Which Camera Lens is Best: Fixed, Focal or Zoom?

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best camera lens

It’s essential to know about type of camera lenses before the discuss about best camera lens. It will help us to select the best lens for our photography requirement. There are mainly two different types of lenses: fixed focal lengths and zoom. Fixed focal lengths are, as the name suggests so well, fixed. If you want a get a wider or tighter image, you have to move with your camera. In contrast, zooms allow, with a simple ring turn (the ring around the lens) to approach/move away from your subject.

So do not confuse with the zoom: a zoom can be quite wide-angle (like a 16-35 mm) and a fixed focus can quite be a zoom (like a 300 mm). In general, fixed focal lengths offer the best optical quality for a given focal length, while zooms provide more flexibility of use.

Wide Angle, Standard or Zoom?

In addition to the zoom/fixed focus length, you must also know the focal point (s). Expressed in equivalent “24 x 36” or “35 mm”, the focal length corresponds to the angle of view covered by the lens.

Three genres – somewhat arbitrary share the coverage of the field of view: wide angle from 10 to 35 mm, standard focal lengths from 35 to 90 mm, zoom lenses beyond 90 mm.

Wide angles are lens of choice for architecture, landscapes, indoor shooting, etc… everything that requires a wide view. The standard lens is for the reporting and exact real view photography, because the lens distorts little or no reality. This is what comes closest to our vision, both in respect of forms and that of perspectives.

Zoom lenses are popular in photographers of sports, nature, etc… Because they allow to approach while being far away, to see without being seen. Landscape designers also appreciate it for the compression of the perspectives that this kind of lenses causes.

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The Large Camera Lens Family

Type 1: Conventional Fixed Focal Lengths

The first lens in the world of photography were dimly fixed focal lengths. Today they have become the poor relative of the photography, the general public preferring zoom lens. However, they have a real interest, because some of them are very inexpensive while offering excellent image quality.

We think of the famous Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8, very bright and which delivers very sharp images. This is a relevant choice for photographers who want to dive inexpensively into the real composite photo.

Type 2: Premium Fixed Focal Lengths

Still fixed focal lengths, but here the lenses are bigger, brighter. The lenses are of better quality and the finish is far above. In this range, lens defects are much less marked or even absent, and some of these lenses are also “tropicalized”, i.e. resistant to water runoff and dust.

These qualities often pay off at high prices. Some of these lenses being so “perfect” that they cost dearly to produce and to buy.

Type 3: Fixed Focal Points

Here it is not necessarily lens quality or resistance that is put forward, but the compactness. Many of the “lenses” available on the market are less than 3 cm thick or even less than two centimetres in the case of hybrid cameras. They are very popular with photographers who travel or who wish to remain discreet.

The overwhelming majority of these lenses revolve around 35 to 50 mm. Since they are the simplest optical formulas to miniaturize without much hassle in terms of quality – and that is also where the demand is.

Type 4: Macro Fixed Focal Lengths

A so-called “macro” lens is necessary to get as close as possible to the subjects – often objects, insects, etc… If some zooms have a macro function, to obtain good results it is necessary to opt for a specific lens, a fixed lens whose lens rotates around 60 mm to 120 mm.

When choosing your lens, be attentive to the maximum magnification. True macro lenses offer a minimum magnification of 1:1, which is essential for large prints.

Type 5: Standard Zooms

This category includes 18-55 mm (or 14-42 mm) lens supplied as a base with a SLR or hybrid. Offering a small wide angle (28 mm in 35 mm equivalent), it pushes to the limit of 90 mm and thus covers the main needs for “everyday” photography.

Since the covered optical range is in the “standard” field, the shots are usually very natural. When zooming in range, standard zooms cover a better lens range-often starting from 24 mm to up to 120 mm. They offer better apertures (f/4 or even f / 2.8) and better overall image quality.

Type 6: Trans Standard Zooms

The favorite of the general public since it starts from the wide-angle to go to the big zoom lens, the trans-standard zoom offers extreme versatility. No need to change lens since we go from 28 to 300 or even 400 mm (in equivalent 35 mm).

The kings of the genre are the 18-200 mm or even 18-270 mm APS-C sensor SLR, lens that have the advantage of being inexpensive – $400 for a 18-270 mm. Reverse of the coin, the image quality and brightness of these zooms are poor, not much higher than what the best ultra-zooms compacts offer.

Type 7: Wide-Angle Zooms

While offering some versatility in focus, wide-angle zooms are the kings of ultra-wide, landscape and indoor photography.

Unlike fixed focal lengths, they do not get stuck in their radius and can approach 35 mm to limit deformations. One of the favorite zoom of agency photojournalists, especially for event covers (events, meetings, etc.).

Type 8: Telescopic Zooms

Many SLR kits are composed of a 18-55 mm (standard zoom therefore) and a 55-200 mm, the most classic wide zoom. Like wide-angle zooms, they do not cover the field of the standard, but are able to approach it.

Which is useful to troubleshoot the time of a shot in having to change lens. Their focal versatility makes them more flexible to use than fixed-focal zoom lenses. But this is usually done at the price of brightness and weight.

They are, with wide-angle zooms, the weapons of choice of photojournalists and this is the kind of lenses you see deployed around stadiums or at major sporting events.

Type 9: Rocking and Decentring Objectives

This expensive family of lens is intended for architects and studio photographers. Equipped with mechanisms – toggle and / or shift. These lenses correct the outlook (shift) and / or the area of sharpness (shift).

Given the complexity of manufacturing, these lenses can only be fixed focal lengths, without auto focus.

Type 10: Toy-Lenses

The quality of the lens and sensors has progressed so much that the photos have never been so good, so accurate, so real. Faced with the progress of the technique, a movement starts in the opposite direction and proposes lens of deliberately poor quality.

The defects of the lenses are supposed to bring poetry and an artistic point of view to the photography. The brands Lensbaby and Lomography are the pioneers of the genre.

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The Cheating of Focal Points

the best camera lens

The focal value of a lens is expressed in millimetres (mm) and the scale chosen is that of the 24 x 36 SLRs. That is, on a compact, a hybrid or a small-sensor SLR, one always communicates the focal length in the “24 x 36” scale in order to stay in the same frame. And thus facilitate the comparison between the lenses.

These gymnastics of the mind is sometimes made complex by the fact that the manufacturer communicate both the real value of the lens and that converted into a scale “24 x 36”.

In the case of APS-C reflex lenses and hybrids, which use smaller sensors than full-format sensors-which are 24 x 36 standard.

We will always specify both values, emphasizing the “24 x 36” scale.