Choosing the Right Camera Lens

Lesson 7/35 - Lens Comparisons


Choosing the Right Camera Lens


Lesson Info

Lens Comparisons

All right, so let's talk a little bit more about these focal lengths. As we go from 50 down to 24 and 16, I have found these lenses, they're more difficult to build, they're more costly, and they're also more difficult to use, and the same thing is true on the telephoto side. As we go into the bigger and bigger lenses, they're just more difficult to build and to use, and so, as you grow in your photography, probably, the lens selection that you choose from can also grow. If I was running a photographic university with students right here in front of me, and they had to get everything from me, their first year, all they would shoot with is maybe a 35 and a 50 millimeter lens, that's it, and than their Sophomore year, they would graduate and they could use 24 and the 100 millimeter, and than by their Junior and Senior years, than they can start using the ultra wides and the super telephotos, because once you learn how to use those basic lenses, those skills are gonna help you when you mo...

ve to those more extreme settings. And so I have been playing around with different lenses, and I wanted to show you a bunch of different scenarios of what these lenses look like in different scenarios. And so this first one is here in Seattle, on this area Rainier Vista, I think it is, or Rainier Avenue, and it's got this great view of Mount Rainier in the background, and this is very much what it looks like when you're standing at the top of the steps with a 50 millimeter lens, and so then we go down to our 35, our 24, good wide angle, and then we get down to our ultra wide and you can really clearly see the steps that we're standing on, and then we move in back to our 50, getting into our telephoto, and you can see the pond out there, some traffic lights, and then we can get our nice closeup shot all the way at 400 millimeters, and so each one tells a slightly different story. Another place that I really like shooting with all the different lenses is Canyonlands, and when you can't back up any further, you're trying to show as much as you can, this is the 16 millimeter lens, and let's see how close we can get in on things in the distance, as we go 200, and up to 400 millimeters where we're able to just really pick out those details, and then we'll bring it back down, all the way to 16, and each of those different lenses tells a slightly different story. In Zion National Park, I'm gonna throw in a fisheye lens here, I'll talk more about those in an upcoming section in the class, shooting with a fisheye lens, trying to show you as much from side to side as I can, and we'll move into our ultra wide 16, and we're gonna zoom all the way in. In this case, we're gonna go all the way up to 800 millimeters, and when we get in at 800, you can clearly see this tree in the middle of a big round lawn, and I saw that there, and it kinda was like, you know what, it'd be really nice to go sit in the shade of that tree. So I climbed down, and I went right down to that tree, and I went back, and I shot this reversed. So I pointed it up at where I was on Angel's Landing, and you can see there's a bunch of people up there than, and I was right up there with my camera and lenses shooting, and that's what it looks like with an 800, so let's bring this back all the way down to a fisheye shot, and now you can clearly see Angel's Landing, and those people that were on the lawn are still there in front of me, back down here at the wide angle, and so, each one of these tells a different story. Now there is another way to shoot with all these lenses, and it's a little bit more difficult, but it does show you the perspective difference, and so in this case, I'm gonna be using a wide range of lenses, and my subject is gonna be the same size in the frame, and so, with a 50 millimeter lens, everything is rendered, very, very normally. And now what I'm gonna do first, is I'm gonna move closer, but I'm gonna keep my subject the same size 'cause I'm switching to a wider angle lens, and I keep moving closer and closer, and when I'm shooting with this 15 millimeter fisheye, I'm about three or four feet away from my subject, and you'll see how much we see of the background, we see a lot from side to side. So let's get ourselves back to our normal perspective at 50. 100 is a nice portrait lens. This is a very normal perspective, and here is where we're gonna start reducing the size of the background significantly as we go in to our telephoto lenses. Notice those stairs in the background. We can see 'em completely from side to side with a 200, and now we're just seeing a section of 'em at 400, and really isolating our subject here at 800, and notice how much it's thrown out the background, thrown it out of focus, so that your subject's in focus, but the background is out of focus, but the background has also been reduced in size from our perspective and our narrow angle of view with this 800 millimeter lens. Quick questions, so again, this is somebody who has a crop sensor Nikon, and a DX 35 millimeter lens, is it 35 or 50 millimeters when I take a photo? Oh, so here's the kind of easy thing about lenses. Whatever it says on it, that's what it is, and that's really all you need to worry about. Now, when you start referring to the rest of the world out there, with your Nikon, 35 millimeter lens, what does that look like to me and my 50 millimeter lens? Well your 35 is like my 50 millimeter lens, they're different but they're equal, and so that 35 millimeter lens on the Nikon is a normaler standard lens, I forget in the angle of view, I think it's around 40 degrees from side to side, and so that acts and looks, or I should say, it has the angle of view of a 50 millimeter lens for a full frame user. Gotcha. Okay, and one more quickly, can you put a crop sensor, sorry, a crop sensor lens on a full frame camera. Somebody asked if you go ahead and buy a new camera body that is full frame, where you've been on crop, do you have to buy all new lenses? Right, and so this is a really important thing because some people start with crop frame cameras, and they kind of are thinking well maybe I want to move up to a full frame camera, which of your lenses will work, and as I did have an illustration earlier in the class that you may want to rewind and go back and watch that, and that is if you take a crop frame lens, which is designed with a small image circle to go on a big sensor, you won't get an image on the corner of the sensor, because it's projecting a small size image, and so, some camera companies do it differently. So for instance, Cannon, will not allow you to put on that cropped frame lens on to a full frame body, so you just can't even do it with Canon, you gotta turn around and sell that lens. Now with Nikon, they allow you to put that on there, but you're gonna get this cropped image that most people are not gonna be happy with, and so, if you are going from a crop frame camera and crop lenses, you're probably gonna need to sell your lenses if you move to full frame. Now some people kind of have this in mind, like I can't afford a full frame camera right now, but my next lens, maybe I'll get as a full frame lens, so that next year when I can afford the new camera, I can just keep that one lens, and so some people are trying to buy for that which is a little bit tricky because that may not be the right lens until you get that camera, and so, the thing about lenses is that, they do a pretty good job at holding their value. I remember the first bonus, the first extra lens that I bought, was a 20 millimeter Nikon lens, and I bought it, I remember exactly, for $285, and I used it for a number of years until Nikon came out with a 20 to 35 lens, and I didn't need the straight 20 anymore, and I ended up selling it for $300. That's right, $15 more than I paid for it. Now that was kind of an unusual case, and I am not promising that you're gonna be able to sell lenses for more than you bought 'em for, that's not the case, but I bought it for a good deal, and I sold it at a reasonable price, but lenses tend to hold their value pretty well. If you buy a $1,000 lens, you could use it for five years, and turn around and sell it for $700, and that's a five year rental for $300, which is a really good deal, if you ask me.

Class Description

Once you’ve chosen the camera of your dreams, how do you know which lens will maximize your camera’s capabilities? Join camera expert John Greengo as he explains what the best lenses are to add to your camera bag. He’ll explain:

  • Which lens is best for specific areas of photography
  • The technology behind lenses
  • How to use specialty lenses including macro and fisheye
  • Tips on operating and maintaining your lenses

John will also talk about lens accessories including hoods, mounts, filters, and teleconverters. By the end of this class, you’ll understand exactly what lens you’ll need to take your best photos!


Boris Dimitrov

Excellent class packed with incredibly useful knowledge. John is an amazing lecturer. He has also developed really great materials to help explain all the concepts and technologies that are explored in the class. Looking forward to my next class with him!

a Creativelive Student

Great class. So informative. John Greengo is such a fantastic tutor and explains everything in such and easy-to-understand way. I would highly recommend this class. Prior to doing this class, I was so confused about which lenses are best for various photography. Now I understand lenses completely. Thanks John!

Lettie Turner

Another great JG class, my 4th. He gives a lot of individual attention to several popular lens brands. I really think after seeing this video series you could pick out three lenses that would fit your needs and your pocketbook. The class handout is spot on for what is covered in the video. Great job!! Thank you