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Lens Buying Guide Pt.3

June 23, 2008 - Dave Hecei
Going Long If your interests are the outdoors, sports, wildlife, etc., then your next lens will probably be a telephoto zoom. There are many shapes and sizes to choose from. An all-purpose zoom is in the 50-200mm range. On a DSLR this is equivalent to an 80-320mm on a 35mm SLR.

To get more magnification, you can go with a bit more zoom. A 70-300 is a great choice. A zoom in this range is available from pretty much every camera maker. Canon makes a special IS version (IS stands for Image Stabilized). A lens with IS allows you to hand hold the camera while the IS system helps reduce movement or vibration. This allows you to shoot with slower shutter speeds that would normally cause motion blur in the photos. Canon calls it IS, Nikon VR, Sigma OS. Lenses with IS are a bit more expensive, but are usually worth every penny. Going Close Macro photography, or close-up photography, is growing in popularity. I love macro photography and it always amazes me at how much I can find to shoot just in my own back.

A macro lens is just a lens that has the ability to focus closer than a normal lens. By moving the lens further or closer to the sensor, or film, a subject at a fixed distance can be brought into sharp focus. The closer the subject is to the camera, the further the lens needs to move away from the sensor. So a macro lens has special focusing threads that allow it to move further out than a normal lens.

Most zoom lenses claim to be ‘macro’. This is true and false. Most zooms can focus fairly close, but to get truly close, you need a true macro lens. Macros come in different focal lengths, allowing them to do different tasks. Macros are available in 50, 55, 60, 90, 100, 105, 150, 180, and 200mm (different manufacturers have different sizes – Nikon has a 55, 105, and 200mm Micro, while Canon makes a 50, 100, 180mm Macro).

A macro in the 50mm range is good for all-purpose shooting. It can be used as a macro and as a normal lens. Back in the 35mm days, a 50mm lens was referred to as a ‘normal’ lens because it gave the same perspective that our eye see unaided. A 50mm macro is also best for copying old photos or artwork.

A macro in the 100-200mm range is better for nature. With a longer focal length lens, you don’t have to be as close to the subject to get high magnification. If you are shooting insects, like butterflies or dragonflies, having the ability to shoot from a distance is important so you don’t scare them away.

In the End As with all consumer products, there are low-end and high-end products. Nikon has ED lenses while Canon has their L series. These lenses have special glass, special elements, or large maximum apertures, or a combination of all three. These lenses are more money, sometimes in the thousands of dollars range. For the average photographer, this is usually not feasible, but if you can afford them, they will give superior results.

Before you make your purchase, be sure to read all the reviews you can find on a particular lens. Read the industry reviews, found in photo magazines, but also make sure you read reviews from actual photographers. The Internet is a valuable source for information on a particular lens. If it’s out there, someone has an opinion on it. Know that a lens that tests great in a lab may not work great out in the field.


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Canon 55-250mm IS Telephoto zoom.