The lenses shown are for the Nikon F100 film camera, and under each lens are examples of photos taken with that lens to show the effects the lens can produce. You can think of 50mm as being the standard lens for images that look “normal” to the human eye, and lenses with a greater focal length (eg 200mm) as telephoto, good for closing in on distant subjects or for picking out detail and excluding unwanted objects from the shot. Lenses with a shorter focal length (eg 20mm) are considered wide-angle lenses, valuable when you want to fit a lot in to your view, such as a big building that is quite close to you, a landscape or a large group of people. Lenses with a focal length lower than 20mm (eg 16mm) are known as “ultra-wide angle” lenses. One advantage of shorter focal length lenses is that they have a larger depth of field, which means you can get both close and distant objects in focus; on the other hand they suffer from some distortion towards the edge of the image. This feature can be deliberately exploited for effect with the fisheye lens.

16mm fisheye lens: this lens uses curvilinear optics to produce photos with a bowing effect. The focal length of the lens is very short, so perspective effects can be exaggerated: objects in the middle distance look further away and background features almost disappear, while objects in the foreground can look massive. The fisheye lens gives you a really big depth of field, so that everything in the shot can remain sharp in the image, no matter what distance it is from the camera. These lenses are often used creatively in landscape photography to give a different effect. The fisheye lens can also be useful in photographing architectural features, because the extreme wide angle of view permits plenty of detail to be shown, and the distortions produced can give you dramatic effects.

20mm wide angle lens: is a wide angle lens with a slightly narrower field of view than the fisheye, but it also doesn’t give the curved effect visible seen in some of the photos in the first column. It allows you to fit into the shot almost all of the building in the 4th row down, while the lake and river views in rows 5 and 6 clearly show that the image cannot include quite as much of the foreground as with the fisheye.
50mm lens: the width of the scene is reduced still further with this lens, so less is included in the image, but the photos in the 3rd column allow you to see much more of the distant scene. In the pictures of the church and far shore in row 9, notice how the church has disappeared from the foreground altogether in the 50mm lens shot, while the buildings on the opposite bank are clearer.

200mm lens: using the telephoto lens, the washing on the balcony in row 4, which was hardly noticed in the first two photos, becomes central to the image. Similarly, the photographer is able to pick out specific objects and exclude others: for example just one of the apartment blocks is seen in the 2nd row down, and in row 8, the red ball becomes a key part of the image, and the surrounding street scene is no longer visible.

Note:all the photographs were taken with a Nikon F100 film camera, using Fujichrome 100F film. The details of the lenses used are given at the top of each column.

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