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Introductory camera guide on still photography camera for the common people

Still Photography Camera Guide

Telephoto and Wide-angle Lens

Changing Bag Gmagazine of 1892


Telephoto lenses have the illusion of pulling the distant object nearer or effectively magnifying it. Telephoto lens also compresses near and far objects making them look closer than they really are, creating an illusion of shallow depth of field.

Telephoto lens cross srction
Telephoto lens

DOF or Depth Of Field is the area that is in sharp focus in front and behind the object that the camera is focused on. Another factor that affects Depth of field is the aperture of a lens. A wide aperture opening creates a shallow or narrow depth of field. A smaller aperture opening deepens or increases depth of field. See the section on aperture for more information on aperture

Most beginners always look for a telephoto zoom when shopping for a new camera. We often hear beginners asking how "far can your lens pull-in the image?" The question is not how far or how near but rather to understand the characteristic of your telephoto or wide-angle lens and use it correctly.

Picture taken with telephoto lens, distant object appear to be nearer
Telephoto lens pulls in distant subject and "compress" the images. Used correctly it emphasizes the main subject to improve composition.

Telephoto lens magnifies the images by "pulling" them closer to you. As a result it also magnifies vibration from your trembling hand when tripping the shutter and this can result in blur or fuzzy pictures.

IS or Image Stabilization

If your digital camera comes with VR - Vibration Reduction system or IS - Image Stabilization system, activating this VR or IS feature will help compensate your hand shake and increase the chances of getting sharp pictures.

The VR or IS system compensates the effect of vibration and shaky hand only to certain degree. It depends on how steady your hands are and also how firmly you hold the camera when you press the shutter release. At best most Image Stabilization system can correct vibration by up to 2.5 times the shutter speed that you can normally hold your lens/camera steady.

As a rough guide an average person can hand held a 500mm (35mm Equivalent Focal Length) lens at 1/500 second shutter speed; a 100mm lens at 1/100 second and a 50mm lens at 1/50second. With the Image Stabilization system it will extend the hand holding shutter speed to roughly about 1/200 second for the 500mm lens; 1/40 second for the 100mm lens and 1/20 second for the 50mm lens.

300mm professional telephoto lens

These Vibration Reduction system or IS - Image Stabilization systems are not a replacement for a good solid tripod for serious photography with telephoto lenses. However it is a great tool in increasing the chances of getting a sharp blur free picture in most situations.

If your camera does not have this IS or VR feature, use a tripod or some kind of support such as table or chair to support the camera when using a telephoto lens above 100mm focal length. Most people do not realise that many of their fuzzy and blur pictures are caused by their unsteady hand and not that the camera did not focus correctly.

Wide-angle lens

Wide-angle lens cross srction
wide-angle lens
Wide-angle lens is the opposite of the telephoto lens. It provides a broader viewing field than the human eye. It can be used to take picture of a wide subject in a tight spot. A telephoto lens compresses space whereas a wide-angle lens deepens space; it makes everything seem further away from the camera. It also deepens or increases depth of fields.

Good quality Wide-angle lens is not common with consumer compact digicams. This is partly due to the tiny size of the image sensor or CCD used in these digital cameras, plus the complexity of comstruction of wide angle lens thus making it expensive and difficult to manufacture good wide-angle lens for the compact point-and shoot digital cameras.

wide-angle lens offer a broader view
Wide-angle lens broadens view and the "increased space and distance" move closer for a better composition

Wide-angle lens is an exciting lens to use due to its wide-angle perspective. It is an ideal lens for landscapes and architectures photography.

However, wide-angle lens is a difficult lens to master. Your subject may turn out to be just a tiny dot in a mass of unwanted space on the picture or people at the corner of your picture may look bizarre and distorted.

The pointer for using wide-angle lens is to think about the composition carefully beforehand and move in close for the impact. Take care and watch out for objects appearing at the edges and corner of your viewfinder and try to use them to enhance the picture.

Olympus Zuiko 8mm F2.8 fisheye lens

Special lenses such as shift lens or PC lens, fish eye lens, mirror lens or reflex lens will not be mentioned here. As these lenses are not common and hardly required by average camera users. For consumer digital cameras these lenses are not easy to find and almost none of these are designed for compact digital cameras.


Super wide-angle lens and fish eye lens are sometimes used to create panorama photo for 35mm film camera. However, digital camera user can create panorama photo using panorama software by stitching a series of photos taken with any wide-angle lens.

Many digital cameras come with panorama software bundled in the camera software CD. If you are shopping for a digital camera check that the new camera of your choice comes with this panorama or stitching software. Otherwise there are also several excellent free version of this software available on the Internet. Some free panorama software like the demo version of Autostitch™ actually work better and are more versatile than those provided by camera makers.

Panorama photo stitch from 6 images using <b>Autostitch</b> software
A panorama put together from 6 images stitch using the free demo version of Autostitch™

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