01 Oct Choosing A Lens – The Primal Scream
It’s probably been a long time since you bought your first camera.
But I’ll bet you remember it fondly…and you may have it still…somewhere in a box at the back of the linen closet. If you are still using it and delighted with the pictures, I salute you. That kind of frugal loyalty is rare in the photographic world…and I’m not sure the retail photo trade entirely approves of it. There’s such a thing as too much satisfaction.
When you got old No. 1 you may or may not have been offered a choice of lens to put on it. Many starter cameras in both the film and digital eras are fixed-lens devices and you get what’s part of the design. Some makers put a prime lens on – some a small zoom. Indeed, there is a class of consumer-oriented camera known as the superzoom that has a very extensive zoom. If you started on one of those you may never have felt the need to change to a different lens anyway.
If the zoom fulfilled your needs and gave you the flexibility to frame everything comfortably, you really didn’t need to look further. The bad old days of bad old zooms is long gone and you can be happy with whatever you buy. Keeping other people happy at the same time can be a little more difficult – advisers are all round you ( you’re soaking in it right now ) and since their advice is generally not connected with giving you money, they can feel free to be generous. One of their presents can be a feeling of vague unease at the use of a normal zoom lens.
You see they have read that a prime lens – one focal length – is sharper and more contrasty and faster to focus and works better in dim light. And is more professional and cool looking and full of more nutrition. You’re lucky if you can escape at this point before they start to introduce mystical properties or prestigious design history. Because while a little of it may be true and lot an a lot of it true a little, none of it helps you frame the image when you are too close or too far with that prime lens. If it is a matter of not being able to move in or back, you get what the lens sees and have to decide to like it.
I use prime lenses for a lot of studio shooting…because I like the resolution they give. But my studio shooting is not fast-paced or at different distances. I do not have to cope with the need to instantly change from wide angle view to that of a long lens. I can stand back or crowd in.
When out at a dance shoot or any other field shoot, I welcome the zoom over the prime, and I think I get far higher a percentage of shots that effectively use most of the sensor. In fact the common garden kit zoom for my brand is nearly perfect for most occasions.
Just as well I didn’t listen to the advisers, eh?
For the observant: it’s the Fujifilm X-T2 and the strap is an Op/Tec one with the padded centre section. Kind to the neck. The red shutter button makes it go faster, like a Ferrari, and the white marking on the 18-55mm lens is a piece of modeller’s masking tape. It represents the ideal focal length choice for focus bracketing on big model aircraft. All the settings work but this one at 26.78 mm is the best compromise between depth of field and distortion.