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Photography 101: Chapter 06: Gear

Wed Aug 17, 2016, 3:00 AM by Yuukon:iconyuukon:

Photography 101: Chapter 06: Gear

Hi all! Yuukon here with a new chapter of Photography 101!

If you are new to Photography 101, please check out the previous chapters first:

Photography 101: Chapter 01: Basics - Looking
Photography 101: Chapter 02: Composition-Location
Photography 101: Chapter 03: Lighting
Photography 101: Chapter 04: Light sources and WB
Photography 101: Chapter 05: RAW and Basic Editing

Today, I will be talking to you about cameras and lenses. Gear! Paparazzi 

Please note:
 I will not be advocating for a certain brand in this article, but I will talk about gear in general. I can not tell you which brand is best, as I do not know which brand is best. I only have my experiences and my knowledge, and today, I will only share my knowledge with you.

Because I use a lot of abbreviations in the first part of the chapter, I have included a handy list underneath the "Cameras" section with all the abbreviations I've used and their longer forms for easy access.

  • Cameras
  • Lenses
  • Some Terminology


There are many, many different kinds of camera's. Since there are too many to discuss, I have made a selection of the ones I see around the most.
  • Point-and-Shoot Cameras
  • Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras
  • Full Frame and APS-C sensors
  • Mirrorless Cameras
These three are possibly the most used type of cameras that are out there right now. As you might notice, I have left cellphone cameras out, because, yes, even though they are cameras, cellphones aren't made for just photography. The cameras I will talk about are made just for photography. 

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

Point-and-Shoot cameras, also known as "compact cameras" are exactly what the name tells you. These cameras are very simple, often with very few options and settings. They have no interchangeable lenses, the lenses are focus-free or autofocus (AF), automatic exposure settings and have a built-in flash. This is a camera that is designed for simple operation. 
These are very lightweight, easy to operate and thus ideal when you're on your holidays or birthdays and so on. Since the smartphone has been on the market, less people have bought a point-and-shoot since basically, we all have them inside our smartphones now. 

There are also point-and-shoot cameras that are a little more advanced than what I described above, these are called "superzoom" cameras. They have an optical zoom of up to 30 times, and some of them even have a PSAM-dial (Auto, Shutterspeed priority, Aperture priority and Manual), and support RAW file formats. These are, in my opinion, a good camera to "start out" with. They are often much cheaper compared to DSLRs (more on those later), and thus they make it a great "training wheel" to help you understand the PSAM settings before you move on to "the big guns". 

Compact Cameras, to toss both point-and-shoot and superzoom on one pile, exist for both film and digital. Digital is more popular nowadays, but don't hesitate to challenge yourself and shoot on film every once in a while. 

Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras

A single lens reflex camera (SLR), works on film. This type of camera uses a mirror and a prism system (hence "reflex", from "reflection") that will allow the photographer to see through the lens and see exactly what will be captured. When you press the shutter button on such a  mechanical camera, the mirror flips out of the light path, it goes up, which allows light to pass through and hit the film, which captures the image.
Now, a digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR), works almost the same. However, instead of film and mechanics you have a digital imaging sensor and electronics. The reflex system, where the mirror flips out of the way, is the biggest difference between a DSLR and other cameras. When you use a compact camera like the ones mentioned above, and view through the viewfinder (works like a little window through the camera), you will see something slightly different from what you're about to capture, because the viewfinder is often next to the lens in such cameras.  However, when you use the viewfinder of a DSLR, the mirror and prism inside the camera make it possible to actually see through the lens itself, and thus you will see exactly what you are about to capture, like with its older, mechanical film brother. 

A DSLR comes with many, many options. One of the most important ones is interchangeable lenses. This allows you to pick lenses that are suitable for the type of photography you want to do/are doing. 
Other than that modern DSLRs often have things like:
  • Phase-detection autofocus
  • Dust reduction systems
  • HD video capture
  • Live preview
  • Depth of field control 
These are some things that I will not be explaining right now, but if you have questions about them, feel free to ask me!

This GIF demonstrates very well what happens inside the DSLR camera when you push the shutter button.

Full Frame and APS-C Sensors

This is a part that still pertains to the DSLR camera mentioned above, however, I find this important enough to give it it's own little header. Knowing what kind of sensor you have is important to know when you pick out a new lens for your camera. 

Let's start off with what a Full Frame sensor is, and what it means to have a Full Frame sensor. 
When your camera has a full frame sensor, it means it measures 35 millimetres (36 x 24 mm to be precise). A 35 mm sensor is the same size as a piece of film from before we shot digital. 
One of the advantages of having a full frame sensor is that it will give you less noise when shooting at a higher ISO level. This is because, on a full frame sensor, there is more space for pixels. If you put 20 pieces of candy on an A4 sheet of paper, you'll notice they have more space than if you were to put all 20 of them on half an A4 paper. Because of this extra space, the pixels are bigger, which gives them the ability to catch more light. So the higher light sensitivity of the pixels means you will get cleaner images on a higher ISO level, because the pixels can handle it better. 

Moving on to an APS-C sensor, also often referred to as a "crop sensor". The word "crop" might already give you an idea of what it means to have an APS-C sensor. It is a sensor that is smaller than the full frame sensor, hence the name "crop sensor". This type of sensor is the most common type of sensor in consumer DSLR cameras. They are cheaper to manufacture than a full frame sensor, so the cameras can be sold for less than those with a full frame sensor. 
Often these crop sensors have a magnification of about 1.5 or 1.6 times, depending on what brand you use. 
The word "crop sensor" is especially applies when you use lenses made for full-frame cameras on your APS-C camera. Say, you buy a 100 mm lens that was made for a full frame sensor, it means in reality, your focal point would lie at about 150 or 160 mm (I will explain this a bit deeper in the part about lenses, so keep reading)!
However, one of the downside of the APS-C sensor is that the pixels have less space than on the full frame camera, which means that your 20 candies are much closer together, so the pixels are smaller. And since the big pixels catch more light, the smaller pixels catch less, which creates a higher noise level at high ISO levels. 

Dslr sensor comparison[1] by Yuukon
In the above picture, you can see the difference in sensor sizes with an APS-C sensor on the left, and a Full Frame sensor on the right. 

490px-Sensor sizes overlaid inside.svg[1] by Yuukon
And in this diagram, you can see the different types of sensors and how they relate to each other. The ones we discussed today are the 35 mm "full frame" and APS-C.
As you can see, Canons APS-C sensor is a slight bit smaller than those in Nikon, Pentax and Sony. 

Mirrorless Cameras 

A mirrorless camera, also known as mirrorless interchangeable lens camera or, to make our lives easier and shorten it: MILC, is very similar to a DSLR camera, but, as the name says, it doesn't have the mirror reflex optical system a DSLR has. But, these are not their only names, they are also referred to as Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC) or Compact System Cameras (CSC). 
A mirrorless camera usually has an electronic viewfinder (EVF) rather than an optical one. Mirrorless cameras are smaller, lightweight and cheaper than DSLR's, while they still offer almost all the good things a DSLR has. They are even available with full frame sensors! 
A mirrorless camera has a lot of things his bigger brother the DSLR has too, like interchangeable lenses, RAW file formats, manual operation, and a bunch of them even have a hot-shoe for an external flash. One of the big pros of a mirrorless cameras compared to a DSLR is that you don't need to haul a heavy bag everywhere when you are on holiday for example, but you can just grab a smaller camera instead. 

All of the types of cameras I have mentioned above are available from a range of manufacturers, and all with different specifications. If you are looking for a (new) camera, be sure to do some research on what you can buy with your budget. People in the store are often trying very hard to sell you something, and by reading reviews and checking out specifications of cameras and comparing them, you can often get a very honest view of the camera before you go to the store. 
However, if you are stuck, and you are not sure what would be good for you: feel free to drop me a note, I'm an independent person with no intention to sell you anything, so you can expect an honest opinion and recommendation from me. I'll be happy to help you out of you need some help or just someone to bounce your ideas off of.

List of abbreviations used:
  • AF : AutoFocus
  • PSAM : Auto - Shutter - Aperture - Manual
  • SLR : Single Lens Reflex
  • DSLR : Digital Single Lens Reflex
  • MILC : Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
  • ILC : Interchangeable Lens Camera
  • CSC : Compact System Camera
  • EVF: Electronic ViewFinder


Just like cameras, lenses are there in many different kinds, sizes, weights and so on. Today we will discuss the following lenses:

  • Kit lenses
  • (Ultra) wide angle lenses
  • Standard lenses
  • Telephoto lenses
  • Prime lenses
  • Zoom lenses
  • An Overview of Focal Lengths
I will try to explain what these lenses are used for, their pro's and cons, and so on.

But, before that, there are a few things on lenses you need to know.
  • Each brand has it's own lens mount. You cannot place a Nikon lens on a Canon camera, for instance. You'd need an adaptor to make the lens compatible. 
  • There are many manufactures that make lenses for multiple brands, like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina. When purchasing a lens of a brand different than your camera, always make sure you buy the lens with the correct lens mount.
  • Lenses can, when treated well, last a lifetime. I personally always think it's better to invest a bit more in your lenses than your camera, since your lenses usually last longer than your camera. I still have some lenses in my bag that are over 40 years old and in pristine condition.

Many lenses can be used on both modern DSLRs and older SLRs that use the same lens mount. However, if they don't, you can usually buy an adaptor-ring very cheaply on websites like eBay. Keep in mind that when you use a lens that was originally designed for a 35 mm film or sensor on a DSLR with a smaller sized sensor, the image is cropped and the lens appears to have a longer focal length. Most manufacturers sell lenses for both APS-C sensors and Full Frame (35 mm) sensors. 
Most of the DSLRs that use a smaller sensor, use one that has a crop-factor of 1.6x. To find out what focal length your vintage lens would be on your DSLR with a APS-C sensor, you can use an equation:

Focal length * crop-factor = "actual" focal length

My camera has a 1.6x crop factor, so if I were to mount my vintage 50 mm lens onto it using an adaptor, I'd do the following to find out my "actual" focal length:
50 mm * 1.6 = 80 mm

This would make my lens 80 mm instead of 50. If you use a zoom-lens that is 70-200 mm for instance, you simply put both numbers into the equation. Please keep in mind that 1.6x is not the number for all DSLRs. To find out what the crop-factor of your camera is you can simply google "<Your camera model> crop factor". Certainly, you will find the correct number. 
Please note that this applies to cameras with interchangeable lenses like DSLRs and MILCs only.

Kit lenses

A kit lens, also known as "starter lens". These are often sold with the camera body in a set, a kit. It's most often an inexpensive lens. These kits are often sold to people who are just starting out in photography and perfect to learn the ropes with. 
Kit lenses often are zoom lenses, ranging from a medium wide angle to mid telephoto, which makes them very versatile. They tend to have focal ranges varying from 18-55 mm, 18-105 mm, 18-135 mm, 18-70 mm, 28-80 mm, and so on. These numbers will all depend on the brand of camera you are picking. Canon and Nikon will have different kit lenses from Sony and Pentax. 
Even though kit lenses are not the greatest quality, you can still take great pictures with them. As stated above, kit lenses are very versatile, and can be used for many things. On wide angle it can be used for landscapes, for instant, and toward mid-telephoto for portraits and things a little bit further away. 

(Ultra) wide angle lenses

The title says it all. Wide angle lenses are for... correct, wide angles! Now, when is a lens a "wide angle lens"? A lens of a focal length of less than 35 mm is considered to be a wide angle lens. 
Wide angle lenses are most used for, but not at all limited, to any kind of 'scape, architecture, and so on. Wide angle lenses are often used for all kinds of creative effects, take a look at some of those here:
Dance Mysteries by oO-Rein-Oo  Osiris eye by Soffeline Learning to Fly by ahermin
As you can see, (ultra) wide angle lenses are very versatile, and they can do a lot more than people often realise. Experimenting with wide angle lenses is a lot fun, and you will often get unexpected results.

Standard Lenses

A standard lens is a lens that is between 40 and 50 mm. A standard lens is called a standard lens because the focal length of those is very similar to what we can see with our human eyes. Shooting things with a standard lenses will often make things appear "normal" in a photograph, and there will be very little to no lens distortion (more on lens distortion in a bit), unlike with wide angle and telephoto lenses. From my personal experience, standard lenses are always very versatile and usable on many, many things. Personally I've always found them very comfortable to use when doing photography that involves people, especially in street photography,but also for objects, nature, etc.
Go Ahead Son, our World needs Artists by hosagu Tube Rider by Vitaly-Sokol Posture Convo 2 (Leica 8) by jesseboy000

Telephoto Lenses

A telephoto lens is a long-focus lens in which the physical length of the lens is shorter than the focal length. This is created by using a special telephoto grouping inside the lens which extends the light path to create a long-focus lens in a much shorter design. When using a telephoto lens, you'll be creating a narrow field of view, in which medium telephoto lenses cover about 30° to 10° of a field of view (67 mm to 206 mm in full frame format) and super telephoto lenses cover 8° through less than 1° field of view (over 300 mm in full frame format). 
A telephoto lens is especially useful when you want to photograph things that are further away from up-close, for instance, (wild) animals, whereas a lens that has a 80-85 mm focal length, is ideal as a portrait lens.
Hamster and Rose by JulianRad golden summer by vularia We are still the same by Lion-Redmich

Prime Lenses

A prime lens is a lens in which you "walk to zoom", as my photography teacher once stated. A prime lens has a fixed focal length, which means it can not zoom. A prime lens is often of better quality, it has better glass, an aperture that can go wider and it is often lighter and smaller than a zoom-lens. Prime lenses exist in several different focal lengths, some of the more popular of them are 20 mm, 24 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, 85 mm, 100 mm and 135 mm. However, there are many more (and longer/shorter) focal lengths available. 
  Frenzy by LatchDrom

Zoom Lenses

A zoom lens is a lens that has a mechanical assembly of several lens elements with a variable focal length. Which means that, unlike with prime lenses, you don't need your feet to zoom. There are two types of zoom lenses:
  • Parfocal Lens
    A parfocal lens is a lens that maintains it's focus when focal length changes. So, if you are using a parfocal lens, and you have focussed on that bird in the field, but need it a bit closer, it will remain focussed on that bird. 
  • Varifocal Lens
    A varifocal lens is a lens that loses it's focus while zooming. So, with the same bird in the same field, you'd have to focus again after changing focal length when you have a varifocal lens.
Even though most consumer lenses are sold as zoom lenses, most of them are varifocal lenses. 
A variable focal length is very convenient, since you don't need to move to get a wider or more narrow field of view. However, when you buy a zoom lens, there often are some compromises on a narrower aperture, and they often create more lens distortion than a prime lens does. All zoom lenses suffer from a, at least slight, loss of image resolution at their widest aperture, especially in the extremes of their focal range. You often have to compromise on sharpness in these areas as well. 
However, like with wide angle lenses, there are many creative ways for zoom lenses, take a look below for some inspiration.
Run... by Nelleke  Intimidate by IsacGoulart  The Presence by invisigoth88

A Quick Overview of Focal Lengths:
  • 14 - 21 mm : Ultra Wide
    These lenses provide a dramatic, often extremely wide perspective with a lot of lens distortion.
  • 24 - 35 mm : Wide
    These lenses capture a slightly wider field of view than we, as humans, can see, however, much less lens distortion than the lenses above.
  • 50 mm : Standard
    This lens creates a "natural" perspective to the human eye.
  • 85 mm : Portrait
    This is a focal length that will often make portraits look flattering, because of the flattened perspective it provides.
  • 135 mm : Telephoto
    Lenses of this length are often used for far-away objects, but also sports and action shots.
  • 200 - 500 mm : Super Telephoto
    Lenses that are perfect for wildlife photography and other things that are far-away and difficult to approach.

Some Terminology
Lens Distortion
There are two types of lens distortion: 
  • Barrel distortion
    Barrel distortion is a lens "defect" that makes straight lines bow outward the edges of the image. Barrel distortion applies to (ultra) wide angel lenses.
  • Pincushion distortion
    Pincushion distortion is the opposite effect, where straight lines will bend inward when using telephoto lenses.
  • Optical Viewfinder
    A DSLR camera almost always comes with an optical viewfinder. This means that when you look through the viewfinder, you look through the lens and will see exactly what will be on your photograph
  • Electronic Viewfinder
    An electronic viewfinder is one that you will often find on MILCs and compact cameras. The image shown on the display is simply to assist in framing your photograph, however, the real picture will always look a little bit different, since the electronic viewfinder is next to the lens, and doesn't go through it.

That's all for today!

If you have any questions, please ask!
If you have suggestions for my course, send me a note!
If you want to learn more about photography, and receive feedback on your work, check out PhotographyGuide!

PS: I have no idea yet what chapter seven will be about, but time will tell! :iggle: 

Another new chapter of Photography 101!

For a full overview of all the chapters that I have published so far, go here and don't forget to visit projecteducate for more educational resources!
Add a Comment:
VisualStripes Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2017  Hobbyist Photographer
Great chapters! As a beginner this is VERY helpfull Heart 
Yuukon Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2017   Writer
I'm glad you find them helpful!
hosagu Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2017  Hobbyist Photographer
Yuukon Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2017   Writer
hosagu Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2017  Hobbyist Photographer
FootAches Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2016
very useful guide since im looking forward to buying my first DLSR and extra lenses :) (Smile) 
Yuukon Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2016   Writer
EyeOfTheKat Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Great tutorial! :clap:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016   Writer
Thank you!
EyeOfTheKat Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
My pleasure! <3
Lintu47 Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Lovely info! :clap:
Yuukon Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016   Writer
Glad you liked it! :D
Kietsiekat Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Wow very informative Thanks for sharing :love: 
Yuukon Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016   Writer
I'm glad you like it, and, it's my pleasure! :huggle:
CEdwardsPhotos Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2016  Professional Photographer
Wonderful job!
Yuukon Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016   Writer
Thank you!
T5U Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2016
Thank you for including my work. :) Great article!
Yuukon Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016   Writer
Thank you! It was my pleasure to include your lovely photograph!
calciumblue Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Great article! :happybounce: You did a great job! 
Yuukon Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016   Writer
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!
LatchDrom Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Great work, very clear and easy to understand, even for a french guy like me.
And thanks for including my work!
Yuukon Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016   Writer
Glad to hear you could understand it well! And it was my pleasure to include your wonderful photograph! :huggle:
Add a Comment:

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