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Thread: Use of lenses

  1. #1

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    Use of lenses

    I take photographs for my own use, but I want them to be as good as I can make them. I'm willing to invest in lenses, but my experience has been that 70-80% of the shots I take are created pretty quickly: grab the camera, adjust the zoom, and shoot. I often adjust the exposure for DOF, or to be where I want with the lens' aperture, but I don't have a lot of time to set up each shot.

    When I was using 35mm film (with 80s glass), my standard setup was a 50mm prime and a 75-300mm zoom. I kept the 50mm on the camera most of the time, and only put on the zoom when something was so far away that I expected to see objectionable grain in a blow-up.

    I now have a Canon 500D, and a 17-55 2.8 IS USM lens, and it's pretty much always on the camera. The difference between that quality zoom lens and a prime isn't enough to make me think a prime makes sense, but that's wrapped up in this whole question. And I do carry the 75-300 zoom, and get very good results from it: I can't complain about value for a lens I bought 20 years ago or so.

    I guess my question probably boils down to this: does a professional (or experienced amateur) photographer get so used to switching lenses that they do it as a less experienced person adjusts exposure? Or is it more that a professional photographer is in situations where the expectation is to get it right, whatever that takes, including setting up lights, switching lenses, adjusting the scene?

    I don't suppose there's a single answer to the question, and different fields (like photojournalism) probably approach it differently. But I'd love to know how the serious photographers here approach the issue.

    Cheers!
    Rick

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Use of lenses

    If you read most photography books, the author suggests that the photographer carry two cameras to cut down on having to switch lenses. You don't want to miss a shot because you don't have the correct lens at your ready. Of course if you are photographing a landscape the only concern would be light, although a slow moving cloud could move in or out of the frame and spoil your chance for a great image.

  3. #3

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    Re: Use of lenses

    Good point, and definitely something to consider. Camera bodies aren't the most expensive pieces of my kit, although I should probably be looking at something better.

    I would like to avoid carrying a huge bag, although I have discovered I'm using a tripod much more often, as I try to get cleaner shots. Maybe changing lenses is just part of that process?

    Cheers;
    Rick

  4. #4
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Use of lenses

    I have two camera bags, I purchased the second to fit a 70-300mm telephoto lenses attached to the camera. I can fit my camera, a second lens, and a bridge camera in one bag. I only have one DSLR right now so the bridge camera serves as my wide angle lens.

  5. #5
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    Re: Use of lenses

    Freelance sport and documentary shooter here, and yes. Switching out lenses is par for the course. It's the whole reason why you buy a dslr, for the ability to change out the lenses to best suit the dynamics of the image.

    It takes practice, coordination, and lots of it to efficiently change out lenses; not to mention care in not dropping them. Having two camera bodies will cut down on the need of changing out lenses, but you know what. I still end up changing at least one of the bodies with another lenses.

    For travel and documentary work, I only carry 2-3 lenses (on average two, usually a fast prime like 35/50 2/1.4, a mid range zoom, and/or telephoto zoom) and only one camera on me. I want to be as light as possible because "fatigue" is a photographer's greatest enemy. Again, it all depends on your shooting needs and style.

    But be aware that the leading cause of many neck, shoulder, and back injuries related to photographers is by carrying way too much all the time.

  6. #6

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    Re: Use of lenses

    Horses for courses Rick - if I'm out "scouting a location" I'll just pop away as required - If I'm shooting a paid portrait then it will probably involve stand & backdrops - light stands / strobes / softboxes - light meters / laptops / tripods ie "the whole nine yards".

  7. #7
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    Re: Use of lenses

    When I do a wedding-shoot I take two bodies with me. On one there is a 24-70 mm zoom on the other in the past I put a 135 mm lens but this didn't give m e the flexibility a zoom lens gives. So I replaced the 135 for 70-200 mm zoom. For the rest 2 flashes and some memory cards thats all I take.
    I don't want to carrie to much stuff around when hurrying from one spot to the other.

    For a portrait-shoot on location I add some tripods for the flashes + PW, reflection-screen, umbrella and a soft-box.

    For architecture photography I add the 24 mm TS + gitzo, spotmeter, ND + ND grad filters.


    Most things can be covered with this.
    Last edited by Hansm; 24th January 2010 at 02:46 PM.

  8. #8

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    Re: Use of lenses

    I wouldn't presume to call myself a serious photographer, but I almost always find that I can fit the appropriate lens for what I am going to do on a particular occasion and rarely have to change it. Typically for different subject matter this is as follows:

    People: short telephoto prime
    People at longer range (halls or something like that): medium telephoto prime
    Animals: telephoto zoom
    Landscape and just about everything else: short telephoto prime

    That suits me, but nothing that I do is very important, so if I miss a potential shot it doesn't really matter. I don't find it particularly limiting though because I'm content to take what I can get. The photojournalist who did my brother's wedding used a 17-40 zoom all day, with just about every one of hundreds of shots at ISO 800 for some reason (even in daylight, with really small apertures), and he wasn't exactly unobtrusive. I'm 99% sure that if he'd used one longer prime lens and taken a quarter as many pictures then the results would have been worth more (I'm not advocating that, it's just for comparison).

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Use of lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by rick55 View Post
    ... 70-80% of the shots I take are created pretty quickly: grab the camera, adjust the zoom, and shoot. ... but I don't have a lot of time to set up each shot
    Rick

    I think the crux of the issue underpinning your question lies in your approach to shooting. I wasn't sure if the above was a satisfied expression of how you choose to photograph and therefore whether the matter of lens changing behaviour was asked in the context of shooting in this way, or if you were in fact questioning the approach you take.

    does a professional (or experienced amateur) photographer get so used to switching lenses that they do it as a less experienced person adjusts exposure?
    I'm not the former and not sure I'm the latter, but I do remember others writing about using your camera so that everything on it becomes automatic and second nature; i.e. working everything without having to take your eye away from the viewfinder. I never thought I'd reach such exalted heights of experience. But, suddenly, one day, without realising it, you find yourself behaving in that way. And I think it's the same when it comes to changing lenses. I know I follow the exact same workflow each time I change a lens (caps kept in same place in bag etc.) and, without becoming complacent, it becomes a very routine activity.

    But, to go back to how you approach shooting. My own approach has evolved into something quite different from yours. Before I arrive on site I know what I'm going to be looking for from the location (normally having been at it before). And I spend quite a bit of time just standing looking, or walking around before setting up the shot. So, it's not a 'created pretty quickly' approach. I tend to have made up my mind beforehand what lens I'll be wanting to use, so it's on the camera before I leave home.

    So, I think you're absolutely correct. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question you pose. It is, I think, situation/person/approach specific.
    Last edited by Donald; 24th January 2010 at 02:22 PM.

  10. #10
    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Use of lenses

    Planning is what is needed; I was a witness to a car rage incident but was on my way to do landscape so I didn't bother. You don't want to change lenses just for the sake of it but practise indoors; setting it up so that the change is smooth.

    Actually for the first time I put one on wrong; it had a P-filter holder on and I couldn't see the spot properly, but I got away with it and have since devised a new method where I now point the camera up before lining up the lens. It was pointing down to avoid dust.

    28mm does mostly everything and 50mm for portrait with a telephoto if I get bored of landscape. cheers

  11. #11
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Use of lenses

    Another benefit of two cameras is that you don't have to worry about damaging the sensor with the elements. You wouldn't want to expose the camera to blowing sand or mist. Planning ahead will limit the need to change lenses too often.

  12. #12

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    Re: Use of lenses

    Thanks to everyone for providing input on this. For myself, it definitely makes me want expand my selection of lenses.

    Since I don't routinely changes lenses now, I'm not developing the habit of changing them, any more than I'd develop the habit of adjusting exposure with a point-and-shoot camera: the only way I'll develop the ability is to start doing it.

    While a lot of shots I take are composed quickly, it's also true that they're in a single situation. So thinking through in advance whether I'll need a zoom to frame in and out, or whether I can move around, what lighting will be available, I can choose the lens, or choose a couple of lenses. And better to have the right lens for the shots I want, even if it means getting a sub-par shot of something that pops up on the sidelines.

    And at some point, a second body sounds like a great idea. I'm thinking it could be second-hand, since it wouldn't be a disaster if it failed.

    Again, thanks for the really valuable information.

    Cheers!
    Rick

  13. #13

    Re: Use of lenses

    You can fit different lenses on this thing?...wow. I hardly ever take the 28-200 off. I am lazy with this aspect of the SLR. However I am thinking about a cheap 50mm prime....just to see what I am missing. Actually it is more to do with the speed of the lenses. These slow zoom lenses are pretty restrictive. I am seriously considering an Olympus Pen as my outdoor camera. I get no joy from lugging all this junk around and it attracts way too much attention.

  14. #14

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    Re: Use of lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    Actually it is more to do with the speed of the lenses. These slow zoom lenses are pretty restrictive.
    :-)

    Speed isn't why I'm looking to change lenses: I have a 17-55 f/2.8, which on the compact sensor has a FOV equivalent to 27-88mm. The sweet spot is f/4 to f/8, but it's sharp in the focal plane even wide open: but the DOF can get pretty thin. Good, of course, since it can be hard to get DOF effect with compact sensor.

    Still, I'm thinking that I can get a 100mm f/2 and a 200mm f/2.8, for less than than the 70-200 f/2.8.

    Cheers;
    Rick

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