Photography News Issue 34

Photography News | Issue 34 |



Which optic? Welcome to our Lens Special. We’re catching up with all the leading brands to find out about their lens ranges, but first we look at the questions you should be asking when you’re buying your next lens Lens special




Words by Will Cheung

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to what lens to buy next, simply because individuals have unique demands, expectations, needs and, of course, budgets. Indeed, many people happily enjoy their photography with nothing more than the lens that came with the camera, and there is nothing wrong with that. So, let’s start at the beginning and assume that you already own a camerawith an interchangeable lens and are on the brink of exploring the world through the great many optional lenses that are available. Every camera brand has optics to cover almost every area of interest. There are also independent lens makers whose products are compatible with different camera brands. Sigma and Tamron are possibly the best known. If you enjoy landscapes and interiors, a wide-angle can make the most of them. For action and sports, a telephoto brings the subject right up close and personal. While if the

world of detail appeals, then amacro lens makes the tiny much bigger. This is being very general because wide-angles are great for sports too, and telephotos work for all manner of subjects. Much depends on the person behind the camera. Give three photographers the same scene, one will fit a wide-angle and get in close, another will take a telephoto and retreat several metres, while the third will stay put. Assuming you’re a relative newcomer you probably bought your interchangeable lens camera with a standard zoom kit lens. A standard lens is a great start to your kitbag and covers the most used focal lengths – from wide-angle to moderate telephoto, and includes the approximate field of view of the human eye (around 45mm). With an APS-C format DSLR such as the Canon EOS 80D or Nikon D500, a standard zoom will have a focal length range of around 18 -55mm. All those numbers that relate to focal length can be confusing

for the less experienced. But we’re here to help (see the panel All about focal length). The essential thing to remember is that if the image fills the viewfinder or monitor withwhat you want, the actual focal length figure is not important. The thing with some kit lenses is that they are not always the best you can get. The makers want to sell you a camera, and, of course, adding a lens raises the initial cost, so it makes sense for them to supply a lens of a lower specification. That doesn’t mean kits lenses are poor – it’s simply not the case – but it does mean a similar but better specified lens is usually available in the maker’s range at a higher price. By better specification, we mean higher quality glass, metal construction instead of plastic and more features such as a shake reduction system. More expensive lenses often have ‘faster’ maximum apertures. This is not an indication of how fast a lens can focus, but a reference to its light- gathering properties. Every lens has a maximum aperture, which is defined as an f/number that’s usually quoted in a lens’s name. The lower the f/number (f/1.4, f/2), the wider the lens aperture and the more light the lens can gather. The higher the f/number (f/3.5, f/4), the smaller the aperture and the less light the lens can gather. A fast lens is one that has a wide maximum aperture. A faster lens does mean that the image through the optical viewfinder is brighter, but the key benefit comes when shooting in less than perfect light. It means you can shoot at higher shutter speeds to avoid camera or subject movement, and use lower ISO settings for high image quality. Photographers who often shoot in low light or action subjects will benefit from a faster lens. But for many, the extra cost might not be worthwhile. Faster

aperture lenses are often also bulkier and heavier than their slower aperture counterparts. Kit lenses are usually zooms, which have the benefit of being flexible, allowing you to alter the size of the subject in the viewfinder without moving position. So you won’t be surprised to learn that zooms are more popular than fixed focal length lenses – also known as prime lenses. While primes only have a single focal length they have many advantages. They’re more compact, lighter, have faster maximum apertures and can be optically superior, especially at wider aperture values. Prime lenses have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as many camera users have discovered (or rediscovered) their joys. The big attraction for most is the benefit of their fast maximum apertures and there are plenty of optics on offer. In the last issue of Photography News , we tested four Voigtländer primes for Micro Four Thirds cameras, and they have super-fast maximum apertures of f/0.95. What to buy next So if you own a camera with a standard zoom, what lens should you buy next? If you have a specific interest this is easy. If you want to make the most of your prize blooms, buy a lens that will let you focus very close, such as a macro. If you enjoy sports buy a telephoto for a larger view of your distant subject. Thing is, most people like to shoot a diverse range of subjects so it’s not so clear cut. As a starting point, however, for most keen camera users a telephoto zoom is the next sensible step. Telezooms are great for architecture, portraits, scenics, sports and much more. In the APS-C format, this means a lens with a focal length

All those numbers that relate to focal length can be confusing for the less experienced photographer, but we’re here to help


Images If you have specific interests such as wildlife or sports photography you need to invest in a telephoto that lets you make the most of them. If your photographic interests are broader, a selection of lenses covering wide-angle to telephoto would suit you better, and don’t forget about macro.

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