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Many of the creative options available to a photographer hinge on an in-depth understanding of lenses. In Foundations of Photography: Lenses, Ben Long shows how to choose lenses and take full advantage of their creative options. The course covers fundamental concepts that apply to any camera, such as focal length and camera position, and shows how to evaluate and shop for DSLR lenses. The second half of the course focuses on shooting techniques: controlling autofocus, working with different focal lengths, and managing distortion and flare. The course also examines various filters and contains tips on cleaning and maintaining lenses.
Since we've been talking so much about how to use particular types of lenses, you may be thinking about adding another lens to your arsenal or upgrading to a higher quality lens. We're going to take a break from the specifics of shooting for a bit and talk about choosing a lens. Even if you don't have an SLR but shoot with point-and-shoot cameras, you'll still want to give a thought to assessing a candidate camera's lens. So, the following discussion should still prove helpful. Your first concern when lens shopping is to think about what it is you need. And first and foremost in that decision is focal length. And if you have no idea what focal length you need, one, it may not be time to start shopping for a new lens.
But your camera probably came with a kit lens of some kind That's a zoom lens that has a focal length range from may be a little bit wide to a little bit telephoto. Think about how you've been shooting. Do you spend more time with the, at the telephoto end, because you like shooting things that are farther away? Do you spend more time in the wide angle lens because you are-- at the wide angle end of things, because you're shooting indoors? In either case, are you finding yourself lacking at some point with the if you tend to shoot more with the telephoto lens, at the telephoto end, are you thinking "Gosh! I wish I just had a little more reach. I can't quite see that thing over there." If you shoot more the wide angle end of things, do you spend more time thinking "Ugh, I just need a lot, I am having to shoot more panoramas," or "I can't quite fit things in my scene." That's an indication that you might have a particular preference of one kind or another.
Or maybe you're just frustrated with the quality of your lens. Maybe it's not as sharp as you would like. Maybe there are strange colored fringes around things. Those are all indications that you've outgrown the quality of your lens and maybe you want to upgrade. So, your first choice is what focal length do you want? So, after you zeroed in on one end of the spectrum or another, your next really major decision should be to really get a good strong idea of how much you're willing to pay. Because once you've narrowed down to a price point, you're going to cut a whole lot of lenses out of consideration and that's going to make your choice easier.
And don't waffle on that. Don't say "Well, you know, maybe from here to here." Get a good solid idea of a price point so that you're not looking at a lens thinking, "Well, if I just spend $300 more, I could get this." Because the problem is when you do that then you think, "But if I just spend $ 300 more than that" and then you've talked to yourselves into a lens that's maybe more than you can afford or even more than you need. So, you got an idea what you're willing to spend. You got an idea of what type of focal length you're looking for. Your next consideration is going to be zoom versus prime. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length. Zoom lenses have a variable focal length.
And 15 years ago, if you were talking about buying a zoom lens, just about any serious photographer would have said, "Oh! You don't care that much about image quality, do you?" And of course, image quality should be your primary concern when choosing any lens. But that was then and this is now. Today, thanks to computerized design and manufacturing of lenses, zoom lenses can deliver image quality that's just as good as primes. Almost. Primes will still eke out a little more sharpness sometimes. So for example, maybe you've decided that you're looking for something like a 50 millimeter lens.
So, here is a 50 millimeter prime lens. But I could also go for something like this, 24 to 70, which gives me a 50 millimeter lens, but also a little bit of wide-angle and a little bit of telephoto. And it might be higher quality than the kit lens that I came with. How do I choose? Well, if you're a real stickler for sharpness, may be the prime is a better way to go. But another parameter is going to be kind of your next choice, which is speed consideration. How wide an aperture do you want to be able to open to? This lens can open to 1.2.
This can only open to 2.8. This is still a fast lens, but if you really like shallow depth of field or shooting in really low light, this is the faster lens. So, if all you were thinking of was a 50, then maybe you want to go for a faster one. If you're not that concerned about speed and you think 2.8 is fast enough, then maybe this is a better way to go, because it gets you some extra zoom range. Another thing to consider is with speed you're probably going to find, particularly with something like a 50, here is a 50 1.2, here is a 50 1.8. Canon also makes a 50 1.4, which we don't have here.
Right away, you might start finding yourself facing a number of lenses that seem pretty similar. 1.2, 1.8, that's like a stop and a half difference. You're going to want to think about do you, do you care about that extra stop and a half? This lens is heavier, maybe that's a consideration. This lens is about $1500. This lens is about $300 to $400. That might make the decision for you right there. So, part of lens buying is always going to be balancing these different parameters and trying to figure out what the right combination is. Again, image quality should be your main concern.
So, you're going to be wanting to evaluate the lenses for overall sharpness, vignetting, chromatic aberration, a lot of things we've talked about in other places in the course. There are some practical concerns also. So, maybe you've decided on a price point, you figured out that type of lens you're looking for, you've decide it's definitely zoom in this range. Because of my price point, I've weeded out the very high end and the very low end. I am going for a nice mid-range lens. You've winnowed it down that way. You still might find yourself facing a few candidates, particularly if you to start considering third-party lenses.
Canon and Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, they all make great lenses for their cameras, but there are other companies. Sigma, Tamron. They make very good lenses. Now the, the brand loyal snobs will say, "Oh my gosh! You should never stick up a non-Canon lens on your Canon body or non-Nikon lens on your Nikon body." But the fact is Sigma, which makes this enormous 800 millimeter lens here, makes very good lenses, as does Tamron. So, you're going to want to check some review sites and very often you'll find that the third-party lenses deliver equivalent quality for less price than the camera manufacturer does.
Some other practical concerns: durability. These, a lot of these are Canon lenses. The ones with the red stripe, these are the L-Series of lenses. That's Canon's high-end professional level glass. Very high quality. Another nice thing about L-lenses is they're built with exceptional weather sealing. Just because it's raining, it doesn't mean you shouldn't go out. But you do want to be a little concerned about how your camera might fare in foul weather. These all lenses have a rubber gasket right here.
So, when they go onto your lens, they're really good, really well sealed. They're also very, very sturdy. They're going to be able to take a little more damage than a less expensive, more plasticky lens. These white lenses of Canon's are very distinctive. And a lot of people think this is just fashion because it shows that if you got the white lens, you've got this fancy expensive lens, which it does. There's also a practical reason. White absorbs a less heat and that has an impact on the inside of the lens. So, white versus black should not be one of your considerations when you're weighing lenses.
These are all factors that you're going to want to consider and you are going to have to balance all of them. Once you've consider these issues, you'll probably find yourself facing a few choices. And at that time, you're going to zero in on the particular parameters that you need. In the end, of course it's using the lens that matter. So, don't get hung up on, boy, this lens is really great and has all these features and I really like it. If you're not going to use them, it's not worth it. Find the lens that's right for you, and then go out and start shooting.
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