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Thread: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

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    Senior Member Lisa's Avatar
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    How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    I've been seeing a few promising-looking compact cameras discussed here lately, but immediately reject them once I see that they have a single fixed focal length lens. I mostly work with a DSLR with a lens that's the equivalent of a 27-300 mm range, and occasionally with a 3x zoom ultra compact. I actually use the full range, one end to the other, often. I really can't envision working with any less of a range than about 35-100 mm.

    Yet there are many people here for whom it doesn't seem to be a significant limitation. I'd be interested in getting your comments about what it's like to work with a fixed focal length, how you deal with it, and how it compares to working with a large zoom range.

    Lisa

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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Well, you walk a lot more.

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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Um it is difficult to describe.
    I find the "limitations" of the fixed focal length make me work more for my shots; I think about them more.
    This is oddly freeing; instead trying to grab every shot I see, I force my vision to work within the framework imposed by the equipment/lens.
    And, as Maggie said, one walks a LOT more.

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    VladimirV
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    The advantage for me is that after you get used to the focal length you "see" the shot before you even turn the camera on or without looking at the screen (great for street photography).
    I have used the GRD I exclusively for almost 2 years without any adapter lenses and only bought the 21mm and 40mm lenses recently but they only give me a different fixed focal length. I discovered that when using any zoom camera like the GX100 or R7 I tend to set a focal length and stay with it without really using the zoom.
    I think it is more liberating and allows you to focus on the shot instead of what zoom setting the shot could look better . And yes, it keeps you fit since you walk more .

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    Administrator Bob's Avatar
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    I used to carry the nikon d200 with 18-200 zoom.
    I chunked a whole bunch in lightroom and looked at the distribution of focal lengths I used. It seemed that mostly I ended up using the range from 24-55. The more surprising thing for me was that my "keepers" were almost exclusively within this range.
    So, like Maggie, I walk around a bit more and zoom with my feet.
    I do have a Panasonic DMC-LX2 with zoom and find that I just keep it at the wide end.
    -bob

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    Senior Member simonclivehughes's Avatar
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Lisa,

    It is indeed a mindset change... I too shot for years with lenses from 14mm up to 500mm and moving to the Leica M8s was a real change. I love it now, that is not carrying the kind of weight and volume that I was before but you do need to think differently. I know you are talking about small sensor cameras but I just wanted to describe what was the first step for me in the process.

    On the small sensor scale of shooting, I have a GRD II, which I love (had the GRD I previously) but I do love the 28mm perspective. I am expecting delivery today of a GX-100 to round out the package so that I will also have up to 72mm as well and I think that for 90% of my shooting, this will suffice. For longer lengths, I also have a Panasonic TZ3 which give 28 to 280mm. It does not capture RAW but at lower ISOs, it yields some very nice images. I can fit all three of these cameras into a small waist bag and it still doesn't weigh as much as one of my M8 bodies.

    Cheers,

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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    I used an E-1 with three zoom lenses for several years. Over time, I noticed that the 11-22mm (effective 22 - 44mm) zoom was the only one getting used, along with the 50/2 telephoto. And then i noticed that the 11-22 was spending all its time set to either 14mm or 22 mm. So this may not apply to your seeing, but I found that I simply saw things increasingly organized into standard fields of view. From there to a GR-D (while waiting and waiting for the E-3) and to an M-8 was pretty easy.

    scott

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    dickinsonjon
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    My fuji Z1 does 36mm-108mm (35mil equiv) and I leave it on the wide end almost permanently, probably 99 out of every 100 shots I don't even think about zooming. Means I get used to spotting a shot coming together and walk to where I need to be before even getting the camera out of my pocket, and usually when I lift the camera, I am in the right place. Didn't consciously learn to do this though, it's just subconscious eye training I think.

    Cheers
    JD

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    Daz Tazer
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Quote Originally Posted by dickinsonjon View Post
    I get used to spotting a shot coming together and walk to where I need to be before even getting the camera out of my pocket, and usually when I lift the camera, I am in the right place. Didn't consciously learn to do this though, it's just subconscious eye training I think.
    yeah, i know what you mean. i often only have to take a step forward or backwards to compose a shot after walking to the spot i want to take it from. it becomes instinctive when you are using the same focal length all the time.

    i personally have never had a camera with a focal length greater than 50mm.
    so getting a whatever times zoom camera was never really a consideration.

    one thing i will say though is when I've been out taking photos with other people who do have 70-300mm lens, etc, is that afterwards when we are reviewing photos i often hear comments like "god, i wish I'd thought of taking a photo from that angle" or "that place"
    which i feel is one of the great assets of wide angle cameras like the GRD, in so much as it makes you get up close and really explore a scene, in a way that you wouldn't if you could zoom in from however many metres away.

    although admittedly i often wish i could get some of the shots they do, when it's just not possible to walk any closer.

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    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Used nothing but fixed lenses for years with film. Went with some zooms when I moved to digital but have decided to give up the zoom. I keep only three of my Canon L zooms for the 5D to use at events. I find my vision is far more creative when using fixed lenses while the zoom makes one creatively lazy.

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


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    Senior Member nostatic's Avatar
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    I wish there was a GRD2-50. I've been recently working with a 35mm ltd macro on my dslr (about 52mm equivalent) and find that I really like that focal length. I also have enjoyed using a 77mm ltd on the camera, but while it is perfect for portraits and mild tele, there are some instances where I can't just back up enough to get enough of the shot. You can always shoot wide and crop whereas you can't go the other direction...unless you find a different shot

    I've almost bought a GRD2 a couple of times, but while I like 28mm for some things (on the dslr that would be wide on my 16-45 zoom), I do end up liking a bit more throw. I have the GRD2 + 40mm extension in my cart at Popflash but can't quite pull the trigger.

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    Senior Member helenhill's Avatar
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnastovall View Post
    I find my vision is far more creative when using fixed lenses while the zoom makes one creatively lazy.
    So well put & Soooo True John / Brilliant
    All the Best- helen

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    Colman
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    I find my vision is far more creative when using fixed lenses while the zoom makes one creatively lazy.
    A sentiment I'd agree with - how do people work with zoom lenses?? - but possibly better phrased as "I find my vision is far more creative when using fixed lenses while the zoom makes me creatively lazy." Other people - more disciplined than me I think - can make zooms work for them.

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    Deceased, but remembered fondly here... johnastovall's Avatar
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    The 'one' there is used as a nosism. Think editorial "we."

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Further elaborations of my view on this.
    Using a fixed focal length makes me work harder, think more about what I am doing.
    As has been said earlier, once one becomes accustomed to the field-of-view, one can previsualize shots without bringing the camera to eye.
    Thats where much of the freedom comes from; it becomes nearly instinctive.
    Adhering to this discipline better informs my Eye on those occasions when I do have a zoom with me because I have got in the habit of thinking about each shot.
    In short Zooms do not *make* one become lazy, once one's vision is educated/refined/trained/what-have-you then the zoom becomes very useful.

    Edit; I use my DSLR K100D with fixed primes, mostly the 50/1.4 now
    WHen I carry my Fuji S6000fd 'superzoom' I tend to use it most at 28mm efl , the zoom ring is marked in 35mm EFL's , so I can use the same 'stepped zoom' as that of the GX100 Should I so desire.
    Last edited by Lili; 9th April 2008 at 07:59.

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    Senior Member Lisa's Avatar
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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Thanks, all. Interesting perspectives.

    I can now see how can work if you have the "zoom with your feet" option or if you tend to take similar sorts of photos at similar focal lengths, or for street photography where your shooting distances and fields of view are fairly similar all the time. However, I don't think it would work for me. Most my photos are landscapes, not infrequently taken from hiking trails halfway up mountainsides, so "zooming with your feet" isn't an option. I also don't tend to stick with similar focal lengths, but am all over the map from 27 mm (35 mm equivalent) to 200 mm. I'll often take a couple of photos from the same place, one wide angle one to get a sweeping vista of the whole landscape, one long one to get a single mountain peak that captures my attention, because I believe that both have their merits.

    I guess I'd better stick with my zoom lens!

    Thanks,
    Lisa

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    Re: How do you work with fixed focal length cameras?

    Lisa,

    it's still might be fun to play with one of the fixed length compacts for a day. the freedom of weight and the challenge of what you can make work at 28mm may bring you a whole new outlook. you'll find yourself taking photos of things you never would have looked at before.... surprise yourself!

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