How to Choose the Right Lens

Many of you are familiar with the lens jargon being tossed around. EF, EF-S, AF-S, DX, and so on and so forth may be bread and butter for most of you. However, it’s unlikely that you’re familiar with all of the lens acronyms. So, here’s a quick refresher on a majority of these. If you’re just starting out in DSLR photography this might just be what you’ve been waiting for:

Kit Lens

A kit lens is a short wide-zoom lens generally giving you a wide angle perspective of around 18mm to about 50mm. Some lenses like the 17–85mm offer you a slightly short telephoto reach.

Standard Lens

A 50mm lens which gives roughly the same angle of view as the human eye

Wide Angle Lenses

A lens that has a focal length of 35mm or lower

Ultra-wide Angle Lenses

wide angle lenses

Both wide and ultra-wide angle lenses are a favorite with National Geographic photographers.

A lens with a focal length of 20mm or lower

Telephoto Lenses

A lens with a focal length of 85mm or higher

Super Telephoto Lenses

Lenses with a focal length of 400mm or higher

Lens Conversion Factor (Crop Factor)

When you use a lens optimized for a full-frame camera on a camera with a smaller sensor powering them, it uses only the center part of the image coming through the lens. This results in the image having a slightly telephoto effect. This phenomenon is known as lens conversion factor. For Canon cameras the conversion factor is 1.6x. This means a 50mm lens will become an 80mm lens.

EF-S Lenses

Designed exclusively for Canon’s small sensor EOS camera systems, these lenses are optimized for the smaller imaging sensor. This allows for the lens prices to be more affordable.

TS-E Lenses

TS-E stands for Tilt-Shift and is a lens that is specially designed for overcoming perspective distortions.

Lens Name

If you’ve shopped around for lenses or at least seen specifications you would know that lens names can get a bit technical. Such as the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM. The above acronym when broken down stands a lens that is designed for Canon EF mount (optimized for Canon’s full-frame cameras, but will also work on smaller APS-C cameras), has a focal length range of 16–35mm, has a fixed maximum aperture of f/4, has optical image stabilization, Canon’s proprietary ultra-sonic motor powered auto-focusing mechanism, and is an L series lens.

L Series Lenses

Canon L series lenses


The L marking on certain Canon made lenses signifies that the specific lens is extremely high quality and often weather sealed. It’s basically a premium offering from Canon and is therefore labelled as such.


Image Stabilization

Image Stabilization is a must have if you prefer to shoot hand-held.

IS stands for image stabilization. It’s an imperative technology, especially when you intend to shoot hand-held most of the time, use a longer focal length, or shoot in low light conditions.


Canon developed the new Stepping Motor auto-focusing technology that ensures smoother auto-focusing performance especially when you’re shooting videos.

There are dozens of other acronyms and names. Watch the full video for a detailed understanding of each of them.

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