A photographic lens is usually composed of several lens elements, which combine to reduce the effects of chromatic aberrationcomaspherical aberration, and other aberrations. A simple example is the three-element Cooke triplet, still in use over a century after it was first designed, but many current photographic lenses are much more complex.

Using a smaller aperture can reduce most, but not all aberrations. They can also be reduced dramatically by using an aspheric element, but these are more complex to grind than spherical or cylindrical lenses. However, with modern manufacturing techniques the extra cost of manufacturing aspherical lenses is decreasing, and small aspherical lenses can now be made by molding, allowing their use in inexpensive consumer cameras. Fresnel lenses are not used in cameras even though they are extremely light and cheap, because they produce poor image quality. The recently developed Fiber-coupled monocentric lens consists of spheres constructed of concentric hemispherical shells of different glasses tied to the focal plane by bundles of optical fibers.[2] Monocentric lenses are also not used in cameras because the technology was just debuted in October 2013 at the Frontiers in Optics Conference in Orlando, Florida.

All lens design is a compromise between numerous factors, not excluding cost. Zoom lenses (i.e. lenses of variable focal length) involve additional compromises and therefore normally do not match the performance of prime lenses.

When a camera lens is focused to project an object some distance away onto the film or detector, the objects that are closer in distance, relative to the distant object, are also approximately in focus. The range of distances that are nearly in focus is called the depth of field. Depth of field generally increases with decreasing aperture diameter (increasing f-number). The unfocused blur outside the depth of field is sometimes used for artistic effect in photography. The subjective appearance of this blur is known as bokeh.

If the camera lens is focused at or beyond its hyperfocal distance, then the depth of field becomes large, covering everything from half the hyperfocal distance to infinity. This effect is used to make “focus free” or fixed-focus cameras.

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