer better photo quality and normally better build quality too. Therefore these are more expensive. Lenses with extreme focal lengths push technological boundaries more, so these lenses also cost more.

Another reason why some lenses are more expensive is if they have large apertures. These let more light in and are great in lowlight conditions.

What is an Aperture?

An aperture is the hole that light passes through into the camera when the shutter is opened to take a picture. Using different aperture sizes has an impact on the way your photos will look.

What is Focal Length?

The focal length of a lens is defined as the distance from the centre of its lens to its focal point. Now in terms of photography that probably doesn't tell you very much! So for photography a short focal length (i.e. 18mm) means a lens is able to capture wide scenes such as landscapes while a long focal length (i.e. 300mm) is what you need for more distant subjects.

What is a Lens Mount?

A lens mount is where the lens connects to the Digital SLR body. A camera body will have a specific lens mount and will only be compatible with lenses that can fit the mount.

What is a Tele Converter?

A tele converter increases the focal length of a lens. It is a small piece of equipment that sits between a camera body and lens. Buying a tele converter is a much cheaper option then buying a long lens. Typical conversion factors are 1.5x and 2x. So a 2x tele converter can change a lens with a 200mm focal length into one with a 400mm focal length. There are two downsides to using tele converters. The first is that they reduce the amount of light reaching the camera sensor. The second is they can have a negative impact on picture quality.