When I first started looking at buying a digital SLR camera a few years ago, people would often tell me it didn’t matter as much what type of camera body I used as much as it did what lens I bought. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I just got an entry level Canon Rebel and decided I would learn along the way.
Over the last few years, I’ve been teaching myself little by little about cameras and lenses, and I’m finally starting to understand what it’s all about. Since posting some photos on Facebook (you can see the same ones here), a lot of people have been asking me about my camera. While I DO think it’s important what camera you use (I still use a Canon but a different model), the lens makes a huge difference.
So, here’s a little photography lesson for today to show you the difference.
Here is my daughter standing by the little pond in our backyard. I shot this photo with a lens that has a focal length of 24 mm. This is considered a wide angle lens. (My daughter is wearing her coat and scarf because it’s only April 24, and this is Chicago.)
 
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Here she is standing in the same spot, but I shot the photo with a lens with a focal length of 85 mm. This is an awesome lens, by the way, but I usually use it to shoot close-up shots of people, not standing on my deck shooting something all the way across the lawn.
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This time, I used my new zoom lens set to 200 mm. I’m still standing in the same spot.
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Here she is at 400 mm.
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And at 500 mm.
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So maybe that helps explain how I was able to get that close-up shot of the gorilla with her baby, even though she was way down below me in the ape house at the zoo. There are several other factors that contribute to the quality of a camera lens, but maybe this at least helps explain the focal length.
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A longer focal length also means a larger lens. You can’t exactly stick your camera in your purse with this thing.
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And that’s why I say I’m going to shoot with my “cannon,” rather than just my Canon.

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