Photography Explained

Wide Angle Lens Explained In Plain English In Less Than 10 Minutes

May 13, 2021 Rick McEvoy Episode 63
Photography Explained
Wide Angle Lens Explained In Plain English In Less Than 10 Minutes
Show Notes Transcript

Wide Angle Lens Explained In Plain English In Less Than 10 Minutes. Hi and welcome to Episode 63 of the Photography Explained podcast.

I’m your host Rick, and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing to you in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details. What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience. And not Google.

Here is my answer
A wide angle lens offers a wider field of view than a standard lens. The focal length of a wide angle lens is less than a standard lens, less than 50mm on a full frame camera. Wide angle lenses are used to capture more of a scene, a wider view, and are used in a variety of photographic genres. The smaller the focal length number, the wider the field of view the lens provides.

Listen for more, or check out the transcript and even the blog post - so many ways to find out more!

What’s next?
Glad you asked! In Photography Explained Podcast 64, Telephoto Lenses Explained In Plain English In Less Than 10 Minutes.

What to ask a question?
Head over to the Want Me To Explain Something? page on the Photography Explained website and fill the form in and you are done!

Check out my my blog
Check out my photography blog where you will find lots more photography stuff all written by me.

Did you enjoy this episode?
If you did please do the following, which will help me and not take too much time.
·         Rate and review my podcast
·         Subscribe
·         Tell anyone you think might like my podcast

Thank you very much for listening and see you on the next episode.

Rick McEvoy – Photography Explained Podcast

Support the show (

What are standard lenses? Let me tell you in plain English.

Hi, and welcome to Episode 62 of the Photography Explained Podcast. I'm your host Rick and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing to you in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details.

What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience, and not Google.

OK - here is my answery bit.

A standard lens in photography provides a field of view that is similar to that seen by the human eye. The focal length of a standard lens depends on the size of the camera sensor. On a full frame camera the standard lens has a 50mm focal length, on a cropped sensor camera 75-80mm focal length, and on a Micro Four Thirds camera a 100mm focal length. Standard lenses are fast, small, cheap, and lightweight, and are excellent, general purpose lenses.

Okay, hope that made sense.

So why the term standard lens?
Note to self, stop saying so at the beginning of every sentence.

Well standard, also known as normal lens, this refers to the kind of view that we as humans get with our own eyes. So the focal length is giving us a very familiar view. And that gives photos taken with a standard lens that familiar natural comfortable feel.

A photo is how you would have seen it with the naked eye. Now a naked eye. Why did I use that term? I hate it. What other type of eyes are there? Clothed eyes? What does naked eye actually mean? Sorry, early digression.

So that's pretty much all I need to know. There are other technical explanations, but this works for me. Yeah, if you look in Google (sorry, I do actually research these things just to see what I'm missing) there was one (answer) that said that standard lens is less than the diagonal of the dimension of the film or sensor. I didn't understand it really.

So we'll stick to the simple explanation - that one worked for me, and it helps me with my photography. And that's what this is all about. Of course.

So yeah, standard lens is also called normal lens.

Is a standard lens 50mm?
Yes and no. The starting point is full frame camera, which, if you remember evolved from 35mm film cameras. Basically, a 50mm lens on a full frame camera is indeed a standard lens.

But we need to remember that there are three basic types of consumer cameras, full frame cameras, cropped sensor cameras, and micro four thirds cameras.

There are previous episodes where I cover this in detail (not too much obviously), but I will just go back to the relevant points here about standard lenses.

Back to crop factors
Each of these three formats has a crop factor compared against a full frame camera.

Full frame camera, you could say the crop factor is one.

Cropped sensor cameras
On cropped sensor cameras, the crop factor is 1.5 to 1.6. Now this depends on the camera manufacturer. But what this actually means is that 50mm on a full frame camera, full frame camera (easy for me to say) is 75-80mm on a cropped sensor camera.

To get the same view as you do with a full frame camera, you have to select a 75-80mm focal length when using a cropped sensor camera.

50mm X 1.5 equals 75mm.

There you go, that's crop factors explained as well.

And that gives an equivalent focal length to 50mm. 

Basically with a crop sensor camera 75mm will look like you see things when you haven't got your camera in front of you. 

Micro four thirds cameras
Okay, on Micro Four Thirds cameras the crop factor is 2, meaning that 50mm on a full frame camera is 100mm on a Micro Four Thirds camera. So yes, to get the same view as you do with a full frame camera at 50mm you have to select a 100mm focal length.

Phew – glad that’s done

Right that's the technical stuff out of the way.

Are there other standard lenses? Yes, there are unfortunately.
Now if we go back to Episode 60 What is a kit lens? What you need to know without the irrelevant detail (shameful plug I know!), you'll find that the 18-55mm lens, which is the most common receiver of the term kit lens, is also referred to in many places as a standard lens.

Yep, I checked Google, and there it was – 18-55mm standard lens. It's another of those terms that can get mis-applied. But let's not get too hung up on it.

50mm full frame, that's what matters.

Hey what about medium format cameras?
I did look into medium format cameras. Now those are the big expensive things that well, no normal people can afford. But between us, I wouldn't mind one.

On a medium format camera, the standard lens focal length is something like 63mm, but there are variations on that. So to be honest with you, it's too complicated.

We'll leave that one there.

If you want to know chapter and verse, drop me an email.

One thing that I really hate
A quick word on a name that I hate. You gathered by now hopefully, well, hopefully you've listened to some other episodes, so yeah, you know where I'm at and what I'm about.

There are terms that I hate.

Nifty fifty is one of them. I hate it.

It refers to a 50mm lens, which is nifty? 50?

I think it's just my reserved Britishness. I just don't go for stuff like that. I better move on. Don't want to offend anybody.

Why standard?
I've actually written on my headings. Yes, I do have things I've written. So why standard? I'm trying to stop saying so because I don't say so any other time other than recording my podcasts.

Why standard lens?
Well if you think about it, you’ve got wide angle lenses, and you’ve got telephoto lenses. And yes, I will cover these in the next two episodes, which I'm actually really looking forward to doing because I've taken these things for granted for all these years without actually really thinking about them.

And looking into them has been very much more than a case of what I can see through my viewfinder. (Not sure what I was trying to say there). So it was good to look into those. And as you probably gathered, I've already written one of the episodes.

Wide angle, telephoto, and the bit in the middle….
You've got wide angle lenses and telephoto lenses. And then the middle is the standard lens. So standard lenses are the dividing line between wide angle and telephoto. I had never thought about this before.

But the reality is anything in the 40-60mm focal length range is standard to me. A focal length less than 40mm is getting into wide angle, and beyond 60mm and you're getting into telephoto.

Is there a definition of where wide angle and telephoto begin?
Which is a roundabout way of saying is there a definition of the focal length of a standard lens? There are various numbers, obviously go to the Google, you'll get more than one answer. Wide angle lenses in general terms have a focal length of 35mm (or 40mm) or less. So 35-40mm is the starting point. Telephoto, well, anything over 60mm, anything over 70mm, depends on who you ask really.

But what that does is it gives us a range within which standard is standard i.e. 40-60mm.

Not black and white, and it doesn't really matter that much does it.

So, a little bit more about standard lenses.
They are dead handy. Having said that, I don't have one. I've touched on this in a previous episode, I bought a 40mm pancake lens. It looked quite funky. It was a great idea having a really small flat lens, but I never really used it so I sold it.

I've had many 50mm lenses in the past, but I got to a point where I just didn't use them. I sold them.

I have a Canon 24-105mm lens, so I can get 50mm if I want to - I tend to work at the extreme ends of any zoom lens.

So no, I don't have a standard lens. (inexplicable sentences deleted here).

I hardly encouraging you here am I?

I just I don't need one.

Don't let someone to talk you into getting something you don't need (by the way).

Why should you care?
I haven't got a standard lens. And why should you care? Well, they are cheap. They're one of the cheapest lenses that you'll buy.

They are small, light and optically, relatively simple, very little to go wrong with them. And this is one of the reasons they're cheap. They're simple and straightforward, because that's all they need to be.

They are fast, you can get standard lenses with large maximum apertures – remember the smaller the number, the larger the maximum aperture, the faster the lens, the more light you can get in.

You can get F1.8, F1.4, F1.2. I'm talking Canon full frame again here, sorry for every other camera system out there, but that's the one that I use.

But I only ever use F8 or F16 to be perfectly honest. So this again is another reason why I just don't need them, which is fine.

Yes they are great lenses, but I don't own one anymore. I don't need one, but it doesn't mean that you don't because we're all different and we all have different needs.

My one line summary.
If you're after a great fast, lightweight lens, then this could be the lens for you. The nifty fifty, no, stop me.

What’s next?
Okay, the next episode is Episode 63. It says here, wide angle lenses explained in plain English in less than 10 minutes. So yeah, the logical progression from standard lenses is wide angle lenses.

I'm done.
Please leave a nice review and rating if you enjoyed this episode. Please subscribe so you don't miss an episode. And if you could tell one person about my podcast, I would be most grateful.

Thank you
Thank you very much for listening to my small but perfectly formed podcast. To find out more about my podcast and to ask me a question of your own check out the Photography Explained Podcast website. 

And to find out more about me please go to Rick McEvoy Photography.

This episode was brought to you by water. I'm trying to hydrate so I can improve my audibility. Audibility being delivered (that is).

I've been Rick McEvoy. Thanks again very much for listening to me and for giving me 12 ¾ minutes of your valuable time, and I will see you on the next episode. Cheers from me, Rick.


lens, millimetre, standard, full frame camera, wide angle lenses, focal length, camera, episode, crop factor, crop sensor camera, podcast, kit lens, mil, naked eye, explained, photography, telephoto, term, nifty, work