It was a gray December 1997 day when I exposed this telephoto view of a Washington DC Metro train and Union Station’s Tower K using my Nikon N90s with f2.8 80-200 Nikon zoom lens.
Really it was the rows of colored position light signals displaying ‘stop’ that caught my attention.
Although the f2.8 8-200 lens offered convenience, and was both fast and sharp, it had its failings. When used wide open it tended to vignette slightly (darker exposure in the corners), but more serious was that it made me visually lazy. Instead of seeking the best vantage point and an optimal composition, I could get a pretty good angle by merely adjusting the focal length of the zoom.
My preferred camera-lens combination in 1997 was a Nikon N90s with Nikkor 80-200 zoom lens.
This versatile set up gave me great flexibility. At the time I was still exposing both Fujichrome and Kodachrome slide film, but was leaning more and more toward Fujichrome.
Ironically, in retrospect I found that camera flexibility doesn’t necessarily produce the best photos. I think this is because the zoom lens allowed me to quickly adjust the focal length and perspective, I didn’t spend the time to properly scrutinize the scene for the best possible image. This not a fault with the equipment, but in how I was using it.
This photo of JR trains crossing an overpass in Tokyo reminds me when I felt the N90S, 80-200mm lens and Fujichrome Provia gave me limitless photographic potential. Maybe it still does?
It was a little more than six months ago that I made this view of a heritage streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana while walking to the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to board Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.
I exposed this digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with my zoom lens set at 110mm.
Lately, I’ve shied away from using the zoom and instead prefer to work with my prime lenses. However, the zoom is well suited for street photography owing to its variable focal length.
It was a bright morning last week when I exposed this view of a Trenitalia double-deck suburban train approaching its station stop at Rome Trastevere en route to Roma Termini (Rome’s main station).
I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens for this photo.
Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve been making regular use of this camera/lens combination.
I have four lens for my FujiFilm XT1; 12/27/90mm fixed focal length (prime) lenses, plus an 18-135mm zoom lens. Lately the 27 and 90mm primes have been the most useful.
Why not use the zoom lens more? Here’s three reasons:
1) The 18-135mm zoom not as fast as the primes. My 90mm f2 is 2.5/3 stops faster that the 18-135mm.
2) The 18-135mm zoom isn’t as sharp.
3) I find that the discipline of working with a fixed focal length lenses lends to stronger images. This is an abstract notion, but often seems to be true.
Over the years I’ve gone back and forth between a preference for zooms over primes. It’s the toss up of convenience over image quality. There’s no one ‘right’ solution. But when I look back at my images that I prize the most, many of them have been exposed using prime glass.