A Super zoom from the perspective of a dedicated prime lens user

I am on record as a dedicated prime lens user. Not only a prime lens user, but certainly a strong advocate of prime lenses over zooms.

There are a couple of times where this perspective is forced to be flexible, such as scenic work using a tripod, where moving your feet is irrelevant, or fast handling moving situations when working for a client, but generally speaking if given a choice I would take one or two prime lenses over a zoom every time.

Lately I have found myself using not only a zoom, but a “superzoom” and happily enough due to it’s subjective quality, but what changes have I made to accommodate this in my work method?

A prime forces me to pre-visualise my compositional options, often deliberately selecting a lens intending for it to force me into a well practiced (predictable?) thought process. I am even known to go for a photo walk with only one lens, to sharpen my eye to the possibilities (not limits) it will offer.

 A composition forced by the 45mm lens mounted on the camera at the time. My choice of lens was pre meditated, but did that define my process or limit it?

A composition forced by the 45mm lens mounted on the camera at the time. My choice of lens was pre meditated, but did that define my process or limit it?

The zoom has the expected, reverse effect of letting me see a “thought” image, then zoom to accommodate it. This worries me a little as the process seems to be a little easy/lazy. The compositional challenge of making the subject fit my minds eye within strict limits and succeeding is exhilarating. The ease of zooming to suit visual stimulus is less fulfilling, even a little hollow. I feel I have missed a step or let my lizard brain follow the easiest path.

Added to this is the lenses limited aperture range (a very good f4, but nothing like a useful f2 or 2.8). Limited depth of field and placed focus is half of my compositional tool box. Limiting this is by far more restricting than limited focal lengths. On the week end I took over 1000 images of a medieval festival with two zooms. The thing that stood out to me most was the repetition of the images. Just a few with very shallow depth (not just achieved using a long lens) would have added depth to the work.

 Late evening Shibuya. I use shallow depth as the compositional corner stone of many of my images, using Bokeh in it’s many forms along with sharp focus. Limiting my range of available apertures is stifling.

Late evening Shibuya. I use shallow depth as the compositional corner stone of many of my images, using Bokeh in it’s many forms along with sharp focus. Limiting my range of available apertures is stifling.

 Rainy day Hiroshima. Basically a failed image, saved only by good Bokeh and some mystery.

Rainy day Hiroshima. Basically a failed image, saved only by good Bokeh and some mystery.

As a contradiction to the above, I did not use the wide angle end of the lens more than twice the whole day, using the 100mm end most often. It seems the habit I have is to get in tighter, even with more options available. This feels right.

The zoom was purchased with the dual purposes of landscape work and general pro “clients needs” trouble shooting, adding some missing focal lengths and capabilities. If I use it too much for general shooting I can see my skill set changing. Oh the lure of the lazy zoom!