To Zoom or Not

Lugging heavy bags through bus stations and airports, or God forbid that I have to hoof it a long distance from the taxi stop to my local accommodations with an overstuffed duffel bag banging my legs at every step, is one of my worst nightmares. So, travel light and carry a backpack – that’s my motto. Given that, it seems like the perfect packing solution when it comes to photography equipment would be to take the one do-everything zoom lens that seems to be the current trend. You can buy an 18-300mm zoom lens that will shoot wide angle, telephoto, and everything in between, but is that really what I want? For one thing, they’re heavy and I don’t know that I want to carry one around all day. Also, I think that using a zoom can encourage some bad habits, especially in regard to composition, but please keep in mind that I’m not a professional photographer.

I’ve been shooting predominantly with an old 28-85mm AF lens that I really like, but a while back I bought a Nikon 60mm f/2.8 AF-D lens – a fixed focal length or prime lens, and I love it. On my D7100, it yields a field of view comparable to a 90mm, so it functions as a short telephoto lens. Using a prime lens has made me focus more on composition and has also made me think about how I first learned to use a camera. It was a film camera, and film was expensive, so making each shot count was important. The lens was a 50mm f/2.0 –  no auto-focus, no zoom, and I had to use a hand held light meter.  I’m not saying that I want to give up my auto-focus or built in metering, and a zoom can be quite useful, but I do think that using a fixed focal length lens taught me more about framing and composition, and using a hand held meter and rangefinder made me seriously consider light and depth of field before clicking the shutter. Also, I had to kind of get up close and personal with my subject rather than shooting from a distance in complete anonymity.

IMG_20160713_144602So, for my upcoming trip to Guanajuato, I’ve decided to take minimal equipment and focus on composing the best shots possible using the 60mm prime. I’ll also take the 18-55mm kit lens that came on the camera as a backup, but don’t really plan to use it much, if at all. If I need to zoom, I’ll just have to move my feet. For editing, I’ll take my little 8 inch Tab S2  tablet – with an office kit (i.e USB and mouse) and the Photo Mate R3 app installed on it. That should let me do some editing of photos for web posting during the trip, but I’ll save the serious stuff for when I get home. There is that whole prime lens vs zoom debate, and could I miss out on a shot by not having a zoom? Possibly, but maybe the quality of the images I do capture will outweigh that possibly missed shot. We’ll see. At any rate, I’m looking forward to the experiment, and maybe I’ll meet some interesting people if I have to ask permission to take their photo rather than stealing it from afar.


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