Choosing the right camera lenses for your camera and which will give you the best results for your style of Photography art is vital. The lens of any camera is one of the most important elements as it is through these that the light passes to form the image. This simply means that the better the quality of the lens the better the quality of the final image.
If you are simply using a compact camera for your urban photography then you are restricted to the lens that is fitted to your camera. However I find that rather than restricting your photography, it actually can help change the way you creatively see and by working within your cameras limitations can create some stunning results.
For those with SLR cameras there are many different types of camera lenses available, all of which are suitable for different types of subject, situation and composition. Although this ultimately gives the photographer a wider choice, it can also muddy the waters and can work out expensive if too many lenses are acquired.
Knowing what sort of photographer you are i.e., landscape, architectural, candid etc will help you to chose the right lenses for your camera and ultimately help you to get the best results.
Standard lenses are ones that give the same perspective as our eyes i.e. the angle of view are the same. This is useful when you want to depict very straightforward images that do not add any optical tricks, like curvature or stretching the view.
A wide-angle lens, as the name suggests, gives a wider angle of view than the naked eye. This is great as you can squeeze more into the final picture. This does have its drawbacks though as these wide-angle lenses can cause the image to distort, giving the final images an unnatural look. This effect however may help with the artistic feel of the image, it all depends very much on what you require.
The wide-angle lens is a good option for those landscape shots even if the landscape is an urban sprawl. It allows the image to contain much more of the over all scene and so give a much broader aspect.
A problem to look out for when using this type of lens is, because this lens makes everything appear smaller in the frame it can make the image look distant and a bit vacant. To overcome this try to capture something in the foreground that will give the picture perspective, so a lamppost of figure would be ideal subjects.
These lenses have a long focal length i.e. they can make far away subjects appear closer than they really are and consequently have a narrow field of view than the naked eye.
A good starting length is 70 -300mm as these are fairly easy to handle and are relatively inexpensive. Once you go beyond that length they do begin to get rather heavy and expensive and are really suited to very specialist photographers.
A telephoto lens is great for isolating detail and compressing the scene to make things a lot closer to each other than they actually are. This is useful when taking street shots of people, as it allows you to be a long way away from your subject.
There are other specialist types of camera lenses available, which if you decide to specialize in a specific type of photography like close up work would be beneficial. However for most of us these lenses may not be essential. A couple of the main ones are:
The macro lens - these lenses are able to focus in extremely close and have very high quality optics that gives them low distortion.
Shift and Tilt lenses - These lenses have their elements mounted inside on a mechanism that allows the lens to be raised, lowered or rotated from its normal shooting position. This allows for instance for more foreground to be included in the image without moving the camera or with a tilt lens to position the plane of best focus. These lenses are ideal for architectural and landscape photography.
The focal length of a lens is effected by the format of the camera i.e. its sensor or frame size. But as a rough guide for a camera with an APS - C size sensor the focal lengths are:
Lenses can cost as much if not much more than the actual camera itself and so require to be handled and maintained with care.