Camera Lens – Types, Terminologies, Top Brands, Features and More

Purchasing a camera lens is not an easy task, as you have to analyze many factors before making a final decision.

Also, the tags and terms that appear on each lens title can be confusing for many people.

In this article, I will be explaining what a camera lens is, basic lens terminologies, the meaning of the different lens tags, top lens manufacturers and brands, and the qualities you need to consider while purchasing a lens.

I am sure you won't need to refer to other contents on the internet, as this article covers all the important data around camera lenses. Also, you will have all your questions answered in the FAQ section of this article.

If you have a basic idea about the lens terminologies but want to clarify your doubts regarding a particular lens topic, you can jump to that section directly by using the jump links added in the table of contents.

With that said, let us begin.

WHAT IS A CAMERA LENS?

A camera cannot excel by itself. It requires a lens to extend it's capabilities. In simple terms, a camera lens is an optical lens used along with a camera body to bring light to a fixed focal point. 

A lens is a pathway for light to enter the camera body and fall on the camera's sensor. There are two types of camera: a Film camera and a digital camera.

In the case of a film camera, the lens sends the light to the camera's film strip. While in a digital camera, the lens directs the light to a digital sensor. So, what you see in real life is made visible through the viewfinder only using a lens.

NOTE: A camera lens is not made of a single glass element. Instead, several glasses combine to form a lens structure.

OPTICAL CENTRE OF THE LENS

To understand what the optical center of the lens actually means, you need to understand the basic working of a lens. 

Say you turn on a camera, the lens' opens, and light rays will be falling from different directions onto the lens sensor. These light rays travel through the different glass elements and converge to a fixed point. This meeting point is called the optical center of the lens.


CAMERA LENS TERMINOLOGY

1

FOCAL LENGTH

The focal length described in mm is the distance between the optical center of the lens and the camera's sensor.

With a focal length number, we can understand how much of the scene will be captured in the frame (angle of view). It also informs us of the magnification (how large the subject will appear on the frame).

The lower the focal length, the wider the field of view will be. On the contrary, the longer the focal length, the narrower the field of view will be.

Depending on the camera's sensor format, the focal length of the lens will behave differently. For example, a full-frame camera uses a standard 35 mm film, so if you use a 24 mm lens with it, the field of view will remain the same, i.e., 24 mm.

However, if you place a 24 mm full-frame lens on an APS-C camera body, the lens effective focal length will change because of the crop factor.

Canon's APS-C cameras have a crop factor of 1.6, while Nikon has a crop factor of 1.5. So, if you place a 24 mm full-frame lens on a Canon's crop sensor camera, the effective focal will get multiplied by 1.6, so now the focal length available will be 38.4 mm.

2

APERTURE

A lens' aperture is nothing but the lens' opening through which the light enters the lens. It is measured in terms of f-number. This f-number/f-stop helps us to determine the speed and sharpness of the lens.

Wider the aperture (small f-number), the more light enters the lens; hence it is a fast lens. On the contrary, the Narrower the aperture (large f-number), the less light will enter the lens. Hence, it is a slow lens.

Every lens has a minimum and a maximum f-stop. But, while choosing a lens, you must note the maximum f-stop carefully because it will decide how bright your shots will appear on the camera frame.

Low-light photography demands a wide-aperture (fast lens), while everyday daylight photography can excel with narrow apertures (slow lens).

   APERTURE AND SHARPNESS

A lens with a small f-number will bring either the subject/background into focus while the rest is remaining completely blurred. In other words, a wide-aperture lens will not give you end-to-end sharpness.

Whereas, large f-number lens will bring the background and the subject (entire frame) into complete focus, giving you end-to-end sharpness.

3

IMAGE STABILIZATION

Image stabilization is a lens feature that is necessary for your footages to remain smooth. Say you're shooting a video handheld; in that case, there are more chances of vibration, camera shakes, and micro jiggles disturbing your performance.

So, if you turn on the image stabilization feature of this lens, it will nullify these effects of vibration and image blur, resulting in clear and smooth videos.

The reason behind insisting on the importance of IS in videos is because still, photography does not take much time. You click pictures in seconds. However, while shooting a video, the video must remain stabilized throughout the clip. That is why I recommend purchasing a lens that has image stabilization in it.


 - IMPORTANCE OF IMAGE STABILIZATION IN LOW-LIGHT SITUATIONS:

In low light, it is natural for the images to look a bit blurry and jittery. This is because you're shooting in a dimly lit environment. If the lens has an IS on it, it will allow you to shoot pictures and even videos with slower shutter speeds and less ISO. This will result in getting crisp and detailed shots even in low-lights.

Note: Cameras also come with in-body stabilization, but not all cameras have this feature.

Different lens brands call its image stabilization feature in different ways. Let me list a few,

  • Canon cameras and lenses use the IS tag to tell that it has in-built image stabilization.
  • Nikon camera and lenses use the VR tag- Vibration Reduction-if the camera/lens provides stabilization.
  • Panasonic and Fujifilm use an OIS tag to say the particular camera/lens has an in-built stabilization.
4

LENS FORMAT

To explain this, let me tell you a short history of cameras. Earlier, there were only film cameras that operated on a 35 mm film. Later on, many new digital cameras got released in the market, which started using smaller sensors like 28 mm, 24 mm, etc.

So, different lenses are designed to be compatible with different sensor cameras. Basically, there are 3 sensor sizes: 35 mm film (Full-frame), 25.1×16.7 mm (APS-C), and 18 mm × 13.5 mm (Micro-four thirds).

For instance, take the Nikon DX 35 mm f/1.8G into consideration; here, the DX means it is designed for a smaller sensor (24*16 mm)Nikon camera.

While the FX lens designation in a Nikon FX lens means it is designed for Nikon's full-frame sensor cameras (35mm film). These smaller sensor cameras have a crop factor. As said already, you can use a full-frame lens on an APS-C sensor camera. However, the effective focal length of the lens will change.

Summary: You can use a full-frame lens on an APS-C body by considering the crop factor. However, if you use an APS-C lens on a full-frame camera body, you have to turn on the crop mode on your camera. Because now the camera will take pictures that cover only a very small portion of the sensor.

5

LENS MOUNT

Lens mount is nothing but the mechanical interface to connect a lens to a camera. Each camera has a unique mount because not all lenses can be compatible with the camera you’re using.

There are three types of lens mounts: Bayonet mount, thread mount, and breach lock mount.


  • Bayonet style: You can see this type of mount in recent model lenses. They are simple to use; you have to take the lens, place it on the lens holder and twist 45-90 degrees to lock the lens in place.
  • Thread mounts: This type of mount will require threading the lens onto the camera body like incorporating a nut onto a bolt.
  • Breach lock mount: This type of mount is similar to the bayonet style. In this case, you will find a self-contained rotating ring on the lens. You have to place the lens on the camera body and tighten it using the ring provided.

  • OTHER CAMERA LENS FEATURES

    1

    AUTOFOCUS DESIGNATION

    The type of autofocus motor the lens has plays a vital role in deciding if the lens is well built or not. STM and ring-type USM motors are preferred mainly by experts because they provide a very fast, accurate, and less noisy AF. 

    Every lens brand uses a specific AF motor; sometimes, two or more brands may use the same AF motor for their lenses. If you want to know the meaning of the different AF lens tags, then check this table.

    2

    GLASS ELEMENT DESCRIPTOR

    We know that lenses consist of specialized glasses to improve the color accuracy of the lens. Mostly, you will find the names of these special glasses as small tags on the title itself. Like Canon uses Ultra-low dispersion glass, Tamron uses XR – Extra Refractive Index glass, Nikon and Sony uses ED Extra-low dispersion glasses, and so on. These specialized glass elements help to reduce chromatic aberrations, thereby improving color accuracy and contrast.

    3

    LENS LINE DESIGNATION

    Every lens brand has a special class of lenses called their pro-grade lenses. These top-line lenses are expensive but have better build quality, wider apertures, image stabilization, and top-image quality.

    4

    LENS VERSION

    Camera lenses launch newer versions of some lenses; in some lenses, you will find a Roman numeral designation like II, III, etc., to indicate that the lens is an improvised version of the previous lens line.

    5

    TELECONVERTER

    A teleconverter is nothing but a magnifying lens that is placed between the camera body and lens. This will be helpful in situations where you want an increased focal length of a lens to a telephoto reach.

    Mostly, teleconverters are used by wildlife photographers and nature photographers because they can take beautiful shots from a large distance.

    NOTE:  Wide-angle prime and zoom lenses are generally not compatible with teleconverters because they have smaller focal lengths. In the other case, standard/normal telephoto lenses are compatible with these teleconverters and allow them to behave like a telephoto/super-telephoto lens.

    NIKON LENS ABBREVIATION

    Nikon Lens

    LENS FEATURES LENS EXPLANATION
    FORMAT FX For full-frame Nikon cameras
    DX For APS-C Nikon camera bodies
    CX For Nikon 1 cameras
    AUTO FOCUS AF Auto Focus - The lens does not have any in-built AF motor but uses camera's focus mechanism for AF.
    AF-S Indicates that the Nikkor lens features Nikon's Silent Wave Motor for AF.
    AF-P Indicates that the lens uses a "Pulse" motor or " Stepping" motor for AF.
    AF-D Auto Focus with distance information
    AF-I Auto Focus with an integrated focus motor. (This type of AF motor is no longer used on modern lenses)
    AI-P Manual focus lens with a built-in CPU.
    NOTE: If the camera you're using doesn't have a built-in AF motor, you can use the AF/AF-S lens with it
    IMAGE STABILIZATION VR Vibration Reduction - to reduce camera shakes and motion blur
    GLASS ELEMENT DESCRIPTOR ED Extra-Low dispersion glass element
    FL Fluorite lens
    HRI High-Refractive Index glass
    AS/ASP Means the lens has at least one aspherical element.
    LENS LINE Nikon's top grade (pro-series) lenses are indicated using a golden ring on the lens.
    OTHER MARKINGS G Does not have any aperture ring. All modern Nikon lenses are "G lenses".
    IF Internal Focus - The lens front element does not move while focusing.
    DC Defocus Control - For controlling the level of bokeh.
    N The lens has a Nano Crystal coating.
    RF Rear Focusing - The lens rear element moves while focusing.
    E The lens uses an electronic aperture control.
    Micro Nikon's way of indicating a macro lens.
    Nikkor Stands for the lens brand of Nikon
    I, II, III, etc. General markings for updated lenses

    CANON LENS ABBREVIATION

    Canon lens

    LENS FEATURES LENS TAG EXPLANATION
    FORMAT EF Indicates that the lens is compatible with Canon full-frame EOS cameras, digital and film
    EF-S Indicates that the lens is compatible with Canon's APS-C cameras.
    EF-M Indicates that the lens is compatible with designed for the Canon EOS M mirrorless camera system.
    AUTOFOCUS USM The lens uses a ring-type UltraSonic-Motor for AF
    Micro USM The lens uses a smaller USM for AF.
    Note: If the lens has an USM tag in its name, it indicates that the lens uses either a rin-type or Micro USM AF motor.
    STM The lens uses a Stepper Motor technology for its AF.
    AFD The lens uses Arc-Form Drive motor for AF.
    MM Stands for Micro Motor which is the cheapest AF motor Canon uses for its low-grade lenses. (Does not support full-time manual focus override).
    NOTE: If there is no tag indicating which type of AF motor is employed, it means the lens either has an AFD or MM for AF).
    IMAGE STABILIZATION IS To reduce the effects of camera shakes and image blur.
    GLASS ELEMENT DESCRIPTOR UD Stands for Ultra Low Dispersion glass element.
    DO The lens uses Diffractive Optics to improve the bending of light.
    LENS LINE L Stands for " Luxury". It denotes that the lens belongs to Canon's Professional Grade Line-up.
    OTHER MARKINGS TS-E Manual Focus lens with tilt-shift adjustments.
    I, II, III, etc. Roman numerals indicating the lens generation.
    PZ The lens has a Power Zoom capability.
    IF The lens has an internal focusing mechanism.
    Macro Indicates the lens type is Macro.
    SSC The lens is coated with a Super Spectral coating.
     

    SONY LENS ABBREVIATION

    Sony Lens

    LENS FEATURES LENS TAG EXPLANATION
    FORMAT FE Indicates that the lens is designed for Sony's Full-frame E-mount cameras.
    E Indicates that the lens is designed for Sony's crop-sensor E-mount cameras.
    DT Indicates that the lens is designed for Sony's crop-sensor A-mount cameras.
    AUTOFOCUS SSM The lens uses a Super Sonic motor for AF
    IMAGE STABILIZATION OIS Optical Image Stabilization for reducing camera shakes and vibration in a lens.
    GLASS ELEMENT DESCRIPTOR ED Extra-low dispersion glass is included in the lens.
    LENS LINE G Stands for Sony's top-of-the-line (pro-grade) lenses.
    OTHER MARKINGS ZA Indicates the lens is developed by Zeiss, for Sony
    SAL Sony's Autofocus lens for its A-mount cameras.
    SEL Sony's Autofocus lens for its E-mount mirrorless cameras.
    PZ The lens has Power Zoom function.
     

    FUJIFILM LENS ABBREVIATION

    FujiFilm lens

    LENS FEATURES LENS TAG EXPLANATION
    FORMAT XF Indicates that the lens is designed for X-mount (APS-C sensor) Fujinon lenses.
    XC Also for X-mount Fujinon lenses but they are cheaper than XF lenses.
    GF Designed for Fujinon's Medium Format, G Mount cameras.
    AUTOFOCUS LM The lens has a Linear Motor for providing AF.
    IMAGE STABILIZATION OIS Optical Image Stabilization for reducing camera shakes and vibration.
    LENS LINE XF Indicates Fujinon's top-of-the-line X mount lens.
    XC Indicates that the lens belongs to the Budget-friendly line of FujiFilm.
    OTHER MARKINGS R Designation to indicate that the X-mount lens has an aperture ring.
    EBC The lens is coated with an Electron Beam Coating to minimize flare and ghosting.
    ALG All-Group Focusing (All lens' optical elements move while focusing). DM- The lens has an automatic aperture control (Dial mode)
    DM The lens has an automatic aperture control (Dial mode).
    LENS TYPE F Fisheye lens
    T Telephoto lens
    M Macro lens
    W Wide-angle lens.
    SW Super-wide angle lens.
     

    SIGMA LENS ABBREVIATION

    Sigma Lens

    LENS FEATURES LENS TAG EXPLANATION
    FORMAT DG Indicates that the lens is designed for Full-frame cameras.
    DC Indicates that the lens is designed for Crop-sensor cameras.
    DN Indicates that the lens is designed for compact system cameras
    AUTOFOCUS HSM The lens uses an Hyper Sonic motor for AF.
    IMAGE STABILIZATION OS The lens is optically stabilized.
    GLASS ELEMENT DESCRIPTOR FLD F Low Dispersion element. It is Sigma's highest quality glass because it has extremely high light transmission.
    ELD Extraordinary Low Dispersion Glass. It is Sigma's second tier glass that has higher performance than SLD.
    SLD Special Low Dispersion Glass. It has a lower performance than FLD and ELD glasses but still help reduce chromatic aberrations in the lens.
    ASP Means aspherical glasses are used in the lens design.
    LENS LINE A Stands for "Art". It indicates that the lens belongs to the Pro-grade line of Sigma lenses. (For ultimate optical performance).
    S Stands for "Sports". It indicates that the lens is a top-series Sigma lens specifically for sports. (Also excels in wildlife photography).
    C Stands for "Contemporary". It indicates that it is a Proconsumer lens. (Consists of variable aperture lenses for general photography)
    OTHER MARKINGS Macro To indicate that it is a macro lens.
    RF The lens has a rear focusing design.
    IF The lens allows internal focusing.
     

    BASIC TYPES OF CAMERA LENSES

    PRIME VS ZOOM LENS

    Based on the focal lengths, there are two types of lenses: Prime and Zoom lenses.

    prime vs zoom lens

    Prime lenses have a fixed focal length and are generally much faster than zoom lenses because they have very wide apertures.

    In contrast, in a zoom lens, you will have a minimum and a maximum focal length. You can use any of the focal lengths in the zoom limit and have a comfortable shooting. But the downside is that these lenses are generally slow and expensive. Mostly, you will find a narrow aperture range of f/3.5-5.6 in the case of a zoom lens. They are also quite bulky and heavy than the prime lenses.

    In terms of image quality, prime lenses are generally sharper than zoom lenses because they have fewer glass elements inside, so minimal diffraction occurs. However, in the case of a zoom lens, more glasses inside have to move to shift the focal length, causing some diffraction.

    WHICH IS BETTER?

    There is nothing like which is the best. It all depends on the purpose of your shoot. In instances where you know what types of shots you will be taking, a prime lens with that particular focal length is preferred. Say you want to take a landscape shot, but you want only a prime lens, in that a 24mm prime lens will aid you.

    Likewise, for photography/videography, which requires changing the frame very often, a zoom lens is the best. In other words, if you want to take pictures of the same/different objects with different focal lengths, then a zoom lens is beneficial.

    You can also go for an all-rounder zoom lens and use it for all types of photo/video work on days where you're traveling.


    camera lens types based on purpose

    1. TELEPHOTO LENS

    A telephoto lens is any lens that has a focal length of more than 60 mm. They are helpful in taking pictures/videos of very distant objects without getting close to them. Say you want to take a picture of a monkey or shoot a soccer game video from the sitting area; a telephoto lens will help you do that.

    Generally, there are three types of telephoto lenses based on the focal length. They are short telephoto, medium telephoto, and super-telephoto. Let us see their focal ranges along with their area of expertise.

    • SHORT-TELEPHOTO LENS

    Lenses that show a focal length between 85 mm and 135 mm on a full-frame camera are called short telephoto lenses. In APS-C cameras, the lens needs to offer an equivalent focal length of 50 mm and 100 mm to be called a short telephoto lens.

    If you don't want to miss the shallow depth-of-field effects, a short telephoto of less than 100 mm is the best.

    IDEAL FOR: Headshot portraits, wedding photography, and capturing pictures of large-sized animals.

    • MEDIUM-TELEPHOTO LENS

    A lens with a focal length greater than 135mm is called a medium telephoto lens.

    IDEAL FOR: Sports, wildlife, and action photography/videography.

    • SUPER-TELEPHOTO LENS

    Super-telephoto lenses are huge and bulky because they have a very long focal length range. Generally, a lens with a focal length of 300mm is considered to be a super-telephoto lens.

    For mobile bird photography: a super-telephoto with a minimum focal length of 400mm is required. Other purposes include sports photography, wildlife photography, moon and night sky photography.

    NOTE: Image stabilization is a must for lenses with a focal length above 200mm because they are heavy and have narrow apertures. I would recommend using a tripod because shooting handheld with heavy lenses like these will make you tiresome.

    2. FISHEYE LENS

    Any lens showing a focal length between 4mm and 14mm on a full-frame camera is called a fisheye lens. So, they give a vast angle of view (180 degrees) and provide a dramatic effect to the image.

    It is called a fisheye because the subject on the frame will look like how you would think a fish would perceive them.

    There are two types of fisheye lenses: Full-frame and circular fisheye lenses.

    A circular fisheye lens will give a circular shot with a black border surrounding it. At the same time, a full-frame fisheye lens will provide distorted images that cover the entire frame.

    IDEAL FOR: Abstract and creative photography (like giving the audience an impression of looking through a peephole)

    3. WIDE-ANGLE LENS

    A lens with a focal length between 24 and 40mm on a full-frame and 15mm-24mm on an APS-C camera is called a wide-angle lens. They have a shallow depth-of-field because they generally have wide apertures.

    IDEAL FOR: Landscape and environment photography

    • ULTRA-WIDE ANGLE LENS

    Lenses with a focal length of less than 24mm in terms of a full-frame format are called ultra-wide-angle lenses. They are helpful for situations where you need the entire scene in the frame. Great for taking videos of a crowd!

    NOTE: Fisheye lenses also come under this category because they also have a wider field of view. However, fisheye lenses give a visually distorted image while the image looks straight and straightforward in a regular wide-angle lens.

    4. MACRO LENS

    Macro lenses are a particular type of lenses generally in the range of 90mm to 105mm in a full-frame format. They help capture micro subjects like bugs, insects and taking intricate details of a subject.

    It is called a macro lens because it has a 1:1 magnification ratio, meaning the object's size in real life is the same as reproduced on the camera's sensor plane. Using a macro lens, you can get really close to the subject and take beautiful close-up photographs without disturbing the object.

    NOTE: For product photography, a macro lens of 40mm is suitable.

    5. PORTRAIT LENS

    A portrait lens is any lens that has the needed focal length and aperture to capture portrait photographs and videos. Generally, a short to the medium telephoto lens is great for taking portraits because they provide a good background separation.

    85 mm is considered the best focal length for portraits because it will make the facial features appear in the right proportion. It also gives a shallow-depth-of-fields and is best for getting flattened portraits.

    6. TILT-SHIFT LENS

    To understand what this lens is, let me break it into a tilt + shift lens.

    Tilt: By tilting a lens, you can change the plane of focus to either increase/decrease the depth-of-fields.

    Shift: What happens is that the camera's lens actually moves up and down and also sideways and allows you to lock it at a position. By doing so, you can control the perspective.

    But what is the necessity of a tilt-shift lens? For architectural photography, parallax error is not appreciable. For example, the straight lines of a building should look straight in the photograph as well.

    Also, these types of lenses are used to shoot panoramas and are thus loved by landscape photographers.

    7. STANDARD LENS

    Everyday photography requires a lens that will give a natural feel. Meaning the field of view should be similar to the human eye. A standard lens does; it provides a 45-degree angle of view, making the photograph/video look very natural.

    Standard lenses have a focal length in-between a wide-angle and a telephoto lens. Generally between 40mm and 65mm.

    A 50mm lens, also called a nifty-fifty lens, is considered the best standard focal length for a full-frame camera. Filmmakers mostly use the lens because it gives an excellent blurry background giving an instant filmy feel to the video/photo you're shooting.

    8. INFRARED LENS

    Who doesn't like black-and-white films like Charlie Chaplin? The black-and-white picture style instantly takes us to a retro mode, right? Years before, filmmakers used filters to block the blue wavelength and allow the infrared light to pass through.

    These days we have infrared lenses that can focus a subject beyond 700 mm. So, what an infrared lens does is that it collects and focuses the light that appears in the infrared region (near-infrared, short-wave, mid-wave, and long-wave infrared spectra)

    These lenses are given anti-reflection coatings to maximize performance for applications that include thermal imaging, FLIR, or spectroscopy.

    9. KIT LENS

    While purchasing an interchangeable lens camera, you must have got a lens along with the camera kit. This is called a kit lens.

    Kit lenses, also called starter lenses, come with a camera bundle that includes a pouch, lens cap, tripod, etc. So, the price of the camera bundle becomes more economical for the customer to purchase.


    TOP CAMERA LENS BRANDS

    1. CANON LENS

    canon lens

    Owning a Canon lens and a camera is every photographer's dream because that's the brand's name since these years.

    Since 1937, Canon has been in this field of manufacturing lenses. And it is the first lens manufacturer to achieve the world record of producing 100 million lenses.

    Today we have Canon lenses for almost all types of photography/videography. Be it sports photography, wildlife photography, astrophotography, and a lot more. Their fastest lens includes the Canon 50mm f 0.95 that almost stunned the audience by its amazing low-light performance.

    Canon's 'L grade' (Pro-grade lenses) are expensive but will serve the best in performance and long life.

    Lastly, for video shooting purposes, Canon lenses are the best because their video quality is very sharp, and they have a variety of focal lengths for you to choose from. They also have lenses that are affordable and have a good optical performance.

    2. NIKON LENS

    Since 1933, Nikon has been a top manufacturer of lenses. More than Nikon cameras, their lenses have been an all-time favorite for both amateur and professional photographers.

    The best part of Nikon is that they have at least two lens variations for the same focal length. This will help beginners to choose the right one without any hesitation.

    Their 50mm nifty-fifty lenses are the best when compared to other brands' 50mm lenses. Also, Nikon has lenses for different price ranges and purposes. It has tons of lenses for both its full-frame/APS-C digital and mirrorless cameras.

    Travel photographers often prefer Nikon lenses when they want a low-cost, lightweight, and best focal length lens.

    Overall, Nikon is a top-quality lens brand; their lenses are of high standard and quality, so you will not regret buying them.

    3. SONY LENS

    Canon, Nikon, and Sony are currently the top camera and lens manufacturers in 35mm photography.

    Sony ventured as a lens manufacturer in 2006. Today their G master lenses are a tough competitor in resolution, bokeh quality, speed, and AF performance.

    Like Canon and Nikon, Sony also has lenses to fit all scenes like landscape, portrait, macro, sports, and travel photography.

    Before stepping into 35mm photography, Sony was a top performer in the video world. Sony partnered with Carl Zeiss to develop some of the best lenses for video.

    Sony's 24mm pancake lens is a favorite choice among travel photographers because of its tiny size and optical quality.

    4. FUJIFILM LENS

    fuji lens

    Fujifilm is a top manufacturer of APS-C format DSLRs and lenses. Also, their mirrorless camera system is widely used by a lot of photographers.

    Since the 1940s, Fuji has had a good journey in the field of manufacturing lenses. Their crop-sensor lenses are amazingly sharp and durable. Many of their pro-grade lenses can even be used underwater to about 10 feet.

    They have a wide variety of prime lenses that are among the best in the industry. They are super-fast and have an amazing image quality

    Both beginners and professionals have a wide variety of lenses to choose from this brand. They have lenses for each purpose and price range, so finding your best will not take much time.

    5. LEICA LENS

    leica lenses

    Customers often overlook Leica cameras and lenses because of their high cost. While their resolution, picture quality, and performance cannot be beaten even by Canon and Nikon products.

    It was in 1914 that this brand stepped into this photography business. Today their L lenses are the best and go-to ones for high-budget movies and video works.

    One of the key advantages of purchasing a Leica lens is that its use isn't restricted to only Leica cameras.

    With a simple adaptor, you can use a Leica lens on a wide range of other cameras, including the Sony E-mount, Olympus & Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras. Leica is now making lenses for their point-and-shoot cameras as well. They are compatible with their brand cameras and others as well.

    6. PANASONIC LENS

    leica lenses

    Like Sony, Panasonic is known for its video cameras. In terms of their lens quality, they are top-notch.

    It started as an electronic products manufacturer in 1918, but today, they excel in the camera and lens industry.

    As already said, photographers having a smaller-sensor camera than APS-C (Micro four-thirds) always prefer only between Olympus and Panasonic.

    Leica and Panasonic are now official partners in the lens manufacturing industry. Panasonic provides:

    • LEICA DC lenses for compact cameras.
    • LEICA DG lenses for their LUMIX G cameras.
    • LEICA D lenses for digital SLRs.

    Panasonic makes these lenses while they are certified and released by Leica Camera AG.

    7. OLYMPUS LENS

    OLYMPUS LENS

    Yet another favorite lens brand that photographers rely upon are the cameras and lenses from Olympus. Earlier with Kodak, Olympus was providing lenses for the Four-thirds camera system.

    But Olympus and Panasonic are now considered the leading lens manufacturers for Micro-Four thirds system cameras.

    Not only that, their film, digital and mirrorless lenses are there to give you the best optical performance and durability. But the Company took its name for its compact lens lineup.


    THIRD-PARTY LENS MANUFACTURERS

    Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang, and Zeiss are currently leading third-party lens manufacturers in the DSLR market. Those looking for budget-friendly lenses for their top-end Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras can opt for third-party lenses like these.

    1. SIGMA LENS

    Develops lenses for Sigma SA, Canon EF, Nikon F, Minolta/Sony Alpha, Pentax K, and Four-Thirds lens mounts.

    2. TAMRON LENS

    Makes lenses for Sony E-mount, Nikon F-mount, Sony A-mount, Pentax K-mount and Canon EF-mount cameras.

    3. TOKINA LENS

    Makes lenses for Canon EF, Canon EF-S, Canon RF, Nikon F, Nikon Z, Fujifilm X, Sony E, micro-four-thirds, and T-mount cameras.

    4. CARL ZEISS LENS

    Provide lenses for Sony Full-frame cameras, mirrorless lenses (ZF and ZE) for Nikon F-mount cameras, and Canon EF-mount lenses.

    Note: Carl Zeiss is the oldest lens manufacturer mentioned in this list. The only drawback is that their lenses are very costly.

    5. SAMYANG/ROKINON LENS

    Makes AF lenses for Sony E-mount cameras, Canon EF-mount cameras, and Nikon F-mount cameras. And manual focus lenses for Canon RF mounts, Pentax K mounts, Fuji X mounts, MFT mounts, and Nikon Z mount cameras.


    Things to consider before buying a camera lens

    SHARPNESS

    An image is very sharp if one can view the most delicate details in the photograph. There should not be any effects of camera shakes or motion blur visible in the images.

    The sharpness rate depends on a lot of factors like aperture, focal distance, and focal length.

    How aperture affects sharpness?

    A wide-aperture lens will have a very small portion of the picture in focus. At the same time, narrow aperture lenses will have a large section of the image in focus.

    Those who like a shallow depth-of-field (only subject in focus while background remaining blurred) can opt for a wide-aperture of < f2.8.

    On the contrary, if you want a deep field of view, i.e., end-to-end sharpness, narrow apertures are suitable.

    How focal length affects sharpness?

    Lenses with more considerable focal lengths have increased magnification, so even a slight movement of your camera will affect the sharpness of the image. That is why telephoto lenses need image stabilization. It will allow you to shoot pictures and video with faster shutter speeds, thus reducing camera shakes and micro jiggles.

    DISTORTION

    Typically, there are two kinds of distortion: optical distortion and perspective distortion.

    OPTICAL DISTORTION:

    Optical distortion is a lens defect caused by the warping of shapes and the bending of lines.

    The lens’s optical elements themselves cause this type of distortion. So it is also called lens distortion (lens error).

    Mostly all lenses, be it prime or zoom, suffer from at least some form of distortion. But zoom lenses with a larger zoom range are prone to more levels of distortion.

    There are three types of distortion: Barrel, pincushion, and mustache distortion.

    BARREL DISTORTION:

    In wide-angle lenses, as the field of view is wide, we notice that the picture looks squeezed to fit inside the frame. This is due to barrel distortion. So, when straight lines tend to look curved inwards, it is considered the effect of barrel distortion. This is commonly seen in wide-angle prime and zoom lenses.

    PINCUSHION DISTORTION:

    This is the exact opposite of barrel distortion. Here the straight lines will look curved outwards from the center. This occurs typically in standard and super-telephoto zoom lenses, where the field of view is smaller to the image sensor, and hence the image needs to be stretched to fit in the frame.

    MUSTACHE DISTORTION:

    This is a combination of pincushion and barrel distortion. At the images’ center, the straight look curved inwards, whereas as you approach the edges of the frame, the straight lines will look curved outwards from the center.

    PERSPECTIVE DISTORTION:

    Sometimes you will feel like straight lines looking bent in the picture. This is called perspective distortion. It happens when the camera position slightly changes with the subject you’re focusing on.

    So, perspective distortion is not because of the lens; it is an effect that occurs when there is a change in angle of view.

    CHROMATIC ABERRATION

    This is more of a physics term but let me put it in simple terms. See, when you're focusing on a high-contrast object, the lens's shutter opens. Now different colors of light rays will be traveling at different speeds inside the lens.

    So, when the lens fails to focus all colors to the same point, you will notice the image corners looking blurred, or you will see the colors looking separated at the edge of the frame. This is called chromatic aberrations, also called purple fringing.

    Usually, while taking close-up shots of an image, you will notice some chromatic aberrations like this. Also, in high–contrast situations where a dark subject is set against a bright background, chromatic aberrations are more common.

    Everyone will want to shoot pictures with less CA. That is why expensive lenses usually have specialized glasses like Extra-low dispersion, Low-dispersion, etc. These will help reduce the effects of chromatic aberration, thereby improving the color accuracy of the lens.

    BOKEH

    Bokeh is defined as the out-of-focus blur effects you notice while taking a picture. For example, in portrait photography, you must have seen the subject being in sharp focus while the background looks soft (blurry). This is what is called a bokeh quality.

    This is a positive factor that every photographer desires the most in a lens. The interesting fact is that aperture and bokeh quality are interconnected.

    I'll tell you how. So, the wider the aperture, the faster the lens right. In the same way, the faster the lens, the more impressive the bokeh quality will be. That is why a short telephoto lens with wide apertures of less than f2.8 is desirable for getting a pleasing bokeh.

    Also, the number and shape of aperture blades will affect the bokeh quality. The more the number of circular blades in a lens, the better the bokeh quality will be.

    Usually, portrait photography and product photography require these types of out-of-focus background blur. We will want the entire frame to be in focus for landscapes, so bokeh is not much needed there.

    FLARE

    Have you ever wondered why a lens hood is supplied with this lens? This factor of lens flare will make you understand the need to use it.

    Lens flaring is nothing but a response the lens shows when subjected to a bright source of light. It happens when the light gets scattered in a lens system when exposed to bright sunlight.

    For example, while using a lens directly under the sun, we will notice an undesirable effect in the form of a haze or a starburst in our images. This is caused by lens flare.

    To keep lens flaring from affecting our images and videos, we use a lens hood. But remember, lens flare is not always a nuisance to photography.

    Photographers who want a dramatic effect to their images and videos in daylight prefer some amount of lens flaring.

    FOCUS SHIFT

    It is a photographic phenomenon caused by spherical aberrations causing the images to look less sharp at certain apertures.

    While adjusting the aperture settings of a lens (without touching the focus ring), we expect that the lens doesn't change the focus. But, when a lens loses its focus while stooping down the aperture, it means the focus has been shifted.

    For example, say you're focusing on a particular word, say" WITH" on a page, you're setting the aperture at f/1.8, you're finding the word WITH is in focus but is less sharp.

    So, you stoop down the aperture without touching the focus ring; now, the adjacent word becomes very sharp while our intended "WITH" goes out of focus. This is what is called a focus shift issue.

    FIELD CURVATURE

    This is a focusing-related issue, where the focus that should be at the same distance isn't.

    Sometimes, we notice that a flat object looks sharp only at specific parts of the frame; the sharpness will not be uniform throughout the frame. This optical problem happens because of the optical elements inside the lens.

    Say you're focusing a subject from 10 feet, the central portion of the image is in focus, but the edges of the frame are blurred. This optical issue is called field curvature.

    A lens that is perfectly corrected from these issues is called a flat-field lens. Here the undulation of focus in a plane will not happen, so the focusing remains straight in a plane.

    ASTIGMATISM

    This happens as a result of the defect mentioned above, the lens' field curvature issue. Unlike the field plane curvature, which focuses lights on different points, astigmatism focuses light on different points—the magnification of light changes in different ways at different points of the frame.

    What causes it?

    We know both of the lens backs are curved, so the light passing through the lens gets diffracted in many ways at the corner (fanning of light), so some part of the light gets focused on the wrong plane.

    That is why the corner-to-corner sharpness of the image is lost. All lenses at least show the amount of this effect.

    So, in a nutshell, as field curvature increases, astigmatism increases, affecting the subject's focus and magnification.

    STARBURST PERFORMANCE

    As mentioned in lens flare, Starburst effects are an interesting element that you can add to your photography if you wish to have a dreamy (for moody shots) and dramatic effect (shots taken under the bright sun).

    Fact: Earlier, filmmakers used special filters (star or cross filters) to achieve this effect. But the downside was, it introduced a rainbow-like effect in the footage.

    What gives this effect?

    Starburst happens when light rays get diffracted from a light source. When using a short focal length and narrow aperture lens, you can achieve this kind of effect.

    I'm insisting on a small lens' opening because when light passes into the lens through the small opening, the light rays get bent around the edges of the blades giving a "star" look.

    So the starburst performance of a lens is directly proportional to the number of aperture blades. The more the number of aperture blades, the more starburst you get.


    CONCLUSION

    This brings you to the end of this article. I hope you found this article informative and interesting. I'm sure that now you will be confident in purchasing a good lens for your cameras. Please leave your comments and suggestions regarding this content in the comments section below. Thank you for reading patiently. Good day!


    FAQ

    Can any lens fit on any camera?

    No, you need to find a lens that will be compatible with your camera. To do this, you can see the indicator listing the lens mount on the front of your camera. Lenses are compatible with different camera models from the same manufacturer, but they aren't compatible with other brand cameras.

    What lenses should every photographer have?

    Every beginner photographer aspiring to develop his/her career in this field should have their hands on these three lenses:

    • One general-purpose zoom lens with a focal length between 18mm-70mm
    • A short-medium telephoto lens
    • And a macro lens.

    Can you use old lenses on digital cameras?

    The answer depends on the camera brand you're using. Companies have revamped their camera lens compatibility, so not all your old lenses will fit new DSLRs. Also, if you have a manual focus lens and expect it to perform AF when used with a camera with an in-built AF motor, it cannot.

    Do all DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses?

    Recent model DSLRs are developed to be compatible with interchangeable lenses. However, exceptions, like the MZ series of Pentax cameras, don't allow using old lenses. So, while you purchase a DSLR, make sure if it allows using interchangeable lenses with it.

    Can you put Nikon lenses on a Canon?

    You cannot use a Nikon lens directly on a Canon camera; you need to use a Nikon to Canon lens adapter to ensure this interoperability.

    What aperture is considered fast?

    A lens having a wide aperture of less than f/2.8 is considered a fast lens because it will allow more light to enter the lens.

    What is a one-stop in photography?

    One-stop in photographic terms means doubling or halving the amount of light let in while taking a picture.

    How to clean camera lens?

    Follow these steps:

    • Use a blower to remove dust from the lens's front. This will remove any dust if present from the lens.
    • Using any solution-based lens cleaners. Take a few drops on a clean cloth and wipe the lens with the solution.
    • After using the lens solution on the lens, wipe it off using a dry clean fabric cloth.