Need a Longer Lens? © Wendy Folse Jul 22, 2001 When do you need a longer lens? Longer lenses are great to have in your arsenal because they allow you to do things you might not be able to do with a shorter focal length lens such as get closer to the subject. Longer lenses are also great for candid shots because you can remain unnoticed by the subject and hence the photos are much more relaxed and natural looking. Many people freeze up when you turn a camera on them and often their expressions ruin the photo as they look tense and unnatural. When taking nature and animal photos a longer lens is a must for much the same reason. Keeping a safe distance from wild animals is a given for the obvious reasons but you also want to remain unnoticed as much as possible in order to get great shots. Another reason for using a longer lens is to reduce the amount of distortion caused when using shorter lens. The rapid reduction in size from front to back is characteristic of a shorter lens shot at a closer range. There is one misconception to this visual distortion caused by shorter lenses. It isn't actually the lens that causes it, but rather how close the lens is to the subject. Longer lenses just let us get in closer to the subject while keeping the lens farther away. For natural looking portraits a lens of about 105mm is standard and produces a very pleasing portrait of adults. Smaller children can be photographed with shorter lenses however. A final reason for using a longer lens is to allow more control over in camera cropping out of unwanted objects in the view finder. Longer lenses give you a tighter composition and can be must in certain situations where you cannot just simply move around to find a better view. The primary drawback to using longer focal length lenses is camera shake. The heavier the lens the more care should be taken to remain motionless and the use of a tripod is always recommended. The basic formula for deciding when to handhold and when to use a tripod is that the speed should equal the focal length or more. Example: 105mm lens, camera speed needs to be 1/125 or faster for good results if hand held. Some brag about the ability to hand hold a lens at slow speeds but it isn't wise. The longer the lens the more distortion can occur from camera shake. Use a tripod when using long lenses. It pays to be safe than sorry.
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