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How to Understand Different Camera Lenses

Learn how to understand different camera lenses from professional photographer Luke Ballard in this Howcast video.


One of the biggest questions I often get from the students is what one lens can I buy that does everything. You've got to keep in mind that no lens is designed to be efficient and wonderful at absolutely every stall of photography. Different lenses have different uses. The way I like to explain it is lenses are like doctors. So a lens that can do everything the you know eighteen to two hundred and fifty or eighteen to three hundred lens that is good for travelling, good for portraits isn't going to be great at any one of those things. It's the GP. It's the doctor you go for a check-up or a flu shot.

But let's say that doctor finds something wrong and they want to send you to a specialist. That's where the different lenses come in. For example a one 180 mm micro lens. This lens does one thing. It does microphotography and it does it without zooming in. It's the specialist micro lens. As a result even though that 18-300 consume a distance much, the quality of this lens is going to be so much better. The lesser lens can do the more it does any one thing well. As a result i generally carry 4 lenses in my kit. I have my 16-35 landscape lens. This lens is designed for landscapes.

With a landscape lens you want it to be as wide as possible 10-22, 16-35. With a portrait lens it generally wants something around that 50 mm range. 50 mm lenses are amongst the best lenses for portrait photography. And the reason for that is the human eye is actually a 50 mm lens. If you take a photo of 50 mm and compare it with what exactly is in front of you. You will notice the perspective is exactly the same. Other lenses that I use for portrait are something like 70-200 mm lens which a which allows me to zoom in from further away and get nice scanned photographs. A 100-400 lens is good for wildlife. But at the end of the day the lens are used to be right for what I am photographing in order to get an absolutely fantastic shot for that I am happy to hang on my wall or sell to my customers.

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