Recently, I bought a new lens. It was a cloudy day with intermittent rain, but I couldn’t wait for better conditions. So as soon as I left the shop, I took my camera out of my purse, removed the jerry-rigged camera bag (a pink sweatshirt sleeve), and checked the light levels. With the aperture open all the way, more light was coming in than I’d ever had, even on the sunniest day.
The folks at Downtown Camera had recommended this lens at the time I bought my camera, but I was resistant. When I was a teenager, I got my first camera, a hand-me-down compact with a fixed lens, and ever since I could afford to get my own, I’d used a point-and-shoot with a zoom. There was no way I was going back to a fixed lens. But two years on, I noticed that my point-and-shoot (Panasonic Lumix) was taking just as good pictures as my DSLR (Nikon D3100) on a sunny day.
Steve, one of the guys at DC, said, “Any camera will take great pictures on a sunny day, even a $100 point-and-shoot.”
There was a good deal on a Nikon 35mm lens. So on that mild, rainy day, I walked the 5 km to Downtown Camera. When I left the shop, I couldn’t wait to see what I would see through the new lens.
This is what I discovered. A zoom lens sacrifices clarity. Sure you can stand still and see close or far, but to do that you give up your own vantage point, and, as a result, the amount of light you can let in. You can’t focus on something very close and fade out the background or to narrow your eye so that you see foreground and background with equal sharpness. A fixed lens makes you walk in and walk out. You can’t just stand there to get a different point of view. You move to a new vantage point and take yourself with you, and, in doing so, you can let in all the light you can handle.