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Normal Lenses

Now that we've talked about wide angle lenses and telephoto lenses, lets discuss "normal" lenses. The normal lens for a camera is the one that closely matches the angle of view of the human eye --- 50 to 55 degrees. The focal length of such a lens is also approximately the length of the diagonal of the film format. A photograph created with a normal lens will look very much as your eye sees the scene.

As you might have realized, the normal lens varies for each film format, but the relative angle of view remains ths same. For a 35mm camera, the normal lens has a focal length of 50mm, my 120 format Hasselblad system has a normal lens with a 80mm focal length. Those photographers using the 4x5 format have a 150mm normal lens focal length.

Many photographs are created with normal lenses because they look like your eye sees the scene. However, this doesn't allow for the creativity of the effect of different lens focal lengths. Using a lens with a focal length greater or less than the normal lens lets you see a little differently: Using a short focal length can exaggerate close objects and make distant objects appear small and even more distant than they really are. Using longer focal lengths magnifies objects and very long focal lengths have the effect of compression --- objects appear closer to each other than they really are.

Experiment! Try photographing a scene with different lenses (or different focal lengths if you have a zoom lens) to see the effect.

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