Category: Science of Lenses

Without a lens, a camera is little more than a light-absorbing machine incapable of producing anything really useful. In comparison to a camera’s extensive and complex technology and mechanics, you might think a lens is relatively simple; however, lenses encompass a tremendous history of technological and scientific research and application that dates back to the first telescopes and microscopes invented in the 1600s.

This chapter is all about the science and technology behind how lenses work, and why they work so well. Having a basic understanding of these ideas can help you as you expand your photography skills and select new and/or better lenses for your collection.

Tilt-and-shift lenses

Tilt-and-shift lenses

Imagine being able to take a lens in your hand and move it around until it gives you precisely the angle and view that you want, including the depth of field and emphasis on various foreground and background elements. This is essentially what the controls on tilt-and-shift lenses allow you to adjust — you can [...]

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Macro lenses

Macro lenses

Close-up, or macro, photography requires a lens that is either dedicated to functioning at a close range or that has the ability to take short-distance images along with other features. Several Canon lenses offer a macro function either as an option to other capabilities or as their primary purpose, and they vary according to how [...]

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Canon’s Macro lens lineup

Canon’s Macro lens lineup

Macro lenses vary according to focal length and for the magnification level they can reach; for example, my favorite is the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo, a dedicated macro lens that can shoot up to five times life-size (1:1) (see 6-24). This means if you adjust it to its maximum macro magnification level [...]

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Taking close-up shots with Macro lenses

Taking close-up shots with Macro lenses

Shooting a macro image brings into play some different issues from a standard image at a normal focal length and distance from your subject. As I mentioned earlier, using a flash with a telephoto can be difficult because the distance your subject is from the flash is too far for the flash to be effective, [...]

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Macro lenses tips

Taking macro images can be some of the most interesting and challenging photography you’ll find. Here are some general tips and techniques for getting the most out of a macro lens: At close range, there’s no room for error. Make sure your focus and exposure are precisely what you want. Remember that your flash may [...]

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Wide-angle lenses tips

Wide-angle shooting can be very practical whether you’re photographing groups of people or a natural landscape. However, because of some of the inherent distortive effects of these lenses, you’ll want to know some tips and techniques for making the most of wide-angle shooting: ■ When shooting a group of people with a wide-angle lens, allow [...]

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Dealing with wide-angle distortion

Dealing with wide-angle distortion

Wide-angle lenses, with their rounded glass, frequently create an effect known as barrel distortion, where what otherwise would be straight lines in your image become bent and the overall image takes on the shape of a barrel. This phenomenon is more noticeable where there are straight lines in the scene you are shooting (such as [...]

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Canon’s Wide-angle lens lineup

Canon’s Wide-angle lens lineup

Not all 14mm or 15mm lenses are considered fisheye; this term refers more specifically to the angle of view (which is 180 degrees on the Canon 15mm fisheye, for example). Fisheye lenses are distinctive in that the lens looks like a bubble, and they tend to distort the image far more visibly (technically known as [...]

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Normal lens tips

Normal lenses give you the most natural representation of your subject and often become the workhorses of your glass lineup for day-to-day shooting. That said, you’ll want to keep in mind some general tips and techniques for making the most of a normal lens: When possible, shoot with a shutter speed of at least 1/125 [...]

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Canon’s Normal lens lineup

Canon’s Normal lens lineup

Canon offers a very diverse set of normal lenses that you can get in prime and zoom models. Many zoom lenses that extend well into the telephoto range also have normal focal lengths, such as the EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM. However, many photographers feel that the wider the focal range of a zoom, the [...]

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Telephoto lenses tips

Telephoto lenses can get you close to the action without getting in the way. Here are some general tips and techniques for making the most of a tele-photo lens: Remember that using a telephoto lens makes it harder to hold your camera steady. If you have it, turn on your lens’s Image Stabilizer feature, and [...]

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Canon’s Telephoto lens lineup

Canon’s Telephoto lens lineup

Including medium telephoto, telephoto, tele-photo zoom, and super-telephoto, Canon offers telephoto lenses for virtually any photographic application where you need to get closer to your subject without moving. Figure 6-22, taken at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, was shot with a telephoto lens; the athlete, USA’s Mariel Zagunis, had no idea I was taking the [...]

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Telephoto lenses

Telephoto lenses

Telephoto lenses are perhaps Canon’s most distinctive products, easily recognized wherever they are used. Whether it’s a group of photographers at the Olympic Games or on the sidelines of the Super Bowl, photojournalists at a presidential press conference, or camouflaged war photographers in a battle zone, the long, white barrels are ever prevalent and always [...]

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Normal lenses

Normal lenses

A normal, or standard, lens features a focal range where images look very true to life — what your eyes actually perceive. Neither wide-angle nor telephoto, these lenses are the most common type used for portraits, head shots, events, and general shooting to achieve natural-looking images with limited or no distortion (see 6-17). I use [...]

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Wide-Angle lenses

Wide-Angle lenses

A wide-angle lens allows you to capture an entire scene, sometimes to the point of distorting elements of the image — which can be used for compositional effect, or it can just make your image look odd. Typically the focal range of wide-angle lenses begins around 24mm (known as superwide lenses, although Canon offers some [...]

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L Series lenses

L Series lenses

The L in Canon’s high-end lenses stands for “luxury.” L series lenses are easily identified by the telltale red ring around the end of the lens barrel (shown in 6-4). These flagship optical marvels are expensive, but provide unrivaled quality, speed, and precision. Canon has designated L series lenses for professional use, although many consumers, [...]

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Fast versus slow lenses

Fast versus slow lenses

A fast lens is a lens that provides a large aperture — meaning less than f/3.0. Why is it called fast, then? It is because a larger aperture provides more light for the digital sensor, meaning you can use a faster shutter speed in your images where there’s less light, as in 6-3. Consequently you [...]

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Zoom versus prime lenses

Zoom versus prime lenses

Overall, lenses are divided into two main groups: prime and zoom (see figure 6-2). A prime lens (also called a fixed lens) is one that has a fixed focal length, meaning the specification is a single length, such as 15mm or 200mm. A zoom lens has an adjustable focal length, meaning its focal length is [...]

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Vignetting

Vignetting

When light falls off of the edge of a photo, the periphery of the image is darker than the center, which is called vignetting. Essentially, light diminishes as distance increases from the optical axis, especially toward the corners of the image. This can be done on purpose as an artistic effect, such as in 5-11, [...]

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Pincushioning and barrel distortion

Pincushioning and barrel distortion

Pincushioning and barrel distortion are types of optical aberrations that distort an image from its real-world view as the human eye would see it. Barrel distortion is characterized by a decrease in image magnification as the distance increases from the optical axis — giving the typical fisheye look where it shows a bulging effect and [...]

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