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4.1 Standard Zoom Lenses

The standard zoom is a great lens to have for situations where you need flexibility and quality. In this lesson you will learn why it's called a standard zoom and you will see examples of how you can use it in the real world.

4.1 Standard Zoom Lenses

The standard zoom lens is a great lens to have for situations where you need flexibility and quality. In this lesson, you will learn why it's called a standard zoom, and you will see examples of what you can get with a standard zoom lens. A standard zoom lens is a lens that covers the normal focal length and offers a wider and a narrower field of view. In photography and cinematography, a normal lens or a lens that has a normal focal length, is a lens that reproduces a field of view that renders objects roughly the same size as they appear to you in real life. So for example, I'm sitting here and off in the distance here is a piano. When I'm looking at the piano, it's a certain size, right? It's like this big. Now, if I put a quote unquote normal lens on my camera, when I hold the camera up to my face, the size of the piano is not going to change. So, it's going to look through the eyes of the camera, or if you're looking at the back of the screen, about the same size as it does in real life. This is in contrast to a shorter focal length lens, which would make the piano look smaller. So in that case, when I held the camera up to my face, the size of the piano would be smaller because we are looking at a wider field of view. Or, if we were using a longer focal length lens, the size of the piano would be bigger than it looks to me, when I'm sitting right here. So a normal focal length lens is a lens that has a field of view that makes objects look about the same size as they do in real life. That's pretty much all there is to it. So, for a full frame camera, this would be about 50 millimeters. For an APS-C, this is around 28 to 30 millimeters, depending if you're using a Canon or a Nikon APS-C-sized camera. And for Micro four-thirds, it's about 23 millimeters. If you had a full frame camera, a standard zoom might be 24 to 70 millimeter. For an APS-C, you'd be looking at a lens just like this, which is a 17 to 50 millimeter. And a Micro four-thirds camera would be around a 12 to 35 millimeters. Notice that if we apply the field of view crop factor multiplication to these lenses, they're all about the same. The 17 to 50 millimeter is the equivalent field of view of a 27 to 80 millimeter lens, when we use the 1.6x crop factor for Canon APS-C sized cameras. For Nikon's DX cameras, we get a 25 to 75 millimeter equivalent field of view. For the Micro four-thirds cameras, we just have to double it. So we take the 12 to 35 millimeter standard zoom, and that's gonna have the equivalent field of view of a 24 to 70 millimeter lens on a full frame camera. So all of the standard zoom lenses have roughly the same field of view. It's also worth mentioning that, for many cameras, these lenses are interchangeable. You can take a Canon EF lens that was designed for a full frame camera and put it on a Canon APS-C camera. It'll work just the same, but you will have the field of view crop factor to deal with, which makes the lens have a narrower field of view. You can also use these lenses with a Micro four-thirds camera systems using an adapter. Depending on what adapter you use, some of the features of the lens may or may not work properly. So the 24 to 70 millimeter lenses and the equivalent field of view lenses on crop sensor cameras are the standard because they offer a general purpose range from wide angle to short telephoto, thereby giving you really fantastic flexibility. Let's take a look at what these standard zoom lenses look like in action. All right, we're gonna check out several photos that I've taken with a standard zoom lens over the last nine years or so. Now, the first several photos are of a trip that I took to Kazakhstan. And on that trip, I used a Canon 18 to 55 millimeter lens on my Canon 300D Digital Rebel. And it was a fantastic lens to give me a variety of shots because it covered pretty wide angle stuff to a little bit tighter. It was a great lens to have outside. And even though it's not a fantastic lens, it proved to be pretty nice for this particular trip. Especially, you know, there weren't a lot of great lens options back then for digital cameras in that focal range, especially for a crop sensor camera. And you can see we got some really awesome wide angle stuff here on the 18 millimeter side. And then, you'll see some nice tighter stuff and it was great of a variety of things. You know, it allowed me to get fairly close. Now, I had another lens with me on this trip, a 70 to 300 millimeter. Both were super inexpensive lenses. Here's a, a nice little beauty shot near an open window. You can see I got some really great landscape shots here to, to show of. And I got some, some nice stuff that was a little bit tighter like this crazy looking bug there. But you can see we can go from really wide to some stuff that's more portraity in the 50 millimeter range of this lens. And what we'll find out comin up shortly in this course is that 50 millimeters is actually a really nice kind of middle-of-the-road focal length for portraits. Maybe not the best focal length but, it definitely works and it's much better than using a wide angle lens. But stuff like this, in a car, you can't get that with a medium telephoto lens or a telephoto lens, it's just physically not possible. So that particular lens worked really great for that. Now the rest of the photos here were shot with another standard zoom lens. This lens is the Sigma 17 to 50 millimeter f 2.8 with optical image stabilization. And, you can see here's some engagement photos that I shot with it. And this works for a whole bunch of stuff, as well, you know, it's a real similar focal length range. Works for taking pictures of just regular old stuff. That was a cake that my wife made on my daughter Ella's birthday there. And here's some shots that I shot with my family in Disney World. You can see it's great for some nice architecture stuff, and, this is a shot of a live show here. This is a great walking-around lens because it gives you a really great range for focal lengths. Here's some photos that I took of my good friends, Todd and Elizabeth, around Christmastime a few years ago. And I take a lot of family photos with my own family, and my relatives, my brothers and sisters' families, as well. Here's a shot I did on vacation. Here's a shot of my son at a science museum, holding a dinosaur bone. Here's some more family photos that I took. This time I used a flash with a reflector as a diffuser. Now a shot like this actually worked really well for this particular lens. My back is right up against a wall behind me from where I'm shooting this. Well, actually, I'm right there, but where the camera was, I couldn't get it back any farther. I'm at 18 millimeters here. I could've used a more wide-angle lens and got closer, but you'll get more distortion on the edges of the image. And that wouldn't have worked, because, you know, they're jam-packed in here. This is straight from the camera, so it hasn't been cropped in at all. And so, there's people's faces that are right near the edge of the frame, and they would've got distorted, and that wouldn't have worked very well at all. Here's some shots of my good friends, Rob and Catherine, and their son. This one here is straight out of the camera with no cropping or editing. And a lens like this works great, you know, when you're out and about in daylight and you know, maybe with an on-camera flash. But it also works really well in a studio situation where we're using off-camera flashes or strobes. In this particular case, I'm using several speed lights and strobes to get these shots of my buddy, Todd, and this is a good friend, Josh, here. This is my daughter, Ella, shot with the same lens, with a couple of off-camera speed lights. And then, the next couple of shots are team photos that I did of my kids' wrestling team. And this was all shot at 50 millimeters. Now, sure, I could've used a prime for this. But, it was much more convenient and easy to do the setup and get the composition and framing really quickly with the standard zoom lens. When you're dealing with a bunch of young kids, you have to move quickly, and so the standard zoom worked out really well. Here's a shot that I snuck using another photographer's strobe. And, I did this at the New York State Wrestling Championship. My daughter is the one all the way to the left. She got fourth place here. But I took this, again using the same lens. So, this lens works really great for a variety of shots, landscape, architecture, and even some portraits. This is a recent photo that I did, and I used in another course for TutsPlus, and I shot it with my son, Lincoln, here playing the piano. But this was again at 50 millimeters, which is a great focal length for shots just like this. The vast majority of the standard zoom lenses in use are kit lenses, that you'll often see bundled with many DSLRs, or mirrorless cameras. Some of these kit lenses are just okay, like this lens right here, which came with my very first DSLR. This is an 18 to 55 millimeter f 3.5 to 5.6 standard zoom lens. This just okay lenses are usually made at the lowest possible price, but still achieve acceptable performance. This lenses are capable of producing decent quality images but do have some limitations. When stopped down, they usually perform a little bit better. Even though they may be a little bit soft in the edges and corners, center sharpness can often be quite good. If you are limited on funds or you are someone who normally makes very small prints, an okay lens can be quite useful to begin with. On the other hand, if you want to make large prints, shoot with the lens wide open, and or need corner to corner sharpness, a just okay lens would not be a good choice. Next up on the food chain are lenses that make more extensive use of metals for the internal parts, such as gears, cams, and retaining rings. And, the lens mounts on these lenses are usually always metal. They usually have better focusing motors, which result in quieter and faster focusing. These quote unquote better lenses usually have a distance scale for focusing and often use internal focusing, which is not only faster, but also means that the lens doesn't change length during focusing. And, the front element doesn't rotate. The optical quality is somewhat better than the cheaper, okay lenses, and this shows up in better performance at larger apertures and better edge and corner quality. The overall image quality may be improved by using a few special elements such as aspherics or elements made from low dispersion or high index glass. These things all add up to the lens's performance, but make the lens more expensive to build. Better lenses generally provide the best value for most photographers. The very best lenses are designed with performance in mind, and they tend to be quite expensive. Usually you'll find these lenses with a metal barrel and internal metal components. They may be designed to stand up better to hard, or professional, use. And some may include better sealing against dust and moisture. Canon's L series lenses, for example, have sealing gaskets at the lens mounts, and also have waterproof sealing around the switches. The very best lenses often use multiple elements made of exotic glass and or expensive optical material, such as fluorite. They also include a heck of a lot of optical wizardry that makes these the very best lenses that you can buy in terms of performance. Those who need the very best in terms of performance, as well as superior durability, often choose lenses that fall within this range. The scope of lenses is pretty vast. You have, OEM lens makers from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Panasonic, Olympus, Leica, Sigma, Fuji Film, and Samsung. And then you also have third-party lens makers such as Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina, as well as many others. The other third-party lens makers mostly make prime lenses. The main advantage of of these third-party lens makers is cost. Some of the lenses you get from third-party lens makers are nearly as good or better than the OEM version for two-thirds to half of the cost. Now that you know about standard zooms, the range of quality that you can find, and the scope of lens makers, you're ready to move onto the next lesson where you're gonna learn all about wide angle lenses

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