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

  • Anna

    Cool thing, this manual fixation of objects)) In general, the art of photography is a whole separate world that only a good photographer sees through his lens =)

  • Ivan

    Great article, without extra snot about quality))) everything is said in the case)

  • Yaroslav

    Garn article! It is easy to read without advertisements.

  • Dmitriy

    Good article - I will link so as not to “reinvent the wheel”.

  • The

    Thanks for the good stuff)

  • Crelian

    Cool article! Especially the section from personal experience. The internet is full of forums where lens length is a measure of masculinity. People do not understand that crooked hands cannot be corrected by the super-expensive 24-70 / 2,8 or 85 / 1,4 AF-S. And when you start communicating with such a “semi-professional”, it suddenly turns out that a person does not know what an expo-para is and he has not read the instructions - it’s for suckers! And while he is shooting weddings !!!


    Thanks for the article, for me right now it’s just right, because now I choose the first lens for myself and I can’t decide whether to take two fixes 35 and 50 with f1.8 or one 28-75 f2.8. After the article I’m now thinking of taking two fixes, but I’m only saddened by the fact that if something happens, I’ll have to get them and dust will get into the camera. I don’t even know honestly: (((

    • Arkady Shapoval

      I just returned from filming, today I changed lenses on my D6 200 times, and I do it every day, I don't even think about dust. I clean the matrix every 6 months - a year. Soon there will be an article about 28-75 2.8 Tamron and about cleaning.


    That’s just Tamron 28-75 2.8, I’m eyeing myself, I look forward to the article :)


    A good fix allows, as a rule, to make frames (cropping) with a 3x zoom without a noticeable deterioration in image quality, that is, it is practically equivalent to a 3x zoom. This is all the more true, since such a fix always has a higher image quality than a zoom with an equal lower focal length limit. So “zooming with your feet” is not always required.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      There is one small weakness in you, Valentine, you haven’t shot a little on a number, people are talking about it.


    To the above: Tamron 28-75? We take the top fix 28 mm, multiply by 3 and get 84 mm. But at the same time, any top-end fix will be, firstly, lighter and more compact, and secondly, with much less light scattering. T. about. Tamron is resting! Think for yourself, decide for yourself - to have or not to have ...

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Unfortunately, the fix will not allow to quickly evaluate and compose the final result in the frame.

  • VALENTIN Here are a lot of examples from yours, Arkaly, photos confirming my conclusions.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      First, print to the client 20 x 30 A4, then throw links to the clippings of my photos 500 pixels wide. If on business, theoretically for a photo 10 by 15 your conclusions are similar to the truth, but my practice shows that when you have about several hundred photos - cropping with software has no advantage for dragging the lens.

  • Eugene

    Dear Arkady Shapoval, dear fellow photographers,
    I ask for your opinion and experience = experienced and knowledgeable people.
    I am primarily interested in reproduction macro photography. For these purposes, an installation was created (and is being created further) on the basis of a good repository, a Nikon D5100 camera (18-105mm, AF-extension ring) and Soviet M42 technology (extension rings and sliding fur M42, Helios-44-6, Jupiter- 37A - for large increases) and other small auxiliary equipment. The axis of the optical system is vertical.
    Of all the parameters, the most important detail of the image (the maximum achievable sharpness) is primarily important. Subjects are flat (and still), so the depth of field created by wholesale. systems are not the most determining factor.
    With a combination of extension rings + sliding fur, a scale of approximately 1,5: 1 was achieved (15x10 mm decently sharply depicted space on the matrix 23,6x15,6 mm). At the same time, the Yu-37 was incomparably better in terms of picture quality and convenience (the space between the front lens and the object) than Helios.
    Fully extended fur + inverted Helios-44-6 gave an increase of about 2: 1
    Unfortunately, this increase is often not enough, you need at least 4: 1 - 6: 1, more is highly desirable. It is clear that this is how everything gradually turns into Micro, something more specific is needed. You can shoot through a microscope, but a lot is lost in its optical chain. Is it possible to make some progress along the current (macro) path?
    Possible ways / options for further development (in my opinion):
    A) the use (acquisition) of a good macro lens with a focus of 60-100mm and its own increase in the region of 1: 2 to 1: 1.
    B) the use (acquisition) of a high-quality lens with a very high resolution and focus of 40-60 mm - for subsequent trimming of the edges and obtaining an enlarged center of comparable image quality. Everywhere it sounds good about the VERY high sharpness Carl Zeiss Tessar 2,8 / 50 or the fantastic 100 l / mm (or even 140 l / mm!) Of the Zuiko 1,8 / 50. Will they help? or what others?
    C) the use of the same lens also in an inverted version. Wikipedia reports a possible increase of up to 9: 1 with stretched fur and an inverted 28mm focus lens (so a 50mm lens will give half the magnification?)
    D) the use of a nozzle lens 2x or 4x
    D) a combination of these options.
    I beg you to share judgments and experience on these positions.
    Best regards
    Eugene P.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Each of your questions requires a large laborious article. You yourself must find the information you need and draw the appropriate conclusions.

  • Eugene

    Sorry, Wikipedia link about inverted lens and fur - about MD 2,8 / 20mm from Minolta:,_Objektiv_und_Umkehrring_%28deutsch_beschriftet%29.jpg

  • Vitatiy

    Good day. Friends, I want to buy my Nikon D5100 camera ale niyak I can’t use the asset, I want to buy a Tamron I don’t know which one, 17-50 chi 28-75? I want to vikoristovuvati universally, photographing in the surroundings, in the courtyard, recording video. Increase in the amount of 17-50 maє stabilizer ale vin suttєvo road type of zvychany, chi є sens kupuvati with this stub, 28-75 vzagal without a stabilizer. Looking sideways at the Sigma 17-70.

    Be caressing your pleasure.


    • Arkady Shapoval

      For rooms, it is better to 17-50 (wider angle). For video - better with a stub. Purely for photos 17-50 and 28-75 (if you find them working fine) are very good.

  • Vitatiy

    Dyu’s dyaky for the joy.

  • Natalі

    in me Canon Rebel XS (1000d) with 18-55 IC on "Active" kit. I am amazed at one more infection, fіksu. I read a bunch of articles, edgukiv. Poki scho zupinila svіy vibіr on Jupiter-37A, or Canon EF 50 mm f / 1.8 II. I think what to take. On one side with the canon, you can control the boolean bi simpler (no need for transitions, є autofocus wants to be), more light power, protects the road from the top of Jupiter. Jupiter is a focal point - 135 mm, against a canon 18-55, so that it can cover more (better, more, more sense). This wine is obviously cheap, it is more than necessary to go to the crossings, to buy a dandelion in addition (and it’s impossible to get it). I don’t put bad food, on yak I do not say “is it more beautiful?”, Just to help you get enough. Familiar in the main portraits, landscapes. For a macro, you can buy a macro lens for a kit. Before the speech in Gelios, it doesn’t look like a bokeh, but rather rіzhe in the eyes. in Jupiter, yak on me is smoother, not so rizke (I want an amateur). What food does it have for you to stay on Jupiter?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      I would take a fifty dollars. The filters on Jupiter-37a sit down without any problems.

  • Natalі

    Dyakoy for the joy, and to whitewash what is more beautiful than Kenon 50?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      1. Autofocus and all the benefits associated with this
      2. Native bayonet mount and good flash operation (focusing distance calculated)
      3. A much larger aperture
      4. Jupiter's EGF will be over 200mm, it is difficult to work with such.

  • Alexey

    Arkady, thanks again. Having played enough with manual glasses, I came to the same conclusion: for the client it doesn’t matter what you shoot, the main thing is to quickly and efficiently. And sometimes there is simply no right to make a mistake, so I took a cheap Kenonovskiy fifty dollars f1.8 and an old but autofocus Tamron 20-200. Enough for almost everything, but the picture on the tamron is not a fountain, to say the least. Versatility comes at a price.

  • Subject

    I really like it. your articles! You're done) I'm going to buy a DSLR and accidentally hit your site, now I can’t get it out of it. SPS to you for valuable information)))))))

    • Arkady Shapoval

      not at all, I will have questions - ask in the comments

  • Konstantin

    I have a Nikon D7000 and a Sigma 17-50 2,8 lens. Satisfied with everyone. The funds allow you to buy an expensive ultra-wide-angle Sigma 8-16 mm and an ultra-expensive brand new Sigma 50-150 telephoto lens with stabilization. After reading your article, I realized that you do not need to come up with problems for yourself and stay with what I have. I'm right?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      It all depends on your goals. If you need an over-wide, or a good telephoto for crop, then it is worth investing. If I were you, I would look in the direction of a long-focus fast lens, for example, on the Sigma AF 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM. The best option is to take something similar from friends or acquaintances and feel the real benefits of additional lenses.

  • Konstantin

    I analyzed the pictures taken with a 17 - 55 mm lens and noticed that most of them were taken in the 17 - 27 mm focal length range. Very rare pictures were taken at the limit of 50 mm. I realized that I don't need a long-focus lens.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Once for you, that you yourself have figured out your needs.


    I have 18-200 / vr2 and 50 / 1.8 af-s. from Soviet optics there is Helios-44m and took Jupiter-37a for a while. I haven’t bought an adapter yet, I use electrical tape ;-) since I can’t get a high-quality picture with a zoom, I want to buy another nikkor 20 / 2.8 af. Nikon d90 camera. I want to take pictures of nature, architecture and bomb at weddings. Well, 20mm on the crop is almost a staffer. I plan manual optics mainly for the soul. Can you advise some other glass?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      You have enough lenses, better look in the direction of light, flashes.


        I bought a Nikon 20mm f / 2.8D AF Nikkor. Now I can shoot indoors without a flash at just 800 iso. The backdrop blurs pretty well at 2.8. The minimum focusing distance is 25 cm, which is very convenient. Geometric distortion is an order of magnitude less than that of the zoom. On a closed diaphragm, sharp. The only drawback is that focus misses sometimes. 18-200vr now lives more and more in a case. Now I would like to try this fix on a full frame ... I hope to buy the D600 by autumn.

        • Arkady Shapoval

          Congratulations on your purchase!

  • Natalia

    Good day! You have very informative reviews! Help with the choice. Nikon d3000 camera has a whale lens 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6G VR AF-S DX Nikkor, which is better to take in addition in a very narrow budget framework: Nikkor 50mm f / 1.8G AF-S or Nikkor 55-200mm f / 4-5.6G AF-S DX VR plus Helios-81N 50mm, for shooting portraits, HDR landscapes ??? Thanks!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      For landscapes you already have a wide-angle 18-55, for portraits on the D3000 there will be a good Nikkor 50mm f / 1.8G AF-S

  • vjkjng

    Good afternoon. Acquired D3100 with kit 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6G VR AF-S DX Nikkor. When shooting, it turns out that the picture is stretched at the edges. I haven't figured it out myself yet - tell me, is it constant in this lens or under certain conditions (a certain focal length, ...)?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      This is called distortion. Almost all wide-angle lenses suffer from this ailment, it is especially visible on whale lenses, like yours. It is not treated, it is possible only by software.

  • Vladimir

    Good evening. Tell me what kind of lens is 3m-5a, is it suitable for the d3100, through which adapter and the approximate cost? Thanks.

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