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Thread started 20 Aug 2014 (Wednesday) 16:15
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Why zooms allow for greater creative control than primes

 
Numenorean
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Aug 20, 2014 17:50 |  #16

You are finding a place to put the camera before considering the focal length and its affect on the scene. You're focusing simply on using focal length as a framing tool and that is really not the best way to think of it for landscapes.


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Higgs ­ Boson
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Aug 20, 2014 17:53 |  #17

I like to use a zoom as a set of primes.

I can shoot at 24, 35, 50 all with one lens (and all the derivations in between 24 and 70, etc).

The only reason I move to a prime these days is for a blurred background or very low light assistance. I really never shoot a prime stopped down.


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sandpiper
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Aug 20, 2014 17:55 |  #18

Numenorean wrote in post #17108211 (external link)
You are finding a place to put the camera before considering the focal length and its affect on the scene. You're focusing simply on using focal length as a framing tool and that is really not the best way to think of it for landscapes.

What affect does the focal length have, other than framing, that I am not considering?




  
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airfrogusmc
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Aug 20, 2014 18:00 |  #19

I would argue that Tom and theres also a lot of great,very creative photographers, that would disagree. Zooms don't make me more creative. In fact for my personal work I shoot with a Leica MM and a 35 Lux FLE and I find that really helps me creatively. I see at that F/L. Ralph Gibson says he sees at a normal F/L and Winogrand preferred a 28. It might be better for some but certainly not for me and the others I mentioned and I could give a long list of great photographers that would also disagree and did.

I would say for many it's finding the F/L that they see at.




  
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Aug 20, 2014 18:01 |  #20

sandpiper wrote in post #17108219 (external link)
What affect does the focal length have, other than framing, that I am not considering?

DOF...

As to the landscape comment by someone else, I am not sure how we got onto that subject. This was a portrait/wildlife discussion point, which opens up different factors not involved in a landscape shot.

I don't know if I would really use the words "more creative" when comparing the zoom to the prime, I would think "flexibler" is the proper word. :lol: That flexibility then gives you some creative options that a prime may not, like physical access to the subject and ability to get all around it or not, etc. Just my opinion on how I would have worded the OP, otherwise I agree with it.


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pwm2
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Aug 20, 2014 18:25 |  #21

Numenorean wrote in post #17108211 (external link)
You are finding a place to put the camera before considering the focal length and its affect on the scene. You're focusing simply on using focal length as a framing tool and that is really not the best way to think of it for landscapes.

Only a specific distance from the subject will generate a specific ratio of size between foreground and background. From that position any lens that is wide enough can be used to get that relationship. But a too wide lens will require the image to be cropped, thereby throwing away sensor resolution and so also number of used photons.


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werds
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Aug 20, 2014 18:26 |  #22

MalVeauX wrote in post #17108159 (external link)
Hrm,

Well, kind of an aged old debate. I'll just chalk this up to "one more perspective" on the subject. I don't see there being a compelling argument to say one is more creative than the other. That's so absolutely subjective that it just comes down to personal experience and opinion. The word creative is the key adjective that signifies this.

The reality is, those folk who use mostly just primes and favor them likely only favor them because of their aperture and sharpness at that aperture, and/or size. Zooms are bigger and slower. There are some zooms that rival a good prime, and they're still relatively slow by a prime's standard, and really, really big and heavy. When they release a zoom that does F1.4 and is sharp at F1.4, I'll care more about a zoom.

On another note, I didn't buy my 600mm lens to use it at 150mm, 200mm, 300mm or 400mm. It stays nearly always locked at 600mm. Am I limiting my "creative control?" Sure. But again, I didn't get the 600mm for anything other than 600mm.

Very best,

I agree it is all perspective. I like primes but I do not use them much. When I use primes I feel the constraints are a challenge that I can creatively overcome and that is my perspective of primes. But since I know foot zoom doesn't always work well I use mostly zooms. BUT I realize at times they make my framing and perspective work lazy because it is so simple to change around things. I also notice when I run ExposurePlot most of my pictures are at the wide and tele end of the zoom with a small handful in between. I think zoom vs prime is a bad argument because in my toolbox I want to have both - now if you prefer one over the other that is fine... but I would never blanket dismiss either or.


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sandpiper
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Aug 20, 2014 18:33 |  #23

TeamSpeed wrote in post #17108226 (external link)
DOF...

As to the landscape comment by someone else, I am not sure how we got onto that subject. This was a portrait/wildlife discussion point, which opens up different factors not involved in a landscape shot.

I understand the difference in DOF due to focal length. I also understand the difference in DOF due to distance, cropping, enlargement etc.

If I want elements of the scene to be arrayed a certain way, relative to each other, then my position is fixed. Sure I can change focal length but, if I don't move, then the different focal length will either leave out part of the scene (not acceptable) or leave me excess to crop out later. Any increase in DOF gained therefore, by using the shorter FL will be cancelled by the crop I have to perform later.

If I am shooting a simple portrait, or a bird perched on a rock, with no other important elements, then yes a longer FL is good to give me a cleaner background. However, as I clearly talked about "balancing elements", that is not the situation I am referring to.

I am talking about a situation where there is time to size up the subject and the scene. To move around, look at different angles and relationships between foreground, middle ground and background elements. moving sideways changes the relative horizontal positions, moving up or down changes the vertical relationship and moving forwards or backwards alters the relative sizes of the elements. There is a place that all those factors combine to create what I consider to be the best composition. I control DOF with the aperture in such a situation, as moving forward or backward will change the composition to something less than the image I see in my mind, so altering FL will change the DOF characteristics of the foreground and background.

It isn't a matter of not considering DOF, it is a matter of getting the composition I want. I am not going to move to somewhere that gives me an inferior image just to have some extra element of control on DOF. Much of the change will be cancelled out by the movement, it is only the far background, or very near foreground that will see any significant change and they will now be very different in the composition, and not how I want them, so the shot is no good anyway.

I don't see where this was specifically a portrait / wildlife discussion, the point made was about greater creative control, it just happened to be accompanied with an example featuring a frog. I agree, as I said just above, that in portrait / wildlife cases choosing a longer FL and moving back is usually good for subject isolation. However, that isn't the context that my original comment was in. My comment was a response to the comment suggesting that you don't need zooms as you can just walk closer, in relation to how that affects the fine control on composition.

I am not "pro zoom and anti-prime", I have 4 primes and will use them whenever they are the best tool for the job. I also have 3 zooms and use them when they are the best tool.




  
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sjones
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Aug 20, 2014 18:36 as a reply to  @ werds's post |  #24

This is Tom’s perspective and his experience on the matter. For others, it will differ. It depends on the style and needs of the photographer.

I use a prime; actually, I pretty much use just one focal length. What I’ve chosen to use is what’s best for my style and for that matter, my enjoyment…this is not remotely debatable (never mind that zooms and rangefinders aren’t the best of friends anyway).

And at this stage in my photography, having already used various focal lengths and even zooms, if I’m creatively hindered in any way, the problem exists within my mind, eyes, or both—-it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with what gear I’m using or not using, again, that’s not even remotely debatable.

And frankly, as far as I’m concerned, no one on this site is in position to even hint that only if Adams, Frank, Cartier-Bresson, Ray, Levitt, Winogrand, Moriyama, Brandt, Bing, Abbot, Evans, and many other greats who used primes would be oh so more creative if they had just used zooms—-to think such nonsense would be missing the point of their photography, if not the very meaning of creativity and what it actually entails.

The overall canon of photography has certainly expanded with technology’s input, but the introduction of quality zooms, autofocus, digital, or other advancements has not by any means improved the creativity of photography. Creativity is not inextricably pegged to technology, particularly since creativity can sometimes arise most profoundly from the simplest origins.

But really, if a zoom best facilitates one’s photographic needs, great—-it’s definitely NOT true that primes will force everyone to be more creative. But if a prime does the job, that’s great too. If any mix of the two does it, great…hell, even a pinhole camera; it’s all good.

I’ve said my bit, and as this all just comes down to personal preference (as I hope no one is taking an absolutist position on the untenable contention that this or that lens is best for creativity), I’ve not more to say, but PM’s always welcome.


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CaliWalkabout
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Aug 20, 2014 18:52 |  #25

People sure do get emotional and defensive when a post doesn't agree with their personal preferences for creating images. So absurd.


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Aug 20, 2014 19:03 |  #26

Tom Reichner wrote in post #17108047 (external link)
A common subject on photography forums is the "zoom vs. prime" debate, with regards to creativity.

Many people have the idea that prime lenses force you to be more creative, and to think about composition more. I disagree with this premise. I do not need my gear to force me to think about composition - it should be obvious that if I am photographing something, I am already thinking about composition.

Anyway, today I came across this discussion on another photography forum, and I wrote a lengthy reply. In my reply, I explained why zooms allow me to be more precise with my compositions (and for me, being more precise is being more creative). I have copied and pasted my explanation below (with a few minor edits to what I posted on the other forum):



Why zooms allow for greater creative control than primes:

I have found zooms to be a huge creative advantage. Why? Because they allow me to create the exact composition I want to create, often times in situations where no prime would do the job just as precisely.

Let me give you an example:

This Monday I located a Cascades Frog at a mountain wetland. It hopped upon a log at the water's edge and stayed there for an inordinate amount of time (they are usually quite skittish in my locale).

I set up my tripod and experimented by moving the camera into many different positions, moving it maybe a centimeter or two at a time; up, down, side to side. After about 10 minutes of such experimentation (re-setting the length of the tripod legs was quite time consuming, due to the fact that two of them continually sunk into about 12 inches of pond-bottom muck), I finally found the precise angle at which I had the best composition.

The challenge was not only to show the frog from an aesthetically pleasing angle, but to align the frog with the various foreground and background elements in the most aesthetically pleasing manner. So now that I finally had the camera angle figured out to a very precise degree, I needed to determine the other factors which would have an effect upon composition.

I then began to experiment with different camera-to-subject distances and different focal lengths. I was using a zoom lens, the Canon 50-200mm f3.5/4.5L. The fact that I was using a zoom lens allowed me to vary the ratio between the camera-to-subject and subject-to-background distances, while keeping the subject the exact same size in the frame. If I had been using a prime lens, changing the ratio between the camera-to-subject distance and the subject-to-background distance would result in a change in how much of the frame would be filled with the subject.

After experimenting by taking hundreds of images of this frog in this spot, I found that the absolute best images were taken at 173mm. Sure, I could have framed the frog the same way by moving back a little and shooting at 180mm or 190mm or 200mm . . . but then the blurry background would look a wee bit different than it did at 173mm, and I preferred the very subtle difference that the 173mm image provided.

Likewise, I could have moved a few centimeters closer and shot at 150 or 160mm, but then I would have had the same problem - a background that would be a tiny little bit less appealing than the one I got with the 173mm image.

Of course, at every given focal length/camera-to-subject distance combination, I took images at many different apertures, so as to discover the very best amount of blur in the out-of-focus areas of the frame.

As far as I know, there is no such thing as a 173mm prime lens. So, if I would have shot this with a prime, I would have had to settle for an image that would have a wee bit less aesthetic appeal than the image I was able to create with my zoom lens. And, of course, only by having a zoom was I able to experiment with a great array of different focal lengths, and therefore learn which one was the very, very best for this particular subject at this exact time in this exact location. So, the zoom lens allowed me to create the exact image I had created in my mind's eye, whereas a prime lens would have limited this creativity.

So, having a zoom lens to work with caused me to think about composition far more than I would have if I had been shooting with a prime lens. The more factors we are able to manipulate, the more precise our compositions can be. The ability to manipulate focal length allows us to be more precise with our compositions. I don't see how anyone can argue against this logic (although I am sure someone will try to do so).

While I won't argue with your general logic, I find that occasionally going out with my 30mm or 50mm fast primes forces me to view things differently when thinking about composition as a direct result of their fixed focal lengths . While I generally use my primes in museums and similar settings where I need a faster lens and the distance to the subject doesn't vary by more than 5-10 feet, sometimes it's also fun to use a prime as a walk around to see how creative I can be in spite of its focal length limitations. It's taught me a lot.

Of course many fast primes also often allow for shallower DoF when compared to most zooms, and many of the better primes are optically superior to most of the zooms out there. Like in most things it really about using the right tool for the job.


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Aug 20, 2014 19:10 |  #27

CaliWalkabout wrote in post #17108312 (external link)
People sure do get emotional and defensive when a post doesn't agree with their personal preferences for creating images. So absurd.

bw!


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airfrogusmc
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Aug 20, 2014 19:28 |  #28

CaliWalkabout wrote in post #17108312 (external link)
People sure do get emotional and defensive when a post doesn't agree with their personal preferences for creating images. So absurd.

Why zooms allow for greater creative control than primes

Just stating facts that what works for A doesn't mean it works for everyone as this implies Why zooms allow for greater creative control than primes. My advice find what works for you. I couldn't care less what works for anyone else and long as it works. So thats more absurd than the title of the thread?




  
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Phoenixkh
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Aug 20, 2014 19:42 |  #29

I agree with some of the above posts... it's not "right or wrong"/ "black or white". It depends on what one shoots, for one thing, as TeamSpeed pointed out.

In my case, there is another huge factor: prime lenses for shooting the majority of my subjects are cost prohibitive, at this point. I have the 400L f/5.6 but after that, things get a bit expensive. As MalVeauX mentioned, the least expensive way to get to 600mm is via the Tamron 150-600.


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airfrogusmc
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Aug 20, 2014 19:44 |  #30

For many it's not about having all the F/Ls only the one or ones that work with the way they see.




  
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