Lens Types

A brief description of the differences between lenses and when to use them.

Lenses fall into three main groups:
Fixed focal length lenses (also known as ‘prime’ lenses)
Zoom lenses
Specialist lenses

Fixed focal length (or ‘prime’) lenses comprise:
Wide angle
Standard
Telephoto

Zoom lenses have variable focal lengths and cover various ranges from wide to telephoto

Specialist lenses – for example macro, fisheye, tele-convertors and tilt/shift lenses

Generally speaking, lenses at the wider end of the scale are best used for photographs where you wish to include a scene encompassing a wide view. It might be a landscape with a mountain vista, a seascape, a large group of people, a firework display or a night time view of the Milky Way.

All the following focal lengths are expressed in mm and relate to ‘full frame’ (aka: 35mm film sized camera sensors). The closer the focal length of a lens is to 50mm, the closer the effect the lens gives to the human eye. Please see the section on sensors for more information on camera sensor size and how it affects equivalent lens focal length.

Wide angle lenses range from an ultra wide 14mm to a moderately wide 35mm. The 20mm, 24mm and 28mm focal lengths are probably the most common wide angle lenses, and these are very popular for landscape photography.

Use a 20mm or wider lens to include dramatic foreground detail in a landscape. Longer focal lengths can show parts of a scene more selectively. The 35mm focal length is a good versatile focal length as it can be used for most subjects (including individual environmental portraits showing a subject in an appropriate environment – or portraits of couples). Lenses wider than about 28mm are not suitable for portraits as they distort facial features – it is far more flattering to use a medium telephoto in the range of 50–105mm for individual portraiture.

Standard focal length lenses are either 50 or 55mm. These are closest to what the human eye can see (all be it within a hard rectangular frame, whereas we see that angle of view with an awareness of the periphery of a scene).

Common telephoto focal lengths range from a moderate 85mm or 105mm up to 300mm. Even longer lengths are available – for example 500mm and upwards but these are very expensive. For example the Nikkor 800mm costs nearly £20,000. The most common lengths are 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, 200mm and 300mm. The higher the number the larger (closer) the subject will appear in the frame and the flatter the perspective will appear. Focal lengths around 85mm to 105mm are ideal for portraiture, while 200–300mmm are good for nature (or picking out details in a landscape) and 300mm–400mm is ideal for bird and aircraft photography.


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Competition - Conditions of entry

This contest is only open to fully paid-up members of Bollington Photographic group.

Images should be submitted with the theme/title as specified on our contest page and elsewhere on social media – all photographs to be taken in the local vicinity unless otherwise agreed with the organisers in advance. Images not complying with these conditions will be disqualified from the contest.

Submissions must be your own work and by entering the contest, you are agreeing that they may be subsequently used for promotional purposes by the group. Credits to the individual photographer will be given, and copyright of the image(s) remain(s) with the photographer.

Winning entries will be professionally printed for display in the exhibition and the winners agree to contribute to the production costs at £5 per image chosen by the voting process. 

Voting is only open to paid-up members of Bollington Photographic group and members of the Bollington Photographic Facebook Group. 

Voting will only be allowed following the closure of the submission period. No cheating, mind. You can only vote once for your TWELVE  favourites, – so make your votes count!

Please note: You WILL be disqualified if you vote for your own Photographs!

  • Image format should be JPG, either colour or mono and of a quality to allow printing up to A3 in size.
  • All submissions will be validated following the closure of the submission period and voting will then  commence. 
  • The voting period will be as specified on the contest pages. Votes outside these dates will be disqualified.
  • The twelve images with the most votes will be declared the winners and will be selected and printed for exhibition.
  • Winning entries will be announced within the website and on social media following the closure of the voting period and the winning photographers will be also be notified by e-mail.
  • The winners’ images will be posted on the groups’ Facebook Page and will be printed and displayed in the Turners’ Arms as part of the Bollington Photographic Group  exhibition. At the end of the exhibition period, the prints will be archived for future exhibition or returned to the photographer upon request.    The decision of the organisers will be final. E&OE