Selecting the lens is an important part of choosing a digital camera. Lenses can be categorized as fixed focal length lenses, retractable zoom lenses, fixed zoom lenses and interchangeable lenses.
Fixed focal length lenses are best for beginners or those with a small budget. They come in a compact design, and are easy to use. They usually offer a wide angle view, which is suitable for landscapes and group photos.
However, they usually produce the lowest optical quality. They don’t usually accept converters and can’t zoom onto distant objects. If you can afford it, upgrade to an autofocus lens, with selectable macro or landscape focus modes.
Retractable zoom lenses extend from the body of the lens when the camera is switched on, and retract when it is switched off. They are suitable for you if you like taking snapshots, have a limited budget and are not sure about the type of photos you will be shooting.
Retractable zoom lenses allow a very compact camera design and protect the lens with a built-in cover. They offer a zoom range that is usually limited to a magnification of 2X or 3X. They don’t support lens filters and converters. Lens extension prolongs the start-up time of the camera and there are limited manual focus controls.
Fixed zoom lenses are fixed on to the body of the camera and don’t retract when you switch the camera off. They are suitable if you are a serious amateur or business user and are not sure about the type of pictures you will be shooting.
Fixed zoom lenses usually accept converters, filters and flash rings. Lens converters allow close-up, wide angle and telephoto photography. They have a zoom range with a magnification of up to 12X.
They offer more precise zoom and manual focus control, through rings on the lens, instead of buttons. They usually offer more advanced controls. However, the controls may be more complicated than you want and the camera is usually bulkier than one with retractable lenses.
A digital SLR with interchangeable lenses allows you to detach the whole lens from the camera and replace it with a different compatible lens. It is suitable for the serious amateur or professional. If you own several lenses for a traditional film camera, you can look for a compatible digital SLR body.
A digital SLR provides you with the most flexibility for a range of shooting situations. It offers the best quality of optics and if you want to upgrade the lens quality, you don’t have to buy a new camera.
The downside is that it can be quite expensive and the lenses can be big and heavy. The focal length can be different for the same lens mounted on a film camera. This can be quite confusing to those who do not know much about lenses.