The Phoblographer Answers: What Does the MM on a Lens Mean and Stand for?

If you’re into photography, you most likely know the answer to the question “What do the letters ‘mm’ on a lens stand for?” But for the uninitiated and for lots of Americans who don’t know the metric system or what millimeters are, it can be pretty confusing. I mean, we can understand that eight inches is larger than two inches, right? So bigger, must mean better, right? No, not exactly and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Essentially, the wider the field of view, the smaller in focal length number. The more narrow (telephoto) views are larger in focal length numbers. So, a 14mm lens will give you a wider field of view than an 85mm lens. But then things become even more confusing as pretty much every standard of focal lengths are then more or less based off of 35mm film.

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