To zoom or not to zoom?

15 10 2007

Duncan Davidson:

For me, it’s not about whatever was good enough for the old masters is good enough for me. It’s more that I believe in order to learn what you can do, you need to explore the full effects of all the different settings you can use to make a photograph. And, in most cases at the consumer level, modern zoom lenses—while useful for their strengths—have taken away the ability to explore the wide end of the aperture range.

Ken Rockwell:

Fixed focal length lenses aren’t needed, except for macro or super tele. The faster f/stops of fixed lenses aren’t needed with digital’s high ISOs. Almost all lens development in the past 20 years has been focused on zooms, so as digital dawns there are few things that zooms can’t do better.

Nikon Nikkor 50mm, 28mm, 200mmWhen I started shooting, I used the kind of equipment that you can see here. I craved for a zoom, but could not afford it, so I learned to zoom with my feet and with my hands, switching lenses as fast as I could.

Then I got myself one of those long-zoom, non-SLR, compact digitals. Not a bad one, actually: the lens is f/2.8 maximum all along the impressive 36-432mm (equiv.) range. Even though I often find myself taking advantage of the long end, I regret that it isn’t more like 28-336mm.

The small sensor, however, is a sucker for noise and almost completely unusable above ISO 200. I would love to be able to take hand-held pictures at night using ISO 1600 and a wide-angle, like Ken’s pictures of New York, but I can’t.

So what should one do, assuming one has got himself a decent DSLR? Crank up the ISO and enjoy the freedom to walk around and shoot hand-held at night? Or “explore the wide end of the aperture range”?. Probably both. I especially like the idea that I can get myself a Nikon D40, with the excellent 18-55mm kit lens and still use my old 50mm f/1.4 on it, even though it means manual focus and guessing at the exposure. Still, it would cost much less than I payed for my compact less than three years ago.




One response

15 10 2007

Exposure should still work, but yes you’d have to manually focus.

Still, I’ve had the D40 for about two months now and it’s utterly fantastic.

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