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Friday, 31 May 2019

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Mike Fuji also gives you the hat trick you covet with 16mm (2 options), 27mm, and 56mm. I never understood why you ditched Fuji ;)

For me, the greatest change of view between the "traditional line of 35mm lenses", is 28 to 35mm, which is massively different, at least to me.

Of course, since the Leica M4 does not have a 28mm finder, I use 35/50/90 on that camera.

Angle of View should be used for the factor, not focal length. The difference in angle of view at the wider angles is large, and it narrows as you go longer. Ratios between angle of view would then be more accurate if one cares about ratios.

Mainly I think with primes it's good to spread them out, less thinking that way. 20-35-85 and 24-50-105 work nicely in that regard.

Lately, I prefer the "nested" approach of a 24-120-e zoom and 50mm-e prime.


Does anyone select their lenses using the square root of whatever? You choose them based on purpose and your particular preference. Way overthinking.

Hopefully this might help fight off your addiction:
https://phillipreeve.net/blog/review-zeiss-batis-2-40-cf/ shows that the Batis automatically closes the diaphragm:

"infinity-66m: f2

66-1.5m: f2 – f2.2

1.5m-0.8m: f2.2 – f2.5

0.8m-0.4m: f2.5 – f2.8 (typical portrait distance)

0.4m-0.26m: f2.8 – f3.5

0.26m-0.24m: f3.5 – f4"

Interesting that back in the 70s most manufacturers had a 35-70 zoom, which lines up to your SQRT(2) case, but that Nikon had a 43-86 which almost lines up to your perfect normal angle of view case.

I kind of disagree with the original premise that 35mm and 50mm are too close. It depends what sort of photography you do I suppose. For a long time my walkabout kit was Leica M3 with 50mm Summicron and Leica M4 with 35mm Summicron. I felt the difference in view angle and effect on framing was quite significant. I was pretty much concentrating on townscape / street / candids with that combination

Speaking of Nikon and prime lenses for their DX (APS-C) cameras.

. . . Silence.

Done. Almost. There is a 10.5mm f2.8 fish eye lens for the DX cameras. Do you use fish eyes?

That is the whole set of wide angle primes and the prime (Pun intended) reason I left NIKON.

No, making and selling all those focal lengths isn't bonkers.Different pnotograpners want different lenses, depending on how and what they shoot. Buying them all would be bonkers, especially considering the great cost for little benefit. What bugs the h... out of me is the number of lenses where you con't change aperture manually. Since I often shoot in manual mode, these lenses are useless to me, and I still use my old manual lenses, rather than waste money on lenses which won't work for me. I guess lens makers think everybody has lost the ability to use an f-stop ring. Well, it does save me money.

Thanks for taking my half serious comment half seriously.
One of the reasons I keep coming back to TOP.
Take care. We all pray for you. And will sacrifice a goat if necessary.

I love your writing. It's always full of the unexpected. As for agitprop, I don't know if it's because I am a Brit but I didn't know that word and had to look it up. It's not the first time that you have expanded my vocabulary.

Wishing you all the best.

I tend to biased some by the “Halo Effect.” (A pharse borrowed from management.) Namely, if a particular lens gave me an outstanding image more or less the first time I used it, it tends to be my chosen lens (and thus my chosen FL!)—within a moderate range of FL’s (e.g., say in the FF equivalent range 40 ~ 50 mm).

I like my m4/3 Panasonic 14mm f2.5, Olympus 25mm f1.8, and Olympus 45mm f1.8 -- 28mm, 50mm, 90mm efl. Each one is 1.8x of the previous one. Perfect ratio set! I also have a wonderful Panasonic 20mm f1.7 that I sometimes use instead of the 25mm.

The ironic thing about Sony is that when the A7 series first came out the biggest complaint was the “lack of lenses” and now it’s by far the most complete of all the mirroless offerings, part of that being the aggressive third-party support (i.e., Zeiss) but that’s due to Sony’s willingness to support that initiative as well and a perfect example of “date the bodies/marry the lenses” - smart move...

I tend to shoot in a square aspect ratio, and find that when doing that in medium format I’m happy with just one lens (80mm). With the square aspect ratio, you get the vertical angle of view of a wide normal lens, and the horizontal aspect of a short tele angle lens, but the diagonal of a normal lens, so you sort of have two lenses in one, just by using a normal lens. When using a 3:2 aspect format and cropping to square, I use a 35mm equivalent lens, as it ends up having the same view as the 80mm on medium format square.

I've been thinking how much does the availability of a really good lens but at a slightly off focal length affect choices. I'm finding that while I have focal length preferences, I tend to prefer lenses that are easy to carry, produce a good looking image and have good ergonomics even though the focal length might not be exactly optimal.

SteveW’s thought occurred to me too. So what would be these AOVs, and should they be horizontal, vertical or diagonal (and does it matter)? Also, what multiplication, or should that be division, factor should be used?
I’d attempt the maths myself, but I’ve got a sick toddler, so addiction and subtraction is already a struggle for a sleep-deprived brain :~)

My memory gets more hazy each year. Wide angles have been all the rage for a few decades now (so I read) but when I was starting ( late 60s, early 70s) one bought their first slur with the standard 50mm. The second lens was a 135mm. Am I wrong?

[That's a pretty funny autocorrect for "SLR." Took me a while to figure that one out. --Mike the Ed.]

Thanks for this very thoughtful article and best of luck with your surgery.

I'm a Sony shooter, both apsc and ff. My favorite focal length for street is 28mm and we have two great lenses in this range, the Sigma 19mm crop lens and the Sony 28mm f2 ff lens. Both are light and sharp.

I haven't been able to find a good normal lens for ff that is small, inexpensive and relatively fast, so I'm still using my Canon nifty fifty with a converter. The new Samyang 45mm sounds promising. In the apsc world, the Sigma 30mm dn is a treat to use.

For portraits, the Sony 85mm f1.8 ticks all the boxes.

Hi, Mike -

This combo: 15/35/50/85/135

makes a Fibonacci sequence. Not sure if that's significant in any way, but seems interesting to me on some level. At one time I actually considered owning just those lenses (in Contax mount) because, well, I'm nuts! Good luck with your surgery and wishing you a speedy recovery!

I actually had a big midrange gap in my working kit years ago and never missed it. I was a Nikon guy, and used 20 / 24 / 35 / 105 / 180 / 300. I also had a 45GN, but that was only used for nighttime fire scenes and MVAs with manual flash - I don’t think I ever used it in daylight or as a routine lens.

I never liked the 35mm focal lenght. When I was shooting with the M3/M6 the 50mm felt almost like a short tele, maybe because of the viewfinder, especially on the M6, so my prefered lenses were the 50mm and the 28mm, a Canadian Elmarit.

As long as we're geeking out - why not use a logarithmic scale?

The (now) classic Pentax FA ltd trio of 31mm, 43mm and 77mm have the log-ratios log(43)/log(31) ≈ 1.1 and log(77)/log(43)≈ 1.15, so pretty close. (Note that 28, 43, 77 would be even `better' because log(43)/log(28)≈ 1.13) I also have the F135, and log(135)/log(77)≈ 1.13...

So if I ever lay my hands on a Pentax FF I'll be set, because it's all about the math.


As much a problem with "what focal length" is the viewfinder coverage. Most of the latest Mirrorless designs provide 100% coverage, which means that for composition purposes slightly longer focal lengths are more comfortable than they would be on most film cameras, especially RF cameras with fixed bright-line frames (Leica is 90% at one meter, way off).

Best Wishes for the eye surgery.

PA used to post signs at road construction projects, "Temporary inconvenience. Permanent improvement."

A View From Another World

Just returned from six days in S. Utah, mostly Zion and Capitol Reef NPs.

My gear was two µ4/3 cameras around my neck, one with 12-60 and one with 100-400, one clipped on my belt with 7-14 and an 8mm fisheye in a pocket of my vest. That's 14-800 mm -e, or 3-180º AoV.

I came back with 1,246 shots. LR says at 76 focal lengths. Other than in the 60-100 mm gap*, it was always subject and composition that dictated AoV, not some arbitrary set of prime FLs.

Does that sound nuts? Perhaps, but I could switch from shooting a WA landscape to shooting a Golden Eagle overhead in seconds.

Looking at my results, as I loaded them on the portable and now, loaded into the LR Library, I'm very pleased; lots of excellent images. I can't imagine shooting those locations with a handful of primes. The results would be very limited. (And I would have been out of my mind with frustration.)

Back in '69, I took my Nikon Ftn and 50/2 Nikkor (all I could afford) down into Havasu Canyon. Yes, I have some nice photos, but they don't come close what I would have with what I shoot today. I was frustrated then, but had no inkling what would be possible later.

You recently "talked" about Fun in photography. Well, for me, it's FUN to pull over in the middle of nowhere, grab a camera from the floor below my knees, select a Custom Setting with central focus points, continuous focus and burst mode, and catch some American White Pelicans wheeling above a lake.

Also Fun are the many other photos (macros, focus stacks, etc.) that I can make with my too complicated cameras and zooms.

* Yes, there's a 12-100 that leaves no gap, but I don't like it.

Interesting reflections in the comments on the difference between "focal length" FL and "angle of view" AOV. I have computed some examples, based on an APS-C sensor (I have taken the exact measures of the Fuji X sensor and have worked with the diagonal angle of view). FL length (in actual mm) translates into APS-C angle of view (in degrees) as follows:

16mm -> 83°;
28mm -> 76°;
23mm -> 65°;
27mm -> 55°;
35mm -> 44°;
40mm -> 39°;
50mm -> 32°;
56mm -> 28°;
90mm -> 18°.

When comparing two focal lengths with each other, the ratios based on FL are slightly larger than the corresponding ratios based on AOV, and this effect becomes much stronger at the short end of the spectrum.

For example, in FL the 35mm is 1.52 times longer than the 23mm (35/23=1.52), but the AOV of the 23mm is only 1.49 times wider than the AOV of the 35 (65/44=1.48).

For 23mm versus 16mm, the FL ratio is 1.44 but the AOV ratio is 1.28, quite a big difference. For 40mm vs 27mm the FL ratio is 1.48 and the AOV ratio is 1.41; for 56mm vs 40mm the FL ratio is 1.4 and the AOV ratio is 1.39.

We can see that the difference is fairly small in the mid range and at the long end, but much more noticeable at the short end. This makes sense: as you get closer and closer to a full panoramic view of 180 degrees, you can cut down your FL by any factor you want and you still won't get the AOV beyond 180 degrees. (Ignoring special optical designs, of course.) At the long end, the geometry won't stop you to make the angle of view as narrow as you want).

Thus using FL ratios rather than AOV ratios slightly exagerates the difference, but unless we go to extreme wide angles the difference is not massive.


Doesn't anyone ever crop anymore? Oh, I know Cartier-Bresson must be spinning in his grave to even mention snipping a bit of the negative out of the final photo but cropping is an excellent method of increasing your focal length range. If you look at photos by some of the great photographers of the past like Arnold Newman, Robert Doisneau, Richard Avedon, Andrea Kertesz, Irving Penn, ad infinitum, you'll see cropping has a long photographic tradition. And with today's high resolution sensors and superbly corrected optics combined with low ISOs and good quality light, cropping can be hardly detected when using Raw files.

Speaking of 24/25 mm lenses for Sony, there's also a well-regarded 25/2.4 Loxia manual-focus lens in that mix.

The "digital zoom" option is too often overlooked. While for incredible landscape and maybe macro shots I at least dream of making big prints (and have made a number of 20x30 prints), for most event photos and snapshots even 12MP is a great plenty (especially since, um, some of my 20x30 prints are from originals that size or smaller). So cropping, in camera or later, is a fine way to get the extra reach if you need it.

Although you do

Hi Mike,

Perhaps my favorite "nifty fifty" is the tiny and gemlike Contax G mount Zeiss Planar 45/2.0. Wonderful lens. Today with m4/3, my top do-all prime is the 17/1.2, which feeds my belief that somewhat wider than "normal" is more flexible. The Lumix 20/1.7 you've written about should scratch your 40mmish itch for the format but as you've noted, it's archaic in everything but optics.

Quick note to say thanks to Martin D for knocking up those figures. The numbering crunching and the analysis is appreciated muchly :~)

I do kinda like my Sigma DP Merrills at 28 mm, 40 mm and 75 mm equivalents...

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