Standard Lens Buying Guide

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Standard Lens Buying Guide

Standard lenses are general purpose lenses with an intermediate focal length. DSLRs usually come with a standard lens known as a kit lens, but many photographers choose to upgrade to a higher quality standard lens.

About Standard Lenses

Standard lenses have a focal length of around 30 mm to 80 mm. Exact focal lengths depend upon manufacturer and model. They come in either zoom models, where the lens is capable of focusing on varying distances, or in prime models, where the lens has a single focal length which cannot be adjusted. There are arguments for and against both zoom and prime lenses, and which is chosen is largely a matter of individual preference. Because of their intermediate focal length, which makes them suitable for a wide range of applications from portrait photography to travel photography, standard lenses are valued for their versatility and convenience. This applies especially to standard zoom lenses, which can, depending on their range, be potentially used for both wide angle and short telephoto photography. However, this adaptability has its trade-offs, and image quality at the ends of the range is not usually to the same standard as that of a specialised wide angle or telephoto lens. Standard lenses sold separate from DSLRs are still generally of a higher quality than the kits lens, typically a zoom lens, supplied with the DSLR. They usually have better quality optical components and more precise controls, resulting in the production of clearer, sharper images. This, together with the fact that standard lenses are one of the most widely used lenses, makes upgrading a standard lens worthwhile. And compared to other lenses, standard lenses are relatively inexpensive.

Choosing Standard Lenses

Choosing a standard lens involves typical considerations about focal length and aperture as well as which type of lens is required and any compromises between budget and lens quality.

Focal Length

The focal length of standard lenses varies from around 30 mm to 80 mm, though some might have slightly shorter and longer focal lengths. Lenses under 35 mm are typically regarded as wide angle lenses, and those over 70 mm can be regarded as short telephoto lenses, so there is some cross over at the ends of the standard range. This makes standard lenses potentially suitable for some types of wide angle photography; for example, broad landscapes and images that highlight the foreground without losing the background. It also makes standard lenses potentially suitable for some types of short telephoto photography; for example, portrait and wildlife photography. Focal lengths towards the upper end of the standard range, 85 mm for example, are especially recommended for portrait work.
One of the next considerations about focal length is whether a range is required or a fixed focal length is sufficient. This may depend on whether the photographer sticks to a certain style of photography or desires more versatility for experimentation. Using prime lenses can be more of a challenge, especially where the photographer needs to capture different compositions of varying distances away, but this need not necessarily be a limiting factor. On the other hand, lenses that can zoom in and out give enormous versatility, with no need to change lenses or move position constantly. Because of their less complicated mechanisms, prime lenses have traditionally been regarded as producing better images with regards to clarity, but modern high quality zoom lenses can often rival them in this. Prime lenses are also often referred to as fast, because their aperture is large and can capture more light than the equivalent zoom lens.
A typical standard zoom lens might have a focal range of 28-80 mm or 18-55 mm. Note that the first range just includes wide angle focal lengths and also falls into the short telephoto range. This lens would have a wide variety of uses and could be used for portraiture. The second range drops to 18 mm, which makes it suitable for wide angle photography. Below around 20-24 mm is even considered ultra-wide angle, so a lens with this range has lots of scope for producing sweeping landscapes and other creative wide angle images. Wide angle images can be a little distorted at the edges, a property that is used to full effect with fisheye lenses, which is something to be aware of if using a standard zoom lens with a focal length in this range. People’s faces, in particular, can become distorted so keep them in the middle of the frame.
50 mm is the most common focal length for standard prime lenses. Other common focal lengths are 35 mm and 85 mm, but these are verging on wide angle and telephoto focal lengths. In between are some less frequently used standard focal lengths. When selecting a focal length, bear in mind that focal length also depends upon the size of the camera’s image sensor. This means that cameras with smaller sensors need shorter focal lengths. Otherwise the image will not fit in the frame and will be cropped. The way to find this out is to look for the camera’s crop factor. If the crop factor is 1.5x, a lens with a focal length 1.5 times shorter will be needed. This equates to a 33 mm lens for a 50 mm focal length.


Another aspect to consider is the lens aperture. Aperture is how much light can be captured. Lenses with larger maximum apertures are often referred to as being faster. The role of aperture comes into play especially when photographing in low light conditions, where it is necessary to have a larger, or faster, aperture to produce natural looking shots without a flash. Lenses also have a minimum aperture, with a smaller minimum aperture giving more versatility to play around with slow shutter speeds.
Aperture is expressed as an f number or f value, with lower f numbers having larger maximum apertures. The way f numbers are written varies, with f3.5 also written as f/3.5 or 1:3.5, for example. Standard lenses with apertures of around f1.4 to f2.8 are ideal for low light conditions. The aperture on zoom lenses can be altered, but it is fixed in prime lenses.

Find Standard Lenses on eBay

From the eBay home page, go to the tabs on the left and scroll over Electronics, Cameras & Photography from the options that appear. Then click on Lenses & Filters followed by Lenses. Under Type select Standard. Brand and camera fitting can be specified. Further down are options to select zoom or prime lenses as well as maximum aperture and other criteria. From the eBay home page, the search bar at the top of the screen can also be used to find standard lenses. Try terms such as “standard lens”, “standard zoom lens” or “50 mm lens” and hit Search.


Standard lenses are camera lenses with a focal length ranging between about 30 mm and 80 mm. They are used to replicate the images seen naturally by the human eye and provide well balanced, normal looking shots. This natural quality makes them a good choice for photographing people. Standard lenses are available either as zoom lenses, with a varying focal range, or prime lenses, with a fixed focal length. Zoom lenses are more versatile, with typical ranges including 18-55 mm and 28-80 mm. These ranges also include focal lengths regarded as wide angle and short telephoto. 50 mm is the most common standard focal length for prime lenses. Bear in mind crop factor when selecting a lens. Standard lenses are used for everyday photography and various purposes, making them one of the most used lenses in a photographer’s kit. Because the lenses sold separately from DSLRs are usually higher quality than those supplied with the camera, upgrading is typically worth the extra expense.

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