Take a Stand, Start Taking Steps

Nitz Strap Wrist StrapLike many other photographers, I sometimes grab the zoom lens to make shooting a job easier.

But in the middle of job, and many times after, I question whether I actually did make the job easier.

So which is it?

You see, a zoom lens makes it easy to make a photo at a variety of distances without moving much.  That’s convenience with a price.  One of the prices of owning a zoom lens like a 24-70 f/2.8 or a 70-200 f/2.8 is a hefty price tag many times well over $2,000.

Another price is the weight of such lenses.  Yes the quality of the glass is impressive, but carrying the two heavy lenses is actually a greater weight than carrying four small prime lenses, also f/2.8.

In order to get the aperture to f/2.8 in a zoom lens, manufacturers have to make the physical size of the lens larger in addition to the diameter of the glass.  So where a prime lens might accept a 55mm filter, a zoom lens would be closer to 72mm to 77mm.  That variation in glass diameter goes a long way for weight.

Depending on the project at hand, I have two different setups that I’ll typically use.  We’ll call this setup A and setup B.

For both project setups I’ll be using a Nikon D800 as the example.  The only things changing will be the lenses.

Project Setup A

This setup might be for an engagement session where I know that I’ll be moving around a lot but the couple will be walking further away from me.

I bring the 1.7x extension because the 1.7x has better clarity than the 2.0x for the newer Nikon lenses. Sometimes I also bring my Nikon 105mm Macro lens, but it’s rare that I need it for portraits.

Project Setup B

This setup is when I want to challenge myself, I’m shooting landscape or street photographs or want the stunning bokeh and quality of simple prime lenses.

The extension was a hand-me-down from my grandfather and it happens to work with all the older Nikon lenses, which is a beautiful thing.  Auto focus does not work when using the 2x extension.

The Challenge

At this point you may be wondering why I am telling you all of this.  Why share my zoom vs prime configurations.

Well, you see, we need to challenge ourselves more.  We need to move our feet more.  We need to think outside the zoomable box.

We need to decide when to take steps forward and back.

So now it’s time for me to challenge you.

If you’re the type of photographer who tends to lean more towards the zoom side of lens choices, but happen to also own a prime lens.  Remove the zoom and slap on the prime.  Go for a photo walk and start practicing with the single focal point again.

Next time you have a job to shoot, use the prime and make it magnificent. Enjoy the process of thinking, moving and shooting.

Plan ahead of time and know what prime lens(es) to bring with you.  Make magic and make it awesome.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I own one zoom. It came with the camera. I hardly use it. The only other lenses I own are a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G and Nikkor 85mm f/1.8. I use them so often the paint is starting to come off.

    It may be more challenging to move around to get the shot but ultimately I think it has helped my photography.

  2. I agree…It’s easy and tempting to just rotate the wrist your “get the shot” if you have a zoom. But it’s as easy and as tempting to just move your feet instead of changing the prime. My point is that in either case, there is a potential for laziness. In reality, focal length (and therefore the angle of view) is a decision you should be making for each shot, whether you use zoom or prime. If that also requires you to move your position, deo be it.

    Just don’t be the guy who tries a portrait at 135mm because you don’t want to move, and don’t be the guy who moves to capture the portrait with your 16mm because you don’t want to change your lens. Neither shot will be flattering.

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