DSLR Dilemma

DSLR lens basics

Written by Gail Bjork

It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money for a lens that will satisfy most photographers coming from a compact camera to a point and shoot. But…

Interchangeable lenses Deciding on which lens to buy can be as difficult as deciding which brand DSLR to get.

Not only are the number and types of available lenses staggering, but the cost of some is literally enough to take your breath away — or mortgage your home.

DSLR kit lens

Entry level digital single lens reflex cameras typically come with an interchangeable lens called a kit lens, though the body can be purchased without the lens. Most kit lenses are zoom lenses, which range from wide angle to mid-telephoto.

Not all kit lenses have Image Stabilization. So unless the DSLR you’re buying has IS built into the body, make sure the included lens has IS if the feature is important to you.

A kit lens is made well but certainly not as well made as intermediate and pro grade lenses. A kit lens does not provide the same level of image quality as more costly lenses, and internal focus mechanisms may not be as quiet. Kit lenses may also lack features such as a distance scale, useful for focusing manually.

But that does not mean kit lenses are junk. They are certainly far better than lenses found on most compact digital cameras and quite suitable for many new DSLR users.

Lens mount

The lens mount is the connection point, either mechanical or electrical, between a camera body and a lens. The lens mount is different for every brand camera. so lenses made for one will not fit on a camera made by a different manufacturer. In addition, lenses used with a 35mm film cameras may not work with a digital single lens reflex camera or visa versa.

Maximum aperture

Maximum aperture refers to the widest opening known as f-stop of a lens. It is particularly important to know the maximum aperture of a lens if you take a lot of low light photography.

A low f-stop (eg f/1.4) is considered “fast” because it will let more light onto the lens than a slower one. Fast lenses usually cost a lot more money than slow lenses.

Zoom creep

Some zoom lenses may extend or retract under their own weight, depending if a lens is held upwards or downwards. Some lenses have locking friction rings to prevent zoom creep.

Image stabilization

Not all DSLR lenses have Image Stabilization. If a camera body has built in IS, buying an image stabilized lens is unnecessary. Image Stabilization is usually not necessary for lenses with short focal lengths and/or are considered fast.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.