It’s All About the Optics

If you want to find a way to a photographer’s heart, it’s through their lenses. Yes, as much as photography might appear to be a camera-obsessed culture, it’s the optics that matter most. Visit our website,, and you’ll see this clearly. We cover a range of timely photography news on the site, everything from product announcements to photo book reviews and features on gallery shows, but whenever a new lens is unveiled or we do a review of some quality glass from Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Sigma, or other companies, our readers flock to it.

The same is true on our Facebook page. For several months now we’ve been asking Facebook followers to share their images with us based on specific themes. While things like “fall colors” or “action” themes always go over well, readers love it when we ask them to send in their “wide angle” or “telephoto” shots. And it’s not just a case of photographers wanting to take their new toys for a spin: the images, in many cases, are fantastic and they showcase not just the skills of these optical marvels, but how they can help you capture life. You can check out many of the photos at

When we set to work on this month’s edition of Shutterbug, which is our “Lenses & Optics” issue, we didn’t want to just focus on the technical aspects of the latest lenses, though we do explore those points in reviews of new glass from Tamron and Lensbaby. We also didn’t want to just talk about the science behind lenses, though we cover that extensively in an excellent piece by Jon Sienkiewicz on what causes lens aberrations. As with the photo themes on our Facebook page and in our Picture This! contests on, we want photographers to show how they can create great art with great glass, not simply shoot test shots of charts.

If you look at the beautiful photo by Blaine Harrington on the cover of this issue, you might not immediately guess it was shot with a fisheye lens. That’s because Harrington is not just showing off with a fancy piece of glass, he’s using it to capture life as he saw it at the time: a panoramic scene of a merchant selling colorful flowers on Dal Lake in Kashmir. The fact that the image is drop-dead gorgeous is a testament to Harrington’s skill as a photographer and his great eye, not to anything particular about the lens he used. Though having quality optics certainly didn’t hurt, and that’s what this month’s issue is all about.