And that is as close as I ever want to get to J.R. Tolkein ever again…and far closer than I ever want to get to the work or the person of J. K. Rowlings – but that is another story.
The idea of one lens to do everything is as old as the daguerreotype. Then, a working photographer might only have one lens , and that for all their working career. A later example of this might have been Henri Cartier-Bresson, except he changed lenses occasionally…but always the same size. Getting a pro to keep to one lens only these days would be pretty unlikely and getting an enthusiastic amateur to be equally stringent would be nigh on impossible. They would burst in frustration.
Leaving aside the image of mopping up a camera shop after a customer comes apart at the seams, we can actually contemplate the idea of one lens for ourselves. It is an idea that has good and bad points. Let’s be gloomy and take the bad ones first – and here I’ll use my own delicate self as the example. The playing field is the Fujifilm system, and the X-mount cameras. I have three X-mount bodies, but am going to leave one in the studio with a dedicated macro lens on it for my hobby shots. The X-Pro1 is the one I will select as the field worker. So, today we begin with the awkward aspects:
a. One prime lens cannot give the ideal focal length for everything I do in the field. I shoot weddings, dance shows car shows, scale model shows, and tourist shots. The dance shows need simultaneously a wide-angle for the opening stage shot, a middle length for the troupe shots, and a telephoto for headshots in the lines.
b. If I use a wide-ranging zoom lens I have to do it with an f4.5 or worse lens. The dance stages are dim, focusing on a moving subject is problematical at best. Doing it with this a slow lens means I never get solid auto-focus in time.
c. There are inherent distortions – barrel and pincushion – with a wide-range zoom lens. Thus existed in the 18-200 lens I used with Nikon, and it still exists with the 18-135 lens I use for the Fujifilm. No big deal if you are taking pictures of clouds or bushes, but noticeable in interior shots of stages or altars.
d. 18-135 at full extension is a biggish lens. Tough to hold with one hand. If you are also trying to hold a flash for off-camera work, you only have a limited time you can hold up the camera.
e. The wide-range lenses generally have a longer close-focus distance than I need when I do scale model show shots. This length renders an attempt to use a small pop-up flash on a camera useless – there is always a shadow of the lens in the shot.
f. The optical viewfinder of the X-Pro1 is wonderful but runs out of framing at about 60mm. After that you have to switch to the electronic viewfinder and accept a time delay in shooting.
Gloomy yet? Notice that what I have written about the Fujifilm 18-135 could equally apply to whatever DSLR or mirror-less system you use? Well, you only have to cry overnight because I have good news for you tomorrow.