Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Kit Lens and Other Techniques- Part 1

The kit lens: a variable maximum aperture zoom lens allowing for a wide to portrait focal length field of view. It is regarded as being soft and distortion-ridden; it is best skipped over in favor of a nifty fifty or a thirty-five. All the cool kids have their wide aperture primes while you are stuck dealing with high-soaring ISO values or on-camera flash. In the era of 35mm film photography, the 50mm 1.4 and 1.8 lenses were the kit lenses. And now, people WISH that were still the case for their excellent low-light performance and optical quality. For those of you who don’t know much about anything I’m saying, you’ll most likely have bought, or will buy, a dSLR or Micro 4/3 camera with the zoom kit lens. You might be looking for any and all reasons to buy another lens. There’s a chance you might be thinking that your fresh camera is a junker. For these reasons, and many more, I’ll be dedicating a handful of posts on maximizing the effectiveness of the kit lens. In this way you’ll know how to use it by itself and alongside a fast prime lens, or if skipping over it entirely is best for you. Many of these concepts can be applied to any lens and different genres of camera as well, so feel free to continue reading if you’d like to learn some general photography techniques.

Quick Notes:

1.       A zoom lens lets you control the field of view from wide and then turning the ring makes it get ‘closer’ to your subject. A prime, fixed focal length, lens is one that does not zoom; these normally have a larger aperture and are physically smaller.
2.       ISO is the sensor’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the grainier the image. With that said, most cameras that allow you to change the lens allow for High ISO’s and still yield useable images.
3.       Aperture is the lens equivalent of your iris. The larger it is, the more light is let in and the narrower the depth of field; or put another way, how much is in focus becomes smaller. A smaller aperture means less light being let in and the more that is in focus.
4.       Focal distance is how far away you are from what you’re photographing. The closer you are to something, the shallower the depth of field.
5.       Wider focal lengths mean more depth of field. So a 28mm lens will have more in focus at any given aperture than a 200mm lens at the same aperture values, regardless of what camera it’s on. A 28mm lens on a Micro 4/3 camera will be more of a standard lens in terms of field of view, but the depth of field will still be the same. This is an optical quality.
6.       Read your camera manual at least twice! Digital cameras are intricate computers. Knowledge is free!
7.       For those of you who have only negativity in your heart and want to diss kit lenses, please feel free to write your own blog post about it. This is for people who want to keep an open mind and may not have the deepest pockets. I LOVE prime lenses, and have them melded to both my dSLR and film SLR. But there’s enough information out there on how and why to use these sharp, small, beautiful lenses. However, the kit lens has a bad rap and I’d like to shift thinking just a little bit.

This will be the first post in the series, so stay tuned to Monday’s post on the strengths of the kit lens and some sample photos!

Lonely Lens

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