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

  • Lina

    Hello Arkady! Thank you very much for your articles - everything is very accessible and understandable. Please tell me which lens is best suited for the Nikon D600, specifically for photographing people with a blurry background and beautiful bokeh. Any budget, it can even be indecently expensive. Thank you very much.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      If the budget is not limited, then for a classic portrait I would take Nikon ED 70-200mm f / 2.8G AF-S VR II N Nikkor (IF), if from fixes, then Nikon 105mm f / 2.8G IF-ED AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor or Nikon 135mm f / 2.0D AF DC-Nikkor

      • Ivan

        Hello. The more I read your site, the more doubt I have))). Your advice on optics is very necessary. I have optics 50 1/8, 35 1/8, so I think it's worth changing 50 1/8 to 50 1/4 and buying 85 1/8, and I'm also very interested in which lens to take, which is not very expensive with a constant aperture and 17 to 70 mm?

  • Irina

    Hello, Arkady, tell me, I'm a beginner, I'm going to buy a canon 600D camera, what kind of optics do you recommend? buy with kit 18-55 is as it is on sale, or take it separately, for example, sigma 70 - 300 / 4-5.6.DG For now, I decide to choose a medja with these. I would be very grateful for the answer, or maybe an adjustment to my judgments! Maybe you can recommend something else!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      To start, I recommend with whale 18-55 and better iS version

  • Irina

    thanks)) I’ll do it for a start

  • Irina

    Good evening! Arkady, please tell me which lens to choose for shooting a family, small children Canon 50 mm F / 1.4 or still 50 mm F / 1.8 (I would like to blur the background well) ... Canon 550D camera ... Or maybe you can advise something third ??? Maybe something universal ??? ))) Thanks!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      If finances allow, then 50 1.4 will be a good option, I think you already have a universal whale 18-55.

      • anonym

        Thank you) Yes, there is 18-55 and I already want something more)

  • Gennady

    while nichrome I do not understand I want to buy Nikon d7000

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    Arkady, what do you think, for the D3000 Nikon 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6G VR AF-S DX Nikkor + Nikon 50mm f / 1.8G AF-S Nikkor + Nikon 55-300 f / 4.5-5.6G ED DX VR kit AF-S Nikkor will be enough or something else to buy. I’m doing it at the student level (for now).

    • Arkady Shapoval

      You can still take shirik normal, type 10-24.

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    Thanks for the advice. I will study Shiriki ... Do you approve of 55-300?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      You can take, of course, you can always find a better lens, but you can shoot at 55-300 as well.

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    ... if you don't pay attention to the difference in 1500-1600gr., Then Nikon 70-300mm f 4.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor is still better (judging by the fact that you have one). then…

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    And if you take 70-300mm f 4.5-5.6G in the presence of 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6G, is a 15mm focal hole critical?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Generally not critical)

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    On one of the photo sites I read the opinion: 55-300mm was made specifically for crop, and 70-300mm - for a full frame. This is their main difference. (Regarding autofocus speed at 55-300mm: set AF at one point and the difference with There is practically no 70-300mm) That is, if you do not plan a full frame, you can safely take ... How do YOU, Arkady, think and why?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      I think that the 70-300 is an excellent unit.

  • Novel

    Good afternoon!
    I beg your help! I bought a Canon FD 50mm 1.4 SSC. The chip adapter FD-EOS is attached to it. The camera is the first nickle. The adapter does not wrap on the carcass. Where did you go?
    Thank you for your reply!

  • Ivan

    Tell me about the lenses - for weddings and other events I'm looking for a universal high-aperture ZOOM, according to the price / requirement ratio, the Sigma AF 17-50mm f / 2.8 EX DC OS HSM Nikon F. As you understand, you shoot on DX cameras with an analogue from Tamron, it has a bad workmanship that confuses me. An analogue from Nikon is 2 (3) times more expensive than these two lenses, so I am not considering it yet. What can you tell me about this choice - sigma or tamron.

  • Ivan

    I also have a D7000 carcass - maybe there is something to choose from lenses for a response in it

  • anonym


  • Arkady Shapoval

    Tamrons 17-50 are old with a screwdriver and with a motor. Of the alternatives, you can still look at Tokinka 16.5-50.

    • Ivan

      In general, how do you rate the Sigma AF 17-50mm f / 2.8 if you have to use it? And with a screwdriver, I think it makes sense to pick up a tamron, it will be budgetary - you can close your eyes to flaws in quality ...

      • Arkady Shapoval

        I did not use sigma.

  • Vladimir

    Hello Arkady. Thanks to your articles, I learned to understand the meanings on optics and cameras. Now with full confidence I look through the catalogs and understand that there is nothing incomprehensible to me there. But theory is one thing. After all, everything is known in practice. I have a question for you. What lenses to choose for shooting subjects: various events, corporate parties, portrait? As a beginner, I decided to choose a Nikon D7000 camera (again, I’m not completely sure about the choice, it was based on your article and the opinion of friends (owners)). I am at a loss with the choice of optics since the budget is shrinking, that is, it will allow me to take everything that’s basic, but without the right to make a mistake. And one more question. How do you achieve the result in the photo of the so-called Hollywood movie effect? A certain type of lens, or in addition to a good lens in addition to graphic editing? Thank you in advance for your reply in advance!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      D7000 is a good camera, of the lenses I advise one staffer and one fast fixed portrait portrait. Drop links to the Hollywood effect.

      • Vladimir lesson from photoshop. Once I came across a photo of the same quality as at the end of the lesson. Not what graphic editors did not use (at least they said so). can you achieve this quality with just one lens?

  • Vladimir

    namely, what lenses (markings) .. so that I could ask the price .. (Hollywood effect)

  • Jury

    Hello Arkady. I ask for advice on choosing a lens. I am an amateur, model of the camera 60D. What do you think about the lens model Canon EF 24-105mm f / 4L IS USM Suitable for daily use. I’ll clarify that I’ll shoot for myself holidays, nature, etc., in fact, nothing supernatural. And yet, in the store, the seller persistently offered the Canon EF 135mm f / 2L USM, until he really understood the capabilities of fixes and zooms, I ask for advice on what will be more convenient for me to use, and which of the two models is preferable.

    • Konstantin

      24-105 excellent optics, the Canon series L is generally top-end. Among the lenses and tasks described by you, I would prefer 24-105 for several reasons:
      1. A variable range of focal lengths will allow you to zoom directly with the lens, and not "with your feet"
      2 A wide enough range is suitable for shooting almost any subject, from 24 mm architecture to 105 mm portraits. While 135/2 is a more highly specialized portraiture.
      3 The only thing that speaks in favor of 135 is the current idea that fixes give a sharper and higher quality image than zooms, but I do not know how much this can be applied to the optics of the L series.

  • Zulya

    hi! about how many meters does the nikkor 55-300 zoom? and what is his zoom? Well, for example, 50X or 5X is written on some

    • Arkady Shapoval

      zoom 6x, zooms in 7 times.

  • Paul

    Hello. Could you tell me which lens, on the nikon d3100, I would have approached when photographing a scene from the hall from about 5-10 rows. I read a lot of information, but this topic is not described anywhere. thank.

  • Aiduza

    Praise to the creator of the site, excellent articles, I've been reading for several days! A small mistake can be pointed out - the type of tilt-shift lens reads “tilt-shift”, not “title-shift”. And also - in the figure about-lenses-radojuva.jpg under the heading of this article there is a typo - “photo objects”. Thank you again!

  • Anatoly

    Good day. I ask for help in such a nutrition. Having bought Kenon D600 standard obektiv 55. Bagato I will rise in price, I take pictures of them and locks etc. The standard is even netsіkavo weak zoom + slightly rozmivaє. I can’t stand the vibration of the universal oblique shchob of a subfine and angry. Please tell me the interpretation.

  • Nicholas

    Thank you so much, Arkady!

  • Alexander

    Good afternoon, Arkady!

    What can you recommend for the PENTAX K10-D? For filming on a trip.
    Recommend Pentax SMC DA ★ 50-135mm f / 2.8 ED (IF) SDM.
    What say Can you suggest something else?

    Thank you.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      50-135 reviews a good option. I rarely encounter Pentax optics; it's hard for me to give good, sensible advice. But for travel, I would take something wider, starting at 18mm. Although once in a 10-day trip I managed only 200 / 4,0.

      • Alexander

        Thank! I will look for

  • Dmitriy

    Hello! I am a user. I chose D5200. Help with lens selection. I want to get high-quality photos of objects in motion (formula 1, movement in the ring, etc.) Help with advice, thanks in advance.

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