Photography Cheat Sheet: How to Select the Right Lens

With all the lenses available for your DSLR or mirrorless cameras, how do you determine which one to choose for the shot you want to achieve? Today’s photography cheat sheet comes to the rescue.

The most significant advantage of interchangeable lens cameras like DSLRs and mirrorless cameras is their ability to use different lenses. There’s a wide range of lenses out there, each suited for a specific kind of photography. But, if you’re new to choosing your own lenses, it can be daunting to go through all these choices just to pick one or two, either for the shot you want to achieve or the kind of photography you want to specialize in. Today’s featured photography cheat sheet should make the process easier.

The cheat sheet below is part of a guide put together by Digital Camera World and shared on Tech Radar. Understanding how focal length is related to the angle of view and what role this plays in choosing the right lens can get pretty technical. But, this visual reference makes it easier to grasp the concepts and determine the right lens for the job.

The guide indicates that the shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view, and the more of the scene you’ll be able to capture. This means fisheye lenses with a focal length of 8mm will have a 180-degree angle of view, and will most likely include your feet if you frame straight ahead. In comparison, super-telephoto lenses with longer focal lengths of 150mm to 600mm will only have a narrow angle of view of just 3 or 4 degrees. This allows photographers to zoom in and capture subjects from far away, so these lenses are must-haves for sports and wildlife photographers.

Wide-angle lenses, therefore, will come in handy for either capturing a subject and the surroundings ,even in tight spaces (like portraits or group photos), or simply more of the scene for landscapes and architectural shots. Standard lenses like 35mm to 50mm are great for everyday photography, while telephoto lenses with focal lengths of 70mm or 85mm work great for portraits and situations where extra “reach” is necessary.

However, sensor size is another important consideration when choosing lenses. The focal lengths mentioned above apply to Full Frame cameras or those with a sensor size equivalent to a frame of 35mm film. APS-C sensors, which are either 1.5x or 1.6x smaller than the Full Frame sensor, will produce a narrower field of view with the same lens. Four-Thirds sensors, which are half the size of the Full Frame sensor, will narrow the view even further. This means the crop sensors will capture a smaller area of the image projected by the lens. So, for these, shorter focal lengths will be necessary to achieve the same angle of view as a Full Frame camera.

Looking for more useful tips like this? Don’t forget to check out our growing collection of photography cheat sheets so far!