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Lenses and Creative Vision
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Lenses and Creative Vision

Lenses have traditionally been divided into three basic categories: normal, wide angle, and telephoto.

Normal lenses provide about the same perspective as the human eye and are usually in the 45mm-to-60mm range (again, in 35mm format equivalent). On most zoom cameras, the normal focal length is typically in the middle area of the zoom range. Normal lenses offer a straightforward view of the world that is well-suited to documentary-type images of subjects like architecture or landscapes.

Wide-angle lenses are superb at reaching out their wide-open arms to take in a sweeping view of the world. Those in the 28mm-to-35mm range are the most useful and popular. Creatively, wide-angle lenses can be used to heighten perspective by exaggerating the distance between near and far objects or, when you're shooting upward, the height of nearby objects (exaggerating the height of a tree or a church steeple, for example). Wide-angle lenses are good for a range of subjects, including landscapes (especially where you want to elongate spatial relationships), architecture (when you want to create dramatic or slightly distorted shots of exteriors), and in any situation where shooting space is tight. They also provide inherently greater depth of field than other lenses.

Telephoto lenses have focal lengths that range from about 85mm (great for portraits) to super-telephoto lenses of 300mm-600mm (lenses in this range are often used by sports and wildlife photographers). All telephoto lenses bring distant subjects closer, and the longer the focal length the greater the magnification. They also effectively compress space—cramming a city skyline into an overlapping two-dimensional pattern of geometric shapes, for example. Use a telephoto lens or zoom setting when you want to make distant subjects appear closer.

Next: "Zoom Lenses"