How Do Camera Lenses Work?


Cameras! These delightful objects have changed the way we save memories. Right from the time the first camera was invented, we have been capturing our memories forever.

With time, camera evolved and why not? The demand is mind-boggling! Today, everyone can get their hands on a decent camera. In fact, even low-end smartphones have good cameras!

However, if you are a photographer, you will need more than that. You will need a professional camera that you can work with, and you will also need to understand how it works.

The lens, being the most important part of the camera needs your attention first.


So, how do camera lenses work?

The theory is simple, really. Lenses work by helping you focus light on the camera’s sensor. Every camera lens has glass elements inside the barrel, and they help in reducing optical flaws. You need a good quality lens that has very good optical properties if you want to click great pictures.

That’s pretty much it. That’s the basic working of camera lenses. The confusion arises when you explore different types of lenses and are unable to determine which one to buy. Ask any professional, and he/she will tell you that lenses should be your greatest investment.

That doesn’t mean that you should buy the most expensive lenses, though. You must learn about them and understand how each of them works before you start spending your dollars.

Let’s dig deeper into this by talking about the most common types of lenses.


The standard lens


As the name clearly indicates, these lenses are standard. Most cameras come with these. They are also easy to use because they have a fixed mid-range focal length and a wide aperture. They provide a comfortable view by default.

The angle of view is pretty much the same as the human eye. So, you will see the image through the camera just like it would appear to the naked eye.

Things to know:

  1. These lenses don’t generally zoom.
  2. They are lightweight.
  3. They work very well in low light.

Best used for: Candid shots, landscape, and portraits


Wide angle lens


Wide angle lenses have a wide angle and a short focal length. The angle of view is high, and this enables you to capture more in each picture when compared to what a standard lens allows.

If you want a wider angle, you can buy fish-eye lenses. With these, you will even be able to capture 180-degree shots.

Things to remember:

  1. The angles start from 14 mm and go all the way to 35 mm.
  2. You will enjoy depth and focus on images.
  3. You may have to compromise with distorted images sometimes.
  4. They are lightweight and a great companion during hiking.
  5. These do not give great bokeh (compression).

Best used for: Landscapes, capturing action sports, cramped interiors, and anything that a standard lens won’t be able to accommodate


Macro lens


We love macro lenses, and we are positive that you will, too, once you start understanding how to use them. They are designed specifically for close-up photographs, and they give excellent contrast and sharpness.

Good quality macro lenses will even show you hair details on insects! They work to give you a 1:1 image size.

Things to remember:

  1. The focal lengths range from 50 mm to 200 mm.
  2. They are quite expensive and have limited uses.
  3. Some people face issues with shutter speed and focus times.
  4. The image quality is spectacular, though.

Best used for: Detailed photographs of objects, plants, animals, and insects


Telephoto lens


Wildlife photographers, this one is for you! Telephoto lenses are known for their superior magnification, allowing you to photograph objects that are at a distance without having to approach them. They have a long focal length and are quite big.

However, recent lenses have seen a drastic upgrade. Latest telephoto lenses are actually easier to carry because they are now compact.

Things to remember:

  1. The types of telephoto lenses range from 70-300 mm to 600 mm.
  2. The depth of field is shallow, blurring the background out well.
  3. You can stand in one place and shoot. There’s no need to move much when operating these lenses.
  4. They are quite heavy; even the latest ones. You may need to carry a tripod with you.
  5. They are very expensive.

Best used for: Wildlife, astronomy, and sports


Specialist lens


If you have advanced in the field of photography, you will need specialist lenses because they cater to needs that are not very common. Shift lenses and tilt lenses are examples.

Photographers use them for creative effects, and that’s why they don’t help much during standard or common photography.

Things to remember:

  1. Soft-focus lenses and infrared lenses are also categorized as specialist lenses.
  2. They are helpful only for creative or special effects.
  3. They can be expensive.

Best used for: Capturing certain objects in certain, specific ways

Please note that these are only the major types of lenses on the market today. When you go deeper into the art, you will be able to explore many more options and choose based on your preferences and needs.


Tips for buying a camera lens


Now that you know about the many types of camera lenses, you should also learn how to buy the right one.

The first step would be to note down your fields of interest and what exactly you want a new lens for. As you may have realized by this point, lenses vary based on their purpose.

So, if you are just getting started, a standard lens will do. But, if you also want to capture the sky and its many beauties, you will need a macro lens.

The second step would be to consider the light. Typically, what’s the type of lighting you will work with? Choosing a lens that is flexible will help if you are unsure.

Otherwise, you can pick according to your specific requirements.

There are also extras that each lens comes with such as silent autofocus. Think about your needs again before choosing these because they will just lengthen the bill!



The overall working of a camera lens is simple but, in its depth, lies the complexity. This is because there are too many options and each lens has a different mechanism based on its purpose.

We hope this article gave you an insight into the magical world of lenses, enabling you to make the right choice.

If you have any questions or doubts, please feel free to Comment!

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