Last Updated on January 13, 2019
So What Is Focal Length?
Focal distance, or focal length, represents the distance between the optical centre of a lens and the sensor of a digital camera, when the subject is in focus. It determines how wide an angle or telephoto lens is, and is measured in millimetres. In the past, everyone was using 35mm, so there’s not much need to study or analyse focal length. But with more lenses available in the market, newbies and pros in the photo and video world must gain a better understanding of focal distance.
Backed by physics and complex ideas, fully understanding focal length can be a bit challenging. In plain English, however, it determines how ‘zoomed in’ photos are. Therefore, a lens with a short focal length requires that you have to be close to your subject, while a long focal length allows you to be as far away from a subject and still get a close-up.
Understanding the different focal ranges
Ultra Wide Angle 14-24 mm
This creates such a wide angle view that it can look distorted to the naked eye. Nonetheless, it is highly recommended for use in events, architectural photography and when taking photos in confined spaces. It is a major no-no in portraitures, however, because of the wide angle view; a subject’s facial features can appear unnatural.
Wide Angle 24-35 mm
Unlike an ultra wide angle lens, a wide angle lens is often part of a kit for full frame cameras. Distortion only stops at 24mm, which makes it just as unsuitable for use in portraiture. However, it is widely used by photojournalists because of its wide coverage that caters to documenting situations. It also includes a lot of the context without looking unnatural.
Standard 35-70 mm
Between these ranges is where a lens can produce images in the same way that the eyes can see. Being a standard, the lens is normally used in point-and-shoot cameras, for taking pictures on the street or in a close setting, such as a group of friends at a dinner table.
Telephoto 105-300 mm
This lens is ideal for shooting distance scenes such as mountains or buildings, but they can’t be used to shoot landscapes. This is because hey will flatten the perspective of the scene.
Telephoto lenses that have a higher focal range are mostly used for animal and sport photography. So now you can breathe ease, knowing that you don’t need to be too close to a crocodile, when taking his picture. All you need is a super telephoto lens. Know though that it is extremely expensive and are almost exclusively used by professional photographers, because it requires a lot of skills to use.
Now that you are familiar with the different focal ranges, you’ll know which lens to use and when. In most cases, though, a long focal length, will give you the shot that you want, while maintaining a safe distance from a dangerous subject.
The choice, however, will depend on the focal distance that you want to cover. If you can only afford to choose just one range, be sure to take focal distance into account.[youtube height=”500″ width=”720″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChDxNmBfdeI?rel=0[/youtube]