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Focal length applications

From: Foundations of Photography: Lenses

Video: Focal length applications

Lenses come in a huge variety of focal lengths. You can get zooms, you can get primes, you can get lenses that have incredibly short very wide-angle focal lengths, preposterously long, extremely telephoto focal lengths, and everything in between. So, why would you choose one over the other? Why is there such a vast assortment of focal lengths? Depending on how much you have been shooting, you might already have some ideas about the answer to this question. You might already be favoring one focal length range over another, or maybe you are just shooting with what you have with no idea of what some of the other options are.

Focal length applications

Lenses come in a huge variety of focal lengths. You can get zooms, you can get primes, you can get lenses that have incredibly short very wide-angle focal lengths, preposterously long, extremely telephoto focal lengths, and everything in between. So, why would you choose one over the other? Why is there such a vast assortment of focal lengths? Depending on how much you have been shooting, you might already have some ideas about the answer to this question. You might already be favoring one focal length range over another, or maybe you are just shooting with what you have with no idea of what some of the other options are.

You can shoot any image with any type of lens but in general, the application for particular focal length ranges breaks down something like this. You got your extreme telephoto lenses, which give you a tremendous reach and allow you to tightly frame things that are very far away. These are great for sports or nature shooting or some types of adventures. This is a rather extreme example of extreme telephoto. There are shorter telephoto lens is such as this 70 to 200, which can be great for some types of event shoots and nature shooting and occasionally even candid, everyday, or street shooting.

There is midrange lenses like this 24 to 105. These are your everyday walk around lenses that can go wide enough for shooting in tight indoor spaces but with a tiny bit of telephoto reach that you don't have to get right in people's faces. Wide-angle lenses, these are going to be the 24 millimeter to 35 millimeter lenses that are great for street shooting, interior shooting, anytime when you want a wider perspective or dramatic angle. Then there are the super wide angles, pretty much anything wider than 24 millimeter falls into this category.

These deliver an extreme view of the world, which can be great for times when you need to cram a lot of stuff in the frame or when you want to create a somewhat stylized image. We'll have a lot more to say about super wide lenses later. Once you've identified the type of lens, you think you might be interested in, there are a lot of questions to answer and parameters to consider.

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Foundations of Photography: Lenses

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Ben Long
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