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Zooming in on strengths of different focal lengths

Zoom lenses are identified by their focal length range. Popular zoom focal lengths include: 17-35 mm, 28-105 mm, 70-200 mm and 100-300 mm. These numbers are important because they tell the photographer the lens' widest and longest setting. These numbers, however, don't tell the user the situations in which the lenses can be used.

A renaming of zoom lenses is offered here. Keep in mind that these designations are simply intended to give the novice photographer an idea of how the lenses can be used. Naturally, depending on the subject - and the photographer - each lens can be used for a variety of shooting situations.- Photojournalist's lens, 17-35 mm zoom. Photojournalists often take pictures that tell a story of a subject in his or her surroundings. At the 17 mm to 20 mm settings, the 17-35 mm zoom offers an extra wide angle-of-view and very good depth-of-field so the subject and the surrounding area are in sharp focus. The 24 mm to 35 mm set-tings still offer fairly good depth-of-field, but with a smaller angle-of-view - about equal to the view we see with our eyes.

- Standard lens, 28-105 mm zoom. Before zoom lenses became popular, a 50 mm lens was called a standard lens. Today, a 28-105 mm zoom lens is considered a standard lens by many photographers because it's adequate for landscapes (at the 28 mm setting) and people pictures (at the 105 mm setting). The in-between settings are good for grab shots and snapshots.

- Portrait and animal lens, 70-200 mm zoom. This lens is a good choice when a photographer can get relatively close to a person or animal. As you zoom in on the subject, the background and foreground becomes increasingly out of focus, enabling your subject to "stand out" in your picture.

- Fashion and wildlife lens, 100-300 mm zoom. Fashion photographers like this zoom because the background becomes a soft blur at the 300 mm setting (when the maximum aperture is selected). The 300 mm setting also provides a comfortable working distance between the subject and the model; the shorter settings can be used for wider compositions. Wildlife photographers like this lens because it brings them "up close" to the subject. And for an even closer view, a 2X converter can be attached that makes this lens a 200 mm to 600 mm zoom.

Remember, these designations are not offered by zoom lens manufacturers; they are intended to show you - the user - the versatility of the lenses in certain shooting situations.