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  Previous versions of melcat's message #11229318 « Primes vs Zooms »


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Re: Primes vs Zooms

taylorman22 wrote:
I've been reading some Rockwell stuff and he makes good points about not carrying lenses to cover every mm. For those gaps, just take a few steps forward or back.

If it's the page I found (dated May 2010 and top Google hit for "primes vs. zooms" at his domain) then I don't think that was exactly what he was saying.

He talks about previsualising at the focal lengths you have, and taking a "few steps", but he doesn't say "forward or back". What he is probably referring to is the way you can often slightly adjust the composition so that everything snaps into place. This usually means a few steps sideways. Often though, you can't, and you have to let the shot go, when you wouldn't have had to had you had the zoom.

You can't exactly duplicate the effect of a different focal length by moving forward or back, because the perspective changes. The only way to do that is to shoot with the next wider focal length and crop.

What Rockwell describes is familiar to me. I did find myself previsualising at the specific focal lengths I had. If the environment is rich enough and you are creative enough, you can still make photographs - if not, be prepared to come home with nothing. It's a little like not having sustain on an acoustic guitar or piano, in that the restriction spurs you to do something creative. It apparently wasn't Dan's experience, but it was mine. It also needs to be the right instrument (focal length) - a sax is a melodic instrument because it can sustain and pitch bend, and a piano is a rhythm instrument.

It has to be said that I shot with a two-lens zoom set for a decade and only went to the fixed focal length lenses when the technician said the zooms were too far gone to repair. And those zooms cost a bomb in the 1980s when everyone else was shooting 28/50/200. I actually had the 28 and 50 from the start, and stuffed them in a cupboard unused. The later 24/50/100 lens set just catered for my already clear preferences.

If you were gonna start a new setup

Everyone will have a different answer depending on what they shoot and their creative style. If you don't yet have a special interest and style that's a good reason to stick to zooms, because you could easily choose an unsuitable lens set, like the wrong instrument.

The lens set I've used for landscape work for around 15 years for 135/full frame is 24mm/50mm/90-100mm, with the 100mm a macro lens. This is a very traditional "doubling and halving" lens set. Sometimes I used 21mm instead of 24mm. These days I often substitute a longer lens again for the 50mm, accepting that means some shots are then impossible. The 21-24mm is now either a 24mm tilt-shift lens or a 16-35mm zoom, largely dependent on what I think the weather will do.

Now notice two of the three lenses have an additional, special use: tilt-shift and macro.

The 24/50/100 kit for my film camera was much lighter and less cumbersome than the zooms I had before that. This is not the case with the EOS lenses I have. For that reason, I very often take the 16-35 and one other lens, be it macro or something for wildlife.

If I had to work with APS-C, and knowing almost nothing about the performance of lenses for that format as I do, I would replicate my 100mm macro with the 60mm EF-S macro. Then I would get the 10-22mm zoom because the cost and size of Canon's 14mm is ridiculous and it probably isn't as good as the zoom. Then instead of the 50mm I'd probably buy that nice f/2.8 IS normal zoom Canon make for the format.

But I wouldn't want APS-C, because I am so used to tilt-shift and my two macro lenses and the particular bokeh effects I get with them.

By the way, if I did want a smaller kit of 3 fixed-focal length lenses for travel, I'd choose 4/3 over Canon APS-C, due to the greater choice of such lenses.

Dec 31, 2012 at 05:36 AM

  Previous versions of melcat's message #11229318 « Primes vs Zooms »