26th Dec 2005

Buyer’s Guide to Digital Camera Lenses

Just like traditional cameras, there are a lot of choices when it comes to digital camera lenses. Basic digital cameras come with a built-in fixed-focal-length plastic lens while some of the top-end cameras will let you mount big, glass, removable zoom lenses. The camera’s lens has a lot to do with the quality of the image that is produced. For the purposes of this article, we will break down lenses to four main categories:

Fixed-focal-length lenses

These types lenses may have digital zoom capabilities but no optical zoom. They are generally found on the low-end cameras that are typically used by entry-level photographers with small budgets.

Retractable zoom lenses

These zoom lenses retract into the camera body when the camera is turned off and extend when it’s turned on.
Although they allow for a very compact camera design, they usually will not accept lens converters and filters, they have a very limited zoom range and allow for limited manual focus control.

Fixed zoom lenses

These zoom lenses are fixed to the camera body and do not retract or extend. They typically support zoom ranges up to 12x magnification, will usually accept lens converters such as wide-angle, macro, telephoto, etc., and common lens filters. The better ones offer precision zoom and manual focus control with standard “adjustment rings” on the lens. They do, however, make the camera heavier and bulkier and may be too complicated for the casual photographer.

Interchangeable lenses

Digital SLRs (Single Lens Reflex) cameras use interchangeable lens systems that lets you detach the lens from the camera and replace it with any other compatible lens. This gives you all of the functionality of a high-end film camera when it comes to lens capabilities. If you already own some 35mm film camera lenses, it would be a good idea to choose a camera that is compatible with them. Designed for the serious photographer, SLR digital cameras deliver quality optics and provide maximum flexibly for handling any shooting scenario. They are, however, expensive to buy and make the camera very heavy. You need a skill level to match the complexities of your chosen lens.

As you can see, you have a wide variety of choices when it comes to choosing a digital camera lens. Let your photography needs, and your budget, decide which option is best for you.

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