Which lens do you need?

Do you really need more than one lens?

Do you really need more than one lens?


Like so many technical fields, there are a ton of acronyms in the photography world*. AF, IS, DoF, MF, ExiF, PPI…the list goes on and on. But one is really appropriate to this blog article: ILC.

Interchangeable Lens Camera

The Canon 24-70mm f2.8 Mark II lens. This zoom lens is useful in a lot of situations.

The Canon 24-70mm f2.8 Mark II lens. This zoom lens is useful in a lot of situations.


There are some wonderful cameras that include a fixed lens (or one that can’t be switched), but most of them these days offer the ability to change them. IMHO (In My Humble Opinion - thought you might need another acronym there.), that ability to change lenses based on the photographic situation is a massive advantage.

Why change your camera’s lens?

To answer that question, it’s a good idea to first understand the different aspects of a lens. These aspects are based on the physical design of the lens - a design which comes down to a tube with different elements of polished glass. In addition to that very old concept (the Egyptians and Mesopotamians developed the first optics that we know of), some modern accouterments including auto-focus motors and specialized coatings make up today’s lenses.

  • Diameter of the lens: The range from maximum to minimum opening that light can travel through is called the aperture. This can affect the DOF (depth of field). In addition to DOF, the width of the diameter also determines how much light can enter. This is an important factor when taking pictures in darker areas.

The shallow depth of field created in this shot is from a lens that has a very wide diameter.

The shallow depth of field created in this shot is from a lens that has a very wide diameter.

  • Length of the lens: From end to end, the length of the lens is called its focal distance. This determines how close objects appear. Some lenses (like the Canon lens above) have the ability to zoom. That means the distance can lengthen or contract, making objects appear more distant or more close. Sometimes this extension or contraction happens inside the barrel of the lens, so you can’t see it.

  • Special factors: There are some sub-specialty features that allow for specific qualities not found in all lenses. These can include the ability to correct distortion - very useful when photographing something tall when you’re down at its base (think tree or building), or the ability to photograph something very close and magnify it.

What if I could only have one?

This is a tough one, and I wish I could give a recommendation for the “end all/be all” lens, but the answer can be different from one person to the next.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have a camera (or a camera with a lens) then you have to start somewhere. The best question to ask is what will I be photographing - mostly. Once you have the answer to that, you can narrow down to a specific set of attributes that will be the most important to that type of photography.

If you’re about to buy your ILC (remember that acronym?) camera, and you’d like some specific advice on which lens would be the best to accompany it, reach out to us - we’re here to help!


*ISO isn’t one of them - it’s actually an abbreviation. Here’s an excerpt from the web page for the International Organization for Standardization.

It's all in the name

Because 'International Organization for Standardization' would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), our founders decided to give it the short form ISO. ISO is derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal. Whatever the country, whatever the language, we are always ISO.

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