Your recommendation: Single lens

Started Aug 24, 2009 | Discussions thread
Panda9 Regular Member • Posts: 423
Re: Your recommendation: Single lens

photosen wrote:

The one big bias I will admit to is trying to get people into primes; I only have but the one, and it's not even one of the mythical beasts, but it has been the lens that doesn't fail to make me smile and get me more into this.

I like primes myself (going back to my OM days) and own four of them, but I see mastering a prime lens as actually harder than mastering a zoom lens. It is also not for everyone. Some people will claim that zooms make people lazy -- I counter that zooms give you freedom from one more dimension, allowing you to concentrate on other aspects of taking a photo. For someone trying to find their own way, reducing the number of variables will speed up the process. Let them learn the basics, then graduate to the more difficult subjects later.

It's all well and good to say, "zoom with your feet," but in practice a beginner will have his/her hands full just trying to get the basic settings right. Subtle composition and perspective decisions are advanced topics. In other words, most beginners won't "zoom with their feet," they'll just stand there and take the photo, since they have not learned how to compose properly. To use a prime well, you have to see things in your mind's eye and move yourself to the proper position to take a shot. A photographer needs experience taking and studying thousands of photos before that "mind's eye" is developed to where they can make it happen with a prime.

Okay - I'm ready for the counter-arguments to flood in. Nothing like discussing primes to stir up the blood.

Here's one particular parameter: what would you take on a trip? All those wonderful primes sound great until you start lugging them around... That's when the Olympus 12-60 or Canon's 17-55 start to take on a special charm...

This depends on what kind of trip it is. When I take a car trip, I travel with full gear, including my Bigma and three bodies. When travelling by plane, I will usually reduce that kit down to the basics of the E-30 or E-3 with 9-18, 12-60, and 50-200 plus teleconverters. If I'm travelling by foot, I may reduce it further to the E-620, kit lenses and maybe 70-300. In some cases, I may reduce it down to my superzoom (amusement parks, for example).

This is why, even if he were to get the 12-60 or 14-54, it's useful to have both kit lenses. There are times when the kit lenses simply are the best tools for the situation. As they say, the best camera for taking photos is the one you have with you. If the situation calls for small and light and it's a choice between the kit lenses or nothing, guess what?

Another parameter: "learn first, spend later"; really sound advice, except that buying those other lenses might not be that easy and could take you a few more years, simply because you have to travel to another country to get them...

However, if you've already set up a parameter of $1500 as the budget, then that later will simply be whenever he/she decides which direction he wants to go. You don't have to travel to another country to get this gear - your own country should have it. I was just suggesting that if he happens to be travelling to Asia, he could defer buying the rest of his kit until then. Presumably by that time he will have learned more about his own shooting habits.

This is another reason to own both kit lenses to start, as opposed to just the 12-60 or 14-54. If after shooting 2,000 shots he goes back and sees that most of his shooting was done at 14mm and he wishes he had a wider lens, then that would certainly point to upgrading to either/or 12-60, 9-18, or 11-22. If he finds himself using the 40-150 more and thinking he likes telephoto shooting, he could upgrade to the 70-300 or 50-200 (the latter is not that expensive if you get the "old" non-SWD version used).

If he starts out only with a standard zoom (14-54 or 12-60), he won't really find these things out, will he.

Perhaps my other bias is that I do have a P&S, which as a gift was really a great gesture... But the truth is I just never use it - not for lack of trying, it's just all blurry, flashed to death, takes the shot when it eventually decides to...

Perhaps you just don't have the right P&S. The high end "photographer's" P&S like the Canon G11, Panasonic LX3, or similar offerings are close to dSLRs in image quality, controls, and low-light capability. I have a Panasonic Superzoom which doesn't come close to these other P&S, but within its limits, it serves a purpose within my framework of shooting styles.

When I suggested your friend might decide to revert to a P&S, I was referring to these high-end, "almost dSLR" types. You'd be surprised at how good they have become.

The amazing thing about Olympus in particular is that for that budget you could get a very safe and versatile kit with the e620, 14-42, 40-150... And a seemingly amazing lens like the 50mm 2.0...

I love the 50mm f/2 (I own one and sing it's praises), but I wouldn't get it as my third lens after the kit lenses. I would still recommend that if your friend wants wide, get the 9-18, if he wants long, get the 70-300, or if he's happy with the range and wants to improve the lens speed and IQ, get the 12-60 AFTER the kit lenses. The 50mm f/2 has a lot of quirks and peculiarities that you have to learn about in order to get the most out of it.

On the other hand I think something can be said for the "crazy option" of getting a lens like the Panasonic/Leica 25mm in the hands of - gasp! - an amateur: You have the best of the best - now go and do something interesting with it! Is the learning curve going to be Himalaya-steep? Absolutely, but some (not all) people do enjoy a challenge...

Well, you know your friend better than any of us. If he's into steep learning curves, then go for it. But make sure you're thinking of him and not you. LOL

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