Thoughts on fixed lenses

I’ve had Samsung’s NX10 hybrid camera on loan for the last ten days or so and I’m impressed (more on this in the upcoming review). It’s got me thinking though – the NX10 arrived with two lenses, both made by Samsung – a fixed 30mm F2 and an 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OIS zoom. The zoom lens stayed on for a couple of days before being replaced by the super thin “pancake” fixed 30mm.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the zoom. It’s a good little lens, nice and sharp, easy to handle and it’s got built in stabilization, so it’s much the same as many equivalents supplied with DSLRs by a variety of manufacturers. The main reason to take the NX10 out more often with the fixed lens is the same reason why a 35mm F2 is more or less glued to my Nikon D200, where my four zoom lenses languish unloved in camera bags. I get better shots with a fixed lens and I’m not too shy to say that most photographers will as well.

Sure you may miss shots with a fixed lens that you would have easily had with a zoom, especially if the zoom is something with a big zoom range. My Nikon 18-200mm is a great example; with a 35mm equivalent on the DX sensor of 27-300mm, there’s not much that can’t be shot somewhere between wide and long.

The shots you do get with the fixed lens will be better though. You won’t get much in the way of wide shots and reaching out to grab a sailboat in the gulf isn’t going to happen but I find that the fixed lens has a marvelous ability to get my feet moving, forcing me to find the right shot, rather than just standing around and framing some random shot with the zoom ring. I tend to “see” photos I wouldn’t normally look at because I have to think outside the square and work within the scope of the fixed lens, which in the case of the Nikon 35mm and Samsung 30mm is roughly 50mm, or the classic “normal” film lens that’s worked so well for untold numbers of photographers over the years.

This isn’t original thinking. Not by a long shot but as someone who started off needing to have as much zoom range as possible on me at all times, I’ve certainly evolved. My day to day carry kit has changed from a heavy bag with enough zoom lenses to reach from 18-450mm in film terms, to a single fixed lens on a camera slung over my shoulder, except for specific trips.

Taking it a step further, there’s nothing wrong with carrying around a few fixed lenses – one wide, one normal and one long. You’d be duplicating a zoom’s overall range but still having to move around to get the best shot, and you will get your best shots. Trust me on that.

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