One lens vs. multiple lenses

Started Jul 30, 2013 | Discussions thread
Gerry Winterbourne Forum Pro • Posts: 14,470
Re: One lens vs. multiple lenses

trut_maluglist wrote:

While it's easy for others to point out the advantages of using a 17-50/2.8 over my Nikon 18-200 in the 18-50 range, the question each photographer need ask is do I value the flexibility I get with a wide range zoom like the 18-200 over the extra quality of a short range zoom like the 17-50 or a prime?

And in many cases the answer to your question is "no".  For many of us the "flexibility" you talk of is illusory.  I think of it like this: wherever I stand there's a huge number of possible photos - to simplify things, let's consider turning 2 degrees to left or right (that's 180 possibilities) and 2 degrees up or down but limited to 2 down and 10 up (that's 6 possibilities) and increments of 10mm FL from 18 (call it 20 for simplicity) to 200mm (that's 10 possibilities).  That's 10,800 options.

Now I move forward a pace and everything changes.  A typical walking speed is 100 paces/minute. In half an hour of walking I pass 30 x 100 x 10,800 = 32,400,000 different possible photos.  What earthly chance is there that I can possibly recognise the really good possibilities among all the millions of dull choices?

Believe it or not, I find - and I'm not unusual - that it's easier to see the good opportunities when I have a prime lens on my camera and my eye is attuned to a particular FOV.  Certainly I miss some shots; equally certainly, I miss more when fiddling with a zoom lens trying to get just the right framing.  In fact, having taken an 18-200 lens with me on one holiday is what made me realise this: I got rid of it as soon as I could.

These days the only zoom lens I own is 8-16mm (much wider than your 18mm which, today, I find horribly restrictive).  My other lenses are all primes - 35, 50, 70, 100, 200 and 300.  I never carry more than three lenses - typically 8-16, 35 and 100, but I plan according to where I'm going.  At any given moment I know the sort of opportunity that will occur and fit the appropriate lens.

Occasionally a very fleeting opportunity comes up but usually there's plenty of time to change lenses if I need to.

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First camera 1953, first Pentax 1985, first DSLR 2006

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