There’s a saying that zoom lenses can make you a lazy photographer. And that could be true if you use them the wrong way.
I was recently given the opportunity to test out the new Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM II lens, and while I wanted to touch on the specifics of this lens a bit, while using it, I was reminded why I prefer prime lenses.
Now I don’t make this statement because this lens is no good. In fact, this lens is pretty amazing, and it may be the first zoom lens I’ve decided to add to my bag since I switched to primes over eight years ago. This lens has things like an aperture ring, iris lock, click switch and two custom function buttons. It even has a switch where you can adjust the feel of the zoom, making it tight or smooth, which is basically a way to make the lens more friendly for video or stills, depending on your needs.
This new version also fixes one of my biggest issues with zooms, their size and weight. In fact, this lens is about as small and light as my Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4, and if you compare it to the first version, you can immediately see the difference. If you think about it, that’s a pretty impressive feat of engineering. Not only did they take that high-end G-Master lens and make it a better all-around lens by using an entirely new optical path, a new floating focus mechanism linked to four XD Linear Motors, and better grip Apart from things like distortion and chromatic aberration, they also made it much smaller and lighter. In fact, it’s the smallest and lightest 24-70mm f/2.8 on the market!
But all that aside, the reason you might be using your zoom lens the wrong way is because for a very long time I used them the wrong way myself. And in testing this lens, even now after using strictly primes for eight years, I quickly fell back into my old habits.
When you’re shooting something at 24mm and decide to fill the frame a bit more with the subject, what a ton of photographers will do is just zoom in a bit. And that makes sense, right? The subject is far away and I want to get closer, so I zoom in. The problem is that, in my opinion, this is the wrong way to approach this situation. Because if you’re at 24mm and you just zoom in to 70mm to fill your frame, you’ve completely changed the optical characteristics of your lens.
So the image that you wanted to change slightly by “moving closer” has now completely changed, because you haven’t really moved closer. What you’ve really done is basically change your lens. In the example below, I have my daughter about the same height in the frame, and there is a noticeable difference in viewing angle even from 24mm to 36mm.
I’ve seen this done a ton of times watching other photographers work. Usually, a photographer stands at an arbitrary place and his feet become almost stuck in that place. From there they get their wide, medium and tight images and never move an inch. Or on a wedding day, the photographer will plant himself on the back wall of the room and simply zoom in and out of the moment. The problem is that you shouldn’t use your lens’ zoom function to get closer or further away from your subject. Instead, you should use your lens’ zoom feature to choose your desired focal length. And you should base that decision on the optical qualities of that focal length, not your location in relation to your subject.
When I started photographing weddings, I didn’t understand this. And even when I switched to prime lenses, I honestly didn’t really know. All I knew was that when I was stuck on a prime lens, I had to work harder to get the image I wanted, but as a result, I also got better images. After a while I realized it was because I was moving my feet. So, instead of just zooming into a room, I would choose the lens for its storytelling characteristics, and then place my camera where it needed to be to tell that story.
So if you’re shooting with zooms and you find you’re not really moving your feet a ton. I think this little mental shift can actually make you a better photographer. The cool thing about all that foot movement is that not only are you now using your focal length for the right reasons, but the more you move, the more angles you see, explore more composition options, and you feel more comfortable inside. moment rather than trying to zoom into it. This, in turn, helps the viewer to also feel in the moment.
The last thing I want to address is that this opinion is entirely based on your freedom of movement. If you’re a wildlife photographer, you can’t really get up and walk around without scaring your subject. Likewise, if you’re on an African safari, you can’t reasonably expect to get out of the vehicle and closer to your subject to fill the frame. And in the wedding world, if you’re attending a church ceremony where you can only shoot from the back pew, then yes, totally rock that zoom feature. But you would be much better served in your trade if you could learn to use your zoom to simply choose your focal length and then from there use your feet to move closer or further from your subject as needed.
In conclusion, I think the new Sony 24-70mm is an amazing lens. Anyone looking for something lightweight, compact and versatile should consider getting this. But, I also believe that a good number of photographers could benefit from more intentional use of this type of lens. But that’s just me. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.