The Photo-Zen Online Photography Magazine

< Back to index

Lenses: Choosing - the Basics

By Eric Hartwell

How do you choose a lens and what types of lenses are there?

Before you choose a lens, decide what sort of photography you are likely to need it for.

Do you do mainly portraits and "people" shots (in which case you'll want a short telephoto, say 100mm), landscapes (best with 24 -28mm) or sports / nature (300mm+). You can't take good portraits with a long telephoto. Neither can you get action sports shots with a wideangle.

Nowadays, you can get zoom lenses in all focal lengths. An 18-55mm lens will cover landscapes and most standard work. 70-200mm will suit portraits and some action shots. Longer lenses will suffer from smaller maximum apertures unless you are willing to pay. They will also be harder to hold steady.

The quality, and the price, will vary depending on your needs. Your long telephoto will have a maximum aperture of perhaps f5.6, making it hard to undertake action photography in low lighting. The bigger the aperture the greater the price and usually the better quality the lens (in general).

Manufacturer's lenses are fit for the job and usually of good quality (although even this may vary). However, don't discount the independent manufacturers who often will give great quality and service at a much reduced price.

Spend the most you can afford - there is no point getting a great camera only to use a poor lens.

Eric Hartwell is an enthusiastic photographer. He owns and runs the photography resource site and the associated discussion forums as well as the regular weblog at Anyone interested in getting involved contact him at

Article Source:

© All photos Copyright Ian Mackean. All rights reserved.  |  Privacy policy