Learning to see through the lenses

Pistils Macro

Have you ever wondered which different types of photography lenses exist?

When children, still pure and shameless, begin to perceive the world, everything claims his attention. They are learning to see.

Coming back to photography, learning again is a must. This time, though, through the diverse lenses out there.

The angle of view of all lenses is related to the focal length in mm. Since there are different cameras with different sensors, we talk about focal length (mm) referred to as 35mm. This distance is the diagonal of both the film and the full-frame camera’s sensor.

Paris view from hotel window

Shutting an eye, what the other one sees would be the same as a 50mm (or normal lens). On the other hand, looking with both eyes, the view through would look like a 24-100mm lens.

Let´s have a look at the different kinds of lenses. All can be fixed lenses (also known as prime lenses) or zoom lenses.

FISHEYE LENSES (12-15mm, ≥ 180º view angle)

They have 180º or more and come with big distortion. Looking through them would cause the same effect as doing so through a spyhole. Other features include focusing to a minimum distance of 10 cm and curving the horizon (shotting 45º above the horizon will get you the maximum curve possible). Our tip, check out corners on the viewfinder prior to picturing something to avoid an unwished foot or hand.

Paredes de Coura Fisheye

Me in the sidewalk

WIDE ANGLE LENSES (16-35mm, 180º-60º  angle of view)

Optimal for landscapes, cityscapes, and abandoned places.  They can perform awesomely for exaggerating the depth of field and relative size in a given picture. Usually, wide-angle lenses make everything seem far and small. But trust us, and try them for close-up photography too. There is huge potential there! And, if you do not want to do it, at least think of Robert Kappa’s words “If your photography is not good enough, you are not close enough“.

Sunset in Lanzarote 24mm

Fire in Lousame 24mm

Wide Angle Donkey

Fixed wide-angle lenses might be inverted in order to be used as macro lenses as in the next example.

Butterfly macro

NORMAL LENSES (40-55mm, 56-43º  angle of view)

In every brand, one of the best items usually is the 50mm prime lens, even when comparing them with 2000€ zooms (in terms of image quality). Why should you give them a try?

  • Aperture. 50 mm prime lenses usually have a maximum wide aperture (between 1.2 and 2, which is really bigger than 3.5 or 4.5 kit zooms). One can handhold photos in much lower light levels, and (this comes in handy in our opinion) it is possible to reduce a lot the depth of field getting, as a result, a nice bokeh (out of focus).

Out of focus lights 50mm

  • Lightweight construction. This makes a big difference when traveling and wandering around all day with camera gear.
  • Price-Quality ratio. The awesome quality image being one of the cheapest lenses ( you can get a new Nikkor 50 1.8 for 180 € or a new Canon 50 1.8 for 110€).

Teather in the sand

TELEPHOTO LENSES (70-2000mm, 34º-1º)

Enlarging distant objects is the main property of these lenses. Next pictures were taken from the same point (as the previous ones used as an example for wide-angle lenses).

Sunset in Lanzarote 95mm

Fire in Lousame 120mm

The longer the focal length, the less field on the focus you have. This is used in telephotos for the isolation of a subject.

A powerful tool for portrait photography if using mainly short telephotos (80-135mm). Isolation is also great for close-up photography.

Telephoto lenses can normalize the size and distance between near and far objects too, giving a proper sense of scale. Layering can be used with telephotos for landscape photography.

Ostrich isolated

Flower Close-up photography


Sure, telephoto lenses are used for wildlife photography, where there is not enough focal length (birdlife overall).

Seagull flying

Things to remember when using telephoto lenses:

  • Minimize camera shake (the longer the focal length, the easier to take a blurred photo). As a general rule, you can handheld shoot at (1/focal length in mm)s. Slower shots should be made using a monopod or tripod, useful also due to the weight of the lenses.
  • Focus properly. When shooting with a telephoto lens, it is relevant where you focus on. The depth of field you got with these is pretty narrow.


Compared to normal lenses, the focus at a very close distance from the subject. The complexity of these, though, deserves another chapter. With them, small things become bigger and a wonderful unseen world comes to light.

Curtain macro

Which ones do you use when you travel?

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