Understanding the photographic lens in simple terms

The lens is a complex piece of equipment with some really easy ideas behind it.

The lens is a complex piece of equipment with some really easy ideas behind it.
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The lens – probably the second most important piece of gear.

The lens has become a most interesting piece of gear in its own right. The DSLR would be lost without it and the wide range of possible compositions we can access would be greatly reduced. So, in honour of the modern lens here are a few definitions and resources that I have put online in the Photographic Glossary (P.S. no brain cells will be tortured to death reading these explanations). Take a tour by clicking the links as you read through…

It pays to know what you have in the arsenal

So, there are basically three types of lens as far as the way the lens sees the world. These are…
The long focus lens is the lens that you will use to get out there almost to infinity and see things large!

Then again, it pays to have a view of the world where your eye is King (or Queen of course). The Normal Lens is operational in the range of perspectives and focal lengths of our own eyes.

Then, down at the lower end of the scale is the issue about wide angles. The humble wide angle lens is able to provide wide access to the background.

Have you ever wondered…

I was perplexed for years about this… just what is focal length? Every book I read seemed to make it so difficult. It’s simple really.

Oddly however, on the one hand our lenses are marked something like 50 : 250mm, which is the focal length; but the actual lens is no more than 100mm long. How does that work? Well, its turns out to be something simple called Telephoto lenses.

The whole focal length thing seems to be related to the way that a lens sees the world. So, how do a zoom lens and a prime lens differ?

Has that made it easier to understand about lenses?

I know it is difficult to come to terms with the optics in photography, its a bit dry and technical. I hope that by stripping away the jargon I have made it easier for you. Please leave a comment if you are still in need of help. Tell me what you want to know. I will try to clarify or extend the lens entries in our Photographic Glossary.

Oh! And, don’t be afraid to point out my mistakes and any explanatory shortcomings. It helps us all if I get it right! LOL.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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