(John Enman photo)

Making Pictures With Professional Photographer John Enman

Why I like multifocal (zoom) lenses

The first SLR I owned came with three lenses. Gosh I was pleased, it had a 35mm, 50mm and a 135mm.

The above is from an article I wrote a couple of years ago. I decided to re-post some of it after a long discussion about lenses this past week with a young photographer.

I had asked him to stop by to show me the lens he purchased off eBay for his Sony Mirrorless and we got to talking about prime vs. zoom lenses.

In the early 1970s I worked for the U.S. office of education as a photographer documenting many of the alternative programs that were happening in Southern California’s school system at that time.

I started out with some “company” gear; a Miranda 35mm SLR with two lenses, a 50mm and a 200mm. Equipment that I quickly found lacking in the fast moving events I was expected to document. Sure, sometimes I photographed students sitting down, but more often than not, those grade school students were bouncing around coastal rocks searching tide pools, excitedly running on a crowed whale watching boat, dashing through city parks, and even racing up stairs in some downtown Los Angeles high-rise.

Changing lenses “on the run”, was a hassle and awkward.

Then a company named Vivitar started advertising their 70-210mm zoom lens. I can remember talking with other working photographers about the magazine advertisements showing a page of postage stamps with perfectly in-line perforations.

I’ll make this short by saying, it wasn’t long before I owned one, and wow, could I work a crowded street, schoolyard, site seeing-boat or any other people-filled event. The fact that it wasn’t a wide angle wasn’t a problem.

I shot tight.

I got faces, hands, feet, children talking up close, and was able to capture those quick ever-changing expressions and locations.

I was sold on the versatility of that first multifocal length lens. I shot thousands of slides and black and white prints for my employer until I left and wandered up the coast to settle in British Columbia, Canada.

Digital had yet to be invented and there weren’t autofocus lenses.

I would pack two camera bodies to events like conferences and weddings, one for black and while and one for colour. I eventually had the choice of mounting a 35-105mm or a 70-200mm multi-focal length (zoom) lens on whichever body I needed at the moment.

When I first began working in Kamloops there wasn’t many photographers using zoom lenses. The flexibility of my zoom lenses gave me an edge on those photographers that were struggling with changing lenses during quickly changing events.

Zoom lenses allowed me (and still do) to choose the crop I wanted and gave me versatility and speed in any situation. That versatility and speed is lacking when I am forced to change lenses and gosh, moving back and forth to widen or narrow framing is just tedious. Having many focal lengths all-in-one keeps me from missing those once in a lifetime shots.

Present day zoom lenses have become sharper, autofocus quicker, and are lighter than those I used with my film cameras. And for those, like me, that are hoping to travel next summer, one lens that has the ability to capture and quickly change the world’s perspective at a multitude of focal lengths is so much easier to carry around than several (prime) lenses with focal lengths that are fixed.

Stay safe and be creative. These are my thoughts for this week. Contact me at www.enmanscamera.com or emcam@telus.net.

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