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The primary digital camera I ever purchased, and we’re going again to the early 1980s right here, was an Olympus OM-10. It was a candy little factor and as with most cameras in these days it got here with a guide focus 50mm f1.eight package lens. This was, and nonetheless is, the usual lens for 35mm or full-frame cameras. Not too broad, not too lengthy, it presents a perspective just like that of the human eye so issues seem pure inside the body with none specific distortion. It was as soon as thought-about the right lens for somebody beginning out in images and the truth that it was comparatively straightforward to supply meant that you simply have been getting sharp glass, a large aperture, and a compact measurement for a fairly low worth.


Quick-forward to todays DSLRs and the package lens that comes with the digital camera is usually a mediocre zoom. It can in all probability be not very sharp, not very quick and never very fascinating. I can perceive why the advertising division may prefer it that method. Somebody selecting their first DSLR may think the benefit of getting an reasonably priced, do-it-all lens to start out off with and they might in all probability go together with the producer that provided precisely that as a package.


But when anybody ever requested me for recommendation as to what lens to start out off with I’d in all probability nonetheless say a normal, fastened lens; meaning 50mm on a full-frame sensor and round 35mm on an APS-C. Perhaps I’m simply being nostalgic, I don’t know, however I actually do assume there’s one thing a bit particular, one thing even a bit non-standard, about a normal lens.


So to see what it feels wish to be the sufferer of my very own recommendation I assumed I’d set myself a problem. I’d do a day’s walkabout in Venice, Italy, with nothing multiple digital camera and one commonplace lens. How wouldn’t it really feel once more after so a few years? Irritating or liberating? Would I come residence with sufficient selection from the day or would all the pictures look someway the identical?


My regular package for a journey task can be a Fujifilm X-Pro2, and X-T2 together with four lenses; 16mm, 23mm, 35mm, and 60mm. The little Fuji’s have an APS-C sensor, so in full-frame phrases these lenses equate to a 24mm, a 35mm, a 50mm and a 90mm. Which is lots sufficient for me.


For my ‘standard’ day in Venice I took the Fuji X-Pro2 and a 35mm f2 lens (equal to a 50mm on full-frame). It’s a small, mild and really sharp lens. Sadly, I occurred to decide on one of many coldest and greyest days of the yr. I hoped for wealthy colors and sharp winter shadows however in the long run the solar solely confirmed itself for about 20 minutes. The remainder of the day was all cloud and gloom. I did take alongside a few different gadgets to check in the course of the day: a tripod, a backpack, a polarising filter and a 9-stop impartial density (ND) filter so a minimum of I had some artistic choices if I wanted them.

Extra ‘standard’ views of Venice. A polarising filter was used on the shot of the church (backside left) to regulate some harsh reflections on the central window and to darken the sky somewhat.


So how did it go?


Properly aside from the chilly and the cloud it was a very nice expertise and it jogged my memory what an amazingly versatile focal size the 50mm equal is. It’s a lens that may tackle totally different personalities, typically showing extra wide-angle than it truly is, and typically extra telephoto. Whereas at first it appeared a bit tight in some conditions, I discovered that with some cautious framing it was virtually all the time potential to discover a composition that labored. I feel that’s what makes it an ideal focal size should you’re new to images. It’ll drive you to look more durable and to bodily transfer round your topic to seek out the picture slightly than simply zooming or altering lenses.


So in some methods it made me work more durable. However in different methods it made my life slightly simpler. Having only one focal size obtainable meant that I didn’t have to attempt totally different choices. I might focus more durable on what was attainable with that one lens.  I feel that’s one thing that may assist develop a way of ‘possibilities’ in your images, of absolutely exploring the potential of any given state of affairs. And that’s acquired to be a very good factor.

Though the focal size felt tight typically, with slightly care I might often discover a composition that labored.


A small digital camera and a single lens provides you an excellent sense of freedom. There’s nothing heavy hanging round you neck so you’ll be able to go on capturing all day. And for those who went for the shoulder-bag-and-no-tripod choice you’d be actually unobtrusive round city.


There are disadvantages in fact. Typically I needed to get in nearer however I couldn’t, and cropping in post-production will solely work up to some extent. Different occasions, like in Saint Mark’s Sq. or on the Arsenale, I actually wanted a wide-angle. No less than for going wider I did have an choice obtainable to me: with a easy collection of 4 or 5 photographs, panning my approach vertically or horizontally, I might sew the information collectively later to provide me a wider area of view. I do know it’s dishonest, however hey, it really works fairly nicely!

If I actually wanted a wider area of view I might all the time simply make a collection of photographs and sew them collectively later.


The tripod I used on the day was a Manfrotto 190 which is nice for travelling with mirrorless gear just like the Fujifilms. I discovered the aluminium model mild and secure and with four sections it closes right down to a small measurement. Having the tripod with me meant I might hold capturing into the night and in addition check out some lengthy exposures with the ND filter in the course of the uninteresting day.

A tripod and an ND filter may give you hope on a depressing day.


For the lengthy exposures I used a Manfrotto ND500 filter which provides 9 stops of impartial density. Meaning on a cloudy day on the Fujifilm’s 200 ISO base, I used to be exposing at f11 for between three to five seconds: sufficient to provide the silky water look. Stopping right down to f16 would have doubled that point in fact however there can be a larger lack of sharpness on account of diffraction so I left it at f11. The filter itself didn’t noticeably scale back sharpness. As all the time there’s a slight color shift however it was higher than most ND filters I’ve tried and simply corrected in Seize One.

The Manfrotto ND500 filter supplies 9 stops of impartial density.

Venice at night time. One more reason to take a tripod.


Whereas I’m with reference to gear I’ll shortly point out the bag. It’s a Mover-50 from the Manfrotto Manhattan collection.  For a day trip with a single digital camera and lens it was overkill, in fact, and empty for more often than not! Nevertheless it’s a superb measurement for a full mirrorless package.  Not too massive, not too small. It will additionally deal with a DSLR package fairly simply. I packed it with extra gear again at house to point out you what can match inside. No drawback with two mirrorless our bodies, a flash and a variety of lenses in there and it could possibly additionally accomodate a laptop computer. For me the accessible prime part can be helpful for prime lenses and different bits you need to seize shortly whereas the opposite gear is tucked safely in the primary part. There’s a system to carry a tripod on the aspect of the bag though I discovered the 190 was a bit too giant to suit comfortably with the top hooked up. The smaller BeFree vary of tripods can be far much less intrusive when strapped on there whereas strolling round.


The Mover-50 backpack was extra that I wanted for a day with a single lens, so I loaded it up right here simply to point out what can match inside.


Getting again to the lens, though I didn’t shoot any portraits in Venice I do know the usual (50mm equal) is an effective focal size for these unfastened, half-body photographs. The lens I used to be utilizing was an f2 which, for me, is only a contact sluggish on an APS-C digital camera to provide good separation between topic and background. By ‘slow’ I imply the utmost aperture out there. The bigger the aperture, the ‘faster’ the lens, gathering extra mild and providing a shallower depth of area for throwing that background properly out of focus.


On a full-frame digital camera, a 50mm f1.eight is quick sufficient for most individuals and they’re often fairly low cost, providing nice worth for cash. When stopped right down to f4 or f5.6 they’ll be super-sharp proper throughout the body so you’ll be able to marvel on the decision of your sensor. Pay slightly additional and also you’ll get a pleasant 50mm f1.four. The broader aperture would offer you even higher separation between topic and background and the upper high quality optics ought to guarantee higher sharpness and distinction even at wider apertures. Will probably be greater and heavier and costlier than the f1.eight however you’d be getting an exquisite prime lens for lower than the worth of a slower, average-quality zoom.

The usual lens is tight sufficient to isolate some good particulars.


There’s a rising development in the direction of quick prime lenses and I feel that’s a very good factor. It’s a disgrace producers don’t supply them as a package nowadays if you purchase a brand new digital camera. My very own recommendation can be to attempt a normal 50mm (or equal) which I discover to be a flexible and satisfying focal size, however I do know different individuals will favor a barely wider 35mm (or equal). Both approach, taking a single-lens out with you once in a while is an fascinating train. No matter degree of images you’re at it’s obtained to be good coaching for the eyes. Give it a attempt.

All photographs on this article have been made with the Fujinon 35mm f2 lens on a mirrorless APS-C digital camera.. the equal of a 50mm normal lens on full-frame.

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