MF – Manual Focus

Ambitious hobby photographers can’t but help themselves to try their hand at adjusting the sharpness of the photo themselves. Technical utilities can be used to assist in this endeavour. When using a DSLR camera with a live view, a central portion of an image can be enlarged and later perfectly focused after some manual adjustments. This, however, takes a lot more time to do than just using an autofocus system to find the right focus.

Older analogue cameras did not come with an AF system. In order to focus the camera, the photographer had to rotate the lens until the correct focus was found. In the early days of photography, however, that wasn’t so easy. The photographer first had to estimate the distance of the camera to the object being photographed. This was later made a bit easier by using technical aids such as a rangefinder. The simplest of such devices is the double-image range finder. These are plugged into the camera’s hot shoe. The system has two transparent mirrors and a rotatable prism. The goal is to gather two identical image sections of the object being photographed. The value is then set on the lens. One could only see the results when viewing the developed photo.

In older SLR cameras, the distance to the object was set directly in the lens. In comparison to normal analogue small-format cameras, this was a lot more convenient for the photographer. Here, the light takes a small detour via an upward-folding mirror and goes through an adjustment disc (with a split-image indicator and micro prisms). With their help, the photographer can focus on the object by rotating the lens. This of course means that the sharpness of the photo completely depends on the visually perceived sharpness from the view of the photographer.

Photographing with a manual focus doesn’t only require of practice, but also a lot of patience. That’s why it’s not really suitable for just taking quick snapshots. It’s especially worthwhile to take the time to manually focus on an object when the sensor of the autofocus in unable to correctly focus the object due to conditions in your surroundings. Manually adjusting the focus is also advantageous when you want to photograph the same motif multiple times using the same focus settings. A camera with an AF system is unable to do this in certain circumstances since the sensor will sometimes choose a different point of focus every time.

AF – Autofocus

Since the 1970’s, there have been attempts to develop cameras with autofocus capability. Besides camera shake, using the wrong focus is a main cause of a photo appearing blurry. Since about 1985, automatic SLR cameras have played an important role in the world of photography.

Currently, the speed and precision of the autofocus is so technically advanced that it comes very close to being able to do the same things as a manual focus. The highest quality digital cameras available have up to 51 image sensors that are responsible for correctly capturing the object being focused on. For cameras with a touch screen, the photographer can use their fingers to select the area they want to focus on, similar to the way focusing works on a smartphone.

Basically, there are three kinds of autofocus modes:

AF.A (Autofocus Automatic): the camera alone is responsible for deciding if the image is already focused or if the focusing needs some adjustments, depending on how the targeted object appears when the shutter release is pressed.

AF.S (Autofocus Single): even if the object being photographed moves between the time the shutter release is pressed and the actual photo is taken, the camera uses the focus settings set when the shutter release was pressed. Thus, if the object moves further away from you during this time, it can cause your photo to appear blurry.

AF.C (Autofocus Continuous): the camera justifies the focus continuously until the actual image is recorded. This is dependent on the relative movement of the object to the lens, i.e. if the object is moving closer to or farther away from the photographer.

There are different kinds of autofocus systems. Roughly speaking, they’re divided into either passive or active autofocuses. The passive autofocus tends to be the most popular. Here, the camera basically finds the optimal focus after a “series of tests.” The two most reliable methods are called contrast detection and phase detection. The camera’s sensor is instructed to find the optimal object contrast and adequate lighting.

On the other hand, you have the option of using an active autofocus. This focus even works in the dark. One method uses ultrasound to measure the distance directly; here, the time it takes for the ultrasound to reach the object and return is measured. Thereafter, the camera can calculate the optimal focus to use.  This method is used in Polaroid cameras. Passive autofocusing is supported in poor lighting conditions when the object is illuminated. When this is the case, the object is illuminated by auxiliary light from the camera and can therefore be better focused.

The use of autofocus is very simple. The photographer can point the camera at something and press the shutter release down halfway. The camera will then try to find the correct focus. If the camera is able to find the correct focus for the photo, the photographer can press the shutter release down completely and take the photo.

Focusing

The exact distance setting used to photograph an object is known as focusing. The object should be focused by adjusting the camera as well as the lens.

Often, people don’t really pay attention to using the right focus when photographing, but by keeping the amount of focus in mind when taking pictures, you can widen your creative possibilities exponentially without having to master too much technical know-how.

An image appears especially sharp when the contrast between surfaces and contours is as large as possible. Absolute statements can’t be made about focusing, however, and most people tend to see the sharpest photos as those that reflect reality as closely as possible.

Pixels in the focal plane are displayed as dots on the photo sensor of the camera. When the camera isn’t correctly focused, the dots turn into circles. When neighbouring circles overlap on the sensor, this makes the image appear blurry. However, when this overlapping is smaller than the human eye can see, the photo will still appear to be sharp. In a photo with the dimensions 10 x 15 cm, for instance, the viewer will only begin to notice blurriness when the diameter of the circles is 0.1 mm. Besides camera shake, incorrect focusing is the second most common reason for an image turning out blurry.

Another important thing to consider when focusing your camera is what exactly you should be focusing on. When photographing humans and animals, you should focus on the eyes. When the subject is slightly facing away from you, it’s best to focus in on the eye that is closest to the camera. This will reflect reality as closely as possible and thus appear sharper.

The same basic concepts apply when photographing objects. When this is the case, the area closest to the camera should be focused. There are also differences to consider: in macro photography, the area closest to the camera is often too close for the lens to correctly capture. When this is the case, the photographer should focus on an area further back. This results in a blurred fore- and background, but a focused centre.

The adjustment of the focus can be done using either autofocus (AF) or manual focus (MF).

Camera Flash

In photography, any method of producing better lighting of the object you’re photographing by using an instant and short burst of light is known as a flash. Using a flash makes it possible to take pictures with sharp quality even in poor lighting conditions. Most cameras come with an integrated flash or a port capable of connecting to an external flash. In photo studios, complex flash systems are used in order to achieve optimum illumination to ensure high-quality results.

In 1861, the chemist and photographer Eduard Liesegang was the first to use ignited magnesium as a source of light when photographing. Later, this method was used to develop the first flash powder; this substance was very unstable and difficult to control, which is why its use often led to accidents. In the 1930’s, the engineer Harold Edgerton invented the first electronic flash unit and thus laid the foundations for later developments in flash technology.

The way a flash works is actually quite simple. Immediately when the shutter release is pressed, a short flash of light is triggered which is reflected off of the object being photographed. The time between pressing the shutter release button and the reflection of the light off of the object has to be coordinated with the shutter speed of the camera. The shutter should be fully open when the flash triggers. This is the only way the short flash of light can be optimally used when taking pictures.

Besides just using the flash to better illuminate the object being photographed, it can also be used along with various methods in order to produce certain effects and moods in the photo. When this is done, it makes a big difference if the flash is used as a main source of light, as a supplement to light already present or if the flash is discharged either directly or indirectly at the object. The red-eye effect that appears in many photos shot with a flash, for example, can be reduced when using a pre-flash.

Furthermore, the light colour of the flash, which is expressed in degrees Kelvin, influences the colour temperature in the photo. Modern photos and flashes usually use a white light since it is neutral and doesn’t distort the natural colours of the object when photographing.

The range and coverage of a camera’s flash is given as a guide number. This number tells you the luminous energy of the flash, which is calculated from the distance between the flash and the object in metres, and the necessary f-number to use in order to ensure optimal illumination.

When using a flash, it’s possible that strong contrasts between light and shadows or disturbing reflections might appear. That’s why a diffuser is often used in professional photography, which spreads the light from the flash. This makes the light produced from the flash softer and disturbing effects in the photo are reduced. Basically any kind of transparent or colour-neutral material can be used to spread out the light from the flash. Thus, things like white screens, nylon fabric, Plexiglas, or even greaseproof paper are often used in flash photography.

It’s all about the newlyweds when photographing them on their special day

5 Tips for Unforgettable Wedding Photos

Capturing the most beautiful day of the bride and groom with all of its emotions and highlights is one of the biggest challenges for every photographer. The fact that there is no trial run or second chance makes this challenge that much more difficult. Their wedding day is only for one day, but the photos of this special day are eternal.

In order to take authentic and unforgettable wedding photos of the bride and groom, it helps to pay attention to the details and to follow the events of the ceremony with a trained eye in order to ensure that the photographer always has his/her camera at the ready for every pinnacle moment.

Besides the many possible ways to photograph a wedding, one also has to keep in mind the time required for shooting and editing the photos as well as the budget the bridal pair has planned. Professional photographers are usually experienced and well versed, however, having them accompany the bride and groom throughout the entirety of the wedding is quite expensive and isn’t desired by all bridal pairs. Thus, some couples only hire a professional to take the classic portraits every bride and groom have done during a 2-hour shoot while other couples hire them to do a complete reportage depicting many details and including photos of events “behind the scenes.” Even those who want to best capture the special moments at a wedding as a hobby photographer should keep some things in mind that are particular to wedding photography.

We’ve gathered together 5 tips to help you take the best wedding photos possible:

Consultation with the bride and groom

Speaking in detail with the bride and groom before their wedding is paramount for successfully capturing their special day on camera. Thus, it’s necessary to organise a meeting between the photographer and bridal pair at least a few weeks before the big day in order to ensure that there is enough time to plan. Both parties should also come to the table with realistic expectations. The bridal pair must also feel comfortable in the presence of the photographer in order to ensure successful photos. Besides discussing the individual wishes and ideas of the bridal pair, organisational matters are also very important to the discussion. Some of these details include the planned schedule of the wedding: when and where the photographs should be taken, when does the celebration begin, and at which times might the couple want a break from all of the flashing lights?

Preparation and Gear

A dead battery or not enough storage space to save the photographs will definitely put both the photographer as well as the wedding guests in a dismal mood. Such errors should be avoided at all costs; a wedding only happens once and cannot be repeated. Thus, the photographer should be ready for all kinds of contingencies. Before the big day, the operational capability of the camera and its accessories should of course be checked to avoid unpleasant surprises. Planning for shooting a wedding during the day can be especially arduous and there are some things to keep in mind when making preparations.

There’s no time during the wedding to charge batteries or empty the memory card. Carrying a spare battery and several memory cards protected in plastic cases will help give the photographer as well as the bride and groom a sense of security and avoid making some of the most common mistakes. It’s also a good idea to bring along at least two different lenses with different focal lengths so the photographer can take up-close portraits as well as snapshots from a distance. When packing the camera bag with accessories, the weight should also be considered since the photographer always has to be on their toes while capturing all of the emotional and funny moments on camera. A heavy camera bag doesn’t only interfere with taking photos, but constantly changing out the camera’s lens also takes up too much valuable time.

The right location for photographing the bridal pair

Many couples like to choose enchanting locations to shoot their photos. Some classic examples of these are a backdrop of blooming flowers, a lush forest, or a castle. In order to make sure the photos turn out as best as possible, there are several things to consider when picking a fitting location.

The time required to do a wedding shoot should not be underestimated. Therefore, it can be advantageous to choose places that are close to the wedding reception in order to avoid having to travel for a long time and making the guests wait.

Lighting conditions also play a very important role. A sunny day coupled with an enchanting bridal pair will be sure to produce picturesque photos. However, in order to avoid disturbing shadows and glare from direct sunlight, it’s best to photograph the couple in the afternoon after about 3 PM. The lighting conditions for photographing are the most optimal at this time. In other cases, shady places with many shadows are chosen for the shoot. These kinds of settings provide a magical atmosphere for the photos.

If the bridal pair wants to take their photos indoors, appropriate measures should be taken to ensure optimal lighting conditions. A rotatable or free-moving flash as well as a diffuser will ensure the appropriate amount of indirect lighting and prevent harsh lighting contrasts.

Photographing the bridal pair in the middle of a golden wheat fieldA fairytale-esque castle staircase as the location for a wedding shoot

What to do when the weather doesn’t play along

The most beautiful and authentic portraits of the bridal pair are best taken outdoors. When photographing outside, the lighting conditions are usually better and the elegance of the bride’s wedding dress is especially well accentuated against the contrasting stylish black suit of the groom. Unfortunately, however, the weather doesn’t always want to play along; but the weather doesn’t have to “rain on your parade” as it were. If the weather conditions are taken light-heartedly, it’s still possible to take brilliant photos with everyone smiling.

For any ideas you might have for photographing outdoors, you should always have a backup plan in mind. It would be a good idea, for instance, to look for places ahead of time that might provide some shelter from rain such as under trees or castle ruins. The bride and groom can also simply pose under an umbrella to make the photos a bit more humorous. If there’s not an umbrella available that matches, black and white photos can cover up unwanted colour contrasts with stylish effect.

It’s still possible to take great wedding photos of the bridal pair even if it’s raining

The photo reportage

From the dressing room in the morning till the wee hours of the reception – a photo reportage showcases all of the highlights and details of the wedding day for eternity. This kind of wedding photography continues to gain popularity, but also requires the most work in planning, preparing, and implementation. Here, the photographer needs an eye for detail and to be persistent. When creating a photo reportage, it’s especially important to know the wedding schedule down to the minute. This is the only way to ensure that the photographer is there to capture every important moment like the bride putting on her wedding dress, the couple saying their vows, and the newlyweds exiting the church with their guests celebrating.

It’s also important to ensure the right conditions exist when photographing emotional moments behind the scenes, such as when the bride is putting on makeup or getting last-minute adjustments to her dress. There should also be enough space for the photographer in the dressing room as well as an ample amount of lighting. There are also times during the wedding when the photographer shouldn’t disturb the moment with a bright flash from his/her camera. It should also be decided beforehand when the photographer can take breaks, such as when the guests are eating.

Photos of the bride getting dressed on her wedding day are an absolute must for the reportage

Bernd & Hilla Becher receive the Erasmus Prize from the Dutch Prince Bernhard in 2002

Six Personalities That Have Influenced Styles of Photography

Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931 – 2007, 1934 – 2015, Germany)

Bernd & Hilla Becher receive the Erasmus Prize from the Dutch Prince Bernhard in 2002

Fotograf: Courtesy of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation. Bernd & Hilla Becher CC-BY-SA 4.0 Quelle: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernd_und_Hilla_Becher#/media/File:2002_Echtpaar_Becher_prijsuitreiking_5.jpg

Bernd and Hilla Becher were a famous husband and wife photography duo who were especially popular in the second half of the 20th century. They met each other in Düsseldorf in 1957 and got married four years later.

The couple gained international recognition through their black and white photographs of half-timbered houses and industrial buildings. Their work is classified as a part of New Objectivity (in German: Neue Sachlichkeit).

Together they founded the Düsseldorf School of Photography where many famous photographers attended such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Sasse, as well as others.

They contributed to the Documenta 5 (1972), Documenta 6 (1977), and Documenta 7 (1982) and brought attention to the uniqueness of industrial buildings. Many of the photographed buildings have long been demolished; thus, the couple is often seen as being archaeologists of industrial architecture.

Their unique photographs where usually taken with a large format camera (13 x 18 cm). The advantage of using such a camera is the distortion-free and extremely detailed depiction of the motif. The handling of such a large format camera is demanding and time-consuming. The developed image is superior to the quality of small and medium format cameras. Those interested in architectural photography should definitely take a look at the works of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Annie Leibovitz (*1949, USA)

Annie Leibovitz standing in front of a nude portrait of Demi Moore in 2008

Fotograf: Robert Scoble from Half Moon Bay, USA – Annie Leibovitz bei ihrer SF Ausstellung – CC BY 2.0 Quelle: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Leibovitz#/media/File:Annie_Leibovitz-SF-2-Cropped.jpg

Anna-Lou Leibovitz is one of the most brilliant and well-paid photographers in the US. She’s taken portrait photos of many well-known people in politics, business, and pop culture. Thanks to her photographs, she’s gained international recognition.

Leibovitz first studied painting and photography with the goal of becoming an art teacher. At this time, she was making documentaries on a 35 mm film camera. She found inspiration in the illustrated books by Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The Rolling Stone Magazine publisher Jann Wenner was so impressed by Leibnitz’s work that he hired her in 1970. After receiving her BA in Fine Arts, she worked as a senior staff photographer from 1973 to 1981.

A special feature of Leibovitz was the approach she used to photograph musicians. She wanted to completely immerse the viewer into the personality of the musician. She accomplished this by accompanying the musician she was responsible for photographing over the course of two to three days. This allowed her to produce photographs of the musicians in their natural environment.

Her most famous photograph is a picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono she took just hours before Lennon’s murder. This photo and her photo of a nude Demi Moore gave her both 1st and 2nd place of the 40 best front pages in 2005. Those interested in portrait photography should be sure to check out her work.

Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984, USA)

Ansel Adams in 1950

Fotograf: Malcolm Greany – Ansel Adams um 1950 – gemeinfreies Bild

Ansel Easton Adams was an important landscape photographer, author, and teacher of artistic photography.

He is considered one of the co-founders of Group f/64. To counter the then-popular style of Pictoralism, Group f/64 used the larger f-number 64, which made it possible to take photos of a subject with a larger depth of field. Adams is also considered on of the pioneers of “pure photography.” This is a realistic kind of photography that places a special emphasis on natural tones, sharpness, and lighting. A subject photographed in this manner should be as realistically depicted as possible.

Adams is also to be considered the king of landscape photography. It’s worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the great landscape photographs he produced.

Helmut Newton (1920 – 2004, Germany)

The headstone of the photographer Helmut Newton located in Berlin

Fotograf: Berliner Grab auf dem Städtischen Friedhof Schöneberg – CC BY-SA 3.0 Quelle: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Friedhof_Schoeneberg_III_-_Helmut_Newtons_Grave.jpg

Originally, Helmut Neustädter was a German-Australian photographer. He began learning photography from Else Neuländer-Simon in 1936, but had to flee to Singapore and change his name in 1938 because of his Jewish background. From 1940 he lived in Australia and opened a photo studio in Melbourne in 1945. He later photographed for the Australian edition of Vogue and other fashion magazines. He soon became one of the most respected and highest paid fashion, advertising, portrait, and nude photographers in the world.

August Sander (1876 – 1964, Germany)

August Sander is considered to be the most important portrait photographer of the previous century.

At the age of 28, he opened his first photo shop and studio in Linz, Austria. In 1910, he moved to Cologne with his family.

One of his most influential projects is the photo series Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th Century), which is a project he worked on his entire life and made him famous. In the mid-1920’s, Sander began working on one of his first concepts. The band of works was organised into seven groups: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, The Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, as well as The Last People. These impressive photos document the changes society was going through at that time. In 1929, a selection of 60 photographs was published in his book Antlitz der Zeit (Face of our Time). It was 16 years after Sander’s death that the whole photo series of Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts was published thanks to Sander’s son.

Those of you who are interested in learning more about photography will definitely come across some of Sander’s work. He didn’t only concentrate his efforts on portrait photography, but also on landscape, nature, industrial architecture, as well as urban photography.

Street art revives urban spaces and is constantly gaining more fans

Street Art – Finding Interesting Works to Photograph

In the past and still today, street art is seen by some as simply graffiti on house faces, trains station buildings, and electrical boxes, but it is also considered by others to be its own form of art. Those people who walk through the city streets with their eyes open will be sure to come across some quite zany motifs. Of course, not all graffiti found on city facades is considered to be art. From larger than life portraits to distorted caricatures, abstract shapes and letters, street art can come in many different forms. More and more street art is being viewed as an enrichment of the oft grey and monotonous concrete jungle instead of just a pollution of public space.

When viewing street art, you’ll find works with various styles and made with different techniques.

We’ll show you 6 of the most typical as well as eccentric techniques used by street artists that you should definitely be on the lookout for on your next trip to the city.

Ad-busting

Everyone’s probably already seen some kind of advert or election poster that has been defaced with small additions or with so many additions that the original image is no longer recognisable. If it wasn’t hastily done by a passer-by with a ballpoint pen or the like, then this is considered to be ad-busting. This style of art is particularly used to provocatively alienate adverts in public spaces. Here, posters are pasted or painted over in order to make the original message humorous or a complete contradiction to what was originally intended. Ad-busting is dedicated to critiquing adverts and the media as a whole and has been part of the street art scene for over 40 years.

Cut-out

In addition to outlandish motifs that are found in various forms around the city, cut-outs are often only noticed when you take a second look. These usually only take up a smaller section of the motif and are somewhat secretly integrated into the cityscape. The (mostly black and white) cut-outs can take the shape of animals, people, as well as any other object. You’ll see things like only the hands of a figure trying to climb out of a letter box or the eyes of an animal that appear to be viewing the passers-by from a gap in the wall.

A small figure appears to be climbing out of a street sign

Stickers

If an artist wants to spread their own personal signature or logo as far and wide around the city as possible, then stickers are one of the most popular forms of street art used to accomplish this. A short slogan or a memorable motif can be easily and inexpensively duplicated and then stuck on surfaces around the city in no time at all. Instead of having the stickers printed out, many artists also use parcel labels. These are abstractly designed with stencils, coloured pencils, or stamps and then stuck on bus stops, street signs, letterboxes, and many other places.

Roller

The roller technique can most often be found on larger surfaces. As the name suggests, this kind of street art is made by using paint rollers. With the help of telescopic rods, hard-to-reach places like the undersides of bridges and house facades can be reached. Since it’s difficult to create detailed and precise motifs using a paint roller, this technique is mostly used to paint short slogans or sayings in large letters.

Large font text created with a paint roller

Yarn Bombing

A very creative and somewhat less common expression of street art is yarn bombing. Here, cars, street lamps, electrical boxes and the like are decorated or completely wrapped in yarn. Since this technique is extremely laborious and time-consuming (depending on the extent of the knitting), it rarely sneaks into the cityscape. However, if you see something that has been yarn bombed on your walk throughout the city, be sure to capture it on camera.

Mural

Large and extensive works found on old building facades are known as murals. They are especially impressive due to their enormous size and the fact that they’re usually done on legal walls (the artist gets permission from the property owner). It happens more and more often that the city will allow certain street artists to design and beautify large, colourless buildings, bridges, and walls found throughout the aging city so they can showcase their fascinating work. Some murals in certain cities have gained somewhat of a cult status and are counted as one of the local attractions.

A well-known mural in Berlin

Different kinds of lenses for different uses

What You Should Keep in Mind When Purchasing a New Lens

Every camera manufacturer offers a wide selection of different lenses and on top of this wide selection there are also many different lenses offered by aftermarket manufacturers. This can make it quite difficult for you to make a well-informed and smart decision when purchasing your lens.

We’ll give you some tips and info about what you should pay attention to when buying a new lens for your camera.

Which focal length should my lens have?

The first decision you have to make is if you want a zoom lens or a fixed focal length lens. Zoom lenses come with the advantage of being able to adjust the focal length. This makes the lens much more versatile. Also, you won’t have to change out lenses as often when on the go, which can save you a lot of time and effort.

Just as the name entails, you cannot change the focal length on fixed focal length lenses. This means that when you want to photograph an object larger or smaller, you will have to change your own position. The advantage of using this kind of lens is that they are optimised for their specific focal length. You will be able to achieve higher quality results than when photographing with a zoom lens of similar quality. Furthermore, fixed focal length lenses are usually less expensive than their zoom lens counterparts. Fixed focal length lenses are also lighter and handier than the more versatile zoom lens.

Once you’ve decided what kind of lens you would like to use, it’s time to think about the appropriate focal length. This heavily depends on what you will be using your lens for.

A little more info about focal lengths:

Focal lengths are given in millimetres. A focal length of 50mm is approximately comparable to the viewing angle of the human eye; thus, a lens with this focal length is called a “normal lens.” Focal lengths less than 50mm are referred to as wide-angle. With a lower focal length comes a higher angular size that can be depicted in the photo. Wide-angle lenses are especially well suited for landscape and travel photography. Of course there are wide-angle lenses available in a range of focal lengths; an ultra wide-angle lens, for example, has a focal length of 20mm or less.

Lenses with a focal length over 70mm are called telephoto lenses. A telephoto lens makes it possible to photograph objects from a large distance. Since the lens is capable of photographing objects from a larger distance, “less motif” is capable of fitting in the photo. Medium telephoto lenses have a focal length of 135 – 300mm and super telephoto lenses have a focal length of 300mm or more.

 

Lenses suitable for beginners usually have a focal length of 18 – 55mm and they are often included when purchasing a new SLR camera. These lenses are either in the wide-angle or normal category.

For those of you who travel often and have to pay attention to how heavy the lens is, it’s recommended to choose a lens that covers a wide focal length range. These are comparatively larger and heavier, but make it no longer necessary to take an interchangeable lens with you. For beginners, lenses with a focal length of 18 – 200mm are recommended. This allows you to cover the focal lengths provided by a wide-angle, normal, and telephoto lens with just one lens.

Professionals would never be able to give up their interchangeable lenses. When compiling your own collection of lenses, it’s recommended to have a mix of fixed focal length and zoom lenses. For the most commonly used focal lengths, it would be worthwhile to use a fixed focal length lens since these are superior in quality when compared to their zoom lens counterparts. A pro’s equipment bag is then supplemented by a high quality wide-angle lens as well as a high quality telephoto lens.

Lenses with various apertures

Lens speed

The second important thing to consider when purchasing a new lens is the lens speed. The lens speed is the maximum aperture diameter (the minimum f-number) of a lens. The wider the aperture opens, the more light hits the sensor, and thus the higher light intensity the lens is capable of. Lens speed is given as an f-number. F-numbers are fractions; the smaller the denominator, the larger the aperture value. An aperture value of f/1.4 is noticeably larger and has a higher light intensity than f/8.

Zoom lenses usually have a lower lens speed than fixed focal length lenses. A larger focal length range of a lens usually means a lower lens speed. Therefore, when buying a new lens, it’s necessary to pay attention to the lens speed and consider your own personal requirements.

Lens mount on a camera

Lens mounts – does the lens fit my camera?

The wide range of lenses available on the market is mainly limited by the fact that the lens has to fit your specific camera model. Many camera manufacturers have slightly altered the popular bayonet mount format so that only lenses manufactured by the same company will fit the camera. Aftermarket lens manufacturers usually keep this in mind and offer lenses that are compatible with several kinds of bayonet mounts. The websites of aftermarket lens manufacturers usually tell you which lens is compatible with which camera models.

Price – what is all of this going to cost me?

The price of a new lens starts at about £140 for entry-level models and goes up to the thousands as well as tens of thousands for professional models. Thus, you have to find a realistic compromise between personal requirements, what you will use the lens for, and the price.

Besides the focal length and lens speed, there are some other features and extras that have an influence on the price of the lens. An example is the particularly faster autofocus motor, a so-called ultrasonic motor. Even though such a feature is probably not the most important thing for beginning photographers to consider when purchasing a new lens, this can be the key to success for professional sports and animal photographers. However, this higher quality performance comes at a high price. There are also specially-formed lenses that help reduce the appearance of image aberrations. These so-called aspheric lenses, however, are usually only found in higher-priced camera lenses.

The most important things to consider when purchasing a new lens are what you want to photograph with this lens as well as your expectations of quality. You can get expert advice about the newest models at your local store or you can search online for current test reports and reviews containing practical recommendations for purchasing a new lens. Nevertheless, it’s still important to inform yourself about specific properties of camera lenses and to consider your own needs.

The Pinhole Camera

The simplest and most likely oldest optical device used to generate an image of an object is the pinhole camera. The famous Greek philosopher and naturalist Aristotle first described the construction and operation of a “dark chamber” over 2000 years ago. In this dark chamber, a small opening was made for light to pass through (in Latin: a camera obscura). With this, Aristotle unknowingly discovered the basic principle of photography.

When light enters a small hole into an opaque hollow container, an upside-down image is generated on the back surface. When the surface on which the image appears is made of transparent material, the image can be viewed from outside of the container.

The sharpness and brightness of an image produced by a pinhole camera is solely determined by the diameter of the hole allowing light to pass through. Exposure times range anywhere from five seconds to several hours.

Compared to cameras capable of focusing, the luminosity of pinhole cameras is 10 to 500 times weaker and the image is noticeably fuzzier. The image produced can be captured with the help of light-sensitive material(s) or an image sensor.

Starting at the end of the 13th century, astronomers began using the camera obscura for observing solar eclipses and other astronomic phenomena. This helped them observe the eclipse without damaging their eyes by looking directly into the bright sunlight. Walk-in camera obscuras were built for such observations and can still be found in some places today.

Pinholes are also used in the fields of X-ray and gamma radiation to produce corresponding images since no traditional lenses can be used for this purpose. Complex or large-sized versions are equipped with converging lenses.

Pinhole cameras made with wooden or plastic housings can be purchased starting at around 30 Euros while simpler models made of cardboard are even cheaper. Because the simple principle of a pinhole camera is easy to craft with simple materials, there are numerous tutorials and craft kits available for purchase on the Internet that will help you create your very own camera obscura.

Even digital cameras with interchangeable lenses or SLR cameras can be used as a pinhole camera. For this purpose, some manufacturers (such as Nikon) offer special lenses.