If you could only choose one focal length to use for the rest of your life, what would it be? Fortunately, it was not for life, but only for a weekend. But let me tell you the story from the beginning.
A few months ago, in December, my wife and I went for a weekend in Seia, Portugal, It’s a small, quiet city in the mountains. Just what we were needing, to rest, to spend some quality time together. Because having three children, believe me, tranquillity is something that doesn’t exist here at home!
Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was that it would be an excellent opportunity to photograph. But carrying a backpack with cameras, lenses, accessories… it would be the exact opposite of what is intended for a peaceful weekend for two. So I made the decision that I would only take a camera body with a single prime lens, and that set would have to be enough to photograph everything I would find over the weekend.
With vast rocky landscapes, a wide-angle would be ideal. But on the other hand, I would also want to make some portraits of my wife, so it couldn’t be anything too wide. And I would also be shooting indoors, often poorly lit, so it would have to be a reasonably fast lens. And although I was going to take my camera bag to carry the camera, plus a few spare batteries and the charger, most of the time, I would just walk around with the camera in hand and an extra battery in my pocket. So the choice would have to fall on a small and discreet prime lens.
So, I summarized my options to:
- Camera body: Fuji X-E3 or X-Pro1
- Lens: XF 35mm f/1.4 or XF 23mm f/2
Since I bought the X-E3 I have used the X-Pro1 very little, which is a shame, because I really like it and the results it produces. The truth is that it is slow, not only the focusing speed, but the whole camera in general. But on a peaceful and relaxing weekend, I would be sure that this would not be an inconvenience. Decision made: X-Pro1.
As for the lens, and I’m sure many will agree with me, the XF 35mm f/1.4 is one of the best lenses ever made. Sharp, it renders images in a beautiful way, and it’s small. Excellent for portraits and, with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 it’s great for indoors shooting. But, going to a place where at least half of the photographs would be landscapes, perhaps it was not ideal. The XF 23mm f/2 is even smaller and offers me the versatility I need. Decision: XF 23mm f/2.
When we are used to using multiple cameras with multiple focal lengths, or zoom lenses, we can always choose the best tool for the job. So, getting stuck with the 23mm, at first, it required some habituation and forced me to adjust to a variety of shooting situations using only one lens. But, with only one focal length attached to the camera for a while, my eyes relatively quickly got used to the angle of view, and this constrain caused me to look for subjects specifically suited for this focal length.
Bottom line: the weekend went beautifully, and although my wife was very disappointed with the weather in the higher regions, the truth is that this type of fog provided a series of interesting photographs, dark and moody. Carrying a small camera on the shoulder didn’t interfere with the primary goal of the weekend, which was to relax, get to know this area better, eat its delicious food and have some quality time. In the end, I didn’t feel that having just one lens made me miss any photo, and that’s the message to keep.
As you know, a lot of photographers in the past are known for having used just one lens for most of their work. So, based on this experience, I will now describe the six most important advantages of using only one lens/focal length:
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Co-founder of the Fuji X Passion Project.
Travel and documentary photographer from Portugal, using mirrorless cameras since 2012.