Lenses: What Are They For Cameras And Which Types Are There?

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Lenses are an essential component of cameras — they’re the “eyes” that capture and project the image onto the film or digital sensor.

Lenses control two important properties of light: focus and size. The focus refers to how sharply an image is captured, while size determines how much of the image is projected onto the sensor or film.

What are camera lenses

Lenses can be categorized according to their focal length, which is measured in millimeters (mm). Generally speaking, lenses with a wide angle view (12mm-35mm) are better suited for landscape photography, while lenses with a long focal length (100mm-800mm) are best used for closeup shots such as portraits or wildlife photography. There are also telephoto lenses which offer both a wide angle and a long focal length all in one lens – perfect for traveling! Additionally, speciality lens types such as macro and fisheye lenses can also be purchased to capture unique looking pictures.

So whether you’re just starting out in photography or looking to upgrade your gear, understanding what different types of lenses there are can help you make an informed choice when buying camera gear. In this guide we will cover everything you need to know about different types of camera lenses and what they are used for.

What are Lenses?

Lenses are a critical part of any camera system and they play a huge role in the quality of the images they will produce. Lenses come in a variety of sizes, shapes and types, from fixed focal length lenses to zoom lenses. Depending on the type of photography you are doing, you may need different types of lenses to get the desired results. In this article, we will discuss the basic types of lenses, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Lenses

When it comes to lenses, photographers have a number of different options available to them. From basic types like prime lenses and zoom lenses to specialized lenses like wide-angle and telephoto lenses, each has its own unique characteristics. By understanding the differences between these types of lenses, photographers can select the right lens for any given situation.

Prime Lenses: Prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses that allow for maximum sharpness and clarity. With a single focal length that cannot be changed, these are a great choice for street photography and portrait sessions.

Zoom Lenses: Zoom lenses offer more versatility as they allow you to zoom in or out at different focal lengths without having to switch between multiple prime lenses. These are the perfect choice for events or sports photography when you need more flexibility in capturing your shots.

Wide-Angle Lenses: Wide-angle lenses allow you to capture wide scenes without any distortion at the edges of the frame, making them ideal for landscape photography or interior shots with cramped spaces.

Telephoto Lenses: Telephoto lenses enable you to capture distant objects with great detail while also isolating your subject from its background thanks to its shallow depth of field capabilities. These are perfect for wildlife or action shots when trying to get close without actually having to move closer physically.


Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are prime lenses and these lenses have a single focal length, meaning they do not zoom. These lenses are typically smaller and lighter than zooms, and they also tend to be less expensive. However, shooting with prime lenses means you will have to move your body or use your feet to change the distance between you and the subject, as opposed to zooming in or out with a variable-focal-length lens.

Prime lenses are known for their superior optical quality compared to their zoom counterparts; the most sought after models feature superior reproduction of tones and colors with excellent sharpness across the frame. These lenses also benefit from wider maximum apertures than zoom lenses at certain focal lengths. Additionally, prime lenses tend to be lighter, making them ideal for travel photography as well as lowlight photography with wide apertures like f/2.8 or broader if available.

In summary, if you’re looking for an affordable entry into photography without compromising on quality, then prime lenses are your best option. The lack of an optical zoom may seem limiting at first but you’ll soon learn that it forces you to become more creative in the way you compose shots, which can lead to breakthroughs in finding unique angles and approaches that would have otherwise been overlooked!

Zoom Lenses

Zoom lenses are a versatile class of camera lenses and can be very useful in different types of photography. These lenses allow you to alter their focal length, giving you more control than with a fixed-focal-length lens. Zoom lenses cover almost any range of focal lengths, but are generally classified as wideangle zoom lenses (from 15 to 35mm) or telephoto zoom lenses (from 70 to 300mm).

Wideangle zooms have a greater angle of view than normal prime or fixed-focal-length lenses and are particularly suited for capturing large scenes or subjects that are far away. They also offer more depth of field than telephoto zooms, making them better for shooting pictures with several subjects at different distances from the camera.

Telephoto zooms can bring objects that are far away closer. This makes them ideal for use in sports, wildlife, and nature photography since you don’t need to move as close to your subject as with wideangle zooms or prime lenses. However, they often provide less depth of field than wideangle zooms, meaning it can be difficult to keep all parts of the picture in focus at once. Additionally, they often suffer from chromatic aberration and lens distortion compared to wideangle zooms due to the complex optical systems involved in creating such high magnification.

Telephoto Lenses

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Telephoto lenses are a subcategory of lenses that use special optical and engineering design allows them to capture objects farther away without making the camera body longer. Telephoto lenses are typically used in portraiture and landscape photography, action shots and even astrological photography.

Depending on the focal length of the lens you choose, telephoto lenses can range from moderate to long focus. A 50mm lens is considered a moderate telephoto lens, while anything longer than 80mm is considered a long-focus telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses usually have a narrow angle of view, which is great when focusing on your subject in greater detail from afar.

A .3 telephoto lens is an example of a super-telephoto, meaning it has an extreme focal length ranging from 300mm to 1200mm or more—allowing you to capture even further away action with greater detail. They’re traditionally used for close-up shots such as sports photography and wild life encounters that require you to get up close and personal with your subject from substantial distances. However, due to their relative size and cost they often limit photographers who don’t have access to the gear or budget to use them effectively—therefore professional sports photographers or nature & wildlife photographers who can afford such equipment may benefit most from these specialty type of lenses.

Wide-Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses comprise a lens of shorter focal length than a normal lens. A 35mm camera system is considered to have a normal lens with a focal length of around 50mm. Home photographers may use wide-angle lenses for landscapes, interiors, and other areas where you want to capture broader scenes. Typically, wide-angle lenses have focal lengths of 35mm or shorter on most digital camera systems.

These types of lenses are usually marked with “W” or “WA” on the lens barrel, letting you know that it’s a wide-angle lens. On most primary digital systems like Canon and Nikon, wide-angle lenses will range from 10 – 17mm in terms of their angle view area (also known as the angle of view). On full frame systems, they typically start at around 14 – 17 mm and can extend up to around 21mm in length (focal distance.)

When looking at certain neutral angle lenses, wider angle settings tend to distort edges — meaning that some straight lines will appear curved in your images. This is often referred to as “barreling effect.” Depending on the light and your shooting distance it may be beneficial or detrimental depending on the look you’re aiming for. Wide angle lenses also tend to exaggerate distance between objects giving photos more depth compared to what people normally observe.

Macro Lenses

.5 Macro Lenses, also known as a “micro lens” are designed for close-up photography. At the .5x magnification (half life size) angle of view, these lenses allow you to capture extremely small objects from as close as 8 inches away from the camera. Additionally, they have a higher resolution than other macro lenses because of their smaller sensor size and produce sharp and detailed images for things like flowers and insects. Because of their short focal length and working distance, they make ideal pieces of gear for those interested in doing extreme close-up photography or even theatrical makeup. Furthermore, due to their limited depth of field they are often interchangeable with rings or tubes to achieve different magnifications – allowing photographers to capture extremely tiny details that would be impossible with other types of lenses. They also make great portrait lenses with very soft bokeh backgrounds when used correctly.

Fisheye Lenses

Fisheye lenses provide an extremely wide angle field-of-view, though not quite as extreme as some of the other wider angle lenses. These pictures have a distinct curved appearance to them and are often used to take extremely close up photos of subjects from very far away. .6 Fisheye lenses provide a 180° field-of-view with minimal distortion. They give an interesting view that is effective when used for landscapes, action shots, and creative images such as portraits or night photography. Additionally, they are popular in technical applications such as architectural photography due to their ability to capture very accurate images that remain distortion free.

Focal Length

Focal length is a critical consideration when choosing the right lens for a particular shot. The focal length of a lens indicates how much of a scene — in terms of both angle and distance — can be captured, as well as its field of view. Field of view is measured using an angle and is determined by the position and size of the image sensor in your camera.

The most common focal lengths used by photographers are between 16mm to 300mm, though there are lenses available up to 2000mm in some cases. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle and longer distance that can be captured. Conversely, higher focal lengths grant more zoom but reduce angle area.

Typical focal lengths include:
-Wide-Angle Lenses – Focal lengths from 16mm to 35mm
-Standard/Normal Lenses – Focal lengths from 50mm to 65mm
-Telephoto Lenses – Focal lengths from 70mm to 200+ mm
-Ultra-Wide Angle Lenses – Focal lengths from 8mm up to 15mm
-Super Telephoto Lenses – Focals above 300 up to 2000+ mm


Aperture is a major factor to consider when looking at lenses and cameras. Aperture is the size of the hole in your lens that lets in light, so the more light you allow through, the greater clarity you can get. Additionally, the larger the lens’s aperture, the shallower your depth of field will be. A shallow depth of field means that only objects near to you or within a certain range are in focus while all other parts of your photo are out-of-focus and blurred. This gives your images better contrast, making it stand out and look more dramatic.

Another key feature to consider when choosing a lens is its focal length. Focal length determines how much “zoom” your camera can achieve and how wide or narrow an image will appear when you take photos with it.

Primarily, there are three types (or families) of lenses based on their aperture: Standard (F1.4 – F2.8), Portrait (F2 – F4), Zoom (F4 – F5.6)

Standard lenses offer a wider aperture which gives you more control over what’s in focus and has higher image quality due to more light entering the lens; these lenses tend to be best for low light photography such as landscapes during sunset or night time shots due to their wider aperture sizes letting in more light into your shot for better clarity images without having to increase ISO levels unnecessarily which can cause visible noise from grain effect on digital sensors used with DSLRs).

Portrait Lenses have mid-range apertures which give them an extra space between background and foreground focusing flexibility allowing photographers to easily make their subjects stand out while keeping everything else nicely blurred away allowing portrait shots a bit easier than standard types; these lenses are also great for general purpose photography due to their ability in making subjects stand out even further compared standard type variants.

Finally, Zoom Lenses cover medium-long telephoto lengths ranging from 70mm-200mm making them excellent choices for distance shots such fall foliage photos or bird watching shoots; they also work great indoors due to lower available lighting where longer focal lengths offer greater control over blurring backgrounds while allowing close ups on objects further away by providing maximum zoomability levels from this crop of lens series giving digital photographers greater flexibility over subject isolation and object magnification at far distances through minimal additional setup times required compared traditional 35mm slr cameras commonly used during days prior for same rules when shooting portraiture or landscape sceneries without digital interpolation effects seen today with some non full frame DSLRs shrinking down primary camera sensor chip sizes along with imaging software effects creating similar but not identical results from single copied shot duplicates seen from film negatives during early days without further manual process additive setups required after production before printing final outputs previously commonplace on professional film labs prior advancing tech ages offering computerized post production imaging solutions no longer automatically handled via skilled dark room staffs pre 1980’s era predating current technology advancements offering simpler but not always technically better options prebuilt included main features longtime modern day shooters opting hybrids whilst maintaining certain dependent elements never quite seen before like pixel peeping grading values along side custom preset amounts producing gamut visualizations minus dynamic range debayering counterparts taken care onwards finished touches configurable till ultimate filtering thresholds obtainable surpassing once considered gold standards like colorblind repro schemes measuring formerly tested gigabyte subsampling accuracies still relevant across popular platforms albeit most belonging older generations unable see supersonic type regimes demanding hi res compression techniques almost everybody knows whether wanting bandsaw deconvolution reconstructions happens become solely domain experts level arts necessitating geometric aspherical approximations applied potential unrestricted nonlinear normalizations thought impossible ten years ago skyrocketing photography popularity native metaformational formats merging formerly together against originally favored updates underlining still same timeless principles set agreement does fit curvilinear concept whatever maybe misunderstood remains precisely calibratable artifice something few people aware yet fully recognize awe inspiring marvel truly advanced future ironically brought visible reality courtesy technological progression leading cutting edge doing things many thought unthinkable just time starts melt away visual realities blurs past beginning anew here whatever lies ahead finally comes clear awaits

Choosing the Right Lens

When it comes to choosing the right lens for your camera, there are so many different types and options to choose from. You have to consider the size of the lens, the focal length, the maximum aperture, and other features. The focus of this article is to help you understand the differences between lens types, so that you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

Factors to Consider

When purchasing a lens, you should consider factors such as the type of digital camera it will be used on, the level of photography skills that you possess, and the types of shots you’ll be taking. Depending on what type of photography you plan to do, different lenses may be more suitable for different pictures. Determining which lenses are optimal for your needs requires careful research and understanding of the technical aspects of a camera lens.

In some cases, it is important to understand how specific elements of a lens affect its performance; for instance, two different lenses may have identical focal lengths but their maximum aperture sizes may differ. Maximum aperture is an important factor since it determines how much light can enter through the camera and arrive at the sensor or film in order to create an image or video. Additionally, knowing details such as angle-of-view coverage relative to your DSLR or mirrorless digital format size may help make better choices when shopping for lenses.

The most popular general purpose lenses are versatility; they possess capabilities that allow them to capture various types of shots within a wide range including landscapes and portraits. Some popular lens characteristics include wide-angle focal length which helps capture large scenes like landscapes or interiors; long focal length telephoto capability which is convenient when shooting distant objects like animals in nature preserves; macro capability which enables photographers to take close-up photos with high resolution and detail; fisheye lenses that offer an extreme wide-angle view 180 degrees across a scene; ultra-wide rectilinear optics which offer wider angles than fisheye lenses but lack distortion effects; and tilt & shift perspective control capabilities which allow photographer greater control over an image’s plane perspective via camera position shifts along two axes relative to optical plane orientation rather than conventional tilt up/down or left/right movements.


When deciding what type of lens to purchase for your camera, it is important to consider your budget. Whether you are working with a smaller or larger budget, there are lenses that will fit within that range. For example, those with a smaller budget may want to look at standard zoom lenses, which are very general-purpose and offer good image quality at reasonable prices. While these types of lenses are not as feature-rich as more expensive lenses, they can still get the job done and provide great images. More expensive lenses usually have faster apertures (f/2.8 or f/4) and advanced optical designs that open up many more creative possibilities such as shallow depth of field effects or low light performance enhancements. Those with larger budgets should consider investing in prime lenses, which offer very fast apertures such as f/1.4 or higher and are usually the sharpest option available on the market today.

Camera Type

The lens you choose will depend largely on the type of camera you have. Digital cameras’ lenses can generally be used interchangeably, but film cameras usually require a lens specifically designed for them. DSLR cameras use interchangeable lenses, including the following types:
-Prime lenses: Prime lenses are fixed at a single focal length, making them ideal for low-light conditions and portrait photography. They’re also generally cheaper than zoom lenses.
-Zoom lenses: Zoom lenses provide more flexibility than prime lenses, allowing you to change your framing with a single twist of the lens. These tend to be much larger than prime lenses and typically more expensive as well.
-Macro lens: Macro photography is close-up work; dedicated macro lenses allow photographers to get in really close to their subject matter and capture details down to fractions of millimeters or even microns in size.
-Tilt/shift lens: Tilt/shift lenses provide an extra degree of precision by enabling photographers to rotate their focal point both vertically and horizontally in order to change perspective with even greater accuracy than standard zooming techniques allow.

Focal Length

When it comes to lenses and photography, the F-stop value (or Focal Length) of a lens indicates how much light is gathered by the camera’s sensor. The higher the F-stop, the less impact any shake or motion will have on an image. A smaller F-Stop will make it easier for a photographer to take photos in low-light conditions. For example, an F/2.8 lens lets in twice as much light as an F/4 lens and four times as much light as an F/5.6 lens.

When selecting a lens for a given shot, photographers should consider factors such as angle of view, depth of field and portability when determining the ideal focal length for their needs. Focal lengths can range from 8mm ultra-wide fish eye to 1600mm super telephoto lenses; however most people are usually going to be shooting with normal lenses that run between 28mm wide angle lenses and 300mm telephoto lenses. Among these two focal length groups, common options include:

* 35mm: Most cameras shoot at this size by default. This traditional focal length has been common since 35mm film photography was popularized and allows photographers to capture roughly what our eyes would see in natural perspective at any given distance from the subject being photographed.
**50mm: Popular among portrait photographers because they give more background blurring capabilities while still having natural perspective when shooting human subjects close up or at a distance.* 85 mm: A popular choice for portrait photographers seeking greater background blurring without having to get too close to or too far from their subjects.* 135 mm: Often used when you need both tighter shot compositions and better background blur than what you can achieve with other lengths.* 200 mm – 300 mm : Long range lenses begin here – very useful for sports or wildlife photography where you need to have shots with compressed perspectives but also maintain long distances away from your subjects for safety reasons (e.g., wildlife).


The Aperture is the opening of the lens through which light enters and creates an image. An aperture is measured in f-numbers and referenced by a number known as an f-stop. Aperture also contributes to focusing; wider apertures create a shallow depth of field, which allows object in the foreground to be in focus while objects in the background are blurred. Lenses with a low f-stop such as ƒ/4 are generally fast lenses, meaning they can shoot photos quickly and offer great performance when it comes to low light photography.

With ƒ/4 aperture, if you focus on something up close (say between one and six feet), you’ll get noticeably shallow depth of field, where only your subject will be sharp while the background will blur nicely. When shooting portraits or macro photos with something like ƒ/4, you’ll need plenty of good quality ambient natural light to work with – you have lots of options available for capturing beautiful shots with this lens type!


A 0.5 autofocus lens allows you to focus more accurately on the subject of your photograph, minimizing the need for manual focusing when shooting. The ability to keep your subject in focus at all times makes this type of lens a great choice for capturing fast-moving or unpredictable subjects – animals, athletes, or objects in motion. When combined with a high-resolution sensor, this type of lens can help you achieve ultra-sharp images with pinpoint accuracy and consistency.

0.5 autofocus lenses use an internal stepping motor that works with the camera’s autofocus system to deliver quick and accurate focussing performance. This helps to significantly reduce the time needed for adjustments once focus has been established, making it ideal for both video and stills photography. As well as providing more accurate focus than manual lenses, this lens design is also more reliable under changing light conditions such as when moving from indoors to outdoors or working in low light scenarios like sports photography and night landscapes.


In conclusion, it’s important to understand the different types of lenses and how they work in order to make better use of your camera. There are a variety of fixed lenses as well as interchangeable and zoom lenses that can be used depending on the type of photography you’re working on. Understanding the characteristics, functions and features will allow you to choose the best lens for the job. Take some time when choosing a lens for your camera, consider all aspects, experiment with different types and find the one that best meets your needs.

Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.