Pin cushion distortion

image seems to pull away from the center, like the top of a pin cushion.

• Vignetting. There is darkening in the corners of the image, which often creates a nice effect, though not always wanted.

♦ Color rendition. Different lenses record color differently, some better than others.

♦ Build quality. How rugged the lens is determines how reliable it is. Is it weather-sealed? Can it take a bump or drop and keep shooting?

♦ Operational controls. How does the lens feel to operate? Is it responsive and quick? Is the zoom or focus ring pressure just right — not too loose and not too tight?

♦ Size and weight. Do the size and weight work for your hands? Does the camera balance well with the lens on it?

♦ Bokeh. Bokeh refers to the quality of the out-of-focus areas in the image. Normally the more aperture blades and the rounder the aperture opening, the more attractive the bokeh is, particularly in out-of-focus highlights.

♦ Lens speed. This refers to how fast the lens is, that is, how wide the lens opens up. An example is whether the maximum aperture is an f/4 or f/1.4. This affects several things: of course, the wider the aperture, the lower light levels you can shoot in, the narrower the depth of field is, and the brighter the image is in the viewfinder. Depending on your style, you might never need or want "fast glass." On the other hand, it could be the most important factor when you are choosing a lens.

The bottom line, of course, is how much you like the look the lens creates, and all these qualities come into play. Add it all up and you have what many photographers refer to as the "mojo" of a lens — that indefinable quality that makes a certain lens have a special and valued look; and it's different with each lens. For some beloved lenses it's the color quality, for other lenses it's the quality of the transition from sharp to out-of-focus areas. Part of this quality can be described by studying the characteristics in the previous list, but there's also an indefinable quality that certain lenses bring to the imagery.

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100 Photography Tips

100 Photography Tips

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