It's no use closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.
Do you do this?
On Saturday, I went to my son's girlfriend's graduation, and for the second time in two years needed a telephoto lens. I should explain that I almost never need a telephoto lens. They don't suit the subjects I like to shoot or the way I tend to see (no h8 for telephoto fans, though, of course). I took the longest lens I have for the Micro 4/3 camera, the Olympus 45mm. It worked out okay; I took a lot of portraits outside after the ceremony and I made the Photoshopped concoction below, compensating for the high school gym lighting, which must be close to the ugliest available light you'll encounter in the wild. It records the occasion, that's all I can say for it.
This was as close as I could get to the stage. And even so—O, sweet nostalgia!—I got yelled at by a teacher. For being in peoples' way. I dutifully kneeled down, just getting up to take this snap and two or three more.
As you perceive, I needed a longer lens.
So what do I do? I come straight home and go immediately to the computer and go immediately to B&H Photo and start poring over telephoto lenses for Micro 4/3 cameras, thinking: which one shall I get? Like an eager dog. Which one would have been perfect for the shooting I just did?
Emphasis on that last. "For the shooting I just did." Cut to bolting horse, rapidly getting smaller in size as it heads for the horizon.
I thought I needed something on the order of an 80–200mm equivalent. There's nothing like that, but there are several alternatives. Panasonic makes a 90–350mm equivalent that's not too expensive. Olympus makes a 40-150mm. But the killer app seems to be Panasonic's Lumix G Vario 100–300mm ƒ/4.0–5.6 OIS lens. Yum tasty.
And I think, "I need that. I'll get that."
But no. No, I don't. I don't need that. And I shouldn't get it. I have literally needed a longer telephoto lens two times in the last two years—at the last two high school graduations. And now our graduations are over, so that frequency might diminish from here on out. If I bought a longer telephoto than my 45mm I would use it maybe once every year. Probably more like once every two years. IOW, I don't really need it at all.
This happens a lot with me: I encounter a situation while shooting; I don't have exactly the right piece of equipment I might ideally need; so I get all fired up and hot with GAS, and have to engage—indulge—in a long flurry of shopping, as if there is some law from on high that states that I must be equipped with every scrap of equipment I've ever felt the glimmer of a need for.
I've been doing that same thing over and over again for a long time now, too.
You'd think someday I'd learn.
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Ben Rosengart: "Sounds to me like you ought to bookmark lensrentals.com."
Featured Comment by Kaemu: "Dood! You are probably in the same situation as me: people around you think of you as the 'photo guy' so (unfairly?) expect you to deliver great pictures whatever the occasion, which, I have come to accept, means that one has to be equipped with a good flash unit and a lens with at least a clean 200mm or equivalent focal length. For a guy who likes to shoot landscapes and architecture, not something I used much. But honestly, seeing peoples' face light up when they see the results is reward enough. Plus, I've experimented with teles and have gotten some nice seascapes and architectural shots with them. Some of my favorites in fact. So, all in all, getting these long lenses has beem 'all good.'"
Featured [partial] Comment by Richard Alexander: "Isn't this situation exactly what legacy lens adapters are for?"
Featured Comment by Walter Glover: "To hell with rental and purchase purely to meet clichéd expectations—do what you did, Mike, and go for the contextual shot that is imbued with all the stuff that memory is made of."
Featured [partial] Comment by bahi: "...The feeling of being one lens short never quite goes away."
Featured Comment by Chris Crowe: "Whilst it seems to be looked down on for those with small cameras (where it is called digital zoom), those with higher end cameras go for higher pixel density and then crop."
Mike replies: That's what my friend Jack does with his Leica S2 and two primes. And from what little I've seen, you'd never know.
That's also the principle of the coming super Nokia, the 41-MP PureView 808.
Featured Comment by Ed Buziak: "Two quotes come to mind...the first by photojournalist David Douglas Duncan, 'If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough,' which I would have fired back at the teacher. And to dispel cravings for more equipment (which you—and I—rarely have, but is a subject which pollutes most photography forum talk)...from Will Smith in the film Bagger Vance, 'I do the best with what I got to work with.'"
Featured [partial] Comment by Andrew Kowalczyk: "I like the picture better this way. If you had the lens you wanted you would have ended up with a so-so portrait under odd light (that you could have taken in the backyard to better effect). But this is sweet: the light hits her in a chiaroscuro way. The overarching heater blowers puts you in a place (this is Wisconsin, after all). Even the use of the library book cart to hold the diplomas attest to the frugal quirkiness of the school. I think you would have missed this if you had the 'right' lens."
Featured [partial] Comment by Philip Storry: "I gave in to that indulgence a long time ago. Which is why my camera bag has nine lenses in it. I can, of course, make do with far fewer. There's considerable overlap that would allow me to ditch half of them in theory. But there's a wonderful shift in thinking when using a different focal length (or range of lengths)....
Featured Comment by david: "You (and I) definitely need the Olympus 75mm. Definitely."
Mike replies: Go away, I'm not listening to you! (Sticking fingers in ears.) :-)
Featured Comment by Paul Pickard: "Wow does this strike a chord with me! I have been doing this forever, with photography and many other things in life too. I just got the OMD with the 12–50mm and keep thinking, I need to get another lens...what I should really do is work with this and get comfortable with it, then maybe get something else. Thanks for giving me a pause to reflect."
Featured Comment by Keith I: "I've been there and have several lenses that spend most of their time just sitting on the shelf that I 'needed' for an event or opportunity that had passed. Maybe next time I'll have it ready...."
Featured [partial] Comment by by Andy Sheppard: "Funny, a little while ago you wrote an article advising 'buy just a D700, a 35, and an 85'—cool, calm, rationalised, minimal. And it transpires you're as much a turgid mess of 'I [might] need that!!' as the best of us...."
Mike replies: I am. Guilty.
I really do admire the (few) guys who have the discipline buy a minimalist kit and then use it for years. My excuse is that I need to write about cameras, but deep in my soul I know it's just an excuse.
Featured [partial] Comment by by KeithB: "When you have a telephoto, you will probably find times to use it."
Featured Comment by John Baker: "You never mentioned whether they're planning to go to university. The size of the telephoto you'll require is in direct proportion to the size of the university they attend."
Featured Comment by Speed: "You need to cultivate more useful friends."
Featured Comment by SteveO: "I'm an old carpenter and sometime photographer. I've got all sorts of woodworking tools that seldom get used but when I need 'em it's sure nice to know they're there. Same with my photo gear (tools), even if used only occasionally it's nice to have it handy."
Featured Comment by James Rhem: "At least you are focused on the equipment of today. My basement is filled with the equipment of the past as I have been unable to resist buying it bit by bit on eBay, seemingly unable to accept the devolution of photography into labyrinth of ones and zeros. I seem to feel that I must be the guardian of the past, keeping it somehow valued and alive at least potentially, like a cryogenic corpse."
Mike replies: You think you're bad, check out this Craigslist ad from the San Francisco Bay Area (thanks to Bob Lai for this):
Featured Comment by Josh Hawkins: "You have learned. You didn't buy anything."
Mike adds: Lest others miss the significance of this, Josh used to be the manager at Oak Park Camera, my then-local all-purpose camera store, which had a big selection of used gear. His comment is, shall we say, freighted with meaning. :-)
Featured [partial] Comment by Tom Judd: "...Giving in to an occasional want can brighten your life."
Featured Comment by Nick: "That is the best shopping you can do; all the fun and no expenses!"