Friday, March 05, 2010

PhotoFANatic Friday: Lens Love

On twitter last week, I saw a number of shooters discussing lenses for their DSLR cameras and asking about what they "needed" next. I've been considering a new series to discuss all the crazy things I've learned over the last couple of years and thought to myself, "why not now?"

So ya, I do have a photo business, but it wasn't all that long ago that I was just a chick with a cool camera. I now how an even cooler camera that I was able to buy from business revenue (woot!), but the things I learned on my smaller camera are still the basics that I consider today.

So, if you're a mom, a blogger, or just a regular ole joe with a DSLR and don't have any plans to go pro, I applaud you! You are pushing your creative juices and rocking some good equipment! And here is where I tell you the truth that many won't say:


You do NOT need L line lenses. You do NOT need Photoshop or Lightroom. If you're on a tight budget, relax, and know that you can take quality snaps without dropping big bucks! Photoshop Elements is great. I have a bunch of friends who use Picnik, too, and I've also heard great things about Aurora.

But this post is about lenses, so let's get back to the topic!

Wide Angle Lenses:

First of all, do you know what wide angle means? I didn't at first, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Wide angle means the camera is able to take in more of the frame from one side to the other. The frame is literally WIDE. It also means that your subjects aren't going to be super up close.

This kind of lens is GREAT for landscape or other important scenery. I like to blog about recipes and goofy things I do in the kitchen or other DIY projects around the house. Having a wide angle lens on my camera ensures that I can get a broader scene in the shot.

This is where things get goofy. Wide means a smaller millimeter on the lens. So, 55mm is wider than 200mm.

Not All Lenses are Created Equal:

THE OTHER IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT LENS SHOPPING is that not all lenses are created equal. Yes, many are a great option and great for the budget, but they might not last forever.

Let's take my favorite lens as an example.

I'm a Canon and my first lens was the 50mm 1.8. It was DELICIOUS. It was fast (meaning that it let in more light and had a bigger aperture - i.e. lower number) and affordable - about 80 bones. It was also light weight and plastic.

Then I upgraded to the 50mm 1.4 and I dropped that old boyfriend like a bad habit. The 1.4 is even faster, is made of metal and is sturdier, and cost about $350-ish. It's sharper and more precise, has a fast focusing ability, and is my go-to lens in portrait sessions. THEN, there's the BITCHIN 50mm 1.2. I don't own this bad boy, yet, but someday, yes someday, I will make him mine and we will ride off into the sunset together. But at over a thousand bucks, that someday isn't here, yet.

All this goes to say that if you want good buttery bokeh (subject in focus and background blurred out), you want something in a higher aperture than a F/4. Most consumer lenses start at either F/3.5 or F/4. If you want to get a higher aperture (lower F stop #), find a good and affordable lens like the 50mm 1.8. It's not going to break the bank and will kick your consumer lens' arse in the bokeh category, if you're shooting on Av priority or manual! : )

EF-S vs. EF and DX vs. FX:

Next up, in the affordable everyday awesome lens category, I want to talk to you about EF lenses versus EF-S (Canon) and DX versus FX (Nikon) lenses. Please put me on pause, then run out and check your lenses. You can see what you have on the front of the lens before the mm designation.

Some time ago, when camera manufacturers went digital, they thought it would be good to make lenses for small sensor digital cameras. Usually the cost doesn't change, however, a EF-S or DX isn't made to fit on advanced camera bodies, which have full sensors. SO, let's say that someday you decide to go pro and upgrade your camera body to a pro-level camera, you won't be able to use the EF-S or DX. SO, if you have the opportunity, only buy EF or FX lenses!

So, if you're ready to take the plunge and start shopping for new lenses or other camera equipment, I highly encourage you to go with a reputable company. Going online and buying the "cheapest" isn't always the smartest. Sometimes that price comes with poor customer service. The company that I frequently use has great prices AND customer service. And they even purchase used equipment. Click on the link below to learn more about Adorama and their great prices and selection.

So, that's all for today. I've probably blah blah blah'd WAY too much about this topic, but I'm eager to share with you all the interesting things I've learned to date. I have a business, but I don't claim to know it all. I'm just sharing...AND if you have any further questions, PLEASE feel free to contact me at any time at And I hope to continue this series, unless of course nobody comments and you all tell me I'm a doofus. If that's the case, I'll bury my head in the sand and go back to talking about my house. : )


American Bridget said...

So glad I just got educated on this stuff. I know nothing about photography (and I should considering what I do for a living with advertising), but so badly want to get into it as a hobby. Thanks for the heads up on this stuff. And, btw, love your photography work! So gorgeous.

tamm said...

Thank you so much for your post! I'm at the hobbyist-who-wants-to-know-more point, and your post is EXACTLY what I needed to read. More please!!!

Ruthanne said...

This is good stuff, girl!

Sometimes it easy to get caught up in the "have to have it" mode. I've told myself I'm not buying anymore lenses until I upgrade my camera - and that's not going to happen for awhile. I'm content with what I have now. When I know how to do everything on my camera and use it to its max capacity, then I'll upgrade.

Amy said...

So helpful! I'm new at this and lenses are so confusing. Thank you!

Sabrina said...

Great information...I'm still fairly new to the DSLR world. Just me, my Rebel, my kit lens (blek!) and my new 50mm/1.8 heading out into the sometimes complicated world of photography. Every bit of info given by pro's in an understandable format is VERY appreciated. Thanks! Maybe a new weekly series for you to share your wisdom?? :)

Melanie said...

I am taking Karen Russell's Photography workshop at the end of the month and I can't wait. I took her one day class and learned a little but it was too much for one day. I have the 35mm and I love it. I want the 28-75 but can't get it right now.

Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish said...

I am freaking obsessed with Picnik! BTW - thanks for the run down - I need to get a wide angle next!