One of the essential components of a photography camera is the lens.
A lens is a tool made up of concave or convex glass plates, and its role in a camera is to send light to a certain static focal point.
Although many photographers limit themselves to one or just a few of them, there’s a wide range of photography lenses. Each of the types is designed to give a photographer a certain benefit.
Your choice of the type of lenses in photography majorly depends on the location of the object you want to shoot. Without much ado, let’s have a look at these type and their use:
Types of lenses based on zooming capability
Under this classification, lenses fan into two basic categories: prime and zoom.
1 Prime lenses
Prime lenses are less flexible as compared to zoom lenses because you can’t zoom them in or out. They have fixed focal length while their construction features fewer components than zoom lenses. Therefore, they are lighter and smaller, thus more comfortable to carry around.
Besides, the optical design of a prime lens is better than that of a zoom lens. Their compatibility with large apertures like f/1.8 and f/1.4 makes them produce very high-quality images, especially when shooting in low light or where the blurred background is required.
So, even if your photography requires you to be regularly on the go, this lens type might make your work easier. Besides, these lenses are faster than the zoom counterparts.
With a prime lens, you can make an excellent shoot in low light, for instance, at night, without necessarily using a tripod. The high portability and image sharpness make these lenses excellent for general photographers.
However, since a prime lens has a fixed focal length, a photographer might have to carry several of them with different focal lengths for interchanging when shooting at different focal lengths.
2 Zoom lenses
This is a prevalent type of lenses in photography. A zoom lens also referred to as a parfocal lens, comprises several lenses to allow adjustments to various focal lengths with just a single autofocus function.
The lens maintains its focus even when the focal length changes. However, not all zoom lenses can maintain accurate focus amid focal length changes.
The construction of a zoom lens has more glass than prime lenses for more flexibility. With it fitted in your camera, you don’t have to run around or twist your ankles or change a lens to make a perfect shot of an object from various distances. This makes these lenses ideal for photojournalism or event photography.
Nevertheless, these lenses are slower and have a narrower maximum aperture and so, don’t produce images that are as sharp as those of prime lenses. The additional glass components make them heavier and bigger as compared to prime lenses. The heavyweight glass construction makes these lenses slower than prime lenses.
Types of lenses according to focal length
The focal length is the distance between the lens point of convergence and the sensor of the lens when a camera is at infinity focus. The focal length of a lens influences its viewing angle.
A lower focal length makes a lens to have a wide scene coverage. The length also influences the magnification ability of a camera. The larger the length, the larger the magnification ability.
Based on focal length, camera lenses come as ultra-wide, wide-angle, normal, medium telephoto, or super-telephoto
3 Ultra-wide lenses
The focal length of an ultra-wide lens is shorter as compared to the short film or sensor side. Its focal length is usually less than 16 millimeters on a sensor frame with a full-frame. As such, this type of lens can offer a view angle that is as wide as 180 degrees.
The ability of an ultra-wide lens to produce very wide images makes it ideal for capturing large buildings within just once shot. As such, ultra-wide lenses are very prominent in architecture photography.
However, these lenses are rarely used in general photography. Because of their extreme specialization, especially for image distortion, they don’t produce near-real images that general photography requires.
There are two varieties of Ultra-wide lenses, namely: Fisheye and rectilinear.
4 Fisheye Lenses
These lenses owe their name to the fact that they have protruding glass, which looks like the eye of a real fish. They are very specialized lenses, most prominent in abstract photography.
Fisheye lenses allow perfect capturing of panoramic views, with the viewing angle ranging from 100 to 180 degrees. Fisheye lenses utilize specific mapping for creating visual line distortion to produce images with a distinctive convex non-rectilinear look.
Fisheye lenses are ideal for re-projecting computer-generated graphic images and scientific photography like aurora and meteors recording.
5 Rectilinear lenses
Unlike fisheye lenses that produce images with distorted and non-rectilinear images, rectilinear lenses produce images of objects with straight lines. In short, these lenses have minimal or no image distortion.
Nevertheless, at extremely wider angles, the lenses might make the images of the objects to look a bit more stretched or enlarged, particularly towards the frame’s edge. Rectilinear lenses are perfect for the creation of forced perspective effects. As such, most of the video and still cameras for general photography use these lenses.
6 Wide Angle Lenses
A wide-angle lens has a focal length ranging from 16 millimeters o 35 millimeters on a full-frame sensor. That’s about 10 millimeters to 24mm millimeters when the sensor frame is cropped.
The focal length enables a lens to provide a wider viewing angle. As a result, it can help a photographer to capture a large scene in one frame. Because of this functionality, these types of lenses are great for landscape photography, architectural scene shooting, and indoor photography.
Besides, these lenses enable a camera to cover a larger field depth. Consequently, it allows a photographer’s shoot to produce a sharp image, both in the foreground and in the background. That’s something very important in landscape photography.
7 Normal Lenses
A normal lens, also known as a standard lens, has a focal length ranging from 36 millimeters to 70 millimeters when the sensor is in full screen. This lens offers a viewing angle like that of a human eye.
Just like your eyes, a standard lens is fixed; you can’t zoom it in or out. Therefore, if you want to frame while using the lens, you’ll have to change your position as you do so.
Standard lenses are most suitable for street photography as well as portrait and documentary shooting.
8 Medium Telephoto Lenses
A medium telephoto lens has a focal lens ranging from 70 millimeters to 200 millimeters on a full-frame sensor. The focal length is ideal for portrait shooting because of the narrow depth of field. It makes the object focused on to stand out amazingly from a blurry background, something that’s very crucial in portrait shooting.
9 Telephoto Lenses
A telephoto lens has a focal length ranging from 200 millimeters to 300 millimeters on a full-frame sensor. The length brings a photographer closer to the target object. This functionality makes telephoto lenses an excellent choice for sports and wildlife photographing, where photographers should not be too close to their shoots’ targets.
However, the extremely large focal length provides an extremely shallow depth of field, although the image of the target object will be clear, the background will be completely blurred.
On the downside, telephoto lenses are quite heavy. You need a tripod or monopod to keep your camera well fixed in place to avoid shaking and produce quality images when using a telephoto lens.
10 Super Telephoto Lenses
A super-telephoto lens has a focal length exceeding 300 millimeters on a full-frame sensor. With it, you can shoot even farther as compared to when using a telephoto lens. It enables more distant sports or wildlife photo shooting.
Lens types depending on maximum aperture
Lenses are also classified according to the maximum aperture that each allows. Some photographers consider this feature in a lens, some willing to spend more money on models that support a large aperture opening to a maximum of f/1.4.
Considering maximum aperture, lenses are grouped into major categories: fast and slow.
Fast lenses allow a very high amount of light into a camera, thanks to their ability to allow as large a large aperture opening as f/2.8 and above. Besides allowing such a large aperture opening for high light penetration, the lenses also support fast light recording by the sensor. Besides, these lenses help faster shutter speed than those with a smaller maximum aperture.
If you want to do a photoshoot in low light and you don’t have a tripod, the fast lens could be a great choice as their fast speeds result in high-quality pictures in dim light. This is because of the shallow depth of field they produce. The functionality makes these lenses an excellent choice for portrait and sports photography, as well as photojournalism.
As their name suggests, slow lenses support slower shutter speed that their fast counterparts. They support a small maximum aperture opening of up to f/4. As such, they don’t let in much light as the fast lens does and so, need slower shutter speeds for exposure maintenance.
Slow lenses don’t produce as high-quality shoots with excellent bokeh effect as a fast lens when capturing low-light scenes. This is because of their slow shutter speed, and low light penetration support make the camera produce images with large depth of field
However, if you generally want to have images with a larger depth of field and don’t mind shooting with slow shutter speeds (and many landscape photographers don’t), a slow lens will do the job perfectly. (If you want to shoot night-time landscapes, though, you’ll appreciate a lens that supports larger apertures.)
Lens classification depending on stabilization
Lenses are also grouped based on the availability or absence of a stabilization feature in their construction. Lens stabilization technology in a lens minimizes the chances of camera shake as a result of the movement of the internal glass components. Under this classification, lenses are either stabilized or unstabilized.
Nonstablised lenses don’t feature stabilization technology in their construction. As such, a camera using these lenses is more likely to experience shakes that might affect the overall quality of the images they produce.
On the upside, these lenses are cheaper to produce, thus less expensive than the stabilized ones. Besides, their compact sizes, simple designs, and lightweight nature make them easier to carry around.
Stabilized lenses integrate stabilization technology in their construction. The technology helps them to reduce camera shakes, allowing for more accurate autofocus as well as metering. As such, their performance in dim-light scenes and at higher focal length range is far much better than that of the unstabilized ones. So, these lenses suit sports photography, wildlife photography as well as portrait photoshoots.
11 Macro lenses
When you want to photograph something (a flower, water droplet, a jewel, insect, human skin pores…), a macro lens in your camera will get the job done excellently. With focal lengths ranging from 50 millimeters to 200 millimeters, Macro lenses are great for showing extremely up-close details. A macro lens can magnify an object’s size up to five times of its actual size.
On the downside, macro lenses have limited use. If you want to photograph a portrait or are in general photography, a macro camera lens will not be the best.
12 Tilt-shift lenses
Tilt-shift lenses correct the perspective of your camera when you are photographing upward or downward — the frontal elements of the lens shift to prevent the tilting of the camera. As a result, the camera can produce high-quality images that appear straight.
Due to their perspective correction ability, tilt-shift cameras are mostly suitable for architectural photography. They make the camera to produce straight images of buildings, even when the photo shot is street-level.
Those are the major classifications and types of lenses used in photography. In case you are shopping for your camera’s remember that the ideal kind of lenses in photography depends on the intended use. As such, consider your needs and preferences while choosing.