Focal Length (mm) is about how wide or narrow the field of view is and how close the subject appears through the lens.
The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view (wide angle). The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view (telephoto). That also corresponds with how “zoomed in” the image appears to you. A wide angle appears to be “zoomed out”, and the a telephoto appears “zoomed in”. Simple.
Wide lenses are low in millimeters, i.e. 20(mm). Narrow lenses are high in millimeters, i.e. 200(mm). The range is enormous. 50mm is considered standard and similar to the way the human eye sees.
Physically, Wide angle lenses are short and telephoto lenses are long. i.e. photographers you see at the side of a football match have massive lens as there are getting close shots of the action from far away. A wide angle lens is very short.
Wide angle lens allow you to stand close to the subject and still maintain a wide view. Telephoto lens bring things closer to you.
Macro Lenses are for close ups. They have a long barrel and can focus on subjects that are extremely close to the lens. They are designed to focus on a small area and capture the object the same size as it appears in real life (ratio 1:1). Macro Lenses are designed for the above so are not so good to use for other photography.
If you are on a budget, you can get lenses that claim to be good at macro photography too! Comparable to most things in life, equipment that is multifunctional is not as good as something specific to one purpose. But thats up to you to decide. Here is an example of a lens with macro capabilities which is also a wide angle lens.
You can also set your compact digital cameras to a macro setting. Turn the dial to the picture of a “flower”. Use it for close ups. Wahey!
Macro lens range from 50mm-200mm. Apply the same theories as explained earlier.
Prime & Zoom Lens:
Just a quick note – Prime lenses are one fixed focal length (i.e. 50mm, 80mm or 100mm for example) which means you cannot zoom in and out. Zoom lenses can adjust to many focal lengths, as it can zoom in and out.
Prices of Lenses:
Range from £70 – £10,000+
I have bought a wide angle lens that cost £200 and I use for everyday photography. When I was a student I never paid more than £380 for a lens.
Telephoto lenses that are the very expensive ones.
When you have considered the above you can apply the rule that in general, the more you pay the better the lens. But in the end, you can make great photos with cheap lens too if you are clever and creative.
Lens are tools, like paint brushes. You choose what kind of brush stroke to use, before you apply the paint. You have a rough idea of what you are aiming for and the intent of the brush stroke. Its part of the process for designing the photograph – the perspective. It also has practical uses, so you choose based on physical variables too. Such as, will you be far away from your subject? If you use a zoom lens, you centainly won’t need to think that much… is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Thanks for reading,