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Deciphering Lens Lingo


Are you in the market for a new lens for your camera? Do you understand what you are looking at when you see all the numbers and symbols on the lens? It can be confusing, but once you know what you are reading, you can glean a lot of useful information for selecting your next lens.


If you are purchasing a third party lens, make sure it is compatible with your brand of camera. You will also want to make sure the lens you selected is compatible with your camera model or series. It is not unusual to see multiple series of cameras in the same brand with different lens mounts. Check your camera manual to find out which series of lenses your camera is compatible with.

Another thing to keep in mind selecting a lens is the size of your camera sensor. A full-frame DSLR is fitted with an image sensor that is the same size as a 35mm film frame. A major advantage of the full-frame is the pixel size. Smaller frame DSLR cameras have sensors that are similar in size to APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C) size film and has an aspect ratio of 3:2. Small frame lenses on a full-frame camera may not give you the images you are looking for.

Types of Lens

Wide Angle

A  wide angle lens typically have a focal length that is less than 35mm. These lenses capture a wider view of a scene than the human eye can see and is ideal for shooting outdoors when you want to show the expansiveness of your location or large group shots of people.


Telephoto lenses can be medium telephoto (85mm to 135mm) and super telephoto (over 300mm). Telephoto or zoom lenses allow you to magnify subjects that are far away and you can adjust the focal length. The higher the focal length, the further away you’ll be able to see.


A macro lens allows you get very close to your subject. These are good portrait and everyday lenses and are designed for taking close-ups of flowers and other subjects where you want to show details and textures. Macro lenses usually come in fixed focal lengths.

What lens are you planning to add to your photography arsenal? Share in the comments.

Want to learn more? Check out the following:

What is ISO?

Understanding Aperture and Depth of Field

How to Find Your Photography Style – Part One

How to Find Your Photography Style – Part Two

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