You are obsessed with having the latest camera. You want the best image money can buy! So many variables, such a wide price range, so many options. 4K, 6K, 8K! Crop factor, full-frame, raw recording capabilities, and all that.
But please, don’t overlook lenses. They are the first place that light hits before it gets into your camera. What your lens is doing to the light, to your image is so vital that no matter what kind of camera you have, if the light that hits its sensor is already distorted, your image will be less crispy, less clear, and less cinematic. What do we mean by this you say? Let’s see.
To begin with, there are different kinds of lenses. There are slow lenses and fast lenses. Slow means that their aperture can not open wider than 3.5 so they can not let all the available light enter and hit your sensor. Fast lenses on the other hand are the lenses whose aperture can go below 2.8. This means that the amount of light that it can hit your sensor is three or four or five times more than when your lenses can go only as low as 3.5. Don’t forget that each stop gives you four times more or less light.
Apart from the speed of a lens, another important quality is its field of view. How many things can you see through your lens and how wide.
Normal lenses are called like this because they’re close to the way that our eye sees, they vary from around 50mm – 60mm.
Wide lenses are called these because they can squeeze in a lot of info, they can give you a wider field of view than the normal ones, and they vary around 8mm – 45mm.
Telephoto lenses are the lenses that we use to capture images that are further away from us or when we want to do close-ups with a really shallow depth of field. they look like telescopes. They vary around 65mm and they can go up to 700 mm and even further.
Another division between lenses is the prime lenses and zoom lenses. Prime lenses have fixed focal lengths, for example, what DPs call the nifty-fifty, which is a lens usually 50mm and 1.8 aperture. Zoom lenses are the lenses that can change their focal length. It is very possible that the first camera that you got came with its kit lens, usually 18mm – 55mm.
Last but not least, is the glass quality in itself. Different companies offer different glasses with different attributes. The same kind of lenses give you different results, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, Xeen, Cooke, Angenieux, Panavision, Zeis and so many other reputable brands, will give you different results when you shoot the same subject under the same light conditions. This is what many photographers and DPs are calling the character of a lens.
How to choose one? Well, apart from trial and error you can go on with educated guesses. There are plenty of lenses reviews across the web and of course, you can rent a lens, test it and then decide if you want to have it in your lens arsenal forever. Because it is true that you might change cameras many times in your career, but your lenses, since you take good care of them, will be there for you, pretty much forever!