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Old    Mike Souza (ridn9high)      Join Date: Feb 2004       06-17-2004, 12:50 PM Reply   
On the size of a lens when it says 70-200 f/2.8 or 70-200 f/4.5. I understand the 70-200mm part but what does the f/(whatever)mean?
Old    Rich Dykmans (richd)      Join Date: Oct 2003       06-17-2004, 7:46 PM Reply   
f#.# is the largest opening the lens's aperture (opening) is capable of. With f stops the smaller the number the larger the opening. I believe each stop down lets exactly half the light of the previous stop. Lenses that are capable of large apertures - f2.8, f2, f1.8, f1.2 (or the famous Canon 50mm f1.0L) are considered "fast" lenses (in that one is able to shoot at higher shutter speeds because of the larger aperture the lens is capable of). All lens "stop" down to f22 or beyond so the max aperture the lens is capable of is always what's listed. When a zoom is listed as, for example, 28mm-135mm f3.5-5.6 it tells you the max aperture at 28mm is f3.5 and at 135mm f5.6. Some zooms like the popular Canon 70-200 f4 are capable of the same aperature across the zoom range.

The benefits of a "fast" lens are:

Much better auto focus at low light conditions.

Easier to use high shutter speeds which freeze action and give sharper pictures.

Better view finder illumination on an SLR.

Capable of more and nicer "bokeh" or background blur.

The disadvantages are:

Much larger physical dimension. For example the Canon 400mm f2.8L IS is huge (3 times the size) of the 400mm f5.6L.

Due to the size of the lens elements needed, much greater glass quality (and therefore expense) is required to produce alens which has a great image when shot "wide open".

Garrett Cortese has a nice primer on all this on the wakeboarder.com media/technology forum which is worth reading.
Old    Mike Souza (ridn9high)      Join Date: Feb 2004       06-18-2004, 9:02 AM Reply   
Thanks Rich
Old    Jonathan French (rock_n_boardin)      Join Date: May 2003       06-18-2004, 9:13 AM Reply   
Yeah thanks I had the same question.
Old    Jonathan French (rock_n_boardin)      Join Date: May 2003       06-18-2004, 9:15 AM Reply   
I can see why if I am shooting at higher shutter speeds 1600 - 2000 and it gets a little cloudy my 70-300 f5.6 lens will blink on the 5.6 telling me I guess there is not sufficient light to shoot at the high shutter speed. I assume with a f 4 lens it might be able to open more to capture enough light to still shoot at that speed. Interesting.
Old    Rich Dykmans (richd)      Join Date: Oct 2003       06-18-2004, 9:22 PM Reply   
The other way to account for less light is to turn up the ISO. This can allow you to shoot at a faster shutter also (at the expense of a noisier image in some cameras.) ISO adjustment ability from shot to shot is one of the greatest advantages digital has over film.

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