Anyone who’s switched on a DSLR or mirrorless camera without a lens attached will be familiar with the rush of bright white amorphous light you’re greeted with.
Without a lens to focus the light in a meaningful way, the world is just a great white hot blur.
So, unless we’re trying something super experimental, we need to attach a lens to the camera before we can start to find compositions and frames that make some kind of sense.
And so it is with many subjects and interests we choose in life.
We can’t absorb everything all of the time so it makes tremendous sense to break the world down into manageable chunks.
And then those chunks into smaller chunks.
Imagine trying to follow all the sport in the world.
But pick one sport, say football, and you take a step towards possible.
Still, with thousands of teams internationally, you can’t keep up with them all.
So maybe pick one league from one nation, say the English Premier League.
However, apparently in the 2021-22 seasons there were 380 matches. Multiplied by 90 minutes each, that’s 34200 minutes, or 570 hours or nearly 24 days solid of football.
Now some dedicated fans may indeed watch this much, but for most it’s still too much, so you might chunk down further and just follow one or two teams.
Going from “I watch all the sport everywhere all the time” to “I follow Manchester City in the English Premier League” becomes a more manageable lens to view the world of sport through.
The same principles apply for music or books or TV shows or food or anything else.
We can’t have it all, only a mere fraction.
And the smaller we make that fraction, the more focused and dedicated we can be, the more we can immerse ourselves and give those few things we have chosen to commit our time to our full attention.
We can greatly enjoy a small handful of subjects and interests, instead of paying lip service to and skimming over dozens.
What are some of the lenses you’ve chosen to see the world through?
As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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16 thoughts on “The Lenses We See The World Through”
I use mostly the 35mm f2 from the Fujifilm X-system.
Thanks Ruud. Have you settled on that lens and focal length after much experimentation or did you like it as soon as you tried it?
I first used the 23mm f2 and the 16mm f2.8 often. But somehow at first use I felt that the 35mm f2 (50 mm field of view) is more to my liking. Let say I am a 50mm photographer. Perhaps that I upgrade to the new 33mm f1.4. I have plans to buy the 40mp camera of Fuji. When tests show that the resolution of the 35mm f2 is not sufficient for that camera. I do not believe that because I mostly shoot in the range of f5.6 to f11. But I will keep the 35mm f2 anyway. It is light and sharp. Next to the 50mm f2 my best lens.
I think many of us are very comfortable with 50mm lenses, it’s a good balance between being wide enough to get what you want in the frame, and narrow enough to focus on and amplify one subject, rather than have too much fighting for attention.
40MP? Ha, I’m happy with a tenth of that.
I mostly use my kit lens (18x55mm) and a 35mm prime lens on my Nikon camera. But I have two long zoom lenses for close ups that have seen less use, and I learned on an odd 28x80mm lens with my first camera (I’ve owned a grand total of two DSLR bodies in 14 years). I think the prime lens was one of the best things I’ve acquired in terms of kit for myself as it taught me to focus with my feet, which really helps me compose with the other lenses.
Thanks for your thoughts Adam.
I agree about using a prime lens. The first camera I had that wasn’t a phone camera was a Nikon Coolpix, which I nearly always left at its widest and never touched the zoom rocker.
Later, using primes like 50mm and 35mm on film cameras helped me get used to those different perspectives, and now even if I do use a zoom lens, I generally treat it like a prime.
Like you said, I’d rather move my feet and the camera to find the composition(s) I enjoy than zoom in and out.
It’s not so much the zoom but the changing perspective. A scene shot at say 18mm on a DLSR is quite different to one shot at the other end of an 18-55mm zoom in terms of distortion etc. I just like sticking to one focal length at a time..
If I could live with two focal lengths it would be 24mm and 135mm. If it would be just one lens I think 40mm would be fine. I noticed with zoom lenses I mostly used the widest and tele zoom settings.
24mm and 135mm are quite extreme from each other. Nothing in between?
40mm is quite unusual, but I recall some of the older Olympus (film) cameras I’ve had that were 42mm, something about that being the same field of view as you have with the naked eye.
With the Sony R1 I mostly photographed at 24 and 120mm, in my Samsung ECX 1 at 36 and 140mm. With my Sigma DP2 and its equivalent 40mm I never felt I wished a bit wider, as happens with the 28mm of my Fujifilm Tiara, or a bit more telephoto as sometimes happens with my Fujifilm X100S and its 35mm equivalent. My Samsung S20 FE has a very wide angle lens, a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens. Is strange but I think is because simplifying three very distinct focal lengths I can be more aware of what effect I want in the composition, instead of infinite steps.
A person of extremes!
I definitely agree about knowing set focal lengths rather than the almost infinite steps between that modern zooms give you. I have a number of cameras that have some kind of step zoom setting, so each time you touch the zoom rocker, it goes to the next step – eg 28mm, 35, 50, 70 etc, rather than a tiny incremental amount.
Dan, I’m so glad you can still do your blog despite your other life commitments. You know me well but I will answer the question. The main lens I view the world through is one of chronic ill health especially mental problems. I also view the world through the lens of being super creative and go to great lengths to pursue numerous interests like reading, writing, TV, gardening, ambling & walking, arts and crafts of all sorts and constant personal development and learning and engaging with people through social media and the internet in things like Zoom sessions. I won’t ramble anymore but as Dan knows I love using lots of lens for short periods of time throughout my days
Susan, thanks for getting what I meant with this post, and not just talking about an actual camera lens. 🙂
I’ve long admired how you’ve explored what works best for you and optimised that, rather than trying to force yourself to do things you find too uncomfortable or difficult. Focusing on your strengths.
I too used to have a lens of depression but that thankfully went away basically immediately, when I gave my life to Christ in 2002… I never thought that giving control of my whole life away to God, would give me so much back, but that’s been my story…
More specific in regards to photography, it’s interesting that this question is coming up, as I have been thinking about this a lot, and I keep narrowing my choices in lens lately. In my photo outings I have been going out with my two pancake lenses, the 21mm and the 70mm (32mm and 105mm equiv. in FF terms). The 70mm, while lovely, is a bit long sometimes and doesn’t see quite as much use. So I started going out with the 21mm and the 35mm (f/2.8 Macro) instead.
But the 21mm, though not all that wide, is still a lens that gives me pictures where I look back and think “that’s not really how that scene was” due to perspective distortion. I tend to like the 35mm pictures better (or the 30mm pictures, when I take the bigger/heavier Sigma Art lens). So I think that for the foreseeable future, if I can take one lens, it will be the 35mm (or the 30). If I can take two, the 35 and the 21, and if it can be 3 the 70 also comes along. If I can take my camera bag, then a zoom is added, and a longer lens if there will be sports involved…
But in regards of lenses that represent how I see the world, they certainly are between 28mm and 50mm (or 43mm to 75mm in FF terms). And the sweet spot really is that 30-35mm range. When I can make that work, is when I am most pleased in aesthetic terms.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of story Chris and I am envious in some ways.
I have my own view and relationship with a creator, but it’s not one that fits within a religion I’ve found.
I shot for ages with my Coolpix on its widest setting, which I didn’t realise for a long time was 24mm, and that’s pretty wide. I just thought that look with the bending and distorted lines was how the camera took pictures and just leaned into that.
But yeh now I rarely use anything that wide as I don’t like the scene looking so distorted.
It’s interesting you mention that.
One of the reasons I end up liking older point and shoots better than newer ones is that the newer ones are faster (f/2.8 or f/3.3) at the widest setting (24mm equiv) and then they quickly go very slow (like f6.3 already at around 50mm equiv sometimes). Older point and shoots have 35mm or 38mm equiv at f/2.8… which is much more to my liking.
With careful framing it’s possible to have very nice pictures at 24mm equiv. I have nice shots, especially on our vacations, taken with both the DA 16-45 f4 and the DA*16-50 f2.8, at the 16mm setting (24mm equiv), and they are not your typical ultrawide shots with some small object made big at the forefront, and everything else looking too far away. But I also need to quickly be able to move to longer focal lengths and the long 45mm or 50mm end ends up being used more than the wide end, and I use it in between as well. I could never have an ultrawide prime on a camera because I just don’t see the world that way, even if sometimes the ultrawide shot works. I’d miss all the other shots. But with a 40 to 50mm-equiv lens I don’t really feel restricted. I just don’t take the ultrawide shot and I find something else that works and I’m never unhappy with my results.
This has even kept me from buying a Ricoh GRD because only having a 28mm is a bit restrictive. Is that why you don’t use yours more, despite being probably your favorite camera in terms of handling if I recall correctly?
As you may recall, I shot about a thousand photographs a month for six months when I got my first “proper” camera, a Nikon Coolpix P300, and the vast majority of those shots at its widest zoom – 24mm – and largest aperture – f/1.8.
I think we can get used to most focal lengths if we commit the time to getting to know what you can do with it, and which kind of compositions work best.
That said, whilst we can make a range of focal lengths work, we all have our favourites.
I have the GRD III, and it is an amazing camera. Yes the size and handling are pretty near perfect, as is much about it. The 28mm lens isn’t too wide once you get used to it, and the fact it goes to f/1.8, focuses super close, and is generally fantastic, makes it much easier to adapt to the 28mm.
Plus although I use most zoom lenses at a fixed focal length, there’s something special and pure about using a prime where you forget about focal length and zooming and just shoot.