Maximum Aperture

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What is called maximum aperture is how wide your lens aperture can be.

A lens with wider aperture allows you to let in more light to your camera sensor, so you can take pictures in dimmed light environment better.
Wide aperture lens also called a fast lens, because of using their wide aperture you can take pictures with faster speed.
But it doesn't mean that you should always get this type of lens. Depending on your needs, don't get the lens with wider aperture than you need. It will cost you more.

Let's talk about aperture first.


What is aperture ?
In simple words, aperture is a hole with variable diameter inside the lens that control how much light that you want to let in.
It symbolize with "f/[number]". For example f/3.5, f/8, etc.
You should note that the bigger the f/ number, the smaller the hole, and the smaller the f/ number, the bigger the hole.

You can see the illustrated picture below:

When someone told you to use big aperture or small aperture, you may confuse with the word "big" and "small", you don't know which one you should look, the f/ number or the real hole opening.

Don't be confused, always remember this, when someone said big or small aperture, it means the real hole opening not the f/ number.
Using the illustrated picture above, big aperture means you should use f/2, f/2.8. And small aperture means you should use f/11, f/16.

Maximum Aperture

Like I said in the first line of this post, the limit to how wide a lens can be opened is called the maximum aperture.
All lens aperture can be set to open in f/11, f/16, f/22.
But you should know that not all lens can be set to open in f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2, f/2.8.

Most standard kit lens can be set to open maximum in f/3.5.
This limit is what is called maximum aperture for that lens.

What are the benefits of lenses with wide maximum apertures ?

Taking Photo With Natural Light

When you need to take photo in dimmed light environment you have two option, using flash or without flash but with a slow speed that can make your picture blurred.
If you use flash, you may ruin the mood of the picture. But if not using flash, your speed is very slow that you may need a tripod.

When you have lens with maximum aperture f/1.8 or f/2, it will help you take pictures in that condition. Because the aperture let in more light, you can use faster speed even with no flash. So you can take photo with natural light available and reduce the blurred image because of using slower speed.

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Faster Shutter Speeds

Like I already written above too, the use of wide aperture prevents blurred image, because you can use faster shutter speeds.
For example:
You want to take your children photo, playing in the garden, they are running everywhere.
with f/4 you get speed at 1/100s. When you switch to f/2 you will get speed at 1/200s.

Shallow Depth of Field

Lenses with wide maximum apertures have shallow depth of field.
This is useful when you want to isolate your photo subject from the crowded background.
Nature and portrait photographers usually use this the most.

Take a look at this photo:
Taking with f/1.8

Taking with f/4.5

How to Read Maximum Aperture of a Lens

When you look at the lens you will see some reading like this:
- 50mm f/1.8
- 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
- 70-200mm f/2.8

The first one is a Prime Lens, because it has fixed focal length, 50mm. And the second one is Zoom Lens, because it has variable focal length, 18-55mm.
The reading after the focal length is that lens maximum aperture.

For the prime lens above the maximum aperture is f/1.8. And for the Zoom Lens it is range beetween f/3.5-5.6.
It means when you set the focal length at 18mm, the maximum aperture ypu can set will be f/3.5.
And when you set the focal length at 55mm, the maximum aperture you can set will be f/5.6.

When using this type of zoom lens, your exposure settings will keep changing along with you zooming in or out, because the aperture constantly changing.

There are also zoom lens with a fixed aperture, such as in the example above, 70-200mm f/2.8. It means the maximum aperture won't change all across the focal length you use.
This lens will cost you more, because it combines the benefit of variable focal length that Zoom Lens have, and the fix aperture that Prime Lens have.

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So, here's a quick guidance for what maximum aperture you need:
- Daylight (outdoor) = Any apperture, in broad daylight it doesn't matter what the max aperture of the lens.
- Indoor = f/1.4 - f/2.8, If you want to take pictures indoor without flash.
- Cloudy (outdoor) = f/2.8 - f/3.5, When you want capture fast moving subject in a cloudy day.
- Shade (outdoor) = f/3.5 - f/5.6, When it is not as dim as cloudy day.

Next article is about choosing between first or third party lenses.
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Prime and Zoom Lenses

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There's two type of lens, the Prime lens and Zoom lens.
Each lens type has advantages.
Depends on what pictures you want to take with lens, you need to decide what type is more suitable.

Here's the breakdown of each lens type.

Prime Lens

A prime lens has a fixed focal length, so it's usually also called fix lens.

Fixed focal length means the the focal length of the lens is set to one number (for example 50mm) and cannot be changed. If you want to change your angle of view, you must move back and forth with your camera.

So if you want to use different focal lengths, then you'll need to switch to other prime lens.
For example, if you want to take photos at 24mm, 85mm and 135mm, you'll need 3 lenses, one for each focal length.
So why buying more prime lenses when a couple of zoom lens could cover some or even more range ?

Here's some reason to buy prime lens.

They are High Quality

The prime lens built is from highest-quality glass so it takes very clear photos.
Since they are a fix lens and don't have a lot of moving parts like zoom lens, the glass inside a prime lens is very precise. You can get the sharpest focus possible with these lenses.

Prime Lens weight is quite light

Compared to 70-200mm zoom lens, a fix 85mm or 135mm prime lens is far more light.
So, when you need a maximum portability, just attach a 50mm or 35mm lens to your camera and you're ready to go.

The price is not too expensive

The prime lens construction is simpler than a zoom lens, because they don't have many moving parts, so the price of production these lens is cheaper.
You can also get a wide apertures prime lens with more reasonably price compared to zoom lens with a wide aperture.
These are great lens if you want to take photo in low light condition without using flash.

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Zoom Lens

A zoom lens has a variable focal length.

These are the most common types of lenses available for DSLR camera today.
When you buy DSLR, most lens kit packaged with the camera is an 18-55mm zoom lens.

Zoom lens built to offer flexibility. It's good for photographers who just starting with SLR, because he/she can experiment with the various focal length offered by the lens.
These lens also good for taking photos when you're in the crowd, when you're keep standing in one spot but still get the composition you want.

Zoom lens built is not always use the highest-quality glass and they are heavier than prime lens, and if they use highest-quality glass the price will be more expensive.

Zoom Power

Zoom power indicates how much focal range a particular lens can cover.

For example, a 28-300mm zoom lens is said to be more powerful than a 28-135mm zoom, because the 28-300mm covers a wider range from wide angle to telephoto.

You can see my article Choosing Focal Length to know what focal length that may suitable to your needs.

If you just get started, the Super Zoom lens (18-250mm or 28-300mm) maybe will suit you well, just attach one lens and you get all the focal length that you need.
But remember those lens don't offer the same optical quality as the specialty zooms (like 10-14mm, 16-85mm, etc).
And usually Super Zoom lens only have maximum aperture range of 3.5-6.3.
When you need to take a photo in low light condition without flash, it's not too reliable.

Next article is about Maximum Aperture.
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About The Author

Posted by Admin

While still writing for the next posting, I have put About Me page.
If you want to know about me and how I started this blog, check it out.