A danger in sharing "settled preferences" as I did yesterday relates to the status-anxiety most of us primates feel naturally. (Chimpanzees are the same as us in this respect, at least according to Frans de Waal's books.) When you say, "I do this," people tend to think you're saying not only "this is best" and also "you should do this too," but even "if you don't do this, then there might be something wrong with you." (This last is what provokes the anxiety.) It's natural to feel that way, and apparently innate.
Engaging with your own choices in photography (as in any other deep interest, I suppose) means not only arriving at your own personal convictions, but having the fortitude to courteously disagree with others...non-judgmentally.
But I'm not at all saying that "everyone should use" a super-traditional lens set of three primes. Not at all. Other people have engaged just as deeply as I have and come to quite different "settled preferences." I imagine some people (such as Moose, in his comment to yesterday's post) feel unacceptably constrained without the freedom of a zoom. Foreign to me, but I can imagine it. I have one friend who treats a 90mm angle-of-view equivalent as a "normal" lens, and another who does the same with a 21mm-equivalent!
I did use a zoom as my main lens in one two-year experiment. (I'm big on such experiments; I learn from them.) I managed to get used to it. However I've known of nature and fashion photographers who feel very much at home with a 300mm angle-of-view equivalent lens...and I can almost not think of anything to do with a lens like that: with a camera and a 300mm-e, for me it's almost like not having a camera.
Maybe I'd get used to it eventually. But I doubt it. I once took a 15mm lens for APS-C (about 22mm-e) on vacation to try to use it as my main lens, to see what I could learn from the attempt. Well, what I learned is that I really don't like using a lens that wide. I took almost no decent pictures in two weeks, and didn't enjoy trying. Just doesn't fit me.
Recently I've been trying out the Sigma 60mm ƒ/2.8 DN on my NEX-6. Even though that short tele f0cal length is quite familiar to me, each time I go back to it there's always a very short adjustment time...it always feels a bit awkward right at first and takes me five or ten minutes to recalibrate. I remember the exact same thing happening in the '80s with my Zeiss Contax 85mm ƒ/2.8. (So far I've just wandered around the house and outdoors with the Sigma, snapping away at this and that to start to get a handle on how the lens renders. By the way, does anyone happen to know where I can find some technical background on the focusing mechanism Sigma's using in this lens?)
Anyway if you felt the pinprick of criticism in yesterday's post, please don't. I'm just describing what I do. It might be what a lot of others do too, but there's no right and wrong.
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Featured Comments from:
Richard Tugwell: "What! We photographers are all 'chimps'? I wondered where the phrase came from... 'Photographers, though well behaved, are nothing more than monkeys shaved'!"
Mike replies: Not monkey. Ape. And the evolutionary change that had the greatest effect on our differentiation from apes was the descent of the tongue into the pharynx and a "brain that can reiterate the phonetic contrasts apparent in its fixed vocalizations."* How else would we be able to squabble endlessly over sharpness? Chimps can't do that.
*Philip Lieberman, Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 1, February 2007.
Richard responds: "That's unfair! I was quoting W. S. Gilbert!"
John Roberts: "In my earliest days on the interwebs, I found I was often feeling personally criticized when somebody wrote about what they used, preferred, recommended, or didn't like. Why should I care what some complete stranger in Boise thought about what I shoot with? But I did. Thankfully, I got over that. Now I can read an article like yours and not feel like I have to defend my preference if it is different. People shouldn't see an article like yours on prime lenses as the opening salvo for a debate, but in online articles it seems they often do. Too bad. Good article, by the way."