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When parallel rays of light strike a lens focused at infinity, they converge to a point called the focal point. The focal length of the lens is then defined as the distance from the middle of the lens to its focal point. The focal length of a lens is usually displayed on the lens barrel. Below is a picture of a Canon lens with a focal length of 50mm. The maximum aperture is f/1.8. Lenses are usually categorized as having a wide-angle, normal or telephoto focal length. A normal SLR lens covers a 24x36mm film frame with a field of view that corresponds approximately to our normal vision; a lens with a focal length of 50mm (55mm is also popular) is considered as normal.
Any lens with a focal length less than 50mm (or 55mm) can be considered as wideangle; any lens with a focal length greater than 50mm (or 55mm) can be considered a telephoto. A zoom lens offers a range of focal lengths. This table lists some of the more popular focal lengths:
Lens Wide-angle Normal Telephoto Popular Focal Lengths for 35mm cameras 18mm, 20mm, 28mm, 35mm 50mm, 55mm 90mm, 135mm, 200mm, 300mm
Take a look at the two Nikon lenses below; the lens on the left is an SLR camera zoom lens with a focal length of 28-105mm. This is a popular zoom lens because it provides a good wide-angle (28mm) as well as enough telephoto reach for a good portrait (with 105mm, you can fill the screen with a face without getting in your subject's face, so to speak). The lens on the right comes with the Nikon Coolpix 5400 digital camera and has zoom focal lengths of 5.8-24mm. Believe it or not, this is the equivalent of 28116mm zoom lens on a 35mm SLR camera! (The Coolpix 5400 no longer seems to
5D AF-Zoom Nikkor Nikon Coolpix 5400: 5.e. some digital cameras are now even engraved with the 35mm equivalent on the lens barrel to express the focal length of the lens. It makes more sense in a way. This is especially true in the area of depth of field. then the multiplier is 1. it is the same size as 35mm film. . i. camera manufacturers will list the 35mm SLR equivalent in the specifications of a digital camera.8-4. depends on the image sensor size used (that will be in the Specifications section of your camera manual). you need to be aware that the focal lengths expressed on the lenses must be multiplied by a factor. such as the amount of optical zoom provided. It's more convenient to use the SLR equivalent as a handy reference point. That factor. though it is important to bear in mind that 35mm equivalent does not mean 100% compatibility with the real SLR lens.) Nikon 28-105mm f/3.8-24mm (28-116mm. Of course. the Focal Length Multiplier.be available although accessories for it are. Interestingly. Other factors. may further affect the distance between lens and the image sensor.6 Zoom Nikkor ED Because the image sensor size used in digital cameras are of different sizes. if the image sensor is full-frame.5-4. but you might track one down for a good price on eBay. larger image sensors require larger lenses to ensure all the surface of the image sensor is covered. Most. if not all. the same focal lengths may be expressed using different numeric values. and the focal length of the lens is accurate. Smaller image sensors require smaller lenses. 35mm equivalent) f/2. If you use a digital SLR (dSLR) that uses lenses made for 35mm film cameras.
there are no mechanical levers or plungers. A little experience will let you identify 35mm SLR lenses from lenses specifically designed for use with dSLRs. All communication between camera and lens takes place through electrical contacts.6 x 50mm = 80mm. There are two types of USMs. becomes approx. a 100-300mm zoom lens.However.EF lenses equipped with USM drives have fast. the ring-type USM and the micromotor USM. The bad news is.the Image Stabilizer (IS) counters camera movements and shakes by optically correcting such shakes with accelerometers and lens groups that move in relation to the shakes. Lens Terminology EF . While this is equivalent to a 35mm SLR range of 29mm-56mm.The EF lens mount allows all the Canon EF lenses to be used on any of the Canon EOS. EF stands for “Electro-Focus”: automatic focusing on EF lenses is handled by a dedicated electric motor built into the lens. and consume less power compared to other AF drive motors. For example. say. One solution is to buy a 16mm fisheye lens which. only a few dSLRs use a full-frame image sensor (such cameras are beyond the budget of hobbyist photographers. USM . that super wide-angle lenses are equally affected and a 28mm lens becomes a 45mm lens.6. with a focal length multiplier of 1. 160-480mm. The good news is that you can now get super telephoto focal lengths on your dSLR without buying costly and unwieldly dedicated lenses.6. of course.Image stabilizer . IS . So. To confuse matters even more. becomes a 26mm lens.6 needs to be applied to the focal length of the lens to obtain the true focal length. that equivalent range isn't printed on the lens. silent and precise auto focus operations. That's why you'll read that a focal length multiplier of. 'digital' lenses are appearing (or sold along with digital camera bodies) which show the digital focal length range rather than the SLR equivalent. the actual focal length of the lens when used with your dSLR is 1.Ultrasonic motor drive . usually APS size (or roughly halfframe). when factored up by 1.6 and you use a 50mm lens with it. 1. Canon provide an 18-55mm lens with their EOS digital range of cameras. and it allows for full-time manual focus operations without switching out of AF mode. This is both good and bad. thus minimizing or even eliminating minute vibrations from the image. suppose your dSLR has a Focal Length Multiplier of 1. A general rule-of-thumb to overcome such vibrations would be to set the shutter speed equal to or faster than the reciprocal of the lens . being in the range of several thousands of dollars). Ring-type USM is always preferred because of its superior performance and efficiency. with most using a smaller image sensor.
1/125s for a 100 mm lens). Since a telephoto lens will bring the subject up close. The quality is excellent while also being inexpensive. and the aperture allows photographs to be taken in low-light situations. The 50mm is the most popular and versatile lens. Most recent L lenses have sealing to help resist dust and water. the same 100 mm lens could be used at 1/30s. determined by the focal length (measured in millimeters) of the lenses.focal length (e. are the following: Normal . Lseries lenses have superior optical performance and are typically built with a solid construction to withstand constant use and harsh conditions.g. The three basic lens types. Telephoto .A telephone lens brings the background closer.series lenses . EF-S . L-series lenses are more frequently used by professionals and serious amateurs due to their high price and large mass. That is. 50mm is a typical normal focal length. IS lenses can improve on this rule by up to three stops.A normal lens shows most accurately what a normal human eye will see.The lens mount is a derivative of the EF lens mount created for a subset of Canon digital single-lens reflex cameras with APS-C sized image sensors. It is smaller and lighter. Longer-than-normal focal lengths such as 70mm and 300mm are typical for a telephoto lens. . They can be recognized by a red ring around the front part of the lens.top of the line Canon EF lenses are designated as L-series. L . it is popular for sports photography.
The lens speed is determined by the f-stop setting. A zoom will have a variable focal length such as 28mm105mm. It increases the focal length of your lens. A teleconverter attaches between the camera and another lens. To get the true focal length of a digital camera the number needs to be multiplied by 1. they do not allow as much light through the lens. Fisheye. Teleconverter. While zoom lenses are more convenient for storage and versatility.Wide . Remember that the lens won't be as wide on a digital camera as you would get on a film camera using the same lens. . A fisheye lens uses an angle of view up to 180 degrees. Lenses come in either prime or zoom. Focal length in a zoom lens can be changed by turning the zoom ring on the lens. Digital camera SLR users need to be aware of the focal length differences in lenses that are interchangeable for film and digital cameras. prime lenses often have a sharper lens and work better in low-light situations. In addition to focal length.6. they need slower shutter speeds and/or a fast ISO. Shorter-thannormal focal lengths such as 24mm and 35 mm are typical for a wide lens. In order to fit more or less into the viewfinder. Wide lenses are popular for landscape photography and large group shots. All focal lengths listed on interchangeable lenses are for film cameras. Other special lenses to consider include the following: Macro. Although teleconverters will bring the subject closer. the photographer must physically move forward or backward. A macro lens's focus is closer to the subject and is used for close-up photography. A faster lens will be heavier and more expensive.A wide lens captures a wider expanse of the background than what the human eye will see. Thus. The angle distorts the photograph so the four sides appear to be farther away. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length. consider the lens speed and its focusing distance. The focusing distance is the distance from the lens to the subject needed to achieve a focused photograph.
Often it will be a balance of these considerations that leads you to a good camera.For example. . lens speed. When purchasing a new lens. telephoto or wide lens. first consider your needs. consider the trade-off between the optics quality. focal distance and price. a zoom lens. the convenience of a prime vs. the standard 50mm lens on a film camera is actually 80mm on a digital camera. Then. What will you be photographing? The subjects of your photographs should dictate whether you need a normal. the camera's weight.
This means that you can never really isolate just one of the elements alone but always need to have the others in the back of your mind. you could increase the size of the window (increase aperture) or you could take off your sunglasses (make the ISO larger). You could increase the time that the shutters are open (decrease shutter speed). The longer you leave them open the more that comes in. Your eyes become desensitized to the light that comes in (it’s like a low ISO). If it’s bigger more light gets through and the room is brighter. Ok – it’s not the perfect illustration – but you get the idea. Shutter Speed is the amount of time that the shutters of the window are open. In many ways it’s a juggling act and even the most experienced photographers experiment and tweak their settings as they go. The three elements are: ISO – the measure of a digital camera sensor’s sensitivity to light Aperture – the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken Shutter Speed – the amount of time that the shutter is open It is at the intersection of these three elements that an image’s exposure is worked out. Now imagine that you’re inside the room and are wearing sunglasses (hopefully this isn’t too much of a stretch). Keep in mind that changing each element not only impacts the exposure of the image but each one also has an impact upon other . Aperture and Shutter Speed Each of the three aspects of the triangle relate to light and how it enters and interacts with the camera. Bringing It All Together Mastering the art of exposure is something that takes a lot of practice. There are a number of ways of increasing the amount of light in the room (or at least how much it seems that there is. Aperture is the size of the window. The Window Imagine your camera is like a window with shutters that open and close.Understanding ISO. Most importantly a change in one of the elements will impact the others.
.aspects of it (i.e. You can take as many shots as you like at no cost and they not only allow you to shoot in Auto mode and Manual mode – but also generally have semi-automatic modes like aperture priority and shutter priority modes which allow you to make decisions about one or two elements of the triangle and let the camera handle the other elements. changing ISO changes the graininess of a shot and changing shutter speed impacts how motion is captured). changing aperture changes depth of field. The great thing about digital cameras is that they are the ideal testing bed for learning about exposure.
200. It was measured in numbers (you’ve probably seen them on films – 100.What is ISO? In traditional (film) photography ISO (or ASA) was the indication of how sensitive a film was to light. 400. Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds (for example an indoor sports event when you want to freeze the action in lower light) – however the cost is noisier shots. Most people tend to keep their digital cameras in ‘Auto Mode’ where the camera selects the appropriate ISO setting depending upon the conditions you’re shooting in (it will try to keep it as low as possible) but most cameras also give you the opportunity to select your own ISO also. In Digital Photography ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. For example . I’ll illustrate this below with two elargements of shots that I just took – the one on the left is taken at 100 ISO and the one of the right at 3200 ISO (click to enlarge to see the full effect). The same principles apply as in film photography – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. When you do override your camera and choose a specific ISO you’ll notice that it impacts the aperture and shutter speed needed for a well exposed shot. 100 ISO is generally accepted as ‘normal’ and will give you lovely crisp shots (little noise/grain). The lower the number the lower the sensitivity of the film and the finer the grain in the shots you’re taking. 800 etc).
Birthday Parties – blowing out the candles in a dark room can give you a nice moody shot which would be ruined by a bright flash. 2. Situations where you might need to push ISO to higher settings include: Indoor Sports Events – where your subject is moving fast yet you may have limited light available. I want little grain.many galleries have rules against using a flash and of course being indoors are not well lit. I don’t have a tripod and/or my subject is moving I might consider increasing the ISO as it will enable me to shoot with a faster shutter speed and still expose the shot well.– if you bumped your ISO up from 100 to 400 you’ll notice that you can shoot at higher shutter speeds and/or smaller apertures. I purposely want grain. Concerts – also low in light and often ‘no-flash’ zones Art Galleries. . I’m using a tripod and my subject is stationary I will generally use a pretty low ISO rating. Experiment with different settings and how they impact your images today. When choosing the ISO setting I generally ask myself the following four questions: 1. Light – Is the subject well lit? Grain – Do I want a grainy shot or one without noise? Tripod – Am I using a tripod? Moving Subject – Is my subject moving or stationary? If there is plenty of light. ISO is an important aspect of digital photography to have an understanding of if you want to gain more control of your digital camera. Increasing the ISO can help capture the scene. 4. 3. Churches etc. However if it’s dark. Of course the trade off of this increase in ISO will be noisier shots.
Moving from one f-stop to the next doubles or halves the size of the amount of opening in your lens (and the amount of light getting through). It seems the wrong way around when you first hear it but you’ll get the hang of it.8 is in fact a much larger aperture than f/22. .8. So f/2. f/5. Large depth of field means that most of your image will be in focus whether it’s close to your camera or far away (like the picture below where both the foreground and background are largely in focus – taken with an aperture of f/22). One thing that causes a lot of new photographers confusion is that large apertures (where lots of light gets through) are given f/stop smaller numbers and smaller apertures (where less light gets through) have larger f-stop numbers. The aperture that you set impacts the size of that hole. Keep in mind that a change in shutter speed from one stop to the next doubles or halves the amount of light that gets in also – this means if you increase one and decrease the other you let the same amount of light in – very handy to keep in mind).f/22 etc. The larger the hole the more light that gets in – the smaller the hole the less light.6. Aperture is measured in ‘f-stops’.f/8.What is Aperture? Put most simply – Aperture is ‘the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken.’ When you hit the shutter release button of your camera a hole opens up that allows your cameras image sensor to catch a glimpse of the scene you want to capture. Depth of Field and Aperture There are a number of results of changing the aperture of your shots that you’ll want to keep in mind as you consider your setting but the most noticeable one will be the depth of field that your shot will have. You’ll often see them referred to here at Digital Photography School as f/number – for example f/2. Depth of Field (DOF) is that amount of your shot that will be in focus. f/4.
5). You’ll see in it that the tip of the yellow stems are in focus but even though they are only 1cm or so behind them that the petals are out of focus. This is a very shallow depth of field and was taken with an aperture of f/4. Large aperture (remember it’s a smaller number) will decrease depth of field while small aperture (larger numbers) will give you larger depth of field.Small (or shallow) depth of field means that only part of the image will be in focus and the rest will be fuzzy (like in the flower on top of). . It can be a little confusing at first but the way I remember it is that small numbers mean small DOF and large numbers mean large DOF. Aperture has a big impact upon depth of field.
Let me illustrate this with two pictures I took earlier this week in my garden of two flowers.8. The difference is quite obvious. You’ll quickly see the impact that it can have and the usefulness of being able to control aperture. The f/2.8 shot (2nd one) has the left flower in focus (or parts of it) but the depth of field is very shallow and the background is thrown out of focus and the bud to the right of the flower is also less in focus due to it being slightly further away from the camera when the shot was taken. Go outside and find a spot where you’ve got items close to you as well as far away and take a series of shots with different aperture settings from the smallest setting to the largest. Some styles of photography require large depths of field (and small Apertures) For example in most landscape photography you’ll see small aperture settings (large numbers) selected by photographers. The first picture below (click them to enlarge) on the left was taken with an aperture of f/22 and the second one was taken with an aperture of f/2. The f/22 picture has both the flower and the bud in focus and you’re able to make out the shape of the fence and leaves in the background. On the other hand in portrait photography it can be very handy to have your subject perfectly in focus but to have a nice blurry background in order to ensure that your subject is the main focal point and that other elements in the shot are not distracting. The best way to get your head around aperture is to get your camera out and do some experimenting. This ensures that from the foreground to the horizon is relatively in focus. .
.In this case you’d choose a large aperture (small number) to ensure a shallow depth of field. Macro photographers tend to be big users of large apertures to ensure that the element of their subject that they are focusing in on totally captures the attention of the viewer of their images while the rest of the image is completely thrown out of focus.
Shutter speeds available to you on your camera will usually double (approximately) with each setting. If there is movement in your scene you have the choice of either freezing the movement (so it looks still) or letting the moving object intentionally blur (giving it a sense of movement). This is because anything slower than this is very difficult to use without getting camera shake. 1/30. . when you’re going after special effects and/or when you’re trying to capture a lot of movement in a shot). To freeze movement in an image (like in the surfing shot above) you’ll want to choose a faster shutter speed and to let the movement blur you’ll want to choose a slower shutter speed. 1/60. As a result you’ll usually have the options for the following shutter speeds – 1/500. Some cameras also give you the option for very slow shutter speeds that are not fractions of seconds but are measured in seconds (for example 1 second. This ‘doubling’ is handy to keep in mind as aperture settings also double the amount of light that is let in – as a result increasing shutter speed by one stop and decreasing aperture by one stop should give you similar exposure levels (but we’ll talk more about this in a future post). 1/15. 1/250. Some cameras also give you the option to shoot in ‘B’ (or ‘Bulb’) mode. These are used in very low light situations. In most cases you’ll probably be using shutter speeds of 1/60th of a second or faster. If you’re using a slow shutter speed (anything slower than 1/60) you will need to either use a tripod or some type of image stabilization (more and more cameras are coming with this built in). 10 seconds.e. 30 seconds etc). 1/125. 1/1000 is much faster than 1/30). Bulb mode lets you keep the shutter open for as long as you hold it down. The bigger the denominator the faster the speed (i. 1/8 etc. The actual speeds you should choose will vary depending upon the speed of the subject in your shot and how much you want it to be blurred. Camera shake is when your camera is moving while the shutter is open and results in blur in your photos.Shutter Speed Shutter speed is measured in seconds – or in most cases fractions of seconds. When considering what shutter speed to use in an image you should always ask yourself whether anything in your scene is moving and how you’d like to capture that movement.
or when you’re taking a shot of a star scape and want to show how the stars move over a longer period of time etc. The ‘rule’ of thumb to use with focal length in non image stabilized situations) is to choose a shutter speed with a denominator that is larger than the focal length of the lens. Longer focal lengths will accentuate the amount of camera shake you have and so you’ll need to choose a faster shutter speed (unless you have image stabilization in your lens or camera). There are times when motion is good.another thing to consider when choosing shutter speed is the focal length of the lens you’re using. To compensate for this you’ll probably need to increase your aperture one stop (for example from f16 to f11). Focal Length and Shutter Speed . . In all of these instances choosing a longer shutter speed will be the way to go. The other alternative would be to choose a faster ISO rating (you might want to move from ISO 100 to ISO 400 for example). However in all of these cases you need to use a tripod or you’ll run the risk of ruining the shots by adding camera movement (a different type of blur than motion blur). or when you’re taking a shot of a racing car and want to give it a feeling of speed. Shutter Speed – Bringing it together Remember that thinking about Shutter Speed in isolation from the other two elements of the Exposure Triangle (aperture and ISO) is not really a good idea. For example if you have a lens that is 50mm 1/60th is probably ok but if you have a 200mm lens you’ll probably want to shoot at around 1/250. As you change shutter speed you’ll need to change one or both of the other elements to compensate for it.Motion is not always bad – I spoke to one digital camera owner last week who told me that he always used fast shutter speeds and couldn’t understand why anyone would want motion in their images. For example when you’re taking a photo of a waterfall and want to show how fast the water is flowing. For example if you speed up your shutter speed one stop (for example from 1/125th to 1/250th) you’re effectively letting half as much light into your camera.
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