Monday, 6 October 2008

Prime Sickness

I've got a confession to make: I am sick.

It all started almost three years ago, as we got our dSLR. The dandiest feature of such a device is the interchangeability of lenses. At first I was quite happy with the kit lens, but after a year a mid-range telephoto zoom lens followed, in order to get a closer look to things.

During our stay in New York City, I could not help but pay a visit to B&H, kind of the mother ship for all photographers, either hobby or professional. In addition to a little camera gear, basically lens hoods (because size does matter! :D) some filters and memory cards, I got myself a 50mm prime lens, which ultimately confirmed my sickness: I am crazy about photo lenses and camera gear.

Lenses #1

There are a couple of great things about standard prime lenses. First of all, they have far better optical properties than a zoom lens. The reason for that is very simple: the designer of a zoom lens is forced to meet a number of trade offs to deliver an acceptable quality in all its focal range. A prime lens, having a single focal length, can be optimized to get the best possible image quality for that particular focal length.

In addition, the optical system of a prime lens is plain simple and elegant, and yet works perfectly. This is something that I've always been fascinated about, like the functioning of a bicycle: so simple that everything can be understood at a glance and yet unsurpassed when it comes to energy efficiency. Due to this simple lens system, prime lenses are very fast (that means, they let lots of light go through), which is great for night photography, but also great to achieve hair-thin depths of field.

Lenses #2 Lenses #3

But to me, the greatest thing about a prime lens is that it has no zoom. Don't get me wrong, I find zooms are great and for some purposes totally irreplaceable, but I think zooms make us lazy as well. Why bother getting closer to our subject if we can get something similar just by turning the zoom ring? Being bonded to a fixed focal length, on the other hand, means that our photographic creativity is pushed forward because we have to move forward or backwards to get a nice picture composition, to apply the rule of thirds or whatever.

At first it felt strange, and my fingers often tried to turn the zoom ring when using the 50mm lens. But I quickly got used to it, and learned to use it and love it! Because it feels good, it feels like I'm doing real photography out there, it's a little like returning to the origins, back in time, when there was no digital, no reflex mirror, no memory cards, no USBs, no chance to look immediately at your pictures, no histograms, no program modes, no autofocus, no GIMP.


A prime lens is just the right lens for this time of year, when diminishing chlorophyll amounts make place for wonderful brown, yellow, orange and red pigments that have been waiting patiently all summer long to make their triumphant entrance.

Farewell Ms Chlorophyll! Welcome Mr Carotene and Ms Xanthophyll!


Gitta said...

Wie du das schreibst und beschreibst ist alles sooo einfach ---fuer mich ist es jedesmal ein Lotteriespiel ein wirklich gutes Bild zu schiessen.Immer dann wenn ich eigentlich grad ein Bild machen moechte hab ich die Kamera nicht zur Hand,oder weiss natuerlich dann nicht wie man das "Ding" richtig einstellt-------Ich hab mich daher meiner selbst erbarmt und eine Deppensichere Kamera erstanden,bei der ich nur durchs Fensterl guck und den Knopf betaetige wenn ich das darinnen erkenne was ich spaeter am Bild haben will.--Manchmal werden es sogar ganz gute Bilder-Dank Kamera-

Um so mehr bewundere ich Menschen wie Dich die so viel Fachwissen und Begeisterung besitzen, dass sie auch andere Menschen animieren koennten Fotos zu schiessen.Ich wuenschte mir es wuerde auf der Welt mit mehr Fotoapparaten geschossen als mit Gewehren.
Ich hoffe Deine Grossmutter ist sehr stolz auf Dich -Ich waere es, waerst Du mein Enkelsohn-Bewahr Dir Deine Neugierde und LiebenswuerdigkeitLG.Gitta

tonicito said...

Gitta, es ist wirklich einfach, man soll nur die Sache mit ein bisschen Geduld und viel Begeisterung herangehen! :)

Liebe Grüsse, T.