Digital interchangeable lens cameras are the preferred choice for shooting professional quality images. Five years ago and I would have used the term Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. But things have changed in the last few years or so. Mirrorless cameras have come on to the market in a big way and that has changed the perspective of camera buyers.
Photographers who were interested to buy a DSLR but dreaded the bulk looked the other way. But now with smaller and lighter MILC’s firmly established in the market their interest is renewed. Resultantly, I have used the term interchangeable lens cameras to denote both DSLRs and MILCs and not the more specific term.
The thing that makes both these cameras the preferred choice is obviously the advantage of being able to use a vast pool of lenses. Though mirrorless cameras have a smaller range of lenses to choose from, the situation is much improved than before and more lenses are on the way. Plus, there are adapters available which makes lenses designed for DSLR cameras usable on the smaller mount mirrorless cameras. The only problem is that with adapters you lose the ability to auto-focus the lenses.
Earlier I wrote an article on the topic of lens abbreviations and acronyms. The article was not intended to be a buying guide but more an attempt to understand the equipment that you are using or planning to buy. Here, I shall be discussing the parameters that you should consider when choosing a lens for shooting photos.
Giving some careful thought as to the plusses and minuses of a lens makes a lot of sense because at the end of the day the lens determines how good or bad your photos are going to turn out. Of course your intuition as a photographer counts. But that’s only one half of the story. Choosing the right lens constitutes the other half.
Scenario 1 – shooting indoor portraits
You need to consider two things for this. First, if there is a window with natural light coming through. If it is then you can get away with even kit lenses, opening up as wide as you can. Most will allow you to shoot at f/5.6 at the tele end. However, for the optimum results it is recommended that you shoot at least at f/2.8 for the best results. Some of the best lenses for portraits are all around f/2.8 and f/2 and they are mostly primes.
I always recommend the Nikkor 135mm f/2 DC (DC stands for defocus control) lens. It is an excellent lens for shooting portraitures. However, in indoor situations where the working distance may not be optimum for a 135mm lens the alternate option would be 105mm f/2 DC, another excellent choice. There are some short focal length (wide angle) lenses as well such as the Nikkor 85mm AF f/1.4D IF. I am referring to Nikkor lenses in all my examples. Just for the records I don’t get anything for recommending them. Though, I have to admit that I am a Nikon user.
The right lens for shooting portraits is something in the vicinity of 85mm and beyond. Anything wider and you are going to see weird distortions of the nose of the subject. Wide angle lenses tend to stretch and skew elements closer to itself, thus the nose tend to look bigger. The wider maximum aperture allows for a greater degree of flexibility in terms of getting the right amount of light for a good exposure, even in indoor conditions.
Scenario 2 – shooting landscapes at twilight
For landscapes you need a lens that has the right combination between small aperture and wide angle of view. Wide angle lenses capture a bigger slice of the image which is what you would want. Lenses such as the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM is an excellent wide angle lens for shooting landscapes and architecture. Landscape photographers swear by its quality and sharpness. As a matter of fact it is super sharp across its focal length range and with very little to nonexistent lens diffraction. This is an L series lens which means it is weather sealed and is of top quality.The angle of view of this lens is 126 ° 05’ which makes it one of the widest and sharpest Canon lenses ever.
Scenario 3 – panning to shoot a cyclist on the street
Panning requires a clever use of the slow shutter mechanism as well as a controlled hand movement tracking the subject. This tracking movement or panning combined with the slow shutter speed results in a sharp photo of the subject while the background is blurred. There are some lenses which actually assist panning movements. These lenses such as the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM or the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM have a second image stabilization mode which assists in panning. It is a smart mode that can automatically detect when you are panning and disengage stabilization horizontal to the panning movement. Image stabilization, however, remains active for any movement vertical to the panning movement.