Lens speed

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Lens speed refers to the maximum aperture diameter, or minimum f-number, of a photographic lens. A lens with a larger than average maximum aperture (that is, a smaller minimum f-number) is called a "fast lens" because it can achieve the same exposure as an average lens with a faster shutter speed. Conversely, a smaller maximum aperture (larger minimum f-number) is "slow" because it delivers less light intensity and requires a slower (longer) shutter speed.

A fast prime (fixed focal length) lens, the Canon 50mm f/1.4 (left), and a slower zoom lens, the Canon 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 (right); this lens is faster at 18mm than it is at 55mm.

A fast lens speed is desirable in taking pictures in dim light, for stability with long telephoto lenses, and for controlling depth of field and bokeh, especially in portrait photography,[1] as well as for sports photography and photojournalism.

Lenses may also be referred to as being "faster" or "slower" than one another; so an f/3.5 lens can be described as faster than an f/5.6 despite f/3.5 not generally being considered "fast" outright. What is considered fast largely depends on focal length, image diameter (i.e. format covered, such as APS, full frame, medium format), and in the case of zoom lenses, zoom factor.