Mirrorless Camera Lenses

mirrorless dslr lens

When it comes to mirrorless camera lenses, you've got options.

The main reason that you've got options is that you actually CAN change the lens on a mirrorless camera if it suits your mood.

From wide angle panoramic views to detailed close-ups, you can select a lens that goes along with your photography style, or to capture a specific type of subject.

With the right lens adapter, you can also make your mirrorless camera work with a huge number of standard DSLR lenses.

Since you do have so many options, it helps to have a basic understanding of lens jargon before you dive in.

Focal Length

The first mirrorless camera lens feature to pay attention to is something called focal length.

Here's what focal length is all about:

  • Focal lengths are measured in millimeters (mm)
  • Some lenses only have one focal length - these are called "fixed focal length" or "prime" lenses
  • Other lenses cover a range of focal lengths - these are called "zoom" lenses
  • Lenses with small focal length numbers capture a wide angle of view (the entire scene in front of you)
  • Lenses with large focal length numbers capture a telephoto view (only a small part of the scene)

It should be noted that telephoto lenses also ENLARGE distant subjects. A telephoto lens helps you fill your photo with a subject that is far away. This explains why telephoto lenses are favored by wildlife and safari photographers.

Here are some examples of different lens focal lengths:

FOCAL LENGTHDESCRIPTION
35mmA fixed (or prime) lens with a moderate telephoto view
14-45mmA zoom lens with a range from wide angle (14mm) to moderate telephoto (45mm)
50-150mmA zoom lens with a range from moderate telephoto to telephoto

Most mirrorless digital SLR cameras come with a "kit" lens. Kit lenses are zooms that cover a wide angle to moderate telephoto range. They are good for landscape and portrait photography, which makes them well-suited for capturing family vacations.

Photogaphers who want to capture subjects that are farther away will need to invest in a lens with a longer focal length and more telephoto power.

Maximum Aperture

The aperture of a digital SLR lens is a measurement of how wide the lens can open (expressed in a unit of measurement called f-stops).

The wider a lens can open, the more light it lets in. Wider lens apertures result in faster shutter speeds, under all types of available light.

While almost all lenses can be set to the same narrow aperture, they can't all be set to the same wide aperture: this difference amongst lenses is called maximum aperture.

Some lenses only have one maximum aperture, while others have two (also called VARIABLE maximum aperture).

Only zoom lenses can have variable maximum apertures: the longer the focal length, the narrower the maximum aperture. For example, with a 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens:

  • At 14mm the lens can be set to a maximum aperture of f/3.5
  • At 42mm the maximum aperture narrows to f/5.6

Action/sports photographers and people who enjoy taking pictures in very dim light (indoors, evening, night) should look for lenses with wider maximum apertures.

Action photographers will leverage the wide aperture to increase their shutter speeds in order to make their fast-moving subjects look sharp.

Dim light photographers need wide apertures to prevent blur that can occur when the CAMERA moves and the shutter speed is very slow.

Can I Have Syrup With That?

pancake lens

One special type of mirrorless camera lens made by for several different cameras is called a "pancake" lens.

Pancake lenses get their name from their shape: they are very thin, so they don't add a lot of size and weight to an otherwise small camera.

The only drawback with pancake lenses is that they are all primes: just one focal length. If you want to change your point of view, you have to move the camera around — you can't just stand in one spot and zoom.

The benefit is that a mirrorless camera with such a lens is extremely portable.

If you want to have a camera that you can just slip into a pocket every time you leave the house, then a pancake lens may be just what you need.

Lens Choices

Each manufacturer offers their own unique selection of lenses. Once you've got a camera, just match the lens brand to your camera brand.

Find Lenses For: Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony.