Lens Types

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by ricepudding, Oct 25, 2007.

  1. ricepudding

    ricepudding TPF Noob!

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    Telephoto vs. Zoom?! and what about Wide Angle?

    Can you tell me the difference between the two. When I go to BH photo website to look at available lenses, many say Wide Angle Zoom Telephoto (seems anything that zooms beyond 135mm they label telephoto). Can a lens be both telephoto and wide angle zoom? I'm a bit confused because when I go here to the Nikon website lenses are broken out a different way. They don't ever say a wide angle is also a telephoto. For the first category of wide angle lenses they only include prime lenses. And telephoto category they only have prime...?! I'm confused. Is it just that anything that zooms beyond 135mm is also labeled telephoto because of the distance it is capable of taking?

    Their wide angle zooms on the nikon site seem to be only short distances (nothing higher than 55mm). Why? On the BH photo site I see wide angle lenses that zoom up to 200mm.

    And what do all the abbreviations stand for:

    AF = AutoFocus
    DX = ?
    S = ?
    VR = reduced camera shake, right?

    I really want a wide angle zoom lens for nature shots, and should it be telephoto too...you tell me how these lenses work!

    Thanks so much,
     
  2. Steph

    Steph No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A standard lens is a lens with a focal lenght roughly the same as the diagonal of the film/sensor (that is around 50mm for a 35mm film camera or full frame digital camera or around 35mm for a digital camera such as Nikon D40, D80, D200 or Canon XTi, D30, D40 and many others). Anything with a shorter focal length than a standard lens is a wide angle lens. Anything longer is a telephoto lens.

    Now, there are two types of lenses: prime lenses and zoom lenses. Prime lenses have only one focal length (for example 50mm) whereas zooms offer a range of focal lenghts (for example 18-55mm). So you can get wide angle prime lenses, telephoto zoom lenses or any other combination.

    Usually, prime lenses offer better quality pictures. Zoom lenses are compromises and cannot usually be very good at every focal length (this is even truer for zooms with a very wide range such as the 18-200mm from Nikon). You may find that the image quality is not optimum at the extreme focal lengths.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    There really isn't much of a standard for lens naming and each company seems to do it differently.

    Telephoto does refer to lenses that are longer than the 'normal' magnification...which is around 50mm (for 35mm film). Wide angle could be anything wider than a normal view.

    Some lenses span the normal focal length from wide to telephoto...so they could be considered both wide and telephoto. An 18-200mm lens, for example.

    Really, it doesn't matter what it's called...the focal length is the important part. The shorter the focal length, the wider the view. The longer the focal length, the narrower the view.

    When looking at zoom lenses...you need to consider several factors. The focal length, obviously...and also the maximum aperture. The best lenses have large apertures and usually a constant maximum through out the range...F2.8 or F4, for example. The cheaper (smaller, lighter) zoom lenses will usually have a max aperture that changes as the lens zooms. F3.5-5.6, for example.
    Then you have to consider quality & cost vs convenience. A 50-500mm lens would be convenient, but the reality of a lens like that, is that the quality just will not be as good as something like a 24-70mm or a 70-200mm. If you want high quality, you probably want to avoid any zoom lens that is more than 3X or 4X. To take this one step further, prime lenses are usually better than zooms, in terms of max aperture and image quality.
    Price is almost always a factor as well. The best quality lenses cost several thousand dollars each...so you may have to compromise with something that is actually affordable.
     
  4. Jestev

    Jestev TPF Noob!

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    The above posters said what I would say about wide vs. telephoto lenses, so I'll answer your other questions.

    AF = Autofocus lens
    DX = Lens has a smaller image circle so it is optimized for the smaller image plane in DX-format DSLR. Nikon, an many other companies, make DSLRs that have smaller sensors than the 35mm image plane of 35mm film. Because of this, lenses can have a smaller image circle to capture the same image on a DX-format sensor than a similar length (after 1.5x crop) lens on a full frame sensor/image plane. DX-lenses can, sometimes (don't try it because if it doesn't "work" it can crack your mirror and other bad things), work on full frame/film SLRs but will have vignetting at some focal lenghts.
    S = This probably means AF-S (Autofocus-Silent) which means that the lens has a silent wave motor in it. This means it can, usually, operate faster and quieter than regular AF lenses. It also means that you can use a camera body that does not have an internal autofocus motor in it (ex: D40/x series).
    VR = Vibration Reduction means that the lens has a mechanism that will attempt to counteract motion such as camera shake during relatively (taking things like the focal length and other things into account) long exposures.
     
  5. ricepudding

    ricepudding TPF Noob!

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    This helps a ton. Thanks guys! So, here is another question:

    What produces better image quality? Zooming with a lens or just zooming and cropping later with editing software?
     
  6. Keagle

    Keagle TPF Noob!

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    Zooming with the lens I would assume. Though I'd much rather crop later using a good lens, than zoom in with a bad one.
     
  7. (Ghastly) Krueger

    (Ghastly) Krueger TPF Noob!

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    For the "s" the OP is asking, it can be referring to the EF-S mount on the APS sized sensor cameras, like the XT, XTi and others. See here

    The silent motors you are talking about are coded as USM for ultra sonic
     
  8. Jestev

    Jestev TPF Noob!

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    That's all Canon lingo. The OP was talking about Nikons. I gave the Nikon definitions of the letters given.
     
  9. ZIN

    ZIN TPF Noob!

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    I just wanted to say THANKS for the link it is a great source of information and much appreciated...:hail:
     
  10. Tolyk

    Tolyk TPF Noob!

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    Stepping in closer to the subject :p Zoom isn't always the answer. You can lose impact on a photo by zooming (or gain it, depends on the photos). As you zoom in, the image compresses, making things seem closer together than they really look (background seems closer to subject), and you have a more narrow field of view.

    But, to answer your actual question, zooming in will save you resolution, which is important if you're trying to make a large print. I try to get it right in camera, and just do minuscule post processing afterward (highlights, white balance, etc).
     

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