In the world of photography, there are a handful of specifics you always need to keep in mind. Your photographs are usually only as good as the sensor in your camera and the lenses you used to capture the images.
There’s a reason a solid lens costs just as much, if not more than your physical camera. In different circumstances, you’ll need different camera lenses.
When you want to move in closer to a subject or you want greater control over the depth of field, you will want a zoom lens. There are different zoom lens options out there, so if you are in the market for such a camera accessory you need to keep a few different specifics in mind.
This will help you find the right lens for your budget and your personal (or professional) needs. It doesn’t matter if this is the first additional lens you’re buying or if you’ve purchased several lenses for your camera and this is just the latest, here are five things to consider when buying a zoom lens.
What Is a Zoom Lens?
There are several lens options available for you and your camera (especially if you have a DSLR camera). The zoom lens is popular because it helps move you close to your subject.
A zoom lens uses glass within the lens to magnify the object, which pulls you closer for a better view. Having a zoom lens allows you to have greater control over the depth of field.
This way, you can focus on the subject and either have a clear foreground and background, or you can use the increased focal length to distort the background and foreground. It all depends on the visual characteristics you’re going for with your photography.
You can even use the zoom lens up close to a subject, zooming in on them to further distort the background. Photography is all about increasing the number of options you have and bending light to your will.
Photography is the capture of light, so the more tools at your disposal the easier it is to craft a photograph to meet your personal needs. There are several zoom lens options out there for you to choose from, so there are different specifics you eventually must consider before making your final purchase.
By keeping each point in mind, you’ll improve your ability to find the right lens for your need in a price point you can afford.
WHAT ARE ZOOM LENS USED FOR?
Typically, a zoom lens is used to make a subject look closer to you. For example, you may see an animal on the other side of a large valley. You want to take a picture of it, but the regular lens you have attached to your camera will not put you close enough.
If you try to move closer to the subject you either won’t make it in time or you will scare the animal away. With a zoom lens, you can zoom into the subject and make it look as if you’re right there, when in fact you may be hundreds of feet away.
This helps ensure the quality of the photograph, as the subject will not be disturbed.
When working with shifting glass and lenses you can shift the focal length, which will help in the everyday photograph. Some cameras have digital focal point change features which allow you to blur out the background, but this fails to give you specific control.
Plus, this feature only really blurs out the background. It doesn’t have the same look of a distorted background which occurs only through the focal length.
With digitizing, for example, lights in the background will blur. However, when you use a zoom lens and push into the subject, the lights in the background will grow.
You may have seen a movie where someone is sitting in a car at night and the camera is up close to their face. Behind them there are giant, blurry circles of light passing behind the car, seemingly the size of green and red suns.
This happens when a camera uses a zoom lens and positions itself away from the subject and then zooms in. This increased control of focal length adds distortion to the background that you can’t fake.
You want as much control over your subject and the surrounding light as possible. With a zoom lens that’s exactly what you’re getting.
5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A ZOOM LENS
Before you head out and purchase any kind of zoom lens, keep in mind these five points. This will help keep you on track and prevent you from shopping around and buying a camera lens that just doesn’t work for your particular needs.
Know how much you can spend ahead of time. Camera lens costs can quickly push into the thousands of dollars.
A zoom lens has more glass and is larger than any other lens you’ll purchase (unless you’re considering a telephoto lens). Such a lens can quickly push out of your budget, yet you may go with something that costs less, depending on what your personal needs are.
So establish a budget before you shop around.
2. Full DSLR or APS-C
What kind of camera do you have? A zoom lens is generally designed either for a full-frame DSLR camera or a mirrorless camera, which is smaller and has a smaller lens mount.
The major benefits to the smaller camera are that the lens isn’t as large, nor is it as expensive. However, if you ever upgrade to a different camera that isn’t an APS-C you must purchase brand-new lenses all over again.
With a full DSLR camera, you can purchase a full-size lens that will work on your camera. Now, you can use a full-size lens on your APS-C if you purchase an adapter mount to go with it.
Adapter mounts are fine and allow you to use other lenses on your smaller camera, but some features are not seamless. If you go this route, it’s better to invest in a quality adapter and purchase a less expensive lens.
Many of the features on the more expensive lens will not work on the smaller camera, so there’s no need to spend the extra month on it.
3. What Are You Photographing?
As you shop around, you’ll find some lenses are better designed for still photography or for movement photography (such as sports photography). With still photography you’ll be able to easily move in and out, away from the subject, so you may not need as much of a focal length as you might with photography-based movement.
So as you shop around keep this in mind. You may go with something that is slightly smaller yet costs substantially less.
4. Size and Weight
Where do you plan on taking your camera equipment? Are you a local sports photographer, so you can have your full camera bag with you at all times? Maybe you’re a travel photographer and you can only fit certain equipment into your travel bag.
This is important to consider.
You don’t want to purchase a lens that is too big and too heavy for your travel needs. The worst thing to happen would be buying a lens and then realizing you need to buy another one that fits with your travel gear.
Consider the weight of the camera and lens on your tripod. Your tripod is rated to hold a certain amount of weight.
Check with what this weight max is and then look at the zoom. These lenses can add a considerable amount of weight and may force you to invest in a new tripod.
5. Build Quality
The quality of the construction is very important. Even if the same glass is used, you don’t want a cheap plastic lens that might crack when any pressure applies to it.
You also don’t want something that can’t hold up to some rain or run into focus problems because the temperature drops. If you will be working in the elements, you need a lens that features solid build quality and also, if possible, features weatherproofing.
Autofocus is a nice feature to consider, although this may mean you need to purchase a lens from your camera manufacturer.
If you’re just getting into the world of photography, you may not have a zoom lens on hand. Investing in one is a great step in increasing your control over light and bending it to your will.
However, with so many zoom options out there you need to make sure you purchase the right lens for your personal needs. Going into photography is expensive, so always go with what you can afford.
Make sure you’re buying a lens that works with your camera and gives you the kind of features you’re interested in. You will grow your lens collection one lens at a time. With the zoom lens, you’ll instantly give yourself a powerful tool you’ll likely use far more frequently than others.