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Lenses: The Camera's Eyes

A camera lens works a lot like a human eye, in that light passes through the lens and is focused on the film or image sensor of a digital camera. camera. This light carries the images that both you and camera see. see. A lens has several elements inside a metal barrel. barrel. These are basically of two types : (a) Those which are thickest in the center and converge light, and (b) Those which are thickest at the edges and cause light to diverge. diverge.

Each element is actually a simple lens itself--a itself--a piece of carefully shaped and polished glass. These elements aims to direct the path of light rays such that they recreate the image as accurately as possible on the digital sensor. These glass elements in the lens are what focuses the image for the film or sensor.

Basic lens attributes

Focal Length
The distance from the optical center of the lens to the focal plane (film or image sensor) when the lens is focused at infinity. infinity.

Focal length is generally measured in millimeters. millimeters. The focal length of a lens affects the appearance of subject matter in several ways. ways. A lens is often described in terms of its focal length. length. Focal length control magnification and angle of view, the size of the image increases in proportion to the focal length. length.

Lens Speed
It is the maximum amount of light that can pass through the lens to end up on the target. However we need a way of governing the amount of light entering the lens. For this we use the aperture or iris. iris.

It is the lens diaphragm opening inside a photographic lens. lens. It determines the light intensity of the image projected onto the image plane. plane. Aperture size is usually calibrated in fnumbers or f-stops. stops. The "f" stands for factor. An f-stop is ratio factor. between lens opening & lens focal length. length.

More specifically, the f-stop equals the focal length divided by the size of the lens opening. opening. f-stop = focal length / lens opening the smaller the f-stop number the more light the lens transmits. transmits.

Angle of view
It is the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. The longer the focal length (in millimeters), the narrower the angle of view (in degrees).

Depth of Field
It is the amount of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in acceptably sharp focus.

Types of lenses
Prime lenses: lenses:
The focal length of these lenses cannot be varied. varied. These lenses operates at only one focal length.

Zoom lenses: lenses:

These lenses are specially designed to have a variable focal length. length.

Normal lens
Has focal length about equal to the diagonal of film format (approximate diagonal distance from one corner of the film to the other): other): 38-50 mm for a (24x36 mm 3824x format) 35 mm film format. format. 80-105 mm for a 6x7 mm roll film 80camera. camera. 150-180 mm for a 4x5 in sheet 150film camera. camera. 0 Angle of view is approximately 45 .

Focal Length = Diagonal of film format

4 5


A normal lens of 50 mm f/1.4 (aperture) uses 7 glass elements in 5 groups

Perspective produced matches with that of eye. eye. Has usually widest maximum aperture compared to other lenses. lenses. As the prime optic in any set of lenses, the normal focal length lens frequently offer a aperture range of f/2 f/2 of 1.8 wider than the other in the series. Construction is series. typically between 6 to 8. Produces medium depth of field. field.

A 50 mm Normal Lens

Wide angle (or Short focal length) Lens

Focal length is less than diagonal of film format used. used. Have larger angle of view or coverage. coverage. Covers more background behind the subject. subject. More depth of field. field.

Produces exaggerated perspective. perspective. The use of a wide-angle widelens combined with a limited camera-to-subject camera-todistance creates a type of perspective distortion. distortion.

At this comparatively close distance, the building appears to be leaning backward.

Narrow angle (or Tele) Lens

Focal length is more than the diagonal of film format used. used. Generally used to take photographs from a distance. distance. Have narrower angle of view or coverage. coverage. Covers less background behind the subject. subject. Less depth of field. field. Perspective distortions are not apparent. apparent.

The Canon 85mm tele lens popular with portrait photographers.

ZOOM Lens (or Variable focal length lens)

A zoom lens is a mechanical assembly of lens elements with the ability to vary its focal length (and thus angle of view). view). They are commonly used with still, video, and motion picture cameras, some binoculars, microscopes and telescopes, and other optical instruments. instruments.

Nikkor 28-200 mm zoom lens, extended to 200 mm at left and collapsed to 28 mm focal length at right.

They came into common use in the early 1960s. Before then, TV cameras used lenses of different focal lengths mounted on a turret on the front of the camera.

Zoom lenses use numerous glass elements, each of which is precisely ground, polished, & positioned & can be repositioned to change magnification of lens. On zooming, these lens elements move independently at precise speeds. By rotating the extra controlling rings the lens changes through a continuous range of focal length enlarging or reducing the image size. size.

As shown by arrows, image size can be reduced or enlarged.

The range of zoom lenses is improving steadily with 28 to 70 mm and 70 to 210 mm in common use. use. Maximum aperture is seldom wider than f 3.5 on wide to standard zoom or f 4.5 on longer zoom. zoom.

Fisheye Lens
It is a wide-angle lens that takes in an wideextremely wide, hemispherical image. image. Originally developed for use in astronomy and called "whole-sky lenses", fisheye "wholelenses quickly became popular in general photography for their unique, distorted appearance. appearance. They are often used by photographers shooting broad landscapes to suggest the curve of the Earth. Earth.

A Fisheye lens view

The focal lengths of fisheye lenses depend on the film format. For the format. popular 35 mm film format, typical focal lengths of fisheye lenses are between 8 mm and 10 mm for circular lenses, and 15-16 mm for full15fullframe lenses. lenses.

Macro Lens
It is used for close-up photography; the image closephotography; projected on the "film plane" (i.e. film or a digital (i. sensor) is the same size as the subject. subject. On 35 mm film (for example), the lens must have the ability to focus on an area at least as small as 2436 mm, as this is the size of the image on 24 the film. This is known as "life-size film. "lifemagnification" or simply 1:1.

Soda bubbles in a glass a macro photograph.

Perspective Correction lens

Allows the photographer to correct for the effects of perspective by shifting the lens in relationship to the film or censor area. area. This lens is mostly used in architectural and other technical photography. photography. It has a larger image circle than is require to cover the image area (film or censor size). size).

They require small aperture setting to prevent vignetting when significant shifts are employed. employed.

The world's first perspective correction lens for 35mm cameras, Nikon's 35mm f/3.5 PC-Nikkor

Soft focus
It deliberately introduces spherical aberration in order to give the appearance of blurring the image while retaining sharp edges; edges; it is not the same as an out-of-focus out-ofimage, and the effect cannot be achieved simply by defocusing a sharp lens. lens. Soft focus is also the name of the style of photograph produced by such a lens. lens.

Keep the lens cap on, when not in use. use. Dont touch face of lens with fingers. fingers. Remove dust with a blower brush. brush. Smudges and smears can be removed with lens cleaning tissue paper. paper. To avoid fungus, store the lens with silica gel, when not in use. use.