Which Camera Lenses To Use and Why: by Casi Yost
Hi! Its Casi here, and I am so excited to be on Lambda Lion to chat with you about one of my favorite subjects – camera lenses. I am a full time wedding photographer and lenses are the critical component in my gear. They capture real moments artfully and that is why I want to share this blog with you on what I have learned!
If there is one thing that I think everyone should know, whether they are a novice photographer or seasoned pro, is that your lens is the most important tool of creating an amazing photograph. Unfortunately there isn’t one lens that is perfect for every kind of shooting scenario, so I wanted to cover the basics for you.
Deciding which kind of lens to invest money into is daunting. There are so many brands, types of lenses, and prices. When you’re thinking about investing money into your gear, you should definitely think about what you will be photographing most. Are you photographing people, landscapes, sports, animals, architecture? There are lenses that will serve you better depending on your situation.
The reason I feel so strongly about writing about this is because the camera body isn’t the sole determining factor on what makes the beautiful image. Many times people focus too much on the camera body and not enough on the lens. Why do I say this? Simply this, light comes through the lens. It’s affected by the glass, the parts inside and is recorded by the camera body as an image.
You might ask, what does that even mean?
The short version: the better your lens, the better the picture.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about lenses to better prepare you for the best choice.
There are three main types of lenses:
- Fixed Aperture or “Prime” lenses
- Zoom lenses
Fixed Aperture or Prime lenses are lenses that have their f-stop fixed at one number. Typically they are open at a really wide aperture like 1.2, 1.4, or 1.8, etc., which means they let in a lot of light and images taken with them have an extremely shallow depth of field.
Why and when would you want to use them?
- Low light situations like after sunset or sunrise, indoors, or other low lighting situations.
- Portraits or other instances you’re aiming to have the background behind your subject blurry.
Which prime lenses do I love?
- 24mm 1.4: This lens is very wide angle and is great for night sky photography or landscapes.
- 35mm 1.4: It is extremely close to what the human eye sees and has a wide angle of view. It’s great for landscapes and photojournalistic work.
- 50mm 1.4: This lens is very flattering for portrait work. I started on this prime lens and it is still one of my favorites.
85mm 1.4: This is the sharpest prime lens I own and is great for getting those beautiful photos of things far away. I love how insanely sharp my subjects are.
Zoom Lenses allow you to change your aperture (f-stop) and zoom in on your subject without having to move. These don’t necessarily allow you to shoot in all low light situations but are versatile enough to capture great photos regardless.
Which zoom lenses do I love?
- 70 – 200mm 2.8: This lens gives lovely background blur and is great for action shots, and shots of subjects extremely far away. It allows you to get close to your subject without actually physically moving.
Macro lenses are great for capturing things that you wish to show detail on. Some photographers use these lenses to capture the detail of a butterfly wing, or maybe the facets of a diamond ring.
Whichever way you use this lens, it will allow you to capture detail and get closer to subjects than you could with any other lens.
Which macro lenses do I love?
- 100mm 2.8: This lens allows me to get incredibly close to anything that I am shooting and while still offering the shallow depth of field that I like in my photos. This lens also allows me to shoot things that are really far away, similar to a telephoto/zoom lens.
Different Lenses For Different Photography Styles
Below I have separated lenses that I would recommend based on the most common usage. However, keep in mind these are only recommendations and can totally be used for other styles. There is no rule that says you can’t use a lens for all types of photography.
- For sports and wildlife, or anything that requires being far away while shooting, I recommend using the 70-200mm lens because it allows you to zoom and capture subjects in a lower light.
- For architecture, I would recommend any wide angle lens like a 35mm or even a tilt-shift lens (which is made more for buildings). This allows you to be close enough to shoot and get most of your setting in the viewfinder.
- For portraiture, I recommend all prime lenses. The main reason being that they don’t distort the features of the face, you can get beautiful shots in low light, and get close to your subject without losing the setting.
Determining which lens you want to buy can be a pretty daunting task, but I certainly hope this post helped you a little more on your path. I know that by investing in lenses, my own photography and the quality of my photos have jumped dramatically. It is worth the time and investment to get a good lens. They’re usually durable and last for years and years with the right care.