The Essential Guide to choosing the lens that's right for you

Picture of The Essential Guide to choosing the lens that's right for you
Having trouble choosing what kind of lens to buy for that new slr?
Confused by the numbers and focal lengths?
Well no more! You've come to the right place.

This instructable is necessary especially for beginners, but also has tips for even experienced photographers in search of a new lens.

If you liked this instructable, or if it helped you make your decision, then please vote for me in the photojojo contest! thank you

ITS MY BIRTHDAY!!!! 4/9/92!!!
is there some sort of instructables birthday package? ahah just kidding
happy instructabling!
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Step 1: Overview:

In this instructable, you'll learn

  • about lenses
  • what focal lengths mean
  • about the different kinds of lenses and their relation to focal length
  • how to narrow down your choices and buy the lens of your dreams!

Step 2: Lenses

Picture of Lenses
The photographic lens, as defined by wikipedia, is "an optical lens or assembly of lenses used in conjunction with a camera body and mechanism to make images of objects either on photographic film or on other media capable of storing an image chemically or electronically."

Basically, it's either one lense or a series of lenses that'll focus the desired image onto a sensor (for digital cameras) or onto film.

When it comes to P&S and Advanced P&S cameras, the lenses are not removable. So if you buy one of these, you don't even have to worry about making the tough decision!

On the other hand, DSLR cameras DO have removable lenses and at times cost much more than the body itself. There are different kinds of lenses for D-SLR's, the main types being:

  • Standard
  • Wide Angle
  • Telephoto
  • Macro
  • Fisheye
  • Teleconverter

Each will be explained later in the following steps.
Each one is different from the other and will fit your lifestyle and artistic style better than others.

davidm2001 year ago
as an amature photographer for my school, I personally prefer a set of the stock canon EFS 18-55 standard , the 60mm USM fixed macro and the 70-200 USM II Telephoto lens with the canon 600D (T3i) base.... think this will be enough for any hobbyists out there as well as beginner photographers... although i really want the new 18-55 Stock that has the focus upgraded to a USM..... USM's are so quiet but very quick in focusing.... it also gives you the ability to use the two -three step focusing for sports and other "motion" activities
jj35025 years ago
helped heaps iv am going to by a Nikon D90 and i needed to workout what lenses to get.

10/10 A++++ on your instructable
flashcactus5 years ago
you didn't mention lenses with changeable focal length. other than that, this instructable is very nice! 4.5/5!
doxx6 years ago
I think your wording is misleading "Focal Length is basically a measure of how strongly light is focused onto a given point" -- focal length does not change the lighting on your subject - but yes, longer lenses tend to be slower...
When you don't have money for a variety of lenses, it is instinctive to buy a lens with a wide range. Once you've used the lens for a while, you should go back and poll the meta data from your images to see what focal length you use the most and invest in a lens that is excellent at that. Lenses, like people, are best at doing one thing when they don't try to do a bunch of others. When you spread your effort too thin, you suck at everything.
Fisheye lens are awesome.
gmoon6 years ago
Nice job. One small point, really more an academic one:

It's common usage: telephoto = long focal length is technically incorrect.

Telephoto actually means that the theoretical nodal point of the lens falls somewhere physically outside of the optics (either in front of or behind the glass.) With multiple compound optical elements, it's pretty commonplace. Almost all wide angle lenses are also "telephotos."

The nodal point is that theoretical point where the light / image begins being inverted by the lens.

(anyway, I'm gonna plus ya and vote for it, too.)
alvincredible (author)  gmoon6 years ago
hahah thanks, i did not know that! ahah I'll update my instructable soon, but right now i gotta go ;-). but thanks for the input and the vote :-)
Sure. It might be more correct to categorize the wide angle as "retro focus," although my photo teachers in college used "retro" and "telephoto" interchangeably, as both have nodal points outside of the optics.

But you get the idea--a long focal length lens isn't necessarily a "telephoto." Like I said originally, this is more academic than practical--people will continue to call the long lenses "telephotos," no matter what...

See this source, the second entry.