Photography Notebook Photography Notebook: Lingo

In learning about photography, I have encountered a specialized set of terms. I'm fascinated by how these terms can quickly summarize a concept, equipment, or technique. At the same time, as a new user, I've often been very puzzled by terms that are often used very quickly and without explanation. In many cases, this has impeded my learning. So I'm collecting terms here that I've run across and confused me on first encountering them.

A lens or lenses. For example: "In my camera bag, I think it essential to have several camera bodies and good glass." This confused me when I first heard it because I wondered why the word "lens" or "lenses" could not be used instead. However, I think this is an apt word because it captures the importance of glass as the quality ingredient in lenses. The black plastic housing of a lens is not as important as the glass in the lens. In thinking about camera gear, the term "glass" seems to focus directly and quickly on what is important in lenses and quickly refer to the lenses, as opposed to camera bodies or other gear, although camera bodies, lens filters, and other equipment may have glass in it.
Prime lens
A lens of fixed focal length, as opposed to a lens with zoom capability (in which the focal length can vary). As a new photographer, I kept getting a bit confused on hearing this term, as I mistook it for meaning "best" or "most precise" or "the lens I use the most." No--it just means that the lens is of fixed focal length. For example, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens is a prime lens. The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS SLR Lens is not a prime lens. Now, I am learning that a fixed focal length lens often has better qualities than a lens which varies over the same focal length, so a little bit of the sense of prime as "good" may come into play.
SLR Camera
A camera which uses a single lens to take the picture and to show the subject through the viewfinder using a reflection in mirrors or a prism. (Busch, David D. (2007). Digital SLR Cameras & Photography For Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley, p. 103). I was extremely confused about this term because the definition I found everywhere else--simply repeating the phrase "single lens reflex" did not help me understand what the big deal was about SLR cameras. Essentially, an SLR camera has that flipping mirror. The flipping mirror has absolutely nothing to do with superior picture quality. The SLR aspect of the camera simply describes the relation of the lens to the viewfinder. I suppose this was a big advance over alternative arrangements, and the use of the SLR arrangement became associated with more expensive cameras with the things that matter for superior image quality--larger sensor size and quality optics. I would love to buy a camera someday with quality optics and a large sensor size without that flipping mirror and the weight and noise it adds to the camera.
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2023-06-01 · John December · Terms ©