Knowledge Base

A beautiful golden sun was setting across an equally beautiful sea, its azure colour a reflection of the heavens. The purple tint of cirrus high in the atmosphere contributed to a scene unashamedly cliched, but irresistible to photograph. Stepping back several meters, I added an unspoilt golden beach to the composition. Good enough to release the shutter? Yes, but it could be better; walking slowly along the beach were a young couple. Arm in arm, they were lost in the moment and each other. I paused, allowing them to walk into my scene, now an exercise in sunset contre-jour and blissful romanticism. The decisive moment had arrived, and I committed to celluloid a beautiful moment that faded with the setting sun.

Somewhere between the 40 and 60mm focal length lies the unassuming world of the standard lens. Often overlooked for focal lengths providing more drama, a standard lens gives results with a natural perspective. Photography’s history can trace the 50mm lens back through the decades, so it should be no surprise that it became an industry standard. If we look a little closer at the qualities standard lenses provide, there is little wonder they gained favour, becoming one of the most important optics available. Today, their angle of view has been assimilated into that of standard zooms, generally occupying the middle zone of their range and, arguably, something of a detour from the more interesting extremes provided by such lenses.

It was August 1982, and I was in Dubrovnik in what was once Yugoslavia, wondering the medieval back streets of a beautiful town. This was just my second trip outside of the UK, the first being to Tunisia a few months previous. It was these formative years of my traveling experiences that cemented my relationship with cameras, and the need to visually document my journeys. The Tunisian trip was an incredible starting point photographically, but my budget and equipment was very limited. Well used 50 and 135mm lenses were all I owned and, exploration of crowded souks and medinas quickly gave me a longing for a lens with a wider angle of view; something that allowed me to capture more of a scene when I could back up no more.

It is late spring, and the world is awakening after what feels like a long, dark winter. Outside, early flowers paint the garden with much needed colour and the first honey bees are starting to appear. In the house, our resident ant colony is busy seeking out food, some of their opportunistic members venturing into the bottom of the Amazon parrot’s cage for morsels of dropped fruit.

The single most important factor when purchasing an interchangeable lens camera is, as the terminology suggests, its ability to use different lenses. The versatility of such systems provides a photographer with the ability to capture everything from microbes to the stars, depending on where interests lie. Some manufacturers lens systems are vast, addressing most professional and amateur needs. From super wide-angle to long telephoto, there are variants that are weather sealed, fast, tiny, lightweight, stabilised, focus limited, manual…the list goes on. And then there are prime and zoom options.

A question that is occasionally put to us is “I am thinking of buying a camera – do you have any recommendations?”. This sounds simple enough, but like most subjects, photography is a little more complicated, requiring some thought before reaching an answer. Cameras are no different to many other items when it comes to diversity; there are models to suit all shooting styles and budgets. The question’s complexity is usually met with questions to establish why a person needs a camera and what is its intended use.