Nowadays, most of the people still think size matters to get sensational results.
When we spot a guy with such big & heavy camera, with a huge & long lens, we think "oh, that guy must a such a great photographer".
The truth is that a "big lens" is not equal to great images. Neither so-called professional gears don't make someone with no knowledge turn into an award-winner. As I won't win any F1 race because I'd be driving a Ferrari.
My first lens was the classic "kit lens" 18-55mm on my Nikon D40.
Then I wanted something bigger. I invested into a 28-300mm.
Then, as I switched to the full-fram Nikon D600, I invested into a 24-70mm, a 50mm & later a 35mm.
As I left Nikon to Fuji xt-2 (cropped sensor), I used a 16-55mm & a 23mm.
But let's speak about first things first, here is a reminder of the major roles lenses play:
- Inside the lens, there is the diaphragm, which is the mechanism that makes a variable aperture to control the intensity of light that passes through the lens.
- Along with shutter speed, this is what controls the exposure received by the film or image sensor.
- A lens can be "zoom" or "prime". If there are 2 numbers to define the lens (16-55m for ex), you'll be able to zoom. If there is only one focal length, you'll have to walk :D!
- The aperture & the zoom settings will have consequences on the depth of field.
- The focus is made through the lens, either automatically or manually.
- The lens might have an integrated stabilisation system to avoid motion blur.
It took me quite a long time to find the lenses I love & which are part of my photography life now.
I don't regret any choice I made, every step was an occasion to learn what I like, dislike & need.
My photography changed when I began to use the 50mm (for full-frame - so for a cropped sensor, it'd be globally 35mm).
I had to walk. I had to move. I actually learn to go & get what I want. Walking makes me discover new places, meet new people & enjoy even more my photography experience.
And I found out that I was putting much more intention into what I was photographing & at the same time, I was letting myself explore much more too. I just loved every aspect of using a 50mm lens.
And I had to push a bit further composition & framing. To be honest, I think I actually learnt how to compose & frame. Using the grid on the screen, I worked in the rule of third or symmetry. I used the environment to frame my images. I just liked my work more & more, as I think my images were getting stronger.
The great things about the 50mm lens:
- It's (quite) cheap, light & small
- It shows you the world without much distortion
- It very often has a very wide aperture, which makes it a luminous lens.
Click here to read a great article about amazing photographers using specific lenses (and most of them are prime lenses).
And here is a short guide about the purposes of lenses:
8mm - 24mm: Ultra wide angle (fisheye): Wide panoramas & skyscapes, artistic
24mm - 35mm: Wide angle, Interiors, architecture, landscapes
35mm - 85mm (50mm common): Standard, General purpose
85mm - 135mm: Short telephoto, Portraits, candid
135mm - 300mm: Medium telephoto, Close sports, action
300mm+: Super telephoto, Far sports, wildlife, nature, astronomy
And here are the results of shooting the same subject with a wide range of lenses. See how the focal length has a huge impact!