The main types of lenses

Lenses - article from Radozhiva

Lenses - article from Radozhiva

I tried to write as compact as possible about everything main types of lenses on a short list. Lenses differ in different ways, such as: focal length, aperture, purpose and image quality. I will not categorize them. Each type requires a separate huge article, but I know for myself that only a few will be interested in reading it. Ordinary users of digital SLR cameras just need to quickly figure out what is what, without unnecessary complex details.

Lenses have in their name a whole a bunch of different numbers, letters, and strange expressions. The most important lens parameters are its focal length and aperture value... Focal length, roughly speaking, says how much the lens brings the image closer or further away from you, how far or close the lens can 'see'. Focal length can be proper and equivalent (effective).

It is often understood that focal length is responsible for the angle of the field of view... The focal length is indicated in millimeters (mm or mm). For example, 50mm, 35mm or 85mm (read as 85 millimeters). The lower the number in the focal length designation, the 'wider' the lens sees. One number is indicated for prime lenses. For zoom lenses, two numbers are indicated, for example, 70-210mm, 17-50mm, 200-400mm. The values ​​can be anything, the values ​​depend on frame sizefor which the lens is built. How to translate the focal length into degrees of the viewing angle can find here.

The aperture value (relative aperture) is indicated as an F. For example, F4.5, or F / 4.5, or f4.5 or f / 4.5, etc. Also, instead of the number F, they often write “1: x”, for example 1: 4.5 (read as “one to four and five”). For prime lenses, write one F number, for example F2.8 or F5.6 (read as “fif five and six”). For zooms, two F numbers are written, for example F / 2.8-4,5 or F / 3,5-5,6.

You can find different writing methods. But the meaning is the same. For zoom lenses, the numbers indicate the aperture values ​​for the extreme focal length positions. For example, the designation 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6 means that at 18mm focal length (at the wide angle, at the 'short end'), the maximum aperture will be f / 3.5, and for 55mm (at the 'long end' of the lens) the maximum the aperture value will already be F / 5.6.

There are zoom lenses for which only one value is displayed clean F. For example, for Tokina 12-24mm f4 at different focal lengths, the maximum aperture remains constant at F / 4. I recommend reading about the difference in the concepts of 'aperture' and 'aperture' in my article 'Aperture'.

And so, here are the types of lenses that I often hear:

Fix (fixed lens, discrete lens, Prime lens, Fix-focal lens) - lens with one focal length value. No zoom, because he has a focal length FIXtied. Basically, it has very small aperture numbers F. It is often said that fixed lenses have a large aperture. An example of a fixed lens is Nikon 50mm F1.8G or Canon EF 85mm 1: 1.8 USM. The name of the lens most often indicates only one number for the focal length in millimeters and one number with the letter F. Because of the huge aperture ratio, such lenses are rarely called fast (fast lens), this name is due to the fact that such lenses allow you to shoot on short 'fast' exposures.

Zoom (zoom lens, zoom lens, zoom lens, Zoom lens, Zoom Lens) - zoom lens. Zoom is also called 'zoom', it changes the focal length of the lens, thus changing the angle of view of the lens. They say that such a lens is able to 'zoom in' and 'remove' the picture. An example of a zoom lens is Nikon 35-70mm f / 2.8 AF-D. Zooms are constant aperturethat does not change when zooming, and with a variable aperture: in such a lens aperture changes at different values ​​of the focal length, about it is already written a little higher.

SuperZoom (Ultrasound, UltraZoom, MegaZoom, SuperZoom) Is a zoom lens with a large zoom factor. Such a lens can operate at very different focal lengths.

How to find the zoom ratio? Quite simply, you need to divide the larger number in the lens designation by the smaller one. For example, a zoom of 18-105VR gives 5.8x magnification. Indeed, 105mm / 18mm = 5.8 times. Kit lens 18-55mm gives 3x zoom. The zoom ratio is usually denoted by 'X', for example, 3X, 5X, 12X.

Fast lens (fast lens, bright lens, fast lense) - lens with large aperture. Often under aperture and the diaphragm understand the same thing. Therefore, a fast aperture simply has a small F number, starting from F2.8 and lower, but you can often find another division. there is super-fast lensesEg Nikon 50mm F1.2MF. An example of a fast lens is Nikon 50mm F1.4G, Tamron 17-50mm F2.8.

Whale lens (whale, whale lens, kit lens) - lens from the kit that comes with the camera. Usually, a whale lens means an entry-level lens, but this is not always true. An example of a whale lens is Canon EF-S 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6 III, Nikon 18-55mm F / 3.5-5.6, Sony DT 3.5-5.6 / 18-55 SAM or SMC Pentax-DA 1: 3.5-5.6 18-55mm AL WR.

Manual (manual lens, manual focus lens, manual, non-autofocus) - a lens with which you can shoot only focusing with your hands. An example is Helios-81N, Nikon 200mm F / 4.0 or Canon Lens FD 55mm f / 1.2 SSC.

Manual chip lens - a lens with which you can shoot only by focusing with your hands, but with the addition of a special microcircuit that simulates some functions of an autofocus lens. You can read more about this in the section about Lushnikov's dandelion.

Autofocus lens - a lens that supports auto focus. Focusing is carried out by the camera or lens automatics. Nikon has different methods of autofocus implementation (see details in the section Nikon lens differences).

Wide-angle lens (wide, wide-angle, wide lens, wide-angle lens) - a lens whose focal length is less than the lens frame diagonal. Usually they just say that such a lens gives a wide angle of view. With this lens you can 'capture' a lot of space in the frame. I will not tie this concept to certain focal length values, since there is a lot of confusion due to the different film sizes and matrices of digital cameras, for example, for crop and full frame (full frame). There is also a subdivision for super wide-angle lens.

Normal lens (standard lens) - a lens whose focal length is approximately equal to the diagonal of the frame. For example, 35mm film and full-format digital cameras have a frame diagonal of 43,27mm, for such a frame diagonal a 50mm lens can be considered a normal lens. These lenses give natural normal an image that looks like what the human eye sees.

Telephoto lens (Telephoto lens) - a lens with a large focal length. Usually the focal length should be noticeably larger than the diagonal of the frame. This lens gives a narrow angle of view, so we get a strong approximation of what we are shooting. Such lenses are most often used for shooting distant objects, for example, for shooting nature, sports, astrophotography, etc. There is also a subdivision for short telephoto lenses, medium telephoto lenses and super telephoto lenses (telephoto lens, medium telephoto, super telephot) - these divisions are highly subjective.

Portrait lens (portrait lens) - a lens with which you can take a good portrait. The notation is rather arbitrary. Portrait lenses are usually understood as fast lenses without distortion. Usually such a lens is good at blurring the background and foreground. You can often find that high-aperture telephoto lenses are referred to as portrait lenses. Classic portrait lenses for 35mm film or full frame are Canon EF 85mm 1: 1.8 USM, Nikon 85mm F / 1.8D AF Nikkor и Asahi Opt. Co. Super-Takumar 1: 1.9 / 85, Soligor Tele-Auto 1: 2.8 f = 135mm In fact, any lens can be portrait, but not all lenses can do what the photographer intended.

Macro lens (macro lens, macro lens) - a lens that can capture small objects in close-up. A real shooter should shoot at 1: 1 magnification. An example would be Nikon 105 mm f / 2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor, Wave 9 50 mm F2.8 MC MACRO or Tamron SP AF 90 mm 1: 2.8 Di MACRO 1: 1 etc.

Professional (prof. Lens, pro lens) - a lens of improved design, designed for heavy loads, such lenses give a good quality of the original image and assume a fairly deep wallet for the owner. The concept is conditional, but seriously affects the dignity of the photographer. These lenses include Nikon 24-70 mm f / 2.8G ED AF-S N Nikkor, Nikon 28-70 mm f / 2.8D ED AF-S Nikkor, Nikon 80-200 mm f / 2.8D ED AF Nikkor

Specialized lens (special lens) - a lens that can produce an unusual picture. These could be

  • soft lenses, longer term "soft focus lens"
  • Monocle lenses. What is it, read in my article monocle
  • title shift lenses - lenses with shift and tilt of the optical axis
  • movie lenses, projection lenses, reproduction lenses, lenses from photographic enlargers, etc.
  • lenses for astronomy, for military affairs, industrial lenses, lenses for night observation, medicine, etc.

Ordinary people most often never in their life use specialized lenses, so I do not focus on them. I specifically do not seriously address the issue of lens quality, there can be a million different opinions and arguments on this subject, since all lenses have different tastes and colors.

It is important how to take pictures, and not using any equipment. Therefore, for this article I shot spring sketches to dilute a boring text. Filmed on the simplest Nikon D40 and the simplest non-autofocus, manual, very old, zoom-free lens, unchipped, Soviet, without the Helios-81N MC adapter. All untreated, mid-range on-camera JPEG with neutral picture management, reduced size and imprinted data from EXIF - no magic.


Due to the fact that no universal lens, which could combine all the qualities of different fixes and zooms and provide coverage for all ranges of focal length, you have to use several lenses in turn. Each lens has its own purpose and will be useful in different tasks.. You can also read interesting thoughts on the subject of zoom and fixed lenses.

Share and like article Thank you for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 230, on the topic: The main types of lenses

  • Elena

    Among telephoto lenses, there are several types of lenses designed for specific types of shooting.

  • anonym

    Thank you, very informative!

  • Diana

    Tell the amateur photographer. I have an old canon Powershot S5 IS with a Zoom Lens 12x… 6.0-72.0mm 1: 2.7-3.5 I have to choose a replacement. I'm looking at a Canon 700d with a kit lens 18-55mm - with a magnification of 3.
    I often shoot videos and take photos of children on stage with magnification. It turns out that an old powershot has a better increase? 700d can not cope with the same task? Even with 18-135mm lenses, the zoom ratio is much smaller than with the S5 IS. What do you advise?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      12x for a DSLR - difficulty.
      But you can take a look at Canon 18-200, Sigma 18-250 (the cheapest option, 14x), Sigma 18-300, Tamron 16-300, Tamron 18-270, Tamron 18-400 (the latter has 22x zoom)

    • Oleg

      The zoom ratio is not a determining parameter. The zoom is 18-135 x 7,5, and the 100-300 zoom is x3, but it brings it much closer. You need to look at all the focal ones.
      Powershot S5 IS has a crop factor of 6,2, respectively, its 6-72 lens in the 35 mm equivalent is 37,2-446. But since you are not looking at the full frame, but the canon crop, the analogue of the focal 6-72 Powershot S5 IS on the 700d will be 23-280. That is, to get the same focus ones as on the Powershot S5 IS and in one lens you need to look for something close to this, and this is 18-270, 18-300. 18-250 will do the same.

    • zengarden

      Are you sure you need a DSLR for video? and even with such a zoom - it's a kilogram and a half. Perhaps it makes sense to take a closer look at M4 / 3 format mirrorless cameras - Olympus, Panasonic; there are smaller cameras and optics, and the video capabilities are even better.

  • Yana

    Tell me which lens to buy for portraits on kenon, I choose between 50mm.f1 / 4 or f1 / 8 very mixed reviews about them. Or can I take 85mm right away? The camera is cropped. thanks

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Good afternoon.
      There are many options - all original fifty dollars (list here).
      All non-original fifty kopecks, such as Sigma 50 / 1.4 HSM, Sigma 50 / 1.4 ART
      A lot of about fifty dollars: Tamron 45 / 1.8 VC, Tamron 60 / 2.0 Macro etc.
      All 85t, find a list here.
      From inexpensive and balanced solutions, I would look at the native Canon 50 / 1.4, Sigma 50 / 1.4 (not Art), Canon 85 / 1.8 USM.
      A portrait can be different, for specific tasks you need to look for a specific focal length, etc.

  • Alexander

    Good day colleagues, I am very interested in such a question, I saw the sale of a tamron tv zoom 10-100 1: 1.6 lens
    I want to know if it can be attached to Nikon? Below is his photo.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      On mirror nikon it is impossible. The Nikon-1 system is still somehow possible, but a simple adapter does not exist.

      • Alexander

        Thanks dear.

  • Sergos

    SW. Arkady, add more descriptions and photos of mounts

    • B. R. P.

      There are reviews.

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