The Humble Standard Lens

With All These Zooms Around, Why Do I Still Need It?

Standard Lens

With the amount of zoom lenses available now that have the standard lens focal length (of 50mm) slap bang in the middle of their range, you may well ask. If you are using a 24-70mm or 28-135mm zoom, for example, why would you still need one?

You should read this book about Henri Cartier-Bresson (the most famous photographer of the 20th Century). It's called "Decisive Moments" and says…

"Cartier-Bresson's viewpoint was always that of the unseen observer. The ‘fly on the wall’, recording apparently without interaction with the subject. He trained himself to use the camera, almost always a Leica rangefinder camera, usually with a standard 50mm lens, without having to look at its controls. He often hid it from view until the moment of exposure. When it would rise rapidly to his eye. By using a single lens he was able to position himself exactly in the correct position.”

Now it must be said that Cartier-Bresson didn’t always use a standard lens. He did sometimes crop his photographs. But the majority of the time his Leica camera was hidden from view until the point where he would capture the moment. It was fitted with a 50mm lens.

This meant that there was no time to fiddle about zooming in or out to get the shot framed perfectly. He said it made him get closer to the subject and become more a part of the scene he was capturing. If you ever wanted to learn about camera lenses or how to use camera lenses, he is your man.

To see some of his superb work, go to The Afterimage Gallery

I use my Canon EF 50mm F1.4 quite a lot, especially for portraits. Using a DSLR with crop factor of 1.6x, means I can get in really close and get the eyes! As an experiment, the next time you go out for a wander with your camera, try leaving just the 50mm lens on. You will probably find that you think a lot more about what you are photographing. This is because you have to move about and not let the lens do all the work.

Most prime, standard lenses give a much higher quality shot too!

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