Experimenting with Focal Length
July 30, 2012
I’ve been focused (ha!) on my photography lately, trying to improve even more and one of the things I’ve been studying is focal length. I’m learning that not only do aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings matter, but millimeters do too. All digital camera lenses have a mm setting assigned to them, some are fixed (50mm or 35mm) others are zoom. The assigned millimeters are the mathematical definition for the distance between the lens and image sensor (focal length), but in everyday language, just know that the number determines from how close or far away you can capture a subject with a particular lens.
10-24mm is a wide angle which allows you to pull back and capture full room shots, architecture, or larger landscapes. I have a Tamron wide angle and I love it. Most kit lenses that come with a DSLR camera are in the 18-55mm range. Telephotos go all the way up to 600mm or higher and allow you to zoom in from far away – they’re great for capturing sports or wildlife, and I’ve always wanted to play with one!
Last spring, my little boy played baseball and one of the moms was snapping pictures with a giant telephoto lens and she was able to capture some fun closeups of the team in action from far away, so I struck up a conversation with her – I do that with photographers, I’m fascinated by the fancy equipment and lenses! Turns out, she’s not a professional photographer at all, it’s her hobby and she had rented the lens to take pictures of her son. Okay wow, renting lenses? Sounds like a great idea!
A few months went by and I eventually decided to try it out for myself. I used Borrow Lenses* to rent this 70-300mm zoom Nikkor lens and picked it up at a local shop (there are several pickup locations in California) to play around for the first time with a telephoto lens.
We headed out to Bodega on Saturday for our favorite clam chowder stop and for me to test out this lens. The clarity is slightly compromised since these are .jpgs but here’s an image taken from the hill above with the 18-55mm kit lens that came with my Nikon D90.
I switched the lens to the 70-300mm telephoto and zoomed in – the shot of the dock and seagulls got a little more dynamic!
Sometimes the kit lens captured exactly what I wanted – these boats along the water are a gorgeous scene, I actually like this image better than the zoom.
Switching again, I was able to use the borrowed telephoto to zoom in on the waterfront homes across the bay.
Here’s a group of pelicans gathered up together across the road, taken with the kit lens.
And the zoom:
We headed up to Bodega Head as the fog was rolling in and the wind was blowing pretty hard – it’s a crazy cliff out there so you’ve got to stand back but wow, what an amazing view of the Northern California coastline!
Taken with a kit lens (18-55 mm)
Telephoto zoom lens capturing some cool wave action:
I had a lot of fun experimenting with a zoom lens (it weighs almost 2 pounds by the way) and I was able to grab a bunch of cool coastal shots. This lens costs $600 retail and I was able to rent it for $45 which included insurance just in case.
I wanted to pass it along to all of you out there who want to experiment with different cameras, lenses, or equipment, you can rent them online without buying them. Pretty cool if you’re going on a trip or attending a special event and you want to try out a DSLR camera or take some shots with a lens you don’t own.
Anyone ever rented photography equipment before? So fun, right?
Related Article: Why You Should Learn to Shoot in Manual
*not a sponsored post, I just had fun using this service!