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Photography Photography Every owner of an interchangeable lens camera is


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Every owner of an interchangeable-lens camera is faced with the pleasant
dilemma of picking the most appropriate lenses to buy, then deciding
which to use. However, there are no rules to go by; much depends on your
personal style and what you already own. To help you decide which lenses
to buy and how best to use them, we offer the following.

Normal lenses: Today, many 35mm photographers opt for a short zoom
instead of a 50mm, but both have their virtues. If you need a fast,
general-purpose lens in the f/1.4-f/2 range for available-light work,
nothing can beat a 50mm. Positives: Usually more compact, lighter than a
short zoom; often less costly; generally very sharp; provides brighter
viewing image. Negatives: No zooming; you must compose by moving the
Short zooms offer framing flexibility, often in a package not much larger
than a 50mm lens. A 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 is usually the smallest and least
expensive, but a 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 is more useful for shooting interiors,
vistas, and cramped quarters because it gets down to 28mm. If you shoot
portraits, nature, or sports at close range, consider a compact 35-105mm
or a 35-135mm zoom. Normal zoom positives: Equivalent to two or more
single focal length lenses in a handy, responsive package, it provides
intermediate focal lengths; there's less need to switch lenses. Normal
zoom negatives: Moderate aperture (typically f/3.5-4.5) limits low-light
shooting and focusing precision with manual focus, affects viewing
brightness. Zooms tend to be larger, heavier, more expensive than 50mm

Wide-angle lenses: They range from 24mm (bordering on ultrawide) to 35mm
(bordering on semiwide). As with normals, the choice is between very
compact, single-focal-length lenses of relatively wide aperture (f/2-
f/2.8, a few f/1.4s) and moderate-aperture zooms (around f/3.5-4.5),
which provide superior framing flexibility. For positives and negatives
on both types, see normal-lens section above.
Many wide zooms, such as 24-50mm, 25-50mm, 28-50mm, etc., encompass
normal as well as wide-angle focal lengths, which is an advantage. A few
(for example, 21-35mm, 18-28mm) combine ultrawide (21mm and below) and
wide focal lengths (see ultrawide section below). Many are not much
larger or heavier than a 50mm. Although 25-50mm or 21 -35mm may not sound
as impressive, it's the zoom ratio (long divided by short focal length)
that counts. If you need a really fast wide-angle (for example, 35mm
f/1.4, 28mm f/2, 24mm f/2) for available light or shooting handheld with
slow film, stick to single focal lengths.

Ultrawide-angle lenses: With focal lengths of 21mm and below in 35mm
format, they provide extreme angular coverage of 90 degrees or more.
Positives: Ultrawides, by virtue of low image magnification, provide
great depth of field; more likely to yield sharp-looking images when
handheld at slow shutter speeds. Excellent for expanding tight interior
spaces, capturing vistas; for intimate photojournalism, street
photography. Negatives: Apparent perspective distortion, though useful
for dramatic or comic effects, is problematic in portraiture. Avoid
placing subjects near edges of the frame or prominent features, such as
noses, in the foreground.
Medium tele lenses: Sometimes called portrait lenses, these optics in the
85-135mm range are fine for portraiture, minimize apparent perspective
distortion, and provide convenient working distance when shooting faces
close up. Many tele zooms work well in this range, but they're heavier,
longer, and slower than single focal length lenses. If you shoot a large
percentage of portraits, you should consider getting an 85mm f/2, 100mm
f/2, or 105mm f/2.5, even if you own a tele. Positives: They allow
discreet photography of people without the perspective-flattening effect
of long teles; single focal length type combines fast aperture, bright
viewing image, good image quality. Negative: For zooms, see above; for
single focal length, fairly specialized.

Long tele lenses: Traditionally, any lens over 135mm for 35mm photography
is a long tele. Today, the most popular by far are zooms in the 80-200mm
or 70-210mm range. Unless you need a lens that's very fast and very long
(such as the optically superb but large, heavy, and very expensive 300mm
and 400mm f/2.8s used by professional sports photographers), a tele zoom
is the most flexible and economical choice. For many photographers, a 70-
210mm f/3.5-4.5 (especially one with macro) is the only long tele they'll
need. Positives: Reasonable size, weight, and price, wide range of uses-
nature, sports, people, portraits, scenics. Negatives: Moderate and
variable aperture; mediocre performance unless stopped way down. A number
of suprisingly compact 100-300mm f/5.6s are now offered for those who
need a bit more reach, and there are a few fine 200-500mm f/5.6s for
those who need really long teles for such things as long-distance sports
close-ups. Long tele zoom negatives: larger size and weight.

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