There's always another side to the argument. The photos here were all done with the amazing
24-600mm equivalent zoom lens on a Sony RX10iii. Somewhat neuters my whole
argument just below. Consistency is a vice......
When we photographers get together to jabber about equipment these days and mention the "holy trinity" it's mostly understood that we're referencing three lenses; usually fast zooms; and that they'll cover something like 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. It seems that everyone with any thought of being a "professional" is drawn to these lenses like addled moths singeing themselves on a naked 60 watt lightbulb. If everyone is using pretty much the same lenses (but with small variations between manufacturers) then everyone's work will probably have.......some vectors of commonality?
And what's old saw? That when one has a hammer everything looks like a nail? Never before have so many lazy photographer stood in one spot and zoomed in an out in order to make the most of their almost infinitely flexible choice of overlapping focal lengths.
I get it. There's a compulsion to "have all the important focal lengths covered." You'd use a prime but you might get agitated if your lens was a 50mm and what you really needed was a 45mm, right? So, with a spread of something like 16mm to 200mm in a seamless progression you now have the potential to cover everything without missing a beat because you have....the holy trinity of zooms.
How did we ever do photography before these zooms were all perfected? And is an endless choice of no gap focal lengths a good thing or actually an impediment to interesting photography? I can see it both ways. If you are under pressure and are delivering images that have to fit a project instead of really exploring a personal vision then zooms are definitely the way to go. I often reach for an even simpler and more mentally boxing zoom, the 12-100mm. I can cover a lot of stuff quickly with that one but I often find myself staying stationary and using the zoom to compose and crop rather than investing a bit more time and energy in actually thinking about what particular focal length might work best in a given situation and then taking my time to implement that vision.
The zooms are also practical when weather, dust or the jostling of crowds makes changing lenses dicey or inconvenient. And yet, I can't help but entertain the idea, bolstered by a bit of research in my archives, that discrete, single focal length, prime lenses that are well considered and used, might be better tools for the more creative parts of photography.
After a recent job during which I used my new Fuji X-T3 almost nonstop with the 18-55mm zoom (weather, dust, time, packing considerations, etc.) I walked through downtown carrying two lenses; neither of which could change focal lengths. These two lenses are very interesting to me because they force me to think about how I will compose and what I will photograph with them.
These two lenses are the Fuji XF 50mm f2.0 and the 35mm f2.0 models. They are small, unobtrusive (in a way that the Sigma 50mm Art lens and the Zeiss Otus will never be) and easy to handle lenses and they are part of a diminutive trio of lenses that Fuji fans call, "Fujicrons," a nod to Leica's f2.0 lens family which are all called, "Summicrons." In the days when I shot with Leica rangefinder cameras it was de rigeur to build a system the core of which were the 35, 50 and 90mm lenses. Photojournalists modified that by selecting the 28mm instead of the 35mm but the intention was pretty much the same; have great optics that mostly covered the absolutely most important and most used focal lengths in a professional's arsenal. When compared to zoom lenses both the Fujis and the Leicas are at least a full stop faster, are better corrected, have higher resolution and sharpness, and are much less of a burden to carry and shoot when out on the streets or in the middle of an event.
I bought the 50mm XF Fuji first and was delighted by the test shots I was getting from it; even wide open. It's a bit short, for me, to be the optimum portrait lens for the Fuji system but they seem to have a dead spot they need to fill in the fast, 60-70mm range. I'm sure they'll figure it out at some point. But with the nice sensor in the X-T3 I don't really mind cropping just a bit. And the 50mm is just about perfect when I use the camera's 1:1 crop setting (square format).
I liked the 50mm so much that when the lenses went on sale I bought the 35mm (which is my favorite normal focal length on the APS-C sensor). It's also very good wide open and excellent everywhere else. When I got back from my whirlwind of shooting for my corporate client (in snow, sleet and rain. Now I'm starting to sound like the old postal service....) I thought it would be fun, medicinal, happy, restorative, etc. to get back to my roots as a primitive and naive, low tech, photographer. So today I ordered the missing link in my diminutive trio; the Fuji(cron) 23mm XF f2.0.
While I'm sure clients will drop in from time to time in December, and I will do their work with my many zooms when appropriate, I thought it would be fun to create a formal construct for my own work during the month. To that end I'm putting together, in an small, old, worn Domke camera bag, my nod to the nostalgic (and very effective) systems of yesteryear in my collection of the 23mm, 35mm and 50mm f2.0 lenses along with the small and light (and rangefinder-esque) Fuji X-E3. Maybe I'll go all Robert Frank and just climb onto a Greyhound bus and head west. Maybe I'll drive somewhere. Oh hell, I might as well use up some frequent flier miles and fly somewhere... In any case I can't wait to subject myself to the formalist discipline of limiting myself to these three well spaced focal lengths and some additional shoe leather. Maybe I'll start a new counter trend to the standard zooms, giant perfect fast lenses and all the other stuff we routinely convince ourselves we need in order to be professional. Or at least to play at being professional.
Here I go: The Fuji 23mm, the Fuji 35mm and the Fuji 50mm. I'm still not sure the X-E3 is as good a choice as an X-Pro 2 might be but it's a damn sight cheaper and the imaging performance should be just the same..... Time will tell.
Whatever your point of view you have to admit that's one cute dog......