Demystified: Basic Camera Lens Types Explained

Demystified: Basic Camera Lens Types Explained


Fisheye, standard, telephoto, wide-angle, macro...there’s a lot of different types of lenses for your camera.

It’s no wonder, then, that beginner photographers (and even some more experienced photographers!) have trouble figuring out which lens should be the next one they buy.

In this quick guide, we’ll go over the basic categories of lenses to give you a better idea of what each type of lens can do for you.


Fisheye Lenses

A fisheye lens usually has a focal length somewhere between 8mm and 24mm and offers an ultra-wide-angle view with very obvious distortion, like the one shown above.

Because of the sheer amount of the scene these lenses can capture, they’re ideal for applications like panoramics, real estate photography, landscape photography, and cityscapes.

Basically, if you’re cramped for space, a fisheye lens is the way to go!


Wide-Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses can be anywhere from about 24mm to 35mm, and offer a wide view of the subject, though not as wide as a fisheye lens.

Given their short focal length, wide-angle lenses are preferred for many landscape photography applications, though they can also be used for things like interior photography and large group portraits.

Wide-angle lenses distort the scene but not nearly as much as a fisheye lens.

But because of that distortion, wide-angles typically aren’t used for things like close-up portraits because they can distort the model’s facial features and
make their forehead or nose look abnormally large.


Standard Lenses

Standard lenses can be anything from 35mm up to about 85mm, and offer a “normal” view of the subject.

That is, these lenses have very little distortion and recreate the scene much in the way we see it with our own eyes.

Many standard lenses are also prime lenses, or lenses with a fixed focal length like 35mm or 50mm.

These lenses offer excellent sharpness and low-light performance, and can be used for virtually any type of photography, from portraits to landscapes, weddings to architecture, and just about everything in between.


Telephoto Lenses