With a variety of camera lenses on the market, how do you choose the one that's best for your outdoor camera? Check out our digital camera lens reviews. From wide-angle lenses and telephoto zooms, trust advice from the experts.
Lugging around a weighty pack loaded with equipment isn’t the ideal way to experience nature, and hiking long treks with it on your back or shoulders can lead to injury. You don’t want to leave gear behind, but you definitely don’t want to risk ruining the day or your health with a cumbersome load. I’ve limited my equipment to include only the necessities, and zoom lenses have become an essential part of my gear.
Put some distance between you and your macro subject
Close-ups are my favorite part of nature photography. I say that not because I love bugs more than waterfowl or flower parts more than rocky landscapes. I love close-ups because they can connect me with nature anywhere, anytime. I can shoot close-ups of spiders building webs outside my backdoor or of orchids in Peru, of flowering weeds outside of my office or lichens on the rocks of Arches National Park. With close-up gear, I’m good to go whenever I want, wherever I am.I was excited to get a sample of Tokina’s new 100mm ƒ/2.8 macro lens (officially named the AT-X M100 AF Pro D). At 2.9x3.7 inches and 19 ounces, this compact lens offers film and full-frame digital cameras 1:1 at 12 inches. For small-format digital SLRs, you get an equivalent of 150-160mm (still at the fast ƒ/2.8) and more distance to 1:1. The lens includes a newly engineered multi-coating to minimize reflections when using a digital camera’s sensor (which has a shiny protective surface).
Gain added wide-angle capability for your small-format digital SLR
A steady complaint about small-format digital SLRs is that they lose wide-angle possibilities. With their smaller sensors, they take lenses that we’ve known and loved from 35mm work and cause them to gain a telephoto effect. Focal lengths that worked great for wide-angle shots in nature lost that wide-angle feel.
High-quality optics give you a sharp view of tiny subjects
I love to work with macro lenses because they focus close enough to give me a window into another world. With a macro lens, common spiders become giant predators, and a grasshopper is a creature from outer space.
A wide-angle zoom with a fixed aperture delivers digitally
The Tokina AT-X 124 AF Pro DX lens provides photographers shooting with digital SLRs a high-performing and affordable 12-24mm wide-angle zoom. With a constant maximum aperture of ƒ/4 throughout its entire zoom range, this lens becomes a valuable addition to any landscape or travel photographer’s camera bag.
This macro lens and electronic flash make a great combo for close-ups
I have a love-hate relationship with spiders. I find their webs and variation in body styles and colors to be fascinating subjects, but I don’t like walking into their webs at night, which happens too often at certain times of the year. I’d rather not have a spider crawling down my neck either! Recently, as I went outside one night to walk the dog, I pulled up short of entanglement with a head-high web barely visible in the moonlight. I noted a big spider and a striking web that promised some interesting images.
Enjoy super-telephoto focal lengths at an affordable price
The Tamron SP AF200-500mm ƒ/5.6-6.3 Di LD (IF) lens is the kind of optic that excites many of us, especially if we’re shooting digitally. That’s because a focal length range that typically has been fairly costly to add to a camera bag becomes incredibly affordable with this lens. It’s also a boon when used with a digital SLR, where the magnification factor boosts the apparent focal length to 760mm.
Sigma enters the image-steadying realm with its affordable OS zoom
One of the outstanding technological advancements for nature photographers has been the use of lens technology that reduces the effect of camera movement on image quality. Camera movement or "shake" during exposure is a leading cause of a lack of sharpness in photos. Now, Sigma has introduced its Optical Stabilizer, or OS, in a high-quality, APO-design, affordable telephoto zoom: the 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX. The lens is available in Canon, Sigma and Nikon mounts.
Specially designed optics optimize your camera's performance
Digital photography hasn’t just changed our cameras; it’s changing our lenses, too. D-SLRs and advanced compacts alike now sport specialized optics tuned for the new requirements of digital image sensors. Before we get into all that new glass, though, you’ll need to know what these lenses are designed to do.
Film Vs. Digital | Zooms | Wide-Angles | Telephotos | Zooms Vs. Fixed
Painters have many options when creating on the canvas. They have a wide selection of brushes, oils and colors from which to choose when painting a landscape. Photographers are no different. Although we’re not choosing between types of camel-hair brushes, we’re offered a wealth of alternatives when it comes to lenses and focal lengths. What we decide on can make all the difference in the world.
If you’re in the midst of a transition from film to digital imaging, you’ll soon discover that your trusty 24mm wide-angle isn’t very wide on your D-SLR. In fact, that all-encompassing 24mm now acts like a 36mm normal lens! This, you’re finding out, is due to your image sensor’s smaller size in comparison to 35mm. While this effect offers increased telephoto reach on the long end, it causes trouble for users of wide-angle lenses.
A high-quality super-wide-angle at a moderate price
You can get the focal length of the Tokina AT-X 17 AF Pro lens in a zoom, and sometimes in a similar focal length, so why bother with a single focal length? The answer has two parts: size and quality for the price. The Tokina 17mm ƒ/3.5 lens lists for $810 and has a street price of approximately $400. Zoom lenses that get this wide and are close to this price usually aren’t as sharp as the Tokina in the wider ƒ-stops (stopped down, modern lenses of any major manufacturer at any price are quite remarkable), don’t control flare as well, and exhibit some barrel distortion (bending of straight lines, such as horizons, when near the edge of the frame). After shooting with the AT-X Pro for a while, I found it consistently sharp throughout the ƒ-stop range, with a high degree of flare control, and straight lines stayed straight.