So now onto the glass.
Glass is a tad bit tricky, so this post is a little longer. I'm writing this with the understanding that you want to be a good and better photographer. If you're just shooting every now and then trying to get the kids as they grow up and don't require the better quality, there's no need to read any further. I also write this only touching on the basics of aperture understanding. It would greatly benefit you to research further on this. You can visit the links at the end of this post for starters. In addition, you can always go to B&C Camera where there are professionals who can answer your questions and help you decide on a lens. If you go to Best Buy or Costco then you are on your own. You've been warned.
|Brie...Shot with a wide-angle lens, distorting perspective especially on the edges|
|Shot with a 85mm at f/1.2. Notice how shallow the DofF is?|
Basically, from the tip of her nose to her temple.
The aperture of the lens is the opening in the barrel that lets in light. The smaller the number...the larger the opening. Think of it as a fraction just without the numerator (top number of the fraction). 1/2 is bigger than 1/4, ergo... 2 is bigger than 4. Any lens with a f-stop smaller than f/2.8 is considered slow and like wise f/2.8 and larger is considered fast glass. You want fast glass to learn on because you have more flexibility to experiment. A f/4 lens can do in a pinch at times, but you lose the depth of field option. Any slower lens than that, have your tripods ready.
|*Wikipedia example. As you can see the openings get smaller as you go right. Each next aperture is half the size of the preceding one. F/2.8 lets in double the light as f/4, but only half the light as f/2. (Sizes are not to scale)|
Another thing that is a factor in lenses is Depth of Field. Ever see those shots with the real creamy/blurred background, (referred to as Bokeh) but the subject is tack sharp? And then you wonder why your shots NEVER turn out like that. Chances are its because you have cheap lenses which are slow. Why does that matter? Because Depth of Field is a factor of the aperture setting. The wider the opening, the narrower the depth of field. So larger (hence, faster) apertures will give that effect the wider you open up. Focus on your subject and everything behind goes blurry. The effect is magnified the more open you go beyond 2.8. If you have a lens that opens up to f/1.4, it gets REALLY creamy. Remember...fraction. F/1.4 is opens 2 full stops wider at 4 times the amount of light and thus faster than f/2.8. Conversely, the smaller the aperture, then the longer the depth of field...out to infinity where everything is in focus, including all the foreground and all the background. Depth of Field is extremely important when you shoot portraits.
|Close-up shot with at 100mm f/2.8 with a Macro lens. Also narrow depth of field.|
|Katherine with extended DofF at f/8. |
All of background is still in focus.
Vibration Control...Image Stabilization...Vibration Reduction...whatever the particular manufacturer calls it, all it means is there is some type of element built into the lens to help reduce camera shake when hand held. So a lens that is considered slow, but has VC may be okay because you can still hand hold it, in some cases this compensation can mean 2 or 3 f/stops slower. I like stabilized lenses and get them over the non-stabilized version when possible, because some lenses will come in two versions: a stabilized version and non-stabilized one. Tamron, as a point of fact, makes the world's only 24-70mm stabilized lens and costs a whole grand less than Canon's.
So start out with the faster glass. You learn better on them because you have more options with speed and depth of field.
If you have a DX camera, here are my top 4 lenses to buy in this order:
1. Either :Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 with VC (normal lens) Canon Mount / Nikon Mount
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 designed for full frame but works on DX very well Canon Mount/ Nikon Mount
(I give the option of the focal range to you. Either one will do. Edge goes to the 28-75mm. Remember the multiplier. The 17-50mm is actually a 25-75mm on a DX camera. The 28-75mm lens is actually a 42-112mm lens on a DX camera. At f/2.8 you'll appreciate the extra reach!)
2. Tamron 10-24 (wide angle) Canon Mount / Nikon Mount (with multiplier, its like a 16-35mm lens)
3. Canon or Nikon 50mm 1.4 (for portraiture. Looks like a 75mm on DX camera)
4. Tamron 70-200mm 2.8 with VC Canon Mount / Nikon Mount (looks like a 105-300mm on DX cameras)
If you have a full frame:
1. Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 Canon Mount / Nikon Mount
2. Canon 16-35mm 2.8/ Nikon 16-35 f/4
3. Canon or Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 with VC
4. Canon or Nikon 50mm 1.4
For other interesting lens, look up Tilt-Shift, Fisheye, Teleconverters, Circular Polarizers, Neutral Density Filters, and the fun LensBabies!
Here is some further reading to help you understand:
Canon Full Line-up of Lenses / Nikon Full Line-up of Lenses
A Tedious Explanation of the f/stop The Long Answer!
Understanding Camera Lenses Cambridge in Color Tutorial
What is a DX Lens? Ken Rockwell covering Nikon DX Lenses
Understanding the Magnification Factor Luminous Landscape
Understanding Depth of Field Cambridge in Color
Understanding Sensor Sizes (DX vs FX, etc)
Next post, I'm going to touch on Light!