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Camera lenses work by having light bounce off of objects and head away from those objects in straight lines. The glass has a different refraction index, this means that as the light goes from the air to the glass, it bends slightly. Since light bends by travelling through different substance densities it turns out different kinds of glass have different refraction indexes. By adjusting the elements or materials in a lens from different kinds of glass, a very precise focus can be achieved at the film plane. And the different shapes of the elements, along with how many there are and how they are spaced. Different lenses are used for different situations according to the angle of view of the lens, from "wide angle" to "telephoto". Then these lenses with very complex arrangements of elements for different results.