Fotoeins Fotografie

faces of home & place-story

Posts tagged ‘lens’

Lose zoom-lens = gain new view with prime-lens

I wrote here about the camera gear I brought on my around-the-world (RTW) trip in 2012. I half expected for something to break down when sure enough, the unthinkable happened.

Subbing the busted with the 50mm prime

I spent three weeks on New Zealand’s South Island in July 2012. Just as my bus entered Milford Sound for the boat stage of my daytrip, my 18-55mm kit-lens died with the auto-focus (AF) mechanism failing to engage. Without a distance gauge at a given setting for focal length, the lens became almost impossible to use, except at the widest (18mm) or tightest (55-mm) focal lengths.

I kept at it while I was on the boat in the Sound, but my shot-completion percentage plummeted, and the time to set up or fiddle with the lens went way up. Unfortunately, my other lens I brought was the 70-300 mm zoom-lens, which was for the most part too long for what I wanted to photograph.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at all: both camera and kit-lens are 4 years and 4 months old (as of writing). The difference, however, is that the camera-body is still churning away …

Milford Sound, Westland, South Island, New Zealand

Out of focus with the kit-lens at Milford Sound – 25 July 2012

For two months, I’ve been using the 50mm prime or fixed focal length lens on the camera. With a 1.6-times crop factor, the field of view is effectively 80mm, which is a little too long and more appropriate for portraits. It’s been challenging, and I’ve had to do the following:

•   “memorize” the available field-of-view I have with the prime lens,
•   ask myself whether I can make the shot at all, and
•   move around with my feet to get the shot I want.

Recent article(s) speak to the advantages and challenges of using a prime lens.

Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin, New Zealand

With the 50mm-prime the following day (26 July) at Dunedin Railway Station

Even if the lens is a little long, the result above with the 50mm prime is very decent.

18-55 IS, version II

While I’ve been very happy with what my 50mm has delivered, I’d given some thought to purchasing a wider prime (i.e., 24mm or 28mm), but these primes are outside of my present budget. For about $120 AUD in Sydney, Australia, I’ve purchased the upgraded version of the 18-55mm kit-lens, known as the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II. This lens is supposed to deliver improved image-stabilization performance compared to its predecessor. Version 2 of the kit-lens is still light in weight and light on the wallet or budget. Above all, it’s great to “regain” access to wider-fields with a lens identical to the one I lost.

EF-S 18-55mm lens side-by-side: I vs II

Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens: version I (left), version II (right)

EF-S 18-55mm lens side-by-side: I vs II

Left: “old and busted”, right: “new hotness”

Volleyball at Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

A photo with the new EF-S 18-55 IS II: Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia – 3 Oct 2012

Naturally, I made all of the photos above. This post is published on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

Postscript: In January 2014, I sold the EF-S 18-55 IS II lens to a friend who was passing through Vancouver on their way to New Zealand. Oddly enough, they had lost use of their 18-55 kit-lens when the AF mechanism died. With my upgrade to the full-frame 6D, I didn’t know what I was going to do with the EF-S “version 2” lens, and I’m very happy circumstances converged for us, and they now have the “version 2” lens to use.

Camera gear for the RTW

Recently, I read an article written by Jim Richardson about what lenses one should bring with them on their holiday, vacation, or trip. His article brought into sharper focus about what I was going to do on my upcoming RTW (around the world) trip.

I’ve been using a Canon EOS 450D (Rebel XSi) digital-SLR camera body for the last three years, and it makes sense to continue “grinding away” with the reliable camera for the coming year. I thought about upgrading the camera body, but that got quashed when I realized I could wait (5D Mark 3, anyone?). Besides, the photos I’ve taken thus far have taught me that it comes down to lenses.

I’ve decided to bring all three lenses which I describe below.


Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS (II)

While light and a bit fragile with the “plastic” construction, this kit-lens (included with the camera body at purchase) provides a sufficiently wide field-of-view during photowalks to document what I’ve seen. The kit-lens has an effective focal-length range 29-88 mm with the 1.6-times crop-factor corresponding to the APS-C sensor on my camera. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that most of my photographs have been made with the kit-lens. The built-in image stabilization (IS) in the lens has allowed me to photograph a nighttime scene as long as 1/4-second, and sometimes 1/3-second without a tripod.

Here’s a review of the 18-55mm lens by DP Review.

ADDENDUM: On 2 Oct 2012, I replaced the four-year old kit-lens (whose auto-focus finally failed) with the latest version: namely, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II.

Examples with the 18-55mm kit-lens:

Waikoloa Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

One of the first photos made with my 450D : Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii – 2008 May 19

Moonset, Andacollo, Gemini South, Cerro Pachon, Chile

Setting of full-moon and Earth’s shadow: Gemini Observatory, Cerro Pachón, Chile – 2008 Sept 15

La Serena, Playa del Mar, Coquimbo, Chile

Sunset, southern summer solstice : La Serena, Chile – 2008 Dec 21

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

With the 1.6-times crop-factor, this prime-lens is effectively at 80mm focal length on my camera, which makes the lens more ideal as a portrait lens. However, I have also experimented using this lens as the “sole” walk-around lens. The field of view is smaller, and that forced me to do two things: (1) think carefully about what I wanted to photograph and how I wanted to get the shot, and (2) move my feet around to get the shot I wanted. What I love about this lens is the solid construction, low-light capability (to maximum f/1.4 aperture), and quality photographs I’ve been able to make. I’ve also used my “nifty-fifty” at times as the go-to night-time lens.

Here’s a review of the 50mm lens by DP Review.

Examples with the 50mm prime:

Starbucks, Sendlinger Strasse, Muenchen, Munich

‘Hot coffee inside’ : outside Starbucks on Sendlinger Strasse, München – 1 Dec 2010

Brandenburger Tor, Berlin

Snowflurries at Brandenburg Gate, Berlin – 24 Dec 2010

Vysehrad, Vltava river, Prazsky hrad, Prague

Prague from Vyšehrad – 1111, 1.1.11 (1111am, 2011 Jan 1). Air temp -1C, but felt like -11C

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

After I purchased the camera and kit-lens, it became very apparent a zoom-lens was required. I chose the 70-300mm, which on my camera’s sensor is effectively 112-480mm. This lens is obviously larger and heavier than the first two, because of all the glass required to get the zoom-range. For a tight zoomed-in shot, the lens performs very well and the subsequent picture quality is very good. Some have written that the optics may be L-like, and if true, the price for this non-L lens is worth every penny.

Here is a review of the 70-300mm zoom by Digital Picture.

Examples with the 70-300mm zoom:

Kohala Mountain Road, HI-250, Big Island, Hawaii

Kohala Mountain Road (HI-250) towards Kawaihae, Big Island, Hawaii – 2009 Dec 7

BC Ferries, Tsawwassen, Vancouver

BC Ferries (“Queen of Alberni”) to Tsawwassen (just outside of Vancouver), Canada – 2010 May 3

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney

“THIS … is Sydney …” : Harbour Bridge from The Rocks – 2010 Sept 26

I’ve enjoyed these three lenses, which have produced a variety of photographs I want to make. After 23,000-plus exposures in almost four years (2011), I believe the camera still has a lot of life left and plenty of exposures remaining, and that my three lenses provide enough capabilities to continue uncovering a wealth of photographic surprises to come.

I’ve just added the 4th-generation iPod Touch to the arsenal. Making photos and video is convenient, stands out much less, and stays out of the way. I’m looking forward to learning about and doing more with iPhoneography.

The real point is that it doesn’t matter if you use an iPhone, a point-and-shoot camera, a digital SLR camera, a Canon, a Nikon, name-your-favourite-brand. Go out and discover for yourself the kinds of things or people or settings you like to photograph – go out and make those pictures!

I made all of the photos shown above. This post is published on Fotoeins Fotopress (fotoeins.com).

%d bloggers like this: