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I am very new to photography and am trying to grasp the basics of it these days. Can someone please help me understand the relationship between focal length of a lens and shutter speed of camera?

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There is no direct relation between the two. However, there is an observation that with longer focal length you need faster shutter (keeping ISO the same) in order to avoid blur from camera shake. Quoting:

The rule of thumb for a sharp picture, free from the effects of camera shake, is to use a shutter speed which is at least as fast as 1 divided by the focal length of the lens. So if you are using your zoom set at 100mm you should use a shutter speed of at least 1/100 of a second. If you are using a 50mm lens you will get a sharp picture at 1/50th of a second.

Now this rule is modified by VR (vibration reduction), and similar solutions, so you gain a few stops so your shutter speed can be decreased by that.

This rule does not apply if the camera is on a tripod, or you have a steady hand, etc.

It also does not help removing blur from people moving, etc.

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    I have also seen some recommendations that with todays higher resolution sensors, you should actually double that speed. The same would go if you have shaky hands as well 8-) – Robin Jan 14 '14 at 17:37
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    It's probably worth mentioning, at least in passing, that the 1/f rule of thumb is based on the 135 (35mm full frame) format and an 8x10 inch final print (that is, everything on the negative is going to be enlarged by a factor of 8). So if you're planning to make gallery-sized prints using images of a static subject you shot hand-held on your 24MP, non-antialiased APS-C-format camera with an unstabilized lens, you might want to increase the shutter speed just a touch more when possible. – user2719 Jan 14 '14 at 17:39
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    More on the background of this rule (where it comes from, what assumptions it makes) here: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/19102/… – mattdm Jan 14 '14 at 17:50
  • Also if your lens says it has 4 stops for image stabilization, drop the 4 to 3 and use 3 to make that number three times higher/faster – Brandon Dec 4 '14 at 17:41
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There is no direct relationship between focal length and shutter speed. Focal length determines your ultimate subject magnification and field of view. Shutter speed is a facet of exposure, which is not explicitly affected by focal length in any way.

Classically, the "rule of thumb" for motion-freezing shutter speed has been 1/focalLength. In this case, a 100mm lens would in turn require a 1/100th second shutter speed to be motion-freezing, a 400mm lens would require 1/400th, a 14mm lens would require 1/14th. This was a commonly used rule in the film days, especially the older film days, where output size was often relatively small, even "contact printed" or minimally enlarged.

With modern equipment, this rule does not necessarily hold up. As pixel sizes shrink, it is becoming more likely that a 1/(focalLength * cropFactor) rule, if not even 1/(focalLength * Constant) where Constant is 2 or greater, is more effective assuming 100% viewing of your images. Blur from camera shake due to unstable hands is rapidly increasing at a rate faster than pixel sizes shrink. Modern lenses often include image stabilization or vibration reduction, and some camera bodies have stabilized sensors. These technologies counter-act the increased effects of camera shake, often by many stops. Full Frame sensors are less prone to camera shake, however their pixels are now starting to approach the size of APS-C pixels from the prior generation, so they will not remain "immune" for long.

There may be an indirect relationship due to the maximum aperture of the lens, which is sometimes dictated by focal length. For wider lenses, especially lenses shorter than 50mm, you might find that the maximum aperture is as fast as f/1.2 or even faster. For longer lenses, especially cheaper longer lenses, you might find that the maximum aperture is f/3.5, and for supertelephoto lenses, the maximum aperture may be f/4 or even f/5.6. This limitation on maximum aperture will often implicitly affect your shutter speed, forcing longer exposures at the same ISO.

More often than not, however, smaller maximum aperture will force you to use a higher ISO setting to achieve the necessary shutter speed, especially if stopping action is your goal.

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They are independent. Focal length affects the angle of view, and shutter speed is one of several factors which affect the exposure. (The other two are aperture and ISO.)

The only case where they may have an interaction is with some zoom lenses which have narrower apertures at longer focal lengths, which in turn may require a longer shutter speed for the same exposure. (You could also increase ISO and leave the shutter speed the same.)

A narrower or wider focal length will change the amount of the scene captured in the frame, and this may also change shutter speed because areas of different brightness are included in different framings. That's an effect of the framing, though, not really the focal length per se.

A narrower framing (longer focal length) also might mean that you need a higher shutter speed in order to reduce camera shake blur. See this question for details on the general rule for that, which is 1-over-focal-length (that is, your lens's focal length in fractions of a second, so a minimum speed of ¹⁄₁₀₀th for a 100mm lens).

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This is simple. There is none. With rare exceptions, these are independent components. The lens defines its focal-length by its physical properties and the camera defines its shutter-speed range which is a property of the shutter which could be mechanical, electrical or hybrid.

The only exception is when the shutter is located inside the lens. This is called a leaf shutter and is used in medium format cameras mostly as well as a few compact models. For those, the maximum shutter-speed varies according to the aperture because a leaf shutter has to travel more to cover a larger aperture.

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Actually, there is no relationship between them. Basically, the focal length is related to the lens and shutter speed is related to the camera sensor. It can happen that you want to zoom (change the focal length) and your hands shake (or somehow the camera vibrates). What by zooming happens is that you are not only changing the focal length of the lens but also the Field of View, so any small change in the coordination of the camera (vibration or moving the camera) will change the Field of View.

In this case, if you don't increase the shutter speed you will get a (motion) blurry image because during capturing the image, the camera moves. To avoid that, you should increase the shutter speed to take the image faster and so it does not allow vibration affects the image. Also if you want to take the picture of moving people/object while the camera zooms, you should increase the shutter speed because (maybe more) there are two types of motion here, object/people and shaky hand.

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This question is a bit old. But I think the answers, although they are technically right, they are misleading. Let me explain.

There is no direct relationship... but there are some indirect relationships, so they count.

The bridges on the relationship between Focal Length and Shutter Speed are:

1. The aperture

The aperture on a lens is a relationship between how big is the diameter of it and how long it is.

Take for example one hypothetical zoom lens, 50-200 mm. You have a fixed maximum diameter, but you can change the focal length. As the relation is focal length/aperture lets say your maximum aperture is 25 mm.

  • At 50 mm the maximum aperture is 50/25 = f2
  • at 100 mm the maximum aperture is 100/25 = f4
  • and at 200mm is 200/25 = f8

This is the "speed of a lens" which is different than shutter speed but forces you to compensate it. If a scene was ok to be shoot at 1/1000 at 50 mm, you need to use now 1/250 at 200mm.

Some lenses compensate this difference and have just one maximum aperture on the full range, but most zoom lenses are affected by this dual maximum aperture value at the maximum and minimum focal distances.

2. Angular movement

Commonly known as camera shake on a handheld scenario. Let's think that your hand moves 1 fraction of a degree.

If you are shooting on a wide-angle lens, this variation might not be noticeable on the exposure of 1/15 of a second.

But if you are using a super-telephoto this same fraction of a degree movement will be very noticeable. On this 1/15 of a second, it can make a photo unusable. So you need to take the photo on a lot faster shutter speed to avoid this motion blur.


These two "bridges" depend on othe factors, for example you can change the ISO instead of changing the shutter speed, or use a tripod to avoid camera shake, but yet still, they actually exist.

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