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The Detail Blog

Understanding your camera lenses: The basics edition

What is a Camera Lens?

Lenses are undoubtedly the most critical pieces of the gear a photographer can invest in, even more so than the camera itself. But what is it about lenses that makes them so useful? What makes some camera lenses superior to others? The answer entails more than just visual quality and sharpness. 

Lenses are important since they determine which photos you can capture in the first place. A lens is what focuses light from what you see through the viewfinder into a tiny, (typically) 35mm spot on the back of your film, DSLR, or mirrorless camera. In fact, a good lens can let you take beautiful images even with a cheap camera, whereas a bad lens can make even the best camera mediocre and the image quality suffer as a result.

Camera Lens Characteristics


The megapixels captured by a camera's sensor impacts how much detail is shown in your photographs and videos. But cramming too many megapixels into a sensor, especially the small chips, can result in noisy images. The idea is that it doesn't matter how many megapixels your camera has. In a phone or point-and-shoot camera, anything at or above 8MP is fine.


In simple terms, aperture refers to the size of the opening of a lens. The photographer can manually set the aperture on advanced cameras, such as digital SLRs, mirrorless compact system cameras, bridge cameras, and even many point-and-shoot devices, to regulate the quantity of light that reaches the picture sensor. Look for lenses with a higher maximum aperture — such as f/2.8 or f/1.8 — which are inversely related with a lower number, letting more light reach the sensor and allowing you to capture brighter, sharper photographs in low-light situations. For instance, f/2.8 allows twice more light as compared with f4 and 16 times more than f11.

Focal length

The focal length of a lens determines how near a subject can appear. From wide-angle photos to telephoto close-ups, zoom lenses offer a variety of focal lengths. The focal length of a lens is stated in mm or by a magnification factor, such as 5x, 10x, or 20x, as with the roughly 18mm-55mm zoom lens included with many DSLR cameras. The focal length of most cameras is expressed as its equivalent on a full-frame camera with the biggest sensor type. DSLR and mirrorless lenses are defined by their actual focal length. On a full-frame camera, 50mm is almost the same as how you see normally. Longer focal lengths are more telephoto, whereas shorter ones are wider. The focal length of some lenses, known as "primes," is fixed, such as 35mm or 50mm.

Shutter speed

The shutter speed refers to how long the shutter remains open to expose the sensor to light. The faster the shutter speed, the more clearly a moving object can be captured. It is usually specified in tenths or hundredths of a second.

Some Basic Types of Camera Lenses

When you first start out in photography and realise how many different types of camera lenses there are, it may be pretty intimidating. So, here’s a short guide to walk you through some basic types of camera lens:

Zoom lens

Zoom lenses are one of the most rampant kinds of lenses in a photographer's arsenal, offering a wide range of options to capture everything from people on the street to wildlife in forests. They are extremely versatile, with the 70-200 mm lens as the most flexible zoom lenses available. Both in terms of quality and adaptability, the zoom lens is the all-purpose lens that everyone requires and best option for budding photographers.

Prime lens

Prime lens is a timeless design that has existed for as long as cameras have existed. You can't zoom in or out with prime lenses since they have a set focal range. However, they provide the advantage of specialising in a single focal length. In other words, unlike a zoom lens, which may be used in a variety of situations, they are highly calibrated to deliver on one specific sort of photography. As a result, prime lenses create considerably higher-quality photographs than zoom lenses in general, but you must know when and how to utilise them.

Telephoto lens

If a regular zoom lens isn't strong enough for your needs, a telephoto lens is the next step up. These large lenses are available in focal lengths ranging from 100mm to 600mm, and sometimes even longer. Telephoto lenses are hefty and may require the use of a tripod to support them, making them far less useful than normal zoom lenses. This is suggested for professional photographers, but may burn a hole in the pocket for beginners.

Wide-angle lenses

If you're a landscape photographer trying to improve your skills, wide-angle lenses are a must-have. Wide angle lenses feature a larger focal field than zoom lenses, allowing you to capture more of the scene in front of you. As a result, wide angles are ideal for photography landscapes since they allow you to catch more of the scenery and generate better images. They're also ideal for photographing architecture because you can catch the entire structure in one shot. The focal length of wide-angle lenses is usually between 16 and 35mm.

Fish-eye lenses

A fisheye lens will be required if you need to capture an even wider field of view. These produce a unique 'fisheye' look, comparable to that of a GoPro image. These are a type of ultra-wide-angle lens that has a huge field of view and are highly specialised lenses that most photographers do not require. If you're photography indoors or utilising your camera for design work, your canon fisheye lenses or any other can come in handy. The focal length of an ultra-wide-angle lens can be as little as 8mm.

Common Lens Sizes and Specs

Focal Length

Lens Type


4mm - 14 mm

Fisheye lens

Abstract and creative

14mm - 35mm

Wide angle

Landscape and architecture

35mm - 85mm


Street, travel, portrait

85mm - 135mm

Short telephoto

Street photography and portraits


Medium telephoto

Sports, wildlife and action


Super telephoto

Things such as sports from a distance, nature and astronomy

35mm - 200mm


Close-up shots


What to consider when buying a Camera Lens?

  • Lens: An important consideration when purchasing a camera lens is the lens's purpose. If you're taking images of a range of subjects, a solid all-purpose lens like a 24-70mm zoom might be the best option. Buying a macro lens, on the other hand, makes sense if you've been behind the camera long enough to realise that macro photography is your passion.
  • Aperture: The aperture range is a crucial consideration when purchasing a lens since the wider the aperture, the better the lens will perform in low-light circumstances. The bigger the aperture, the more light it lets in; the narrower it is, the less light it lets in. In low-light situations, a lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4, for example, will produce better photographs than a lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6. In fact, aperture also influences the depth of the field of an image or the area of sharpness in the photo.
  • Weight and size: Whether you buy canon lenses or nikon lenses, you should consider the weight and size of the lenses. But there is another thing you should also think about when it comes to size, and that is filters. You can save a lot of money on filters by buying smaller lenses.
  • Build quality, weather proofing and autofocus: There are multiple options in the market so make sure you choose the one with a good build and quality. Inexpensive lenses may seem like a bargain at the time, but they won’t be great quality and may also have inferior (i.e. slower and noisier) autofocus motors as compared to the more expensive ones. Expensive lenses on the other hand usually use good quality autofocus lenses (i.e. faster and quicker) and may also be weatherproofed (important if you take photos in bad weather or dusty conditions).

So, what are you waiting for? If you are looking to buy camera lens, Zumi offers a wide range of options whether you are looking for Canon fisheye lens or a Canon telephoto lens. Visit the website and get yours now!