There are many styles of photography and photographers, so any statement needs to be made in the context of a certain type of shooting and individual Please see: https://www.dearsusan.net/2015/02/03/320-magic-quadrant-personal-photographic-style/ . In my case, stationary objects, cityscapes, landscapes, close-ups, and my style is storytelling..
It is now almost a year that I can give DS’ shortest answer to its theme “what’s is my bag?”: one body and prime lens only. First, a 28mm on APS/C, or 42mm equivalent on full frame, then 25mm on APS/C, and now 25mm on full frame (Sony A7R II).
Not only do I have this sole 25mm, but it is far from my favorite “historic” focal length which is more like 50mm. For most people, 25mm is bit off the beaten-track for single-prime-lens everyday use, though the Leica Q (28mm) gets close.
It was never my intent to be a one-prime guy. I bought the 25mm Zeiss Loxia on impulse so that Pascal might have it on his tip to Japan, and because I knew it was a fantastic lens within its specification. Fact is, though, I feel no need to get more lenses, and that is a major surprise.
Yes, intellectually, I know I “ought to” fill out my bag. A Zeiss Loxia 85mm beckons. But I feel so little urge that I let the year-end promotional pricing slip away. You might say that my shooting is now cramped by my (lack of) gear, but that is certainly not how it feels. Even more, I have the benefit of shooting with my friend Dallas, who, brave, strong and committed to being a real photographer that he is, goes out with 3 or 4 Zeiss Milvus primes, ranging from 21mm to 135mm.
Our last shoot was a morning walk in a district neither he nor I knew, and we were very successful. I shot 35 frames and he 80 (usual ratio between he -or another shooter- and I, long before I became a single-lens guy). Some of these were multiples, so I had maybe 25 scenes, of which some 20 got post-processed for publication. Talk about yield! Would I have had more shots with a second lens (or even more)? Mebbe, mebbe not, who knows?…. Dallas swapped lenses, but I felt no lust, no desire, no “OMG, if only I had his lenses, there is this perfect shot….”
I find some lessons in this unexpected situation, that may matter to more people than just me.
Lesson 1: it is not the lack of multiple focal lengths that caps my yield, it is my ability -or lack of it-. I am sure that what I am shooting now is not the sum-total of shooting-worthy material
Lesson 2: sensors with massive resolution enable deep cropping, yielding more pictures from within shots, in effect giving me access to different magnification ratios while maintaining good image quality. See 2 examples below:
Lesson 3: focal length is over-rated. I had a 28mm of great repute, and chose to buy a 25mm instead of continuing to use the 28 and complementing it with a different FL. I chose rendering and ease of use over focal length, and am more than comfortable with that choice. If I do buy a “next lens”, which is, despite what I write here, likely, it will be for its rendering, not its focal length. For example, the brilliant Zeiss ZM 35 f:1.4 a.k.a. Audrey. It has what my 25mm, Julia, does not, some kind of inner sparkle that even mighty Oti have trouble matching.
Lesson 4: simpler is better (for me). That is why I never “got” zooms. Too many variables. Focal length, aperture, composition, rendering. It was just too hard for me to select the “right” combination of factors… Long live simplicity
Lesson 5: if you go “one-lens”, then, by necessity, you will shoot many different subjects/situations with it. It better be really good in all these situations. The Loxia shines close up, it shines at infinity. It offers deep DOF (it is a 25mm after all), but it also enables bokeh shots (few wide angle lenses do). It adds very little “signature” to the image, leading Pascal to complain that it lacks character.
Lesson 6: going one-lens is more important than which lens (and, in particular, which focal-length) you go to. As it happens, for me right now it is a 25mm, which is wider than the 3-lens kit I had before (28mm-55mm-85mm)
Lesson 7: even when I had my 3-lens bag with me for a multi-hour shoot, in over 75% of the cases, I just didn’t change lenses. Then I put it down to laziness and risk-aversion (changing heavy lenses on the fly in the street). It may have been an instinct that not changing was the better path to follow.
Lesson 8: if I did add another lens, of a very different focal length, say a Loxia 85, I am sure I would use it and get fine shots from it. But would I get more overall? Would the benefits from the wider shooting envelope compensate for what I would lose in terms of focus on just one FL? I am not sure. Which is why I am not (yet) pulling the trigger.
I fully expect to hear from you all, whether you are going to donate to a crowdfunding campaign in my favor to donate a couple of lenses and pull me out of my one-lens misery, as reflected by the above shots…:-)
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