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Gear & Apps

The Properties Of Camera Lenses

By Kishore Sawh on January 6th 2016


I’m absolutely convinced that teaching (and as the other side to the same coin), learning, is largely about finding an effective way to bring the material across. And when it comes to extremely technical information, this can be even more crucial.

It’s sort of like taking directions from people on the street. If there’s some even momentary hesitation, you drive off, knowing there’s uncertainty and confusion and will likely be a waste of time. Then, on the other hand, there are those who will immediately launch into some militaristic directions with lots of speak about yards, and degrees, and this-and-that o’clock. 

This is typically just as useless because normal humans don’t speak like that, so then they might as well be giving me the recipe to make good onion gravy because I won’t be listening past the first word.


Primarily this is because the information is brought across poorly, or in a very boring manner. This is why I love Filmmaker IQ, who somehow manages to break down rather complex concepts into easy and enjoyable morsels. Many of you loved the last video that we featured from Filmmaker IQ which was getting down and dirty about camera sensors and film, and this time, it’s about the properties of camera lenses.

I’ve sat through classes on the subject, and dissected printed materials from too many sources on it, and few have been quite so well put together as this. It’s 20 minutes long, but ooh is it every 20 minutes well spent.

We spend so much of our photography lives discussing, debating, testing and using lenses and what I’ve come to realize is that the majority of people, no offense here, haven’t a clue about anything you can’t read on the box of any given lens. It’s fine, but it’s also a shame because, with a little bit of in-depth understanding, so much of what is discussed becomes immediately sortable into piles of truth and nonsense. It also will allow you to understand what’s going on when you’re using your lens, and help you to likely make better purchasing and usage decisions.


[REWIND: The Science Of Camera Sensors & Film]

In the video below, you’ll get an in-depth glimpse into the measurings and intricacies of focal length, aperture, primes vs. zooms, and the likes. Commonly covered topics? Sure. But this isn’t your garden variety breakdown, and even if you’re well versed, it’s a good refresher.

Anyway, we’ll let John Hess, whom I’m geekily man-crushing on, take it away. Maestro…

Source: Filmmaker IQ


A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    Great tutorial that explains the basics without getting too

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  2. Pye Jirsa

    Fantastic find, what a great video that covers the basics. Love his definitions over “normal” focal lengths.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      This and the sensor video were just so brilliantly put together. Tip my hat to them for sure.

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