Saturday, 17 March 2012

Old school

Today I did something I've been meaning to do for a while. Stick the 50mm lens on the full frame body and see what happened. As a crutch I shoved a couple of zooms in my shoulder bag. I even switched the camera into black and white mode. As I was shooting 'raw' that still gave me the full colour file to work on if the monochrome proved a total failure, or I saw something that had to be shot in colour.

My first port of call was near a system of drains where I wandered around for a while seeking inspiration without reaching for a zoom until I got back to the car. As it turned out all bar one of the shots I took with a zoom got deleted on my return home. And the one that was saved has only been retained as a reminder of what could be done better. That said the other shots were pretty mediocre with only one working reasonably well as an over-processed black and white - which the blog software looks to have degraded somehow.

Next I ventured to town to wander round the seafront area. This took me back thirty years when I used to do the very same with a 50mm lens on a 35mm film camera. Again I didn't find the lack of a zoom too restrictive. A time or two it would have been handy to have had the flexibility, but I don't think I missed anything without using a zoom. I'm sure if I had seen something that really did require a different focal length I would have reached into the bag for a change of lens.

Two things I did notice: even the big lump of a camera wasn't annoyingly heavy with the small lens attached; I can't walk as far as I used to when I was 20 without my joints aching! When I got back home I noticed that the lens, while cheap compared to a fast zoom, is pretty sharp. Certainly sharp enough for me - and that included the shots I took focusing manually, which either suited the way I was framing or just seemed a more natural way to work.

Although most of the pictures I made were pretty average the walk along the pier provided a different viewpoint and I got one which, at the moment, looks like it might prove to be satisfying in the long term. Another is a picture that has to be printed out to work as it relies on fine detail for its effect. Even at A4 it doesn't give up its secrets too well. A few more are certainly contenders to be given time to consider and will find their way on to Sandgrounding.

I came away from the afternoon with as many questions as answers. Could I do everything I need to with maybe three cheapish single focal length lenses? Maybe not, but I'm sure I could make just as many good pictures with them. A 24, 35 and 50mm set would do a whole lot. Why not just use a 24-70 zoom? Well, those three primes would weigh less for one thing!

Could I do away with the 24-70 and manage with a wide and a telephoto zoom using a 50 to fill the gap? Almost certainly. In fact I'm not so sure that the wide zoom and my little 28-105 wouldn't do most of what I do.

However, as in any endeavour, as soon as you ditch a particular tool you find a need for it! So thing are staying as they are for a while longer.

One conclusion I have reached is that you only see the pictures the lens on your camera will let you see. Or very nearly so. In that respect lens choice is pretty irrelevant unless you are being asked to fulfil a brief.

Something else that today has rammed home is that my thoughts of downsizing to a smaller camera system (prompted by reading too much on the Internet) are well and truly behind me. There's no point. While the smaller sensor cameras are delivering great quality they lack important practical features. Viewfinders being the biggest missing feature, although this is changing. The size aspect is not as great as it could be. By the time you've slapped a decent lens on one of these small cameras it's nigh on as bulky as a small SLR. There's little to be gained financially either if you want to buy comparable lenses. For what I do I might as well stick with the old fashioned, but beautifully functional SLR. I'll be keeping the X10 handy for times when I'm not setting out to take photographs, but when that is my aim in leaving the house the SLR will be what I'll be taking.

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