How different types of lenses ‘see’ the world


How different types of lenses 'see' the world: free photography cheat sheet

There are many different types of lenses available to photographers, as we all know, and the type of lens you choose to fit on your SLR will determine how your end results will look.

The main consideration is focal length. Focal length is the distance between the optical centre of a lens and the sensor, but it’s easier to think in terms of how this affects subject size when compared with a standard lens. For a camera with a full frame sensor, a standard lens is 50mm.

The types of lenses with focal lengths shorter than 50mm are known as wide-angles, while lenses with focal lengths longer than 50mm are referred to as telephotos.

Which type of lens you need will depend on the subject you are shooting, but most focal lengths offer creative potential with all subjects.

Below we’ve broken down the different types of lenses for you to choose from and explain what they’re typically used for and the effects you can expect from them.

We’ve also included images taken with each of these types of lenses to show you the many different effects they produce when shooting the same subject.

At the top left of this page we’ve also included an infographic combining the effects from all the types of lenses into one cheat sheet. The graphic shows the effects of shooting the same subject with different types of lenses. To download the larger version of this cheat sheet, simply drag and drop it on to your desktop.

And if you liked this, you can click here to find more from our photography cheat sheet series.




Different types of lenses: fisheye

Shot with a fisheye lens

Fisheye lenses
Fisheye lenses (8-16mm) differ from conventional lenses in that they produce images with a slightly curved or bowed appearance, and a field of view that covers up to 180 degrees.

Different types of lenses: ultra wide-angle

Shot with an ultra wide-angle lens

Ultra Wide-angle lenses
Ultra wide-angle lenses fall in the 10-24mm range and have a very wide angle of view, which allowsyou to work very close to your subject and stillinclude it all in the frame.

Different types of lenses: wide-angle

Shot with a wide-angle lens

Wide-angle lenses
A typical wide-angle lens falls between 24-35mm, and is often incorporated into a wide-angle kit lens in the 18-55mm range, or it can be a fixed focal length prime lens.

Different types of lenses: standard lens

Shot with a standard lens

Standard lenses
A standard lens is 50mm for DSLRs with a full frame sensor. The equivalent focal length for crop-sensor cameras lies in the 28-35mm range, dependingon the camera model.

Different types of lenses: short telephoto

Shot with a short telephoto lens

Short telephoto lenses
Lenses in the 100-200mm range are known as short telephotos. They are used for isolating specific subjects within landscapes, and for portraits and close-up work.

Different types of lenses: long telephoto

Shot with a long telephoto lens

Long telephoto lenses
Long telephotos typically have a focal length of 300-600mm and have a very narrow angle of view, making them the lens of choice forwildlife and sports photography.


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  • Josh McNattin

    Thanks for this! I’m just starting to get more deeply interested in photography, I have a couple of PaS cameras, all good quality, and I wondered how crucial it was to shift to dSLR. This helps give me an idea in a big way!