Friday, May 12, 2017

Challenging Myself: Revisiting 35mm Perspective

My old nemesis, the 35mm perspective that I never quite get when it comes to street photography, is something that is a work in progress. I have stated before, that 35mm is not something I prefer to use for my own photography, if I have the luxury of choice. Nevertheless, I am not giving up on 35mm just yet, and I intend to spend as much time I can with it, doing my shutter therapy session. Sometimes, to improve yourself, you have to face your weakness, put yourself in a difficult situation and deal with the issue head on.

I have kept the Olympus 17mm F2.8 pancake lens, one of the oldest Micro Four Thirds lenses out there, with possibly the slowest AF (perhaps the only other slower lens than this, is the Panasonic 20mm F1.7). I find myself difficult to let this lens go, since it is so small, and it does not cost much anyway. While the autofocus is not fast and the lens is not the sharpest of the bunch, I thought I would hang on to a 35mm equivalent focal length lens to help me with my personal battle.

Man, I just love pancake lenses. We should have more! 



Looking Good, Feeling Great

Yellow Helmet and Boots

Destructive Convenience

Boy Band

Window Display

By The Window

I think the biggest challenge for me, when it comes to 35mm, is composition. Nothing feels right, the framing is always out of balance, and I find it difficult to create dramatic and compelling arrangement for my subjects. I know this is a personal struggle, and I just find it too troublesome to think in a 35mm perspective. On the other hand, it irks me when I saw that many of my friends can use the 35mm perspective so effectively, so effortlessly. They told me 35mm came naturally to them. To me, 50mm equivalent perspective is the most natural to shoot comfortably without thinking too much. I guess I have always been biased toward the longer side of the lens, but hey, I even bought an old Fujifilm X100 and used it for a year just to practice my own 35mm execution. 

People always say that 35mm requires you to get close to your subject to get impactful shots. I do not have issues getting close to my subjects, those of you who follow me all this time will know that I can get as close as I need. 

Or maybe I am just thinking too much. I know I can easily just disregard the 17mm lens and just use my favourite lenses to do my shutter therapy sessions. That would be too easy. If we keep making convenient choices and avoid our weaknesses, I do not think we can go very far. I think that is why I persist, and still do what I can to improve, and have a go with the 35mm perspective. I may not excel with this choice of focal length, but I sure can choose to get better and one day, not suck using it!

Soft Drinks

Raised Legs

Back Entrances

Not Feeling Well 

Smartphones

This Is Kuala Lumpur

We should have MORE pancake lenses!

So tell me, what is your favourite focal length? And why?

41 comments :

  1. Great set, sir! Personal favorite from this group is "Yellow Helmet and Boots".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Andrew,
      Thanks! That shot was NOT easy to get. The buses (tourist buses) always park in front of that building! If I go too early, we dont have people walking by. Was a lucky shot.

      Delete
    2. There's no such thing as lucky shots ;)

      Delete
    3. Ahhh maybe you are right, Giancario!

      Delete
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  2. Short telephoto with 85mm, 90mm or 100mm-ish equivalent works best for my signature shots. Not sure why, but I'm kind of bokeh-maniac and shallow DOF is much better with longer focal length using m43rd camera.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ohhh I use 45mm F1.8 the most for my street shooting, so you are not alone in this.

      Delete
  3. I work with 17mm (80%) and 45mm (20%) of my photos... I really love the small Olympus primes. For me this is the magic of m43 system.

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    Replies
    1. I think that is the magic, the portability and easy to carry around!

      Delete
  4. Short...you are a MASTER...!!!

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  5. I love the yellow helmet and boots...
    I am a sucker for symmetry in shape and color...
    ooooooohhhhhhh... luv it luv it luv it...
    I hope i make its way on the Photo Book... please :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Robert! That is my favourite shot as well. I am thinking about the photo book as well. If the book happens that shot will make it in I promise.

      Delete
  6. I liked the "Boy Band" and "Not Feeling Well" shots.

    By the way, I own the 17mm f1.8, 45mm f1.8 and the 75mm f1.8. When I am out an about with my E-M5 Mark ll and not using my 12-40mm Pro lens I tend to use the 17mm for normal street shots and the 75mm for more discreet shots. Do you think I am making a mistake not using the 45mm more often?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Robert,
      I do not think there is a right and wrong in what focal length you choose, just whether they work for you or not! If you find that 75mm F1.8 works great for your style, go for it, the 75mm is such an amazing lens!

      Delete
  7. Excellent series of images Robin, great work.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Howei,
      Thanks for the kind words!

      Delete
  8. Hey man !
    Your pictures are always amazing. No matter what hardware you use.
    Regards

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Daniel! Appreciate the kind words. I can use Olympus well because I know the system well enough.

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Robin I do miss my pancake lenses (Have owned the 14mm f/2.5, 17mm f/2.8 and the 20mm f/1.7 Mk1)

    I am looking at buying one of these back as they are so discreet and do not scream pro photographer. Like you I struggle with the 17mm (Have the 17mm f/1.8 now)

    At present I am trying to use the 17mm f/1.8 more. Rumour is the next f/1.2 lens from Olympus will be the 17mm in a f/1.2 variant but my own guess it will be the 45mm f/1.8 (Which is stellar)

    My favourite focal length would be 25mm but the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 with hood is a bit cumbersome (For me) Wish the 20mm f/1.7 would be upgraded as a pancake for quick focussing.

    For street I want really small (45mm f/1.8 is great in this regard)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Martin,

      The good news is, you can find the pancake lenses at good prices in the used market. Glad to know that I am not the only one struggling with the 35mm perspective, because so many people rave about how good and easy it is to use it!

      Delete
  11. Robin, I'm a total amateur but in my opinion they are all great shots, wish I could do as well. I'm not sure why you doubt yourself because pretty much any photos I've seen of yours always make me envious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Rich,
      The 35mm is not easy for me to use, and I do like some of the shots in this series, but it was a lot more difficult to create good shots in comparison to other focal lengths. I also know that I could have probably done better with 28mm or 50mm equivalent focal lengths.

      Delete
  12. Nice set Robin. When I did newspaper work (back in the 80s and 90s) I used a Minolta XK and a 35mm 1.8 Rokkor lens, and I learned to love this sharp lens. So, my 17mm 1.8 fits well. I have the 30mm Sigma and find it too cramped for me for a lot of my photography. I guess I have found that except for long lens work a lens around 15 to 20mm is what I prefer. But I love my 17mm 1.8 and would buy another if I somehow lost this one. Good luck BTW with whatever you decide to do, I know you will do well. Carl Wheeler, USA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Carl,
      Thanks for the compliments and well wishes, appreciate them. I have heard that many photo journalists love the 35mm field of view! And glad to know that you love the 17mm F1.8 lens.

      Delete
  13. For years I have been using a Mamiya 7 with a 65mm, a 31,5mm equivalent. That lens always felt very natural to me. The same view as I experienced the world myself. My 17mm f/1.8 gives me almost that same neutral view. I can understand that some find that unexciting en want a more spectacular angle or need a zoom to master their nerves.
    I have the Panasonic 14mm and 20mm too. The 14mm mainly for those indoor situations where the 17mm becomes too tight. The second version is mainly because my love for pancakes.*
    When you shoot sceneries and want everything in the frame it is much better to use a 35mm equivalent and step back if necessary. Using wider angles means that important details disappear in the background. Even now I have the big 25mm, the 30mm macro, the 45mm and 75mm, all lenses that are technically slightly better I use the 17mm the most. I prefer the f/1.8 version for it's beautiful bokeh rendering and tonality. Don't need anything larger.

    * My favorite pancakes come with fresh lemon juice and a little plain white sugar.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Wolters,
      It is because of so many people with such vast experience, like yourself, speaking so positively about the 35mm perspective, that I must reinspect my own opinion. I think the problem lies with the way I see things, and I should probably use the 35mm more until I get it right! Oh yes, I also love the kind of pancakes that you like, though I would want mine with cream and syrup!

      Delete
  14. Great to see the little Oly 17mm getting some action. It gets a lot of disrespect for it's performance but any lens has it sweet spot and for the FOV I think this lens is interesting if not sharp. So you got rid of your X100? I've been shooting mine for almost 2 years and I bought it because I felt the same way about this focal length as you. I'm still not great with it and I find I have to make a lot of micro adjustments to get an interesting shot. But the flip side is this FOV can make almost anything interesting with slight changes in position and tilt. I guess all lenses are responsive in their own way but this one just isn't natural to me either. The reward is when I get a good shot, it resonates like hitting the sweet spot on a golf club or baseball bat...just feels good and that's motivating! I find I can hit the sweet spot more now but it's not automatic yet. But I've graduated to looking forward to shooting with the X100 with confidence from being hesitant and apprehensive. Keep shooting!

    Kev

    ReplyDelete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. The photos don't look like you're struggling too much Robin. I'm also trying to become more comfortable shooting at 35mm. I usually prefer something wider but sold all my gear except the RX1RII. 35mm is starting to feel more natural now.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. I love that lens! Yes we know the f/1.8 is better, but this lens on my E-PL7 makes for a great company in my adventure motorcycle rides.
    Off topic: Just got the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN for my E-M5 II... you have to try this lens!

    ReplyDelete
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  20. I just bought the Oly 25mm 1.8
    I very much prefer it to the 17mm 1.8 that came with my Pen F because it is sharper.
    Raymond Ooi

    ReplyDelete
  21. I couldn't agree more. I find that 17mm range a complete orphan - too wide for a normal or selective perspective but not really wide enough when I want the scene-encompassing benefits of a properly wide lens. Nevertheless, some of your photos here have used the focal length very well. I had the 17/2.8 for a few years. I rarely used it but, when I did, loved the look it produces. It's a great lens!

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  23. I was sort of raised on 35 mm SLR. As I was a teenager I used my Dad's Miranda Sensorex and after working in 1976 or so I got an OM-1 and a succession of OM to the OM-4. Of course in those days the "standard" normal lens was the 50 mm which was on teh Camera a lot, later I got a zom and carried it a bit.
    I think I used the OMs up to about 1998 or 1999 and went though a succession of bridge cameras ending in a Olypmus SP590UZ. In those years We sort of lost track of focal langth because of the varying sensor sizes so we seldom knew the equivalent focal length used.
    When I got my OM-D M10 a couple of years ago I got the 25mm as my prime lens. However in a world of point and shoots and cell phone cameras I think I have become used to wider angle as normal. I must say I hardly use my 25 mm as I usually feel it to be a bit too long. I've been thinking for a while to get one of the two 17 mm to use, but am not sure, I have that range covered by at least 3 zooms in my possession. The main advantage them would be small, compact and fast which sort of says don't get the f/2.8
    So I'm on the fence.

    ReplyDelete
  24. that came with my Pen F because it is sharper.

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    ReplyDelete