Prime lenses were the way to go for years. The thought used to be that a zoom lens was cheating a bit, or using a piece of glass that wasn’t quite up to snuff.
Sure, there were a few lenses that were in consideration like the 80-200 2.8 lens first introduced in 1978. Not a lot were made.
But you always carried the primes, meaning the dedicated, single focal length lenses.
Those lenses had enough glass and design to ensure the best image possible. No worries that there would be falloff at a zoomed focal length. Even if it wasn’t a professional, fast lens, stopped down it would be tack sharp.
Why am I talking about this history? Because right now, I’m sure most of you are carrying around a variety of zoom lenses, covering a range from 12-200 mm, with the only primes being perhaps a 300mmm or a 400mmm, if you’re shooting sports.
What the heck happened? Yes, lens technology has made leaps and bounds in through the years. The zoom lenses that are the staple of every starter kit take care of a lot of photo taking needs.
Doesn’t anybody want to commit anymore? And I’m talking focal length here.
To test the metal, as it were, I recently used an 85mm 1.8 lens from Nikon. there were some portraits to do so, it was a good choice.
The first thing to hit, was the heft. This is a solid lens. As my fingers wandered about unconsciously feeling for the extra zoom ring, they were left without a target.
My feet were to become the zoom.
This was a good feeling. My mindset was just walk into the shot, frame it, and move on. The split second of extra choice was gone. Oh, yeah it was an odd felling at first. Stopped me cold for a second. But then the feet got moving. And then settled into a zone.
Commitment. Felt real good.
OK, that was the feel. Then there was the classic framing, with the focal depth that didn’t distort .
Here is an example.
Now this was also shot using a Nikon SB-800 Flash in wireless mode, bounced into a reflector. The location was a doorway with a slightly stained stucco wall, behind the model, which was blown out with a balanced exposure between the flash and the afternoon light.
The shutter speed was 1/160, f/3.2, ISO 200 using a D300.
The results had an extra crispness and a natural contrast that added to the shot, thanks to the lens.
Plus the photo was worked on in Photoshop Elements and using a bit of a Wacom Bamboo tablet, both mainly for workflow and slight enhancements.
But more of that later this week.
We’ll get into an easy lighting setup and workflow arrangement and tools that will get you into the right systems, but using less dough for now.
The skills you learn will carry you to the next level of all of these tools, when you are ready. Or need it.
OK, where was I………..?
Oh right. Prime lenses. Using this single focal length lens was the right exercise that made me commit in the shot. I moved around more, but once the sweet spots were found it became two shooting points: head and shoulders and more full length.
The first camera I owned came with a 50mm lens. Worked that puppy till I couldn’t figure out anymore angles or exposure combos.
Then moved to multiple lenses and bodies. All using primes.
I can move fast enough with the zoom, but unless I’m using a f 2.8 or better zoom, I pay in quality. Not that a lot of folks may notice or need.
For instance, love the 18-200 Nikon lens. Carry it all over the world. But I know what it’s good for and what it’s not good for.
Is it the sharpest lens in the bag?
Is it the right choice for travel and limited space?
Yep. Excellent Range. Vibration reduction . And incredible close-up capabilities.
Like we always say: right tool for the right job.
So the final point is this; treat yourself to a high quality, prime lens. Think about what you mainly shoot and choose wisely.
Or, if you are near a rental house do a weekend rental to check it out.
(Whoops…commitment issues again.)
Get one though, If you don’t already have one.
It’ll make you appreciate the choices you make.