I’m not going to contradict my last post. Really.

Today’s post is all about technique. What is the best lens to use?

This depends on what you’re shooting. The basics… Go wide if you’re shooting a landscape of architecture (24-28mm), ultrawide for effects (14-17mm) standard (50-85mm) for shooting portraits, macro (35-105mm) for close-ups and telephoto (70mm+) for bringing the subject closer to you when your legs are not appropriate or going to help. (Please note that the numbers in brackets are not the specifications of a particular lens, but the range of focal length)

My objective for todays post is to talk about the importance of good lens selection. If you’ve ever asked my advise about equipment then you’ll have heard my standard answer, which is, if you’re budget sensitive, spend more on the lenses and less on the camera body. Camera manufacturers usually have 2 or 3 versions of the same focal length lens. Apart from cost, there are usually 2 main differences between these lenses. The maximum aperture available and the size/quality of the glass. These 2 factors are related. Put simply, the larger the aperture the larger the amount of glass required and therefore the more light that can get into the camera and the lower light that that lens will allow you to shoot in. The additional benefit of shooting a larger aperture, especially with portraiture, is that you can achieve a shallower depth-of-field i.e. a soft, out of focus background. Going a level simpler still… the smaller the f number the larger the diameter of the aperture. For example, Canon manufacture 3 different 50mm lenses, and these are available at 3 very different prices:

  • 50mm f1.8, AU$129
  • 50mm F1.4, AU$599
  • 50mm F1.2, AU$2,099

The incremental difference between each f-stop is relatively very small, but the difference in lens quality and size, and therefore image result is quite radical. So is the price, but just as I stated earlier, spend more on the lens, less on the body, and the results will be better. Obviously you will still need to work on composition, so this isn’t a short cut to taking great shots. You’ve still got to get out and shoot.