I've been musing this for a while so I thought I would put it out there and see what the views of you guys are...
I, like many of you in Nikonland and beyond, learnt photography in the days of primes not zooms - zooms were just not good enough quality then - serious photographers used primes. My first lens was the 50mm that came with my FG; I then bought a 28mm followed by a 85mm - these were my main lenses - a single body and a bag of primes, and I started shooting professionally using these...
Gradually zooms got better and we moved to the convenience of them. Underneath I always enjoyed using a single body and bag of primes though, so when I was shooting weddings etc I would use a F90X + 18-35; 28-105 and 80-200 combi on 2 bodies BUT when out for myself would be using a FM2n + 28mm; 50mm; 105mm set of primes...
Having entered the digital age I concentrated on gearing up and to continue to shoot pro I have invested in nice quality (if a little old) pro zooms - 20-35; 35-70 80-200.
Now I find myself drawn to the "single body and bag of primes" again... I have a the 28mm f2.8 AFD and the 50mm f1.8 AFD and plan to get the 85mm f1.8 AD-S to make the set - the same set I had all those years ago...
No matter what I still return to the same combination - the one I started with and the one I used when I set out to be a pro... Anyone else seem inexplicably drawn to their original gear?
The lenses I have will cover all those focal lengths but...
#2. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0 Sat 02-Mar-13 06:08 AM by jrp
San Pedro Garza García, MX
I will keep my 85 and 105 primes in my bag. No substitutes. However, for wide angles, there is no set of primes in my stash that can equal the image quality of the 14-24mm f/2.8G ED IF AF-S. The same can be said for the 24-70 and 70-200; all pro lenses.
The images in my memory of great war correspondents of the 40s and 50s all depict a prime lens, so I am strongly drawn to them too. However ...
#3. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 2
Ely, Cambridgeshire, GB
you can't escape the image of Capa and Georges Rodger standing there with twin Leica's round their necks loaded with primes, looking so cool... Or Don McCullen with his Nikon F and short prime squatting on the floor in combats in Vietnam... Modern zooms are sharp and contrasty and lovely in their own way but does a F4 + 14-24 look as cool as an F + 105? I'm still not convinced...
#4. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0
Let's explore this a bit. I can think of several reasons why a person might be drawn to using primes:
1) They are generally a lighter, smaller kit that's less intimidating to subjects.
2) Quality and/or faster aperture. In many cases (but not all, as JRP noted), the available primes give better IQ.
3) They change the "how do I take this shot" thought process. Having to "zoom with your feet" is different from zooming with a zoom lens since the "zoom with your feet" approach changes perspective as well as framing. The zoom lens gives more choice, allowing you to easily change perspective (with your feet) and framing, but more choice is not always a desirable thing.
4) Nostalgia. Because that's what I used way back when, using it now makes me feel I'm recapturing my youth. Or even if I didn't personally use them, it makes me feel like I'm going back to a simpler era.
5) Because it makes me look cool.
I've probably overlooked some reasons.
In my case, the principal reasons are 2) and 3), although reason 1) plays a part and I confess that reason 4) does, too. Reason 5) doesn't apply to me because nothing will ever make me look cool!
#5. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 4
For me, it's pretty close to pure pragmatism: does it help me get the shot, or not? So...
#1: definitely. It helps get the shot. #2: faster aperture? Yep, it might well get the shot that a zoom might not. Quality? I don't care about image quality as much as most Nikonians. It's not that I want bad IQ, and a glance at my profile shows the usual high IQ lenses, but I don't accommodate IQ considerations until almost the very last moment, at least not in equipment. (I do in terms of technique and planning.)
#3: I hate the term "zoom with feet" since that changes the perspective and actually zooming does not. They're not the same technique and they should not be confused. IMHO they don't differentiate between primes and zooms.
#4: does not apply to me shooting. It does apply to what I might have on the shelf - there is no practical reason at all for me to keep an FA, and the only reason I keep my FM2n is that it was my first Nikon and it's been a lot of places with me. I barely shoot any film at all any more, and when I do need to do it, the F100 surely can handle any of it. I have a tough time with the F2a since most of my lenses have evolved to G over the years, but the F2a is the only way to use a couple of old pre-AI lenses that I still have, also for nostalgia reasons only. But we're talking under 100 frames per year, compared to my usual output of 10k-24k. None of the manual focus gear has gone out on one of the serious photo trips in probably four or five years, and the F100 has been sidelined since the D3 arrived 4 years ago, except for one stubborn hold-out who for some reason can't accept digital output from photographers. (And I am close to the only one who will accommodate her.) So except for functionality (size, weight, aperture, close focus, tilt or shift), I don't even use primes. But those functionality differences definitely are there and do affect my usage choices.
_____ Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member
My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!
#12. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 4
Sawbridgeworth Hertfordshire, GB
That is a pretty good summary, you are almost certainly not a founder member of the not number 5 club. In fact I suspect that it is the biggest club of the lot! So you can count me in, I only do anything for me reasons. Certainly the primes are a revelation each time I dig one or more out of their slumber party and marvel at how much lighter they feel. I had a back operation two weeks ago, looks like 10 years of increasing pain and disability might have been cured. Unfortunately, I cannot carry anything for the moment. Now I am looking forward to spring and getting out again. Richard
#6. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0
There are really only two reasons I use primes. The first one is rather obvious. I use them when I need/want the benefits of a fast(aperture wise) lens and all that implies (lmited DOF, lowlight shooting, etc.).
The other reason I use them is because of the size. I really hate the way cameras and lenses have bulked up through the years. I have 35 year old 2.8 zooms that are far smaller than today 2.8 zooms. I hate walking around with a big body/lens that screams that I am a photographer. To alleviate this a little, I will slap on the 85/1.4 or 28/1.4. While it is certainly limitations, I like shoting my Nikon S3 rangefinder. This camera with a 50 go almost completely unnoticed.
#7. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0 Sat 02-Mar-13 02:29 PM by Luke_Miller
Rural Virginia, US
>... Anyone else seem inexplicably drawn to their original gear?
Well my first serious camera (one which had adjustable focus, aperture, and shutter speed) was a folding Kodak Six-16 that used 616 roll film. I don't really want to go there again. That camera was followed by a series of TLRs, SLRs, rangefinders, etc., of various brands until I settled on Nikon in the mid-70s. Use of zoom lenses was a relatively recent (last 15 years) addition to my shooting and now the Nikon f2.8 zooms are a staple.
But I have recently supplemented my Nikon DSLRs with a Leica M9 and a set of Leica primes. I find shooting with them a pure joy. It might be nostalgia - a reminder of simpler times, or maybe the challenge. Manual focus, particularly at my age, can be a difficult proposition. Or it may be that the lack of automation in the Leica allows (actually requires) me to slow down and actually think about f-stop, shutter speed, and the lighting. I miss some shots I would have gotten with my D4, but the ones I get bring a special satisfaction. And the fact that my Leica glass is the best I have ever used doesn't hurt either.
#8. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0 Sat 02-Mar-13 01:41 PM by GiantTristan
I have the excellent Nikon f/2.8 zoom lenses, but during the past few years I have acquired some manual Zeiss zf lenses. With the exception of the 14-24/2.8, the Zeiss primes simply produce better IQ. My current favorite kit is Nikon 14-24/2.8, Zeiss 35/2 and Zeiss 100/2 which is perfect for my type of photography.
#9. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0
Ely, Cambridgeshire, GB
I was out shooting a heritage festival in Abu Dhabi this afternoon - for my own pleasure and to add images to my portfolio and all I used was my D2Xs + 50mm f1.8 AFD and 28mm f2.8 AFD. Having to stop and change lenses or move around, bend down, kneel down etc to get the shot was a great change from just zooming in from anywhere. It felt much more like photography as I learned it - and the images feel more alive to me... BUT this week I have a shoot booked at a local school and I will be using my f2.8 zooms as they will allow me quickly to get the shots I need in the short space of time... Horses for courses I suppose...
#10. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0
Tallahassee, Florida, US
>... Anyone else seem inexplicably drawn to their original gear?..
This doesn't seem to apply to me. For 25 years my only camera was a Canon FTb and my only lenses were a 28 f2.8, 50 f1.4, and 200 f4. I switched to Nikon when I went digital and have a mixture of zooms and primes now. I use whatever lens fits the situation, but I've never found myself drawn to some lens for the sake of nostalgia. I'd never even thought about the possibility until I read the question here.
As others said, I do like primes because they are small and lightweight, and of course use them when I need a fast lens. But this is practicality, not nostalgia.
#11. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0
For years I used a combination of 17-35 f/2.8, 35-70 f/2.8, and 80-200 f/2.8 zooms. One day I picked up a cheap Ai-s 50 f/1.8 just to rediscover the joy of shooting a manual focus prime. I had no intention of moving away from zooms to primes, but that changed quickly. I have since sold all my 2.8 zooms (though I did get a 24-120 f/4 as a general family/travel lens) and purchased numerous manual focus primes - Nikon, Zeiss, and Voigtlander. Without a background of using manual focus primes as a kid in the 1980's I'm not sure I would have ever made this transition. Nostalgia, perhaps.
Whenever I go shoot I'll grab two or three lenses, depending upon conditions and subject, and do my best with those lenses. I don't worry about having every focal length covered at f/2.8.
If I shot primarily sports or wildlife, my choice of lenses would undoubtedly be different. For now manual focus primes appeal to me from both an artistic and quality standpoint.
#15. "RE: Do we revert to type?" In response to Reply # 0 Mon 04-Mar-13 10:00 PM by ZoneV
Though I started with a 50mm lens, my heart was mostly set on short-range, high quality zooms from day one. But it took me more than a few years to be able to buy some. I still haven't finished the upgrade cycle.
I use primes a lot, maybe even more than zooms, but I like zooms better, and prefer them overall. Shooting style does not vary much between the two. But I do miss DOF scales on zooms. I'm learning that good ergonomics are very important when it comes to zooms...moreso than for primes. Some zooms just aren't designed that well and hinder the process. For example, I don't like the current D version of the 80-200 that much. I like the one-ring version better, and plan to hold onto it. I would probably enjoy the AF-S version almost as much, but it's beyond the budget at the moment.
An undeniable paradox: To think that there is any such thing as an absolute rule is at worst naïve, and at best, shortsighted. There is no such thing as an always-true, all context- or situation-salient, absolute rule that always holds true…including this one!