The Most Important Lens Types You Need To Know

In this article on The Most Important Lens Types You Need To Know, we will look at different lens types and their uses. If you have a system camera (DSLR/Mirrorless), there will be a wide variety of lenses for you to choose from. The glass you decide to use will depend on the subject you aim to capture, the light you are shooting in, the creative effect you are aiming for, and so on.

Depending on which system you have, its brand, and sensor size, these will all have consequences on the range and quality of lenses available to you. However, this is a topic for a different article. This article is simply about introducing you to the types of lenses and their uses.

1. Kit Lenses

Woman holding Camera - The Most Important Lens Types You Need To Know

Often sold with a camera body and usually have a focal length range of 18-55mm these lenses are great starter lenses. Additionally, their versatility enables new photographers to understand focal range while offering a lens good enough for them to come to terms with the basics of their camera and enjoy the process and results. The only time a photographer will buy a kit lens is when they make their first camera purchase. These lenses will not produce top quality images and a photographer sooner or later will outgrow this lens.

Kit lenses often have a cheaper construction process and have lower image quality, they are slow and often use varying apertures. Most kit lenses will have a minimum aperture range of f3.5 to f/5.6. Less than adequate for low light shooting.

2. Prime/Fixed Focal Length Lenses

A Prime Lens - The Most Important Lens Types You Need To Know

A prime lens will often be a photographer’s first addition to their camera bag after they outgrown their kit lens. They have a fixed focal length and cannot be zoomed in or out. Popular choices for first prime lenses are either 35 or 50 mm, depending on the photographer’s preferences.

Because a prime lens has a fixed aperture ring, it means that they produce must faster apertures. Some prime lenses can go as low as f/0.8. These wide apertures allow the lenses to gather more light, meaning higher shutter speeds and lower ISO in poor lighting situations. Furthermore, the lower F stop can offer a more blurry bokeh.

In addition, Prime lenses also offer much sharper images from the centre of a photograph all the way to the edge, with minimal vignetting. Something which is far more attractive to those chasing the absolute best image quality in their work.

3. Telephoto Lenses

Telephoto Lens

Telephoto lenses are popular tools amongst professional and amateur photographers alike. They are essential for anyone wishing to magnify their subjects in a composition, give a face a more flattering shape in a portrait and create super creamy bokeh.

Generally speaking, a telephoto lens is anything with a reach of 60mm or higher. Further classifications are “Medium Telephoto” (70-200mm) and “super-telephoto” (250mm+). These lenses come in variable focal lengths, often called zoom lenses, or they come in fixed focal length primes.

Telephoto lenses are popular in the specialities of wildlife, sports, Astrology, landscape and portraiture photography. If you are new to photography, you may be wondering why the need to zoom into someone’s face with a telephoto lens? The answer is that the longer the focal length and the lower the aperture, the more blurred the background will become. This is especially vital in portrait photography, as isolating the subject from the surroundings is incredibly important.

On the other hand, if you close the aperture ring to somewhere around f/20, you can achieve a compression that renders somewhat of an optical illusion in an image. Making the background appear to be far closer and substantial in comparison to the foreground. This is how photographers can make the moon seem colossal in some astrology shots.

A telephoto lens is a must-have tool in your arsenal as a photographer. Without one, you will miss many opportunities that require a lens with the ability to magnify a subject. And while it is not necessarily crucial to have one right away, one day, a photographer will want to expand their skills to include shooting things at a distance. When this time does arrive for you, just be thorough in your research as these lenses do not come cheap.

4. Macro Lenses


To take photographs of small things, a photographer will use a macro lens. It is almost like using a microscope. Insects and other things from nature are often popular subjects for this field of photography.

The fundamentals behind macro photography are very similar to telephoto, albeit on a microscopic scale. For instance, they come in several focal lengths that alter the distance you shoot from the subject. And like needing to shoot animals from a distance with a telephoto lens, the same can be said for shooting insects and other things that may be scared away by movement. In this case, a telephoto lens with a longer reach will be needed.

Macro lenses come in a variety of focal lengths ranging from around 40-200mm. The lower focal lengths (40-60mm) are typically used for inanimate objects you can shoot from roughly 6 inches away that can’t be startled and disappear. Mid-range focal lengths (90-105mm) are perfect for shooting things from around afoot, like insects, flowers and plants. Longer focal lengths (150-200mm) are used for subjects you must put some serious distance between to capture. Lastly, similarly to the longer focal lengths in a telephoto lens, the larger the focal length, the creamier the bokeh will be.

Macro photography is a very niche discipline in the field. And while it has little commercial appeal, the thrill of gaining access to an invisible and alien world unseen by the human eye has too much of a draw for some to ignore. If you find yourself drawn to photographing things like insects and flowers in your garden, but feel limited by your current lenses, then a macro lens may be perfect for you.

5. Wide-Angle Lenses

Wide-angle shot of escalator

A wide-angle lens can be defined as giving a wider field of view than what is seen by the human eye. Translated into focal length mm, this is often considered anything 35mm (full-frame equivalent) or less. 35mm giving roughly 65 degrees of diagonal field of view.

Like other lenses, wide-angle lenses come in zoom and prime formats. Focal lengths ranging from 35-24mm are considered to be standard wide angles. 24-16mm is classed as wide-angle, while anything under 16mm is classed as super-wide-angle.

The widest lenses on the market are 10mm (rectilinear) and 8mm (fisheye). It is important to note that the lower the focal length goes, the greater the fisheye distortion becomes until you are left with a perfect circle. Which looks like the effect you see when peering through the peephole in a door.

Wide-angle lenses are perfect for use in scenes where you want to capture as much detail as possible. Landscapes, cityscapes, night photography, and architecture are the most popular categories. However, they can be just as effective in fields like documentary and street photography. Furthermore, wide-angle lenses can offer photographers a means of getting creative with their photography. In this way, the wide-angle lens can be incredibly versatile. However, it requires a different way of thinking that is not always easy to adjust to.

6. Conclusion

Hopefully, this brief article on introducing lens types and their uses has been helpful to you. It is by no means an extensible source of information on lenses. But should give you a basic grasp on the options available to you and why you would choose to use them.

What do you think of the Introducing Lens Types And Their Uses list? Have we missed any information? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Most Important Lens Types You Need To Know, The Most Important Lens Types You Need To Know, The Most Important Lens Types You Need To Know.

David Davis
David Davis
Hi, My name is Dave, and I am passionate about photography. I am currently travelling to document the world's most interesting people and places. I have started this blog to share these incredible sights and experiences with you, including all the knowledge I gain as a photographer/videographer along the way. If you share a passion for street, documentary, and travel photography, join the mailing list and stay up to date with the latest posts and resources direct from the field.

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