Audio Visual · Digital Printing Group · Cameras
Photography Tips

Choosing the Right Lens for the Job

Timothy Farmer
February 9, 2024
Learn the differences between lenses and when to choose one lens over another

Type of lenses:

Prime or fixed focal length lenses and Zoom lenses


Prime lenses are usually less expensive, lighter, and often faster (lower f-stop number) plus their focus is usually sharper. Common lengths at 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm (a popular macro length, Nikon is 105mmMacro) 135mm, 200mm, 300mm, 500mm…


Zooms lenses cover a range of focal length (like the three most common 15-35mm, 24,70mm, and 70-200mm). There are other ranges, but we often call these three “the holy trinity of lenses” and most photographers will have these or ones close to them in their bag. Wildlife and sports photographers often use the 150-600mm zoom lenses. They cost more and are bigger and heavier, but they allow you to have one lens instead of multiple lenses.

Whether you choose a prime or zoom really depends on your preference. Personally, I use both. For astrophotography I use primes for sharpness and how light weight they are. When I travel, I use zooms for versatility and because some time I can’t get closer or move back because of cliffs. When I’m in the studio doing portraits or product photography, I’m back to primes for superior their sharpness.



Full-frame vs Crop Lenses


A camera is a full-frame when the sensor size is the same size as a 35mm film negative. These cameras are usually bigger and more expensive.A crop sensor camera has a smaller sensor and are usually smaller and less expensive. Each have their pros and cons but the important thing to remember when it comes to lenses is making sure you know which camera you have so you buy the right lens. A full-frame lens will work on either a full-frame or crop sensor camera but a crop lens will not give full sensor coverage on a full-frame camera. This will mean the corners of your photos will not look right and may not even have any image at all.  


Macro Lenses


These are specialized lenses for shooting small subjects. A true macro lens will give you a 1:1 image size meaning a subject that is 1 inch long will take up 1 inch on the sensor. Macro can mean any lens that gives you this 1:1 factor or greater up to 1:5 or 5x magnification. Anything more is a microscope. Note, Nikon uses Micro instead of Macro when talking about these lenses.

Fisheye Lenses


These lenses are usually used just for fun. They are super wide-angle, and your photo will look distorted with the corners being very distorted.


Lens by focal length


·     Super wide-angle 10mm-24mm

·     Wide-angle 24mm- 35mm

·     Normal 45mm-85mm

·     50mm is about what the human eye sees

·     Short Telephoto (also called portrait lenses)85mm-135mm

·     Telephoto 135mm and up


These length are all for full-frame cameras, for crop sensor cameras you will need to multiply by cameras crop factor: 1.6x for Canon; 1.5xfor Nikon, Sony, and Fuji; 2x for Micro 4/3 cameras.


Which lens you use depends on what you are shooting. These are guidelines and can be broken but here is a good starting point and breakdown by subject.


Landscape and architecture usually will use super wide and wide angle.


Environmental portraits, street photography, product photography including food will use slightly wide to normal aspect lenses, 24-50mm.

Traditional portraits and detail photos will commonly bed one with a short telephoto. A lens withing the 85mm – 135mm range will give you a very flattering portrait. These lenses usually have great bokeh just by the nature of their length allowing you to shoot portrait with great blurry backgrounds,so your subject gets all the attention.

Telephoto lenses are commonly used for sports and wildlife photography though often you will see a landscape photographer using them for detail shots within a larger landscape. They are great for isolating your subject.


There are lots of things to consider when purchasing a lens.If you still need more insight, please come in and talk to one of our staff. We love talking about lenses and helping you get the right lens for you.