Inspiration-bestLens.jpg

Understanding focal length

After getting to grips with the standard "kit" lens that comes with a new DSLR camera, many people ask, "What is the best lens for me to buy next?"

The answer is that lenses are not good or bad. There is no single best lens to buy. Lenses are designed to do different things to achieve different effects. The best lens for you is the one that can create the kind of picture you are trying to achieve.

To figure out what you need, it's necessary to understand focal length. Focal length is the measurement of how much of a scene your lens will capture. It is also how we name lenses: 24mm, 50mm, 85mm and so on.

Here is the important part:

The smaller the number, the wider the angle of view. The higher the number, the narrower the angle of view.

So if your goal is to capture a wide scene with your DSLR, like a landscape or a whole room, then you should use a lens that is 35mm, 28mm or lower. If your goal is to capture a scene more or less as the human eye sees it, you should use a 50mm lens. If you wish the angle of view to be narrower (or zoomed in) you should use a lens with a higher number such as 85mm, 105mm or 200mm, since this is ideal for photographing things that are far away.

Here are some examples:

10mm Very wide! Sometimes called a fish-eye. Great for capturing dramatic landscapes or a whole room. Not ideal for portraits because the wide angle unnaturally distorts facial features.

10mm

Very wide! Sometimes called a fish-eye. Great for capturing dramatic landscapes or a whole room. Not ideal for portraits because the wide angle unnaturally distorts facial features.


24mm Wider than how your eyes see the world, but not as distorted as a fisheye. Good for capturing buildings and documentary style images. Not recommended for portraits. 

24mm

Wider than how your eyes see the world, but not as distorted as a fisheye. Good for capturing buildings and documentary style images. Not recommended for portraits. 


50mm The nifty fifty! This lens captures images with no distortion or compression. Its a great all-purpose choice and can be used for simple portraits, capturing details of everyday life, or outdoor scenes.

50mm

The nifty fifty! This lens captures images with no distortion or compression. Its a great all-purpose choice and can be used for simple portraits, capturing details of everyday life, or outdoor scenes.


85mm It's best known for making flattering portraits because it compresses facial features just slightly. This lens results in images with a narrower point of view. It can also be used to photograph events in the distance, provided they are not very far away. 

85mm

It's best known for making flattering portraits because it compresses facial features just slightly. This lens results in images with a narrower point of view. It can also be used to photograph events in the distance, provided they are not very far away. 


200mm An extremely "zoomed in" lens  that can easily capture subjects that are far away such as kids playing sports or details of a larger scene. It can be used as a portrait lens but the high factor of compression can cause a face to look wider than it really is, so should be used thoughtfully.

200mm

An extremely "zoomed in" lens  that can easily capture subjects that are far away such as kids playing sports or details of a larger scene. It can be used as a portrait lens but the high factor of compression can cause a face to look wider than it really is, so should be used thoughtfully.