Prime lens downsizing, FOV spread and stepping

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FTOG Senior Member • Posts: 1,306
Prime lens downsizing, FOV spread and stepping
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Nine months ago - time really does fly! - I shared my thoughts on where I saw Fuji in relation to its competition, plotted in some radar graphs. While my observations are outdated by now (esp. due to some releases like the X-H2s and Canon's APS-C bodies), I found it sparked an interesting conversation at the time. So I'm going to share some of my rainy day musings again.

The "issue"

In the last year, my lens quiver doubled. To 14/2.8, 23/2.0 and 50/2.0, I added three lenses in relatively quick succession (27/2.8 WR, XC 15-45. XC 50-230). That's not accounting for the four manual Chinese specials (TT artisans 17/1.4, 7 artisans 18/6.3 and 35/1.2, Kamlan 50/1.1 Mk II) which see even less use...

While I can reasonably convince myself I have a legitimate use case for every lens (I manage better on some days than others), the fact of the matter is that some of my gear really has to compete for my time. Especially in the wide-to-normal range, four automatic and three manual lenses need to plead their case and I can see some potential for simplification/optimising.

While it is definitely a luxury problem. why not ponder it a little on a rainy day?

My observation

I've been overwhelmingly a prime shooter for a long time. The two XC zooms are the first zooms I have bought in over 15 years. Looking at my kit (8 primes + 2 zooms) I am primarily considering how to downsize my prime collection.

Prime lens spread and stepping are topics as old as time, and obviously a balance needs to be struck between optimal coverage and maximized resolution on one hand, and convenience (esp. lens changes) and bulk/weight of gear on the other.

While considering my options, I came across a lens visualiser tool provided by DT Photo, a company specialised in commercial photo solutions. Playing with their tool, inputting some of my current and considered options, I noticed a pattern in my current lens stepping: Pairs of focal lengths that I find naturally well matching align so that the longer lens covers a little more than the central square of the rule-of-thirds grid:

23mm & 50mm (equiv: 35mm & 75mm) - my go-to street duo

16mm & 35mm (equiv: 24mm & 50mm)

I've always found 24/28mm and 50mm equivalent lenses to go quite well together, as do 35mm and 75/85mm equivalents. In practice, I'd often carry on of the pairs or the in-between option, but rarely combine them as a trio. E.g. I'd carry a 35mm equivalent or a 24mm and 50mm combo, but rarely 24/35/50mm. Similarly, I'd carry a 50mm equivalent or a 35mm and 75mm equivalent combo, but rarely 35/50/75mm.

Although I knew this to be my preference, it was interesting to see it visualised in this manner:

The smaller the inner green FOV box, the more resolution would be lost to crop the wider lens down to an equivalent FOV. This and the more pronounced difference in FOV might warrant a lens change, rather than making do. On the other hand, too large FOV steps might provide less satisfactory coverage.

The larger the inner green FOV, the smaller the FOV variance between lenses. While this might protect resolution and provide more granular FOV selection, it carries the risk of carrying (too) many lenses and going unused for lack of differentiation from its neighbouring lenses.

My consideration

Looking at my own shooting preferences, 35/40mm and 75/85mm equivalent FOVs are my bread and butter for much my shooting. I'll continue to use the 23/2.0 and 50/2.0 as a my go-to combo when carrying multiple lenses, and the 27/2.8 WR on an X-E3 as my take-anywhere option when I am only carrying a lens and body.

Most of my slimming down potential then comes from my seldom used Chinese specials. While they won't bring in a lot of cash from resale, at least that'll clear up some shelf and mind space.

The trickier question will be landing on a final option on the wide end. I am a real fan of the performance of my XF 14/2.8, but even for landscapes increasingly I find it a touch too wide for my liking. Then again, between the 16/2.8 and 18/2.0 (which I used to own), I am not sure I'd replace the 14mm for either. It's a real shame the 7artisans 17/1.4 is essentially the only small/lightweight third party option between 16-18mm (and that I got such a poor copy of it), but I digress...

My question(s) to you

I'd be curious to hear how you go about determining the right spread and stepping of primes for your use. Are there any patterns you notice in your own prime lens preferences?

 FTOG's gear list:FTOG's gear list
Fujifilm X-E3 Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 R Fujifilm XF 23mm F2 R WR Fujifilm 50mm F2 R WR Fujifilm XF 27mm F2.8 R WR +3 more
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