Zoom Lenses for your SLR camera

When you own a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, you have the option of purchasing more than one lens for various purposes. Zoom lenses and prime lenses are something that every SLR owner should have. Let’s look at the definition for each.

Prime lenses are those with a fixed focal length, such that zoom is not possible. That means that if you wanted to have your subject appear larger in your frame, you would have to physically move your camera closer to the subject instead of zooming closer with the lens itself. Prime lenses are faster at focusing than zoom lenses, but are typically used for static scenes, such as macro photography or portrait photography.

Zoom lenses allow you to make your subject larger in the frame without physically moving your camera closer. This article explores the different types of zoom lenses out there and offers recommendations for what suits your style of photography – macro, landscape, wildlife, sports. We’ll look at autofocusing zoom lenses and manual focus zoom lenses. Stay tuned for a related article about Lens Characteristics, or check out my website.

Autofocusing Zoom Lenses:

1) Ultra Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
Typical focal lengths: some range between 17-35mm (e.g. 20-35mm, 17-28mm, 17-35mm)
Characteristics: The angle of view is quite wide, around 170 degrees from the camera. The depth of field is large, so foreground and background will be in sharp focus all at once.
Uses: landscape photography

2) Wide-Angle To Moderate Telephoto Zoom Lens
Typical focal lengths: some range between 24-105mm (e.g. 24-85mm, 28-105mm, 35-80mm)
Characteristics: Typically the first type of lens you purchase with your SLR. These lenses provide the range needed for most shooting situations, aside from specialty photography. Their weight is light, and their size is compact, so these are usually the easiest lenses to travel with when you only want to take one lens.
Uses: travel photography, landscape photography

3) Mid-Range Telephoto Zoom Lens
Typical focal lengths: some range between 50-300mm (e.g. 70-200mm)
Characteristics: These lenses are slightly larger than the category above, but are still fairly compact. They are better for photographers who typically want a telephoto shot from a distance. They best compliment a wide-angle zoom and a telephoto zoom together to cover most focal lengths.
Uses: wildlife photography

4) Telephoto Zoom Lens
Typical focal lengths: some range between 100-300mm (e.g. 70-200mm)
Characteristics: These lenses offer high magnification, allowing you to get up close to dangerous or distant subjects while keeping your distance. Depth of field can be small with these lenses, which allows you to isolate your subject from its background.
Uses: sports photography, wildlife photography

5) Big-Range Zoom Lens
Typical focal lengths: some range between 100-500mm (e.g. 35-350mm, 50-500mm)
Characteristics: These large and heavy lenses offer high quality images with subjects very far away. They are much more affordable than they used to be, but likely don’t fit in an average camera bag, and are much heavier than your camera. They typically come with a tripod attachment, such that you can attach the lens to tripod instead of the camera body to achieve centre of balance.
Uses: wildlife photography

Manual Focus Zoom Lenses:

6) Ultra-Telephoto Zoom Lens
Typical focal lengths: some range between 100-600mm (e.g. 400-600mm)
Characteristics: These large and heavy lenses offer high quality images with subjects even further away than big-range zoom lenses. They allow rapid manual focusing while tracking a subject.
Uses: wildlife photography

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