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How to Choose a Camera Lens

Published: 08/11/2021

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If you own a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you may already have a lens that came with the kit. For most cameras, it is a zoom lens with a focal length of 18mm to 50mm. However, you might need a different camera lens based on the subject that you want to take pictures of. 

While learning how to choose a camera lens, you need to work out the weaknesses of your current lens. Search for a lens that has the features that your current one lacks. 

How to Choose a Camera Lens

When you are new to photography, you need to direct your attention towards two features: the focal length and maximum aperture. These are two of the biggest factors influencing your output. 

Aperture refers to the opening of the lens's diaphragm to let light pass. A lower aperture gives more exposure because the opening of the diaphragm is larger, while a higher aperture gives less exposure because the opening of the diaphragm is smaller. 

The focal length range of the camera lens affects the sharpness of your image. If your subject is far away, you need a wider focal length range, and if your subject is near, you need a lens with a fixed focal length. 

Woman holding a camera

Lenses Used in Different Genres of Photography

Photography has different genres, and each of them require a specific camera lens in order to get the best result. Let’s talk about three different photography niches as examples.

Portrait Photography Lenses

For portrait photography, you will need a short to medium telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses have focal lengths between 70mm to 200mm. This is the ideal lens because it prevents distortion. If the focal length of your lens is below 70mm, then you will need to stand close to your subject and it could distort the image. 

If you wish to take portraits and headshots, kit lenses won't work because the aperture is not wide enough to create a shallow depth of field. A camera lens with a maximum focal length range of 50mm does not provide much distance either. 

If you wish to focus on portrait photography, you can get the NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8. With this camera brand, you will probably achieve the portrait shots that you want, for example, a photoshoot for women's apparel wearing a balconette bra.

Product Photography Lenses

For product photography, it is best to get a camera lens with a focal length of 50mm. Lenses that have smaller focal lengths can cause wide-angle distortion and your images won't be as sharp and clear. 

A prime camera lens with a fixed focal length of 50mm lets you take a picture of the product and its background in a way that does not distort it. Instead, it gives it a beautiful background blur without affecting the subject. 

You can get the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 or the Canon RF50mm F1.8

Landscape Photography Lenses

For landscape photography, the ideal focal length range is between 28mm to 35mm because it can cover the wide-angle view without causing any distortion. You can get the Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 for this genre.

Prime Lenses vs. Zoom Lenses

Camera lenses come in several types. For instance, there are lenses with fixed focal length, also called prime lenses, and lenses that let you zoom in and out of the subject also called zoom lenses

In this case, how would you know which lens to use? And which genre of photography is suited for each lens?

Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are camera lenses that have a fixed focal length. They’re known for producing high-quality pictures. They have wide apertures, and they have a smaller size compared to zoom lenses. Prime lenses allow you to travel light. 

Also, prime lenses encourage you to move and explore different angles and scenes because you can't adjust the focal length. 

Having one focal length to work with means that you have to be creative in finding the right composition instead of just experimenting with several focal lengths. 

When to Use Prime Lenses

However, since they have only one focal length, there are certain limits. You will need several prime lenses in order to cover your needs. 

Prime lenses are ideal for:

  • Portrait photography
  • Product photography
Person holding a camera lens

Zoom Lenses

Zoom lenses can cover a wide variety of photography needs. They can help you take pictures of every genre. Whether you are into landscapes or portraits, sports or events, these lenses give you several focal lengths to choose from. 

One of the notable advantages of a zoom lens is flexibility. Since it has the ability to zoom in and out of your subject, it reduces your need to get multiple lenses. 

When to Use Zoom Lenses

One zoom lens can serve numerous purposes. However, quality can be an issue since a slight miscalculation on the focal length can result in a distorted image. Also, zoom lenses are bulky, and they often have narrow apertures. 

Zoom lenses are ideal for:

  • Wildlife photography
  • Sports photography
  • Events photography

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Choose a Wide Angle Lens for Landscape Photography?

If you wish to focus on landscape photography, a wide-angle lens is the right one for you. With wide-angle lenses, the lower the focal length range is, the more field of view you will see in your pictures. 

Wide-angle images can be a bit distorted, especially the borders as they will look curved. However, the subject itself will be clear and sharp. 


When thinking about how to choose a camera lens, you need to consider the genre of photography that you want to do. 

Each camera lens has a specific feature, aperture, and focal length that can contribute to the overall look of your pictures. Getting the right camera lens based on the pictures that you want to take can give you the result that you desire. 

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