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Camera Lenses Explained

Which lens best suits your type of photography?

Lenses for digital cameras vary greatly, and so do types of photography and types of camera available. Different focal lengths are better suited to particular types of photography, and to particular subjects, and some lenses even have specific functions which appeal to particular requirements.

It can be difficult to know which lens which digital camera lens meets your requirements, and which lens will fit your camera and fit into your existing system.

However, no matter what type of photography you’re into, you’ll need a lens of some kind that does what you need it to do; but the question arises – which mount do you have and which lens brand do you go for?

  • Canon Lenses

    EF-mount for Full Frame DSLR cameras, EF-S mount for crop-sensor DSLR cameras, EF-M mount for Canon’s EOS-M mirrorless cameras, and CN-E EF mount Cine lenses
  • Nikon Lenses

    F-mount for DSLR cameras, FX is full-frame and DX is crop-sensor, 1-mount for mirrorless digital cameras
  • Sony Lenses

    Alpha A-mount for full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras, E-mount for compact mirrorless cameras and FE-mount for full-frame mirrorless Sony cameras
  • Pentax Lenses

    K-mount for DSLR cameras, Q mount for Pentax mirrorless cameras, 645-mount for their medium format cameras
  • Leica Lenses

    M-mount for Leica Rangefinder cameras & third-party DSLRs and T-Mount and SL-mount Leica cameras via an adaptor, T-mount for APS-C mirrorless cameras, SL-mount for full-frame mirrorless cameras
  • Sigma Lenses

    Sigma mount for their own DSLR cameras as well as Canon-fit, Nikon-fit, and Sony fit versions of most lenses
  • Tamron Lenses

    Canon-fit, Nikon-fit, Sony-fit, and Pentax-fit versions of most of their lenses
  • Olympus Lenses

    Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds fit lenses for Olympus and Panasonic mirrorless cameras
  • Zeiss Lenses

    Canon-fit and Nikon-fit of all of their lenses, including Cine lenses; Sony E-mount fit, Fujifilm X-mount, and Leica M-Mount fit for many of their lenses
  • Fujifilm Lenses

    XF-mount for their own APS-C X-Series mirrorless cameras and GF-mount for their GFX mirrorless medium format digital cameras
  • Panasonic Lenses

    Micro Four Thirds lenses for their Lumix G mirrorless cameras and Olympus mirrorless cameras
  • Hasselblad Lenses

    XCD-mount lenses for Hasselblad medium format mirrorless digital cameras

Use our guide below to learn more about different types of lenses or to choose the perfect new lens to add to your camera system for any purpose. Alternatively, give our helpful Customer Service Team a call on 01444 23 70 70 or drop us an email at

Macro Lenses

macro lenses explained

There are generally two types of macro lenses; those that are purpose built in order to capture small and intricate details, and those that are classed as ‘macro’ because they have a short closest focusing distance.

Those that are purpose-built tend to be prime lenses with a wider maximum aperture, this means the quality of glass inside is superior as it only has to do one job - focus as close as possible. There are zoom purpose built versions, but prime lenses provide a higher quality image output.

Lenses that also have a macro function are a lot more affordable because they’re great for everyday photography as well. These lenses tend to have longer focal lengths, which means the image quality isn’t as good as a prime, purpose built macro lens. However, they are perfect for getting started with macro photography without breaking the bank.

In this guide, entry level means those that also serve other purposes and present an affordable entry into the world of macro photography. Intermediate lenses are made of higher quality, have a wider maximum aperture, but are not solely built to be macro lenses. Advanced are the highest quality lenses, generally prime lenses made to the absolute best standards, purpose built for macro photography.

Wide-Angle Lenses

wide-angle lenses explained

Wide-angle lenses are one of the most visually unique lens types out there. They give a view that is unnatural and distorted from our own eyes so we tend to find the images they create incredibly visually interesting.

However, the range and quality can vary enormously. At the upper end, the highest quality boast almost no image distortion at the edges or chromatic aberration (the distortion of colours and focus at the very edge of an image due to the lower quality glass).

These high-quality lenses can be used for anything from portraits, to landscape photography, to architectural photography.

Things to consider when buying one include the focal length, the aperture range, the cost, and the fit for your camera (i.e. a full frame or a crop sensor).

As with other types of lenses, they are available as either prime (fixed focal length) or a zoom lens, and there are variances in quality between the two.

Think about the purpose of your lens - are you photographing architecture and so might need a range of focal lengths to fit different buildings in? Or are you shooting portraits where you can move yourself closer or away from your subject to capture them in wide angle and so can use a prime lens? Or are you photographing a gig or live performance where you’re in a fixed position and need a zoom range?

Remember as well that if you’ve got a crop sensor camera, you’ll either need a dedicated crop sensor lens, or know that you won’t be making the full use of a full-frame lens.

Watch our 'wide angle lenses explained' video here.


Telephoto Lenses

telephoto lenses explained

Telephoto lenses occupy the longer focal length spectrum, generally accepted to be a focal length of 85mm or longer.

Just like other lens types, they come in zoom or prime versions, with primes providing the very best image quality. Zooms are extremely popular though, because unlike a prime lens where you are restricted to a very narrow field of view which limits the subject matter you are able to capture, a zoom lens gives you much greater flexibility in your photography.

Zooms are popular with a wide variety of photographers, in particular sports photographers and wildlife photographers who value the ability to follow a subject through the zoom range as well as being able to capture images at a range of focal lengths within their field of vision.

Image stabilisation is a common and well-appreciated feature on telephoto lenses as it cuts down on the shake and vibration within the lens, which is far more apparent at longer focal lengths.

Whether it’s a prime or zoom, a lens with a large aperture will give you versatility in shooting - allowing you to capture images in lower light than normal.

While they are popular with wildlife and sports photographers for their ability to capture objects and subjects that are far away, and occasionally popular with some fashion photographers for their ability to separate a subject from the background, they tend not to be as popular with portrait photographers or up-close images of people due to the compression effect of a longer focal length.

All-Round Lenses

all-round lenses explained

All-round lenses, general purpose lenses, and kit lenses are those that meet multiple needs - the kind of lens you can leave on your camera all day when you’re out and about and know you’ll get most of the shots you’re after.

An all-round lens is perfect for wedding or event photography where changing lenses repeatedly can slow down your workflow and mean you might miss the shot.

Even though an all-round, multi-purpose lens is doing many things and serving multiple functions, this doesn’t mean that it won’t still produce high-quality images.

Some have a long zoom range, going from a wide-angle to a long telephoto, however, others fit in the mid-zoom range covering the vast majority of images you’re likely to need it to cover.

The less you ask a lens to do, the higher quality the images coming out of the lens will be, so if you’re looking to buy one, aim for the shortest focal range you need.

However, if you need just one lens for your camera, then one with a long zoom range is an ideal candidate to leave on your camera so it’s always ready when you need it.


Cine Video Lenses

cine and video lenses explained

Cine (or Cinema) lenses are high quality optical lenses designed exclusively to be used for video production, both with DSLR cameras and with dedicated video camcorders and cinema cameras.

Cine lenses differ from still camera lenses in several important ways. Rather than f/stops they use t/stops for smoother transitions between apertures, they all come with manual aperture rings, and they all come fitted with follow focus gears around the focus and aperture rings for use with follow focus systems.

Additionally, multiple lenses will be built to the same size so they can be interchanged in a follow focus system, and other accessories, without readjusting the mechanism.

Cine zoom lenses are also parfocal, meaning they maintain focus through the zoom range, whereas still lenses are vari focal and will lose the focus when zooming.

In order to achieve the highest quality output for movies and cinema, cine lenses are also built to generally higher optical standards than still lenses.

Portrait Lenses

portrait lenses explained

Shooting the perfect portrait is a quest we’re all on, or have been on at one time or another in our photographic lives. There are a lot of things to consider in a portrait - the model, hair & make-up, fashion styling, background, lighting, and of course, the lens you’ll use.

Choosing the best lens for portrait photography is an important decision; a decision that has a number of factors to it. You’ve got to think about the cost of the lens, the fit for your camera (i.e. full frame or crop sensor), and weight and size of the lens. However, one of the most important factors in choosing the right portrait lens is the focal length.

The focal length you choose for your portrait photography can change how the shot ends up; it can totally change the atmosphere of the shot.

For example, if you’re looking for a nice, soft, beauty portrait, perhaps of a model, or a sitting subject, you’ll want to go for a longer focal length of 85mm or 100mm.

On the other hand, you can add some drama, vibrancy, and dynamism to your portrait by using a wide-angle lens and getting really up close with your subject. A wide-angle lens for portraits can produce some really outstanding results.

A good compromise for portraits is the middle focal length range of 50mm or 85mm lenses, these focal lengths give exceptionally pleasing results and most photographers will argue that the 85mm lens is the ‘perfect portrait lens’. An 85mm lens is generally accepted as a more advanced portrait lens, so for the purposes of this guide, we have included the beloved 50mm lens as the affordable, entry level option to get you started, and get you shooting.



By Park Cameras on 07/05/2018

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