Backpacking/world travel 45mm or 75mm?

Started Mar 10, 2014 | Questions thread
Jacques Cornell
Jacques Cornell Forum Pro • Posts: 10,603
Re: How dedicated are you to the photographic part of your trip? Take both.

Dave Sanders wrote:

Jacques Cornell wrote:

Dave Sanders wrote:

The truth is, if you're not going to put the time in to get decent photos, just take your 12-40 and a tele zoom and be happy. If you want to spend a bit of time focusing on photography, go with a couple of primes.

While I agree that the added discipline needed to use primes can sometimes focus the mind in a way that results in better photos, I disagree with the implication that excellent work can't be done with zooms.

That isn't totally what I mean to imply. On an extended trip, if photography isn't part of the game plan and one isn't willing to dedicate time/days to it, any tele zoom will be just fine. No amount of optical excellence will make up for lack of thought in executing one's vision.

This is true. But, the converse - that dedicating time/days to photography requires primes, is not true. Your suggestion that a more dedicated shooter should, ipso facto, use primes strikes me as odd. It's not a dedicated shooter who should use primes. It's a dedicated shooter who needs the specific advantages of primes who should use primes. I use both as appropriate and could shoot much of my work entirely with one or the other.

Primes have two main advantages:


1) more light gathering, and 2) shallower DoF.

3) (generally) sharper at any given aperture and, in the case of the 75, infinitely sharper at 1.8, 2.0, 2.8, 4.0 and 4.5 when compared to the zooms which have been recommended.

In principle, I agree with you. However, my m43 zooms are so good - better in some cases than my comparable L glass - that a viewer would be unable to see the difference in an 18"x24" print. Often, the resolution advantage can only be seen at 100% on-screen.

For shooting in good light with deep focus, primes are simply inconvenient.

Yes, they can be. On extended trips I usually have 'photography days' where I dedicate myself to making images and other days where I don't take photos at all. I also give myself 'wide angle day' and 'telephoto day' where I put one FL on my camera and challenge myself to compose around it. Over the years my special 'days' have resulted in my best and most memorable images.

That, really, is the third advantage of primes, and what I was referencing in my first paragraph - the psychology of temporarily imposing limits on one's way of seeing. I found the same thing happened when I shot B&W film. Even though the viewfinder presented a color image, my visual imagination shifted to B&W mode, and I took very different photos than I would have if the camera had been loaded with color film. This is one reason why photography teachers, including myself, have long urged beginning photographers to start out with primes rather than zooms - to learn different ways of seeing and perspectives.

For shooting in low light or using selective focus, primes help. The choice really has more to do with the location, time of day, subject, and the photographer's visual style than with whether one wants to "put in the time to get decent photos."

Indeed, those are all very important variables...but if they don't put in the time, they won't get decent photos and their lens choice won't matter. That was more my point.

I put in plenty of time and work hard to get good photos, and I do it mostly with zooms. But, not always.

Agreed: I'd say getting good photos relies upon whether or not the photographer is willing to put in the time and effort to get good photos, regardless of or zoom. I prefer primes for travel because they are small, sharp and fast.

I can understand that. I liked my Contax G2 for that reason. However, when I'm walking through a new landscape that I may never see again, I really want to have the full focal length range 7mm to 100mm+ to be ready for whatever might inspire me, and that's hard to do with primes. I'd need at least a 12, 17, 25, 45 and 75, and that would still leave out long tele and ultra-wide.

All that said, if the OP isn't worried about $1k, the Panny 35-100/2.8 would be an excellent lens to consider.

I have one and it's wonderful.

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