Choosing lenses

The Public Lending Right authority in Britain was responsible for this one. When we received our PLR statements for 2007, it turned out that 'The Lens Book', on choosing and using lenses, was one of the most borrowed in that year. So, we thought, there must be some interest...

This is a linked series of articles, grouped (loosely) according to focal length and application. A related (but rather different) paid module is Using Old Lenses, and there's some overlap with the 'Basics' module on lenses.

This series is mostly about 35mm lenses and their equivalents, as this is the way most people seem to think, i.e. an 18mm lens on a Nikon D70 (16x24mm sensor) is described in most books and magazines as '24mm equivalent' (in coverage compared with 35mm) while a 15mm on a Leica M8 (18x27mm sensor) is described as '20mm equivalent.

But before we get into specific focal lengths, the first module begins with what to look for in a lens.

1   What do you look for? With two dozen pictures, this is designed as an antidote to the internet obsession with technical details -- not just the obvious ones such as 'should I buy 35mm or 40mm?' but also 'Which lens is sharper, this one or that one?' when the truth is that sharpness ain't going to make a blind bit of difference to the quality of most photographers' images, because they are spending far too much time on internet forums and nothing like enough time on taking or processing and reviewing their pictures (just shooting 'em ain't enough -- you have to look at them too).


The picture on the right is taken from this module and was shot with a Leica M8 and a 50/1 Noctilux used at full aperture. Don't worry: one of our messages is that ultra-exotic lenses such as this are far from essential and may even be a distraction.

youg danseuse

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© 2008 Roger W. Hicks