Formerly 'Rambling with a cantankerous old mule"
I am fortunate to own a really good camera (the Nikon D600) and several lenses (you can see my gear here). This includes a 70-300mm zoom lens, which I hardly ever take out of the bag. That may sound crazy, considering that most entry-level SLRs normally come bundled with at least one zoom lens.
My first DSLR in 2008 had one and then I bought my second DSLR – the very good Nikon D90 – with an 18-200mm VR lens in 2009. It was nice and wide for the beautiful Madagascar vistas (where I lived at the time) and zoomed adequately for portraits and other shots that required a telephoto. But when I upgraded in 2010 to my favourite camera yet, the Nikon D7000, I got only a 10-24mm wide angle and an 85mm f/1.8 prime.
Prime? Um, so what does that mean?
Simply: a prime’s focal length is fixed – meaning one can’t zoom, or vary the focal length. With telephoto lenses one can zoom within a range (for example, from a wide 18mm to 200mm as in the above-mentioned VR lens), changing composition without changing lenses. In the digital era, zoom lenses have become much more popular than primes – because of this versatility.
So why would one shoot prime? Well, without a long lens at my disposal with my D7000, I learnt its benefits.
Because the prime is fixed, one has to reposition oneself to get the shot – forcing one to find the best perspective and point of view, and thus leading to better composition. The prime forces one to move physically into the shot; to interact with the subject.
While on holiday this month in Mgwalana, in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), I decided to practice my photography in two ways. Firstly, I documented the whole trip on Facebook using only my iPhone (which is, basically, a prime). Secondly, I would head out for the day with one lens on my camera body – unlike how I normally shoot: constantly changing lenses.
It involved much wading into the waves and chest-high into the lagoon. I could be seen flat on my face trying to capture shells up close or running like a loon after a gull. One of my shooting sprees apparently provided much entertainment for one of my neighbours and his family …
The photos below were all taken with a 105mm fixed focal lens. What do you think? Would I have done better with a telephoto lens?
(If the slideshow doesn’t show up in emails, for those who receive them, please pop on over to the website to enjoy them.)
P.S. In order to show the benefits of the prime I have not cropped any of these photos (except one, which I cropped square) in post processing.