And it’s that old same thing
It’s that old same old thing
Now tell me who to blame?
The whole world’s fighting about that old same thing
Yes it is
Willie Dixon – The Same Thing
I never owned a zoom lens until I bought my first DSLR, the great Olympus E-1. When I moved over to Nikon, I bought the Nikon 12-24mm wide angle zoom just to get something wider than the primes I already had from my film setup. Then Vincent Versace convinced me I was crazy not to take advantage of the quality and flexibilitiy of a modern zoom, so I ended up with the Nikon 25 – 120mm f4 zoom on my D800.
That zoom and DSLR were a huge package that just didn’t get taken out as much as my earlier lighter its did. And I don’t know that I ever really fell in love with the image quality of those Nikon setups as I had with that Olympus. In fact, the lens is at Nikon right now for alignment to try to get it sharper at edges.
On the other hand, my Leica cameras and lenses are an ever growing obsession, dictating the direction of my photography. I started shooting film with a used M6ttl , but bought the M-E, the cheaper version of the M9 once it was available used at a relatively low price. And I was taken with the image quality once again. All without zooms.
Looking over my images from the last year or so, they were captured with the Leicas- digital and film. And mostly shot with a 50mm lens. They are beautifully sharp edge to edge. Exposure and focus is generally on the money. For the most part, I’m a chromatic grayscale photographer. I see the image as form, light and gesture and really only want color in the image when color is the point of the image.
The flexibility of zoom lenses obscures the original reason for interchangeable lenses, customization of the camera. The back holds film. The choice of film was one way to customize the device to be fit for use. Choice of lens was the other variable to customize the device. You’d chose a lens for purpose, with the flexibility to use a different lens with the back at another time. It wasn’t uncommon for photographers in the film era to carry multiple cameras loaded with different films with different lenses mounted on each. Zoom lenses and modern post-processing provide infinite flexibility, so the camera as tool suitable for purpose is lost.
I’ve customized my camera to suit my art- monochrome, isolating a subject in space, with a sharp style of drawing by the lens. The last choice- film or digital is an interesting one. There’s a big convenience factor with digital, as well as lower cost and the instant feedback on the LCD screen regarding composition, focus, and exposure. Film on the other hand, renders images with a tactile quality that reveals the method of making the image. It’s an interesting tradeoff and one I have not yet come to grips with.