Monday, April 30, 2012

Hone in with a Telephoto Lens

There are going to be plenty of photographic opportunities when moving closer to your subject just isn't possible, and in those times of magnification need you can opt for a telephoto lens. A telephoto lens is available as both a zoom and prime (fixed) lens; it provides higher magnification and is used to photograph something far away because you either cannot get closer to it or you want to flatten the perspective. A zoom lens with a focal range above 100mm is classified as telephoto.

Years ago telephoto lenses that produced very high quality images were not only difficult to create, but very expensive. It's only been in the last decade or so that manufacturers could bump up the quality without drastically increasing the price. Telephoto lenses are popular among nature photographers –it's not easy sitting right next to a lion after all. Although it is traditionally used for wildlife and wide-angle for landscapes, don't be afraid to swap.Additionally they are excellent for sports photography, another scenario where it is difficult to be close to your subjects. It's also great for capturing candid shots, which tend to make the best pictures. The lens allows you to isolate your subject, to truly make it the center of attention.

The main obstacle to overcome when using a telephoto lens is camera shake. While some lenses have a vibration reduction mechanism, it won't completely solve the problem. Not only do you need to shoot at a faster shutter speed to minimize blurring, you should use a tripod whenever possible.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fisheye Lenses: Not to Be Confused with Wide-Angle

Fisheye lenses may seem like a cool way to experiment with your photography, but a fisheye lens doesn't have to be “all fun and games.” They are a wonderful opportunity to showcase your artistic side and they're more versatile than you think. The first order of business is to not confuse them with a wide-angle lens, although they do in fact capture a wide angle. The center of the image will appear somewhat normal while the outer portion is visibly distorted. A wide-angle lens has corrective elements to “fix” the distortion, unlike the fisheye lens.

There are two types of fisheye lenses: diagonal and circular. Diagonal is the preferred choice and will map a 180 degree angle view diagonally across the frame's sensor and fill the frame. A circular lens has a shorter focal length and creates a circular image centered in the frame. While these lenses might be awesome at funky pictures, you can utilize them in many situations. Because they're wide-angle, try them for landscape and nature photography. They also work well on architecture, especially on ceilings. Try moving in close to the subject for more detail, and if you use a shorter focal length, there will be less distortion.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Getting Up Close and Personal with Macro Lenses

Do you enjoy those photographs of little ladybugs and individual rain drops? If the tiny world we often do not see fascinates you, macro photography may be your heart's desire. While point-and-shoot cameras allow for macro mode, nothing competes with owning a macro lens for your digital SLR. You might assume that a macro lens falls under the zoom lenses category, but actually no. A true macro lens is actually a prime lens with a fixed focal length. However, there are macro zoom lenses available, used a lot for outdoor photography, but they offer lower quality images and will not have as high a magnification ratio.

Macro lenses are usually found in focal lengths of 50mm, 100mm, and 180mm. Higher focal lengths are more expensive, larger, and heavier. With a short focal length you will need to get much closer to the subject as opposed to a 180mm lens. Long focal lengths will further put the background out of focus, isolating the subject –which is really what you want.

When you're ready to shoot, set the camera to macro mode. In most cases you'll want to set a large aperture to create a smaller depth of field so the camera is more focused on the subject. Keep your subject fully in focus and make use of an external flash to draw more attention to the subject. Also the flash will allow you to keep your ISO low so you do not lose image quality.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Prime vs. Zoom Lenses

Before we delve into the specifics of particular digital camera lenses, the first lesson to master is the difference between prime and zoom lenses. Prime lenses are those have a single focal length, as opposed to zoom lenses which can have a range of focal lengths. As a refresher, focal length is the distance in mm from the center of the lens to the focal point. For the most part, prime lenses offer better quality because it is difficult to retain a sharp picture when moving through a full zoom range. But keep in mind that zoom lenses will be necessary for certain shots and better brands equal better images when zooming.

Prime lenses are sought after by professionals because they give the best possible results. Image quality is the main advantage and it is determined by four factors: sharpness, distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberration. Prime lenses rank the best in all four criteria. However, the obvious disadvantage is a fixed focal length. There is no zoom so you must physically move farther or closer away from your subject, which you know isn't always possible in photography. 

Honestly, each one is great to own and will be needed in certain scenarios. When quality matter most, stick with prime, but when the elements do not allow you to be so close, opt for the zoom instead.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

See Through the Eyes of Lenses

After successful lessons on photography lighting equipment, we'd like to shift into a new direction. If there is any piece of equipment as crucial as lighting, it's lenses. Without quality digital camera lenses, there is no photograph to showcase. The lens is the eye of the camera, capturing every minute detail, every ounce of color. Photographers can spend thousands of dollars on lenses because they know quality means everything. But besides quality, photographers need to purchase the right lens for the job, along with the knowledge of how to setup the focal length correctly.

Camera lenses are not just required of professionals. Anyone with a serious hobby will find that different lenses can take one's photographs to new heights. The lens you use for portraits isn't going to be the same you use for landscape or sports. Not all lenses were created equal.

Over the next few weeks we'll discuss the different types of lenses, such as macro, wide-angle, telephoto, etc., as well as tips, when to use them, and how to care for them. Super Digital City offers some of the best lenses to fit all major brand DSLR cameras and the proper accessories. Check back next week when we delve into prime versus zoom lenses.