« Reader Print Offer: Leigh Perry | Main | Mark Roberts (and the PDML) »

Friday, 16 August 2019


You know what people did before zooms? I'm sure we've all seen photos, it's become the image in our heads for "photojournalist"—people carried multiple bodies with lenses of various focal lengths mounted. Because you couldn't afford to miss that key shot while changing lenses.

(Googling found examples of Alfred Eisenstadt and Jim Marshall equipped that way; also a number of modern clearly humorous images, which I won't claim are evidentiary :-) Not my photos so I'm not posting them here.)

I thought the 135mm focal length was popular among large format photographers back in the day and was cheaply and easily adapted to 35mm film for use as a telephoto lens.

There’s also the issue of technical image quality, which Roger has often written about...


Some more recent zooms, like the Leica SL 90-280, might fair better in Roger’s tests (and benefit from OIS for practical usability), but they are huge, heavy and expensive.

This article took me back a few years, and I appreciated reading it.

My high school photography teacher (this was in the 80s!) had a similar comment about zooms. People tend to use them only at the extreme ends of the range and don't frame their subjects very well when using them. As you say, that isn't always true but a tendency.

As an exercise, he handed each of us students an empty 35mm slide holder to practice framing subjects. He wanted us to visualize the image before we lifted the camera to our eyes.

Many years later, still an avid hobbyist, I use both primes and zooms depending on what I intend that day.

I used to live near a wetlands, and went frequently. It changed constantly and I never knew quite what to expect. What I found, when I went with a 300mm f/4 prime, was that when I rounded a corner and spotted an animal doing something interesting, it was nearly always the wrong focal length for what I wanted to capture. I was stuck in place on a boardwalk with limited movement options. I eventually sold it and got a 100-400. Yes, it has the disadvantages you listed... bigger, heavier, slower. But I had more flexibility and that greatly benefited me in that situation. I came home with more keepers. In the end, it is a bag of tools and we all pick what works best for our needs.

So now you're making me rethink my advance purchase of the Fuji 16-80mm f4. I have and love the 35mm f2 and the 16-80mm would be my one "travel zoom". After that, I intend to stick to primes. Perhaps a 16mm, though what I'd really like is a new and improved 18mm.

Speaking of zooms and view cameras, one other factor in favor of zooms is that they usually project an oversize image circle, which makes it possible to apply tilt and shift movements when they are used with an appropriate T/S lens adapter or a modern-day view camera, such as this modified Toyo VX23D / A7R / Contax 35-70 combo:

I definitely enjoy primes, and I can feel and see your argument when I use them. I also spent years using the Olympus 12-60 2.8-4 zoom, with results I really enjoyed. I tended to use it as a combination lens, wide, normal and telephoto. And they are fantastic for just getting a bunch of shots at events. I'm looking forward to eventually getting the new Fuji 18-80 f4 for that reason, if it reviews well. Primes I suppose are like writing poetry in sonnet form, zooms a little looser.

That's all good as far as mental exercises go. Now go to Iceland for a week and try to have a meaningful shooting experience w/o a good weather-sealed zoom lens.

I have shot with my Oly 45 mm (90 mm-e) for so long now that I actually struggle to see at other focal lengths. I'll put a 17 mm or 25 mm or 75 mm on the camera, wander around uncomfortable for a bit, take a few "meh" photos, then give up and put the 45 mm back on; the first sight through the finder always induces a mental sigh of relief as the world looks "right" again.

As for zooms, when I try my wife's absolutely lovely 12-40 mm, after a few minutes, I'll discover that it's been racked out to 40 mm the whole time, and that I'm really wishing for just a tad more reach...

I’m with you here. I’ve owned several zoom lenses in the past and soured on them all for the very reasons you describe. I like the constraint of a fixed focal length lens, it’s one less variable for me to mess up when taking a photograph. To be sure, I do occasionally miss a photo opportunity when the lens I have on the camera doesn’t accommodate the scene, but more often than not just ‘zooming’ with my feet solves the problem.

That said, there is one sort of zoom lens I’d always wanted to play with, though it’s for a camera I don’t own. And here I’ll see if your memory serves better than mine because I can’t recall it’s name. Didn’t Leica once upon a time make a lens that had click stops for 3 different focal lengths corresponding to frame lines in their camera? Why I should recall that I have no idea; it’s just one of those useless pieces of information that somehow managed to find a comfortable corner in my otherwise disorganized memory.

I remember a TOP discussion that touched on the fact(?) that for many of us the vast majority of pictures shot with zoom lenses employed one or the other extreme of the zoom's focal length range. Perhaps this is merely how prime shooters use zooms and proves only that we congregate here, but it does point out that one doesn't necessarily need a prime lens to start learning and practicing "prime seeing", just a bit of discipline.

(Since, as you remark, everyone crops without thinking these days, discipline is also needed in post processing.)

I agree with your argument against zooms, but it's incomplete. Because most people who 'don't use zooms' in fact do use a zoom. It's just that the zoom they use is an absurdly impractical thing: rather than consisting of a lens which, well, actually zooms, it consists of several discrete lenses which live in some kind of bag and which get swapped onto the front of the camera to change focal length. Some photographers go even further than this and carry several distinct cameras, each with its own focal length, so that zooming is less laborious at the cost of, well, looking like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now, except not quite as cool.

The name for this is 'the rich man's zoom' (and yes, 'man' is intentional (and I'm male)): carrying a bag full of very expensive primes when you could be carrying a single zoom.

If you are against zooms because they don't help you learn to see, you should also be against carrying a bag full of primes so you can swap between them: the right approach would be to carry one prime. There are several variations on this theme.

One approach is to allow yourself to own primes in various focal lengths, but to use only one focal length in any given period: one on any day if you are weak, one over a longer period if you are stronger.

The true extremist will, of course, not be satisfied with this approach, betraying as it does the possibility of deviance from the true path over time. No, while it is allowed to own many primes they must all be of the same focal length. There is dispute between sects about whether it is allowed to carry more than one lens at a time, but none as to whether they are allowed to be of more than one focal length.

(There is, of course, very much interdenominational dispute over the issue of the sanctified focal length: most denominations are in agreement, and some more liberal ones allow that the exact choice should be up to the individual. However the Cartier-Bressonites have very strong feelings about this, although they are, curiously, not currently in communion with the Capaites. This is an area too large for this comment.)

Of course, none of these compare to that group so extreme and so pure that they have no name, or if they do it is not known outside their members (who are few: no-one knows how few). Their belief is simple, although subtle: you are allowed one lens. I do not need to say that it must be a prime, of course: this is not the subtlety. The subtlety is that the camera on which this lens is mounted must support interchangeable lenses, and preferably zooms. Any lesser weakling can use a single prime on a camera which doesn't allow the lens to be changed: only the pure and strong can use a single lens on a camera which does.

For a long time, I used the original Fuji X100 (35e). Loved it. When I moved to m43, my favourite for years was the PanaLeica 15, 30e.

Now I use zooms mainly for recording vacations, outdoor shots in good light. The quality is 'good enough' for the purpose.

For my hobbyhorse, old churches, small, poorly lit, my staple is the 7.5 f2. Much better than stitching.

And for everything else, which is quite a lot, it's the 20mm, 40e. I tend to like a little wider.

Fully agree with your 'framing' arguments. My zooms are convenience lenses, no more, no less.

OLOY, done it twice, definitely improves your composition skills.

For my images, I disagree. I pick my lens based on what I want to "do" with the subject. I do not want the lens to dictate my image. If I feel that, say, my 35mm will work, then I'll grab it. But - if I am not sure I can position myself correctly to get what I want with the fixed focal length, I may choose a 24-70 zoom. Saying that I could always move/re-position is frequently not true – say I'm on a cliff; I'm next to a body of water; I'm next to a fence in Northern NM that says "no trespassing", "beware of dog" (they usually mean it), etc. I may know when I take a shot in a situation like that that I will have to crop, and frame it accordingly, or I just need the flexibility the zoom affords to get the composition I want - not what the lens “wants”. I choose the lens in order to duplicate what I envision the final print to be. As always, this is just me – certainly I’m not claiming it applies (or should apply) to anyone else.

Has the Fujifilm 16mm f2.8 replaced the 18mm for wide angles junkies.

I used a Nikkor 28mm lens for decades. I always planned on getting a 35mm lens but never did.

In Vietnam I used a USMC 35mm and my own 28mm. I think I went for the 28mm in most instances. The 35mm was the normal lens.

Now that I have the 16mm I see no reason to get the 18mm.

PS: I also have the 23mm f2.

PSS: No zooms. The reason I went to Fujifilm X cameras was because Nikon had no wides for it's DX (APS-C) cameras.

Zooms are for amateurs?

Nah, Zooms are for Tourists; Primes are for Purists.

(Not sure who said that first, but I know it was not me, lol)

If you are talking mostly about the best way to learn photography, and develop an 'eye', I agree.
Because, I learned that way, when I use a zoom, I tend to use them as two primes, --24 OR 70 etc.
But I now have lots of zooms because modern ones are so good, and they are necessary for lots of professional work.
I'm happy to have them.

Mike, take your 2003 article and do a universal replace of "zoom & frame" with "autofocus & focus" or "autoexposure & exposure" and it still makes sense. But then I wonder how many of your readers would agree....
Jim H "zoom-zoom" for 50 years...

I find myself using a 24mm prime a lot, so I can get in front of the iPhone totin crowd 😂

Gordon Reynolds asked: "Didn’t Leica once upon a time make a lens that had click stops for 3 different focal lengths corresponding to frame lines in their camera?"

Yes Leica did, the 28-35-50mm f4.0 ASPH Tri-Elmar-M, made from 1998 to 2007.

Leica still offers the 16-18-21 f4.0 ASPH Tri-Elmar-M, introduced in 2006.

I couldn't agree more, and it carries over to motor cars. I prefer one gear. I spent a year in first, revving the engine until it screamed. Then a trip to the shop to change to a second gear and another year spent in the slow lane. That taught me a lot. I am just into my second week of third gear, and I can tell you, it's a blast.

I have a photo of me on assignment about 40 years ago taken by another news photographer. I'm sporting two Nikon F2 bodies, one motorized, with 180mm and 24mm lenses and an FTn body with a 35mm. It was normal to carry two cameras/two lenses and sometimes a third if the assignment called for it.

Before I left the newspaper I had adopted two Nikon zooms for convenience sake--an 80-200mm and a Series E 36-72mm. I used the devil out of that little Series E lens and found it to be surprisingly sharp. I continued to use various zooms as my main lenses until I started using Fuji cameras. Although I have a couple of Fuji zooms, I seldom use them because I much prefer the Fuji primes for all the reasons Mike mentions. And, yes, even today I sometimes carry as many as three Fuji bodies with different prime lenses. Old habits are hard to break.

I shoot outdoors with a 35mm on one camera body, and a 135mm on the other camera body. Indoors, the 135mm gets swapped for an 85mm. I know exactly what’s going to be in the frame before I left the camera.

I have occasionally shot alongside experienced photographers who use zooms. It’s excruciating having to wait for them fiddling about while they decide what’s going to be in the picture...l

Well, I'm a landscape / seascape photographer who has tried several approaches with lens, many times. Now I find I use a zoom more often than not. A zoom has many points of view if you take your time and frame your shot. Just my 2.5 cents.

Prime vs zoom, film vs digital, B&W vs color, "full frame" vs "cropped sensor", "phone camera" vs "real camera"... ho-hum, and worse of all, brand A vs brand B.

[...You'd much rather read posts about nutrition. 'Nuff said, I get it! --Mike]

3 items:
1) My one-lens-20-years experiment was a Leica CL with the 40mm Summicron. Worked fine for me. Then I got a newspaper job and needed a telephoto. So I got a Leicaflex SL and a 50mm Summicron. Pretty much just used for portraits at f/2.
2) The best use of a zoom in my professional work was a 55-100mm zoom on the Pentax 67. That is 28-50mm equivalent, and for interiors where camera placement and angle of view needs to be precisely controlled, that lens did 99% of my interiors. For exteriors I shot the full-movements view camera with 90mm and 150mm mostly (28mm and 45mm equivalents). A lens I'd love to have for my Fuji is a 16-35mm f/2.8, but I doubt a lens like that would ever get made.
3) I'm touring Taiwan this week, and as tempted as I was to bring just the 18-55mm for the Fuji X-T1, I decided to leave it at home, and I'm doing almost all my work with the 23mm f/2, only changing to the 10-24mm for architecture work inside temples or in narrow streets. My native vision is 35mm equivalent, and I'm sure I could live life with just that one lens and be just fine.

Using a bunch of prime lenses you really need two camera bodies.

Every time I hear someone say "zoom with your feet" I think of standing at the edge of Grand Canyon.

On Mike’s advice, I spent a year or three shooting with mostly 35mm-e primes on both Nikon and Olympus SLR-ish and Fuji Rangefinder-ish cameras. The effect was not quite what I expected. I expected to be able to visualize frame lines without looking through a viewfinder. What happened was that I found that when I raised the camera, I was standing in the right spot to frame the picture without having to walk forward or back up. It was really pretty cool.

More relevant to this discussion, I would occasionally venture out with the Oly 12-40mm lens. I would set it at 18mm and mostly leave it there. When 35mm-e was not what I wanted, it was almost always either 12mm (24mm-e) or 40mm (80mm-e). My street zoom had become an Olympus Tri-Elmar. I knew before lifting the camera whether or not to twist the lens and which direction it needed to go. I think of it as having three focal lengths: Barely wide enough, Not quite long enough and just right. I still mostly just use the 35mm-e primes and not the zooms. These days it is mostly the 23mm Fujicron. (This is not a new idea. It was discussed in a comment in a previous post sometime in the past.)

“The absence of limitation is the enemy of Art.” So said, more or less, Orson Welles.

Over the course of my newspaper photography career and the personal side of my photography I generally liked to use prime lenses. I didn't actually start using zoom lenses until 2001 when the newspaper I was working for bought Nikon DH1 cameras. Because it was a cropped APS-C sensor all my fixed focus lens worked out to be odd angles. For example, I was used to visualizing my 35mm lens as a medium-wide, now on the cropped senor digital Nikon it was more like a 50mm, my widest lens, a 20mm was now a 30mm. So I went with the company issued zoom lenses, 17-35 and 80-200mm. I never really cared for them all that much, the telephoto zoom lens was good for sports. Although I do like to use zooms today for my commercial freelance photography.

Where I really progressed in terms of artistic visualization as part of my photography was when I started using a 4 x 5 view camera about 30 years for my personal work. I chose the 120mm lens because it was as close to a medium-wide that I could find. The 120mm lens became my "standard" lens. I would guess that about 85% of my landscape photography was done with that lens. I also had a smallish 270mm G-Claron by Schneider as my "telephoto" later I added a tiny Fuji 180mm ƒ9. So basically three lenses, but really I could get away with just the 120 and the 270.

These days I'm shooting more digital photography even for my personal photography, I like using the full-frame Nikon D850. That camera has equaled or surpassed the quality I could produce with my 4 x 5 view camera. When I go out photographing with my scaled-down "view camera" My lenses of choice are 35mm-50mm-85mm. That's just me others out there will use what lens whether it be zoom or fixed to get the picture.

If I am carrying only one prime lens, it will be the 50mm.

The prime-lens argument is reverse logic, IMO.

A bit like learning to use a spanner of one size until you know all the jobs it can be used for, and then moving on to the next size.

I would turn the argument around. Learn about perspective and composition, and what that means in terms of angle of view and distance. THEN pick the right lens for the job, or a zoom if required.

I can always visualise what I want the image to look like, but that's not much use if I don't have the right lens.

I do have a set of fixed-gauge spanners, but I find the spanner to fit the nut, not the other way around. I also have a few adjustable spanners because it saves a lot of space in the toolbox, and not everything in my house is metric.

I see images in another way. For me the important aspect of an image is optimal placement of the elements in the image relative to each other. And that is defined only by where you place your feet (or rather the camera).
Then it's a matter of finding the right focal length to get the FOV needed for the image . If that is done by zoom or prime lens is not important to me. And if I use primes I will zoom by cropping in post. :-)

Don't think of them as zooms. Think of them as primes with two focal lengths. 😃

On my Nikons I evolved from using mostly primes for film to mostly zooms for digital ... the primes didn't "look" right on the crop-sensor bodies so I used the zoom lenses instead to avoid my in-built mental biases.

I evolved the same way on the Olympus cameras because the newer zooms were not available until a couple of years after I started with them.

I now mostly use the delicious 2.8 or F4 zooms on the Olympus cameras because they are also deliciously small (for zooms). I usually set the focal length before framing the shot. And it's usually either all the way wide or all the way long.

As opposed to “Stan B”s first featured comment, I can’t agree AT ALL with the main anchors of your thesis, Mike. But I’m old enough to realize that I’m unlikely to change any minds here by spending a lovely summer Saturday constructing a lengthy counterpoint essay. So I’ll just smile, tip my hat, and be on my way to make bad pictures with my Fuji 18-55 kit zoom! ☺️

Best way to learn photography? Take more pictures (with whatever you have).

For day trips, I have an X-H1, 16-55 f2.8, 16 f1.4 and 56 f1.2. Love the look of the primes and the light weight but HATE having to change lenses while out shooting. OTOH, the 16-55 f2.8 is more lens than I want to carry around.

Seriously considering selling the 16-55 f2.8 and getting a second X-H1 body.

Fixed focal lens use requires skill in sensor cleaning. That's where a two or three body system comes in handy.

Hi Mike,

although no doubt your argument is logical, the opposite argument is also logical: that a zoom gives a photographer freedom to express himself.

Whenever opposing arguments are both logical and defensible, that seems to distance the topic from truth itself, and the discussion drops to the level of, well, arguing.

Your key phrase is right at the top: "prime lens imposes its point of view on you, and, consequently, you can learn to impose its point of view on the world." The photographer hence becomes its tool, instead of the other way around.

If I were to suggest that a zoom can improve photographic results, I might put it this way: -

What is the appropriate procedure for creating a picture that, compositionally, looks "just right" in accordance with the photographer's vision? Well, the photographer moves around until the elements in a possible picture are arranged exactly they way he or she wants (including directing the human elements where possible). This includes proportional perspective (relative size of the elements in the picture, changed by moving back and forth) and 2D positioning of the elements, changed by moving sideways and up/down. At this point the photographer can no longer move the camera, or the composition is lost. Then the framing is decided, by selecting the right focal length. A zoom lens can solve this step instantly. A prime is almost certainly going to be the wrong lens and need changing. For every picture. This is completely impractical, especially in the archetypal wedding scenario, but also in most other situations. Note how the prime lens photographer cannot solve the framing problem by "zooming with the feet", because that will completely destroy the proportional perspective that he/she has envisioned in creating the composition.

So, one may become familiar with one prime lens fixed to one's camera, but that equipment decision is forcing the photographer to prioritise one focal length above the needs of his or her vision as a photographer. Only a few pictures will be as good as they could have been. What a loss!


A zoom is a crutch to aid visualization, but, ironically, it is an impediment to learning how to visualize. (from Michael)

No and no. Most guys I know carry zooms because of the immense flexibility they bring, and because they cut down on the number of lenses which must be carried. And because most modern lenses lose nothing detectable by way of quality.

A weird kind of snobbery attaches itself to some types of equipment, such that that using that particular lens or type of lens or whatever, is somehow more virtuous. I have never understood this. All that matter is the image, the image, and only the image. What you useto get the image is absolutely unimportant.

I normally carry two zooms and a prime. I have nothing against primes but I don't want to be carrying 6 or 8 or 10 of them, and I don't want all the lens-changing which this would bring. And like another correspondent I usually chose the appropriate focal length as I lift the camera too my eye. I can previsualize 4 or 5 focal lengths on my zoom just as readily as with 4 or 5 different primes.

I seem to use zooms almost exclusively. Here is my premise: With a zoom, I crop in the camera, protecting my precious pixel count. If an image from a prime lens is sharper than that from a zoom, yet I have to lop off ten or fifteen percent of the image in post, that difference is likely illusionary.

I have no idea if I previsualize or have any other esoteric skill set, but when I look through the viewfinder I know when it is "right." If anything, my eye seems to see the 3:2 full frame format.

The point of my photographs is to show my audience what I saw, the way I saw it. It isn't to show what the camera saw because cameras don't "see" they record whatever they are pointed at when the shutter is tripped. When I "see" something I use the camera to record what I saw, the way I visualized it. I am the photographer. The camera is just a tool.

I like primes for some things but they are limiting in terms of my visualization of the image I want to create. You said it yourself, as you get used to a lens you tend to accomodate its angle of view and that angle of view is the problem to me. Sometimes I see a subject but when I point the camera at it, there is a lot included in the frame that I don't want in the image. I could walk closer, but that isn't always possible and doing so changes the perspective on the subject so that it isn't what first inspired me to photograph it.

The reverse can be true too. I have 180° peripheral vision. Maybe I can't get everything I want in an image because I can't back up far enough and, again, that would alter the prespective.

Here's a project for you to try. Make a series of head shots of someone using all your prime lenses but fill the frame with their head equally in each shot in the same pose. Open them side by side in your image browser and how the angle of view changes the way they look.

So yeah, I could carry around a half dozen or so primes to cover the 18mm to 200mm range that I can currently do with 2 zooms and sorta kinda get the same angle of view I want (assuming the possiblity of moving myself at least a bit) but that means changing lenses much more frequently, often under damp or dusty conditions. And I'd have to settle for a 100mm when a 123mm was what I really needed.

Yes, prime lenses are faster but here's another experiment for you if you have Lightroom or similar software that allows you to filter your images based on metadata. Do a search of your images based on the widest diaphragm opening you have and then calculate the percentage of your total images that they represent. If you are like most photographers I know, it's in the single digits.

Primes are good for portraits (sometimes) but I have never found them so useful that I would forgo (IMO) infinitely more useful zooms.

Carrying one or two primes is reasonable, juggling more than three is neither practical, economical nor pleasant.

Then there are primes of moderate length and primes of extreme length. Changing composition with a 50mm prime requires a few steps. Doing the same with a 200mm or 500mm prime is a minute long walk.

Finally there's a lack of wide primes. 14mm 18mm are exotic and priced likewise. Even 20mm isn't always common. And when they are available then a pair of wide primes is rarely a better investment than one quality zoom.

Primes of moderate length and for specific purpose yes. But dismissing zooms altogether is shooting yourself in the foot.

I wanted to add that once you go wider than 24mm the advantage of a bigger aperture that primes are supposed to offer, all but disappears.

I've seen many people carrying exotic primes (usually the sort of type 24mm f1.4 AND 35mm f1.4 AND 50mm f1.2 AND 85mm f1.2) and when I look at their pictures I think 'boy this could have been taken with a kit lens or even a phone'.

If the talent/effort/mindset isn't there, why torture yourself? Why make things too complicated? One zoom and a 50mm could have saved them so much pain and possibly ended up with less lousy images.

A bag of primes does not automatically translate into better pictures. Sometimes the opposite is true.

Having been down the rabbit hole of a bag bottoming out with primes, I’m of a mind it’s not an either/or kind of deal. Both are good, the zoom is versatile, and a prime can provide f/1.4-f/2 possibilities. For a two lens kit I like Matt’s idea of standard zoom and a prime, the ‘ol nested Kit.


A key sentence, for me, in the juxtaposition of Mike's two texts is "... and, consequently, you can learn to impose its point of view on the world". In fact I think that it's the photographer's point of view that gets imposed on the world through a lens which no longer presents technical difficulties. A very good example of this might be the wonderfully liricall essay by Ragnar Axelsson "Around Iceland in 80 hours" (there is a film about it on YouTube, and a post on the Leica blog) made with one camera and a 35mm lens. This consistency of voice, style, and a point of view is greatly aided by the mastery of a particular rendering style of a particular lens. I think that those who reach this level of mastery can then use zooms, if they so choose, with the same effect. Sebastiao Salgado's work on "Genesis" fits into this category, as told by his son in the wonderful film "Salt of the Earth".

I've always said that zooms offer one degree of freedom too many for me.

@David Paterson- Agreed, one kind of equipment is no more "virtuous" than any other- it's the image that counts. If I was a working PJ, I'd have a zoom on my camera. But by extensively using primes (at least at first), you get to know each focal length intimately- strengths, weaknesses, etc. I's a way of refining and disciplining your vision, so there's no (or at least less) second guessing that final image.

Regarding Martin D's comment, and specifically the book, Walker Evans at Work, I think it's worth noting that Evans also was not shy about cropping pictures after the fact, often exploring alternative views. It wasn't as much about lens choice as it was about the end result(s).

IMO, perspective matters a lot in photography. Up to a point that I always move first while "previsualizing" just with my eyes. This way, I go to the point of view where foreground and background objects have the suited relative size. With a zoom, I can then "crop" by changing the FL to set the desired frame. With a prime, I'm often much more lazy and "previsualize" much more poorly, and just move to the place where my main subject is adequately framed, and I'll feel lucky if the background is OK. Do you know that perspective only depends upon the place you are, and not upon focal length ?

A bit late to the party but I find that using primes has a very simple advantage for me - it takes away yet another variable when seeking and taking a photograph. For this reason I will usually pick a lens to mount on the camera knowing the sort of image I would like to capture.
This doesn't mean that I don't have several different primes in the bag - but each happily imposes it's own constraints.
As you have mentioned, the zooms that I do use are almost all in the tele range where they fit a different need.

Early on, I told myself I'd try to only use primes.
Well, primes plus my Pentax SMC-A 70-200 f4 because it was better optically than the 135 2.8 that I had, and also better than the autofocus Tamron 70-300 I also bought because I thought I needed AF.
Then I tried a few 24 2.8 film designs (since Pentax didn't make one in the digital age for APS-C bodies and I love the 35mm-eq FOV). Didn't work out so I got the lens that has the best performance at 24mm in all of Pentaxdom, the DA 16-45mm f4 (performs better than the DA*16-50 2.8 at 24mm, and any primes in that range as well). I told myself I'd try to only use it at 24mm. But it's gorgeous at 45mm. And it's wonderful at 16mm. So it became my most used lens... along with the 70-200 f4.
Then I stopped worrying about primes vs zooms and now I just use what works for me. I still use my 50mm 1.7 and 1.4 lenses quite a bit because I love that short tele perspective (75mm-eq). I'll use my Sigma 30mm f1.4 Art as well as a walkaround when I just want to have fun. But otherwise I just don't worry too much anymore.
I have never done a month (let alone a year!) with just one lens to learn the FOV. If I did, I'm sure it would make me a much better photographer, and I sort of need that improvement. But with family life and events and kids parties (some indoors, some outdoors) and my kids playing all sorts of sports, how can I stick to just one lens? Maybe when the kids grow up and I'm retired I'll be able to do that... but that's probably a couple decades away at least.
Until then... no use worrying, I'll just do my best with what I have for what I need to do at the moment.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007