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The Lens Book Review

Express Summary

Remote ExposureThe Lens: A Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer by NK Guy is a 310-page soft-cover book devoted entirely to photographic lenses for the purpose of understanding how to use them. It covers how lenses work, how to choose them and explains their capabilities as well as issues. It only stops short of explaining how to design lenses which would require volumes of advanced physics and mathematics.

The Lens, published by Rocky Nook, goes into more depth about lenses than any general photography book can yet remains easy to understand in its entirety. Every topic is gradually explained with plenty of examples and an impressive amount of historical context.

This book is intended for people using SLR, digital or not, or mirrorless cameras. While the book explicitly excludes lenses for Medium Format cameras, it still applies for the most part. Only basic knowledge about photography is assumed from the reader.

This book is well-written and logically organized. Its easily understandable text is accompanied by a large number of examples and diagrams taken from a great variety of camera systems.

The Lens is available for purchase from Amazon.

Book Review

The Lens is entirely about lenses used with interchangeable lens cameras. How much can be said on the topic? At least 310-pages of it, without repetition and without reaching highly technical subjects. This book covers every lens-topic photographers find important.

NK Guy clearly knows lenses and shares an impressive amount of historical knowledge on the subject. He also equally understands how photographers see and use lenses which is critical to explain them at the right level for his target audience.

After quick introduction, The Lens is divided into nine chapters, followed by no less than five appendices. Having taken care of the what and why in the Introduction, the first chapter briefly covers the history of lenses, some of which predates photography by over a millennia.

The second chapter explains how lenses work and how that translates into photography. The familiar concepts of field-of-view, focal-length, crop-factor are all presented with clear examples and illustrations, making sure readers have the same basic understanding to start with.

Lenses are literally dissected in Chapter 3. This chapter covers all the mechanical and components of a lens. This includes lens mounts, focus motors, control rings, stabilizers and more. Given the large variety of camera systems and lens manufacturers, all using varied naming conventions (and marketing departments), NK Guy devotes a good number of pages to decoding names and categories of lenses.

Chapter 4 is about choosing lenses by photographic use. Sections show how various lenses apply to portraits, landscapes, kids, macro, sports, journalism and wildlife photography. Consideration is given to convenience aspects, including bulk and weight. Chapter 5 covers lens choices by focal-length. All the standard classes of lenses are explained from ultra-wide-angle and fisheye ones to super-telephotos and ultra-zooms.

The sixth chapter covers lens accessories. Their effect and application are discussed one-by-one. Filters get the most coverage but given their wide variety, only relatively common ones are discussed. Lens hoods and teleconverters are got good coverage with only passing mention of other less critical types of lens accessories.

A short seventh chapter addresses the topic of buying lenses. Brand names, stores and warranties are all covered, plus options for buying used and renting.

Chapter 8 is the book's longest and regroups Advanced Topics, given them each one section. There are 39 such sections, showing the depth of knowledge is presented in this book. While the topics covered in this chapter are not crucial to photography, they do help for choosing lenses and understanding the artifacts they leave in images. A photographer can therefore use this knowledge to choose a better lens or even take corrective actions before or after shooting.

Chapter 9 which precedes a short conclusion discusses less common choices of lenses. Mount-Adapters to use lenses for different mounts are thoroughly explained with their issues and limitations. More topics covered here include Manual-Focus ones, toy lenses, pinholes and even homemade lenses.

The book ends with a number of extremely useful appendices, describing lens mounts and fine details as well as nomenclature for different lens manufacturers. The last appendix provides a focus target for micro-adjusting the autofocus system of cameras that use Phase-Detection AF, assuming they support the micro-adjustment feature. This presently includes all DSLRs and Sony SLT cameras.

The Lens is very well written and presents lenses with a understandable and logical breakdown. Despite being a relatively dry topic, NK Guy manages to make the reading light and interesting. His good sense of humor even makes an appearance from time to time and is only overshadowed by his impressive knowledge demonstrated in this book.

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