Filmmaker, photographer, traveler, and writer. I graduated from USC and have been on and off the road since then. Recently started blogging for the Huffington Post. Love food, traveling, languages, animals, and learning about different cultures.
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Getting your hands on that fancy new digital DSLR camera is only half the story. The real power of photography rests largely on the type of lens you attach to it. Canon and Nikon have their own lens series, but adaptors and mounts for specific lenses (Sigma or Tamron) are readily available for popular cameras and lenses. Just remember, each lens is an investment, even more so than the camera and you can use them even after you switch cameras.
How much do you want to see in your image, the entire landscape or just the mountain? Lenses come in a variety of focal lengths and determines how much of a subject is in your angle-of-view, or what you see. As a benchmark, 50mm is a medium/normal and on either side fall wide-angle lenses, typically 35mm downward, and telephoto lenses, 85mm and up. The wide-angle lenses are particularly useful for things like landscape photography whereas a telephoto would be better for portrait photography.
Lenses will either be zoom or prime. Prime lenses have fixed focal lengths - 28mm, 50mm, 300mm - and come in a wide range. Typically the optics are better and faster on these lenses. They open up to a higher F-stop (1.2, 1.4, 2.0, 2.8) allowing you to photograph with less light. The sacrifice for the speed and quality is the lack of versatility; to change your angle-of-view you will have to move yourself in relationship to your subject.
Zoom lenses, on the other hand, have a variety of focal lengths, for instance a 17-55mm, 18-200mm, or 70mm-400mm allowing you to zoom in or out on a subject from the same location. These lenses obviously provide a great deal of versatility and you won’t need to switch lenses, but they are bulkier and come with lower minimum F-stops (usually f/4-5.6).
There’s some lenses designed for very specific tasks, like the Canon 65mm f/2.8 Macro, which allows you to take impressive photos of insects or other minuscule subjects. Fish-eye, extreme telephoto, and tilt-shift are some other lenses that give you unique perspectives.