11 common lens errors and how you can avoid them

11 common lens errors and how you can avoid them

The step up from a compact camera to one that allows you to changes lenses can be quite daunting, but it’s also a move towards taking better images. Our head of testing, Angela Nicholson, has compiled a list of the most common lens errors photographers make and some advice about how to avoid them.

11 common lens errors and how you can avoid them

Common Lens Error No. 1: Blurred image

If you mount a long focal length or telephoto lens on your camera and compose an image you’ll notice that it’s harder to keep the main subject at the same point in the frame than it is with a standard lens.

This is because the longer lens effectively crops in around the subject and even very small movements of the camera become significant and can result in blurred images.

If your camera or lens has the option, turning on the stabilisation system will help, but as a general rule the longer the focal length of the lens that you use, the faster the shutter speed needs to be to avoid camera-shake from spoiling your shots.

Use the effective focal length of your lens as a rough guide to work out the safe hand-holdable shutter speed.

Fixing Bad Pictures: Why are my photos blurry and out of focus?

If your camera has an APS-C format sensor you need to multiply the actual focal length of the lens by 1.5x (or 1.6x for Canon SLRs) to find the effective focal length.

Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic have a focal length multiplication factor of 2x.

Once you’ve done the maths, set a shutter speed that is 1 second divided by the effective focal length.

This means that if you mount a 50mm lens on a Nikon D5200, for example, you need to use a shutter speed of at least 1/75sec.


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Common Lens Error No. 2: Too much depth of field

Make the most of shallow depth of field

Some subjects, such as landscapes, often look best when the whole scene is sharp.

This is achieved by careful focusing and using a small aperture such as f/22 to produce wide depth of field – an extensive sharp zone either side of the point of focus.

However, sometimes you may want to separate your subject from its surroundings a little by blurring the background and this calls for a wide aperture such as f/5.6 or even f/2.8.

This is a great way of isolating a portrait subject from a messy background.

If you find that the background isn’t as soft as you want there are two options, open the aperture up further or switch to a longer focal length lens as depth of field gets narrower as focal length increases.


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Common Lens Error No. 3: Depth of field too shallow

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If you need to shoot with the aperture wide open to allow a movement-freezing shutter speed, you may find that there’s very little depth of field, especially if you are using a long focal length lens or your subject is very close.

While this can be very effective, sometimes you need more of the image to be sharp.

The first thing to try is increasing the sensitivity setting to allow a smaller aperture to be used at the shutter speed you have selected.

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However, if you want to keep noise to a minimum you should switch to a shorter focal length lens.

Short focal length or wideangle optics produce more depth of field than telephoto lenses at the same aperture.


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