Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Normal Eye

Most photographers have a "normal" focal length, i.e. a viewing angle that most naturally represents their way of seeing. While many would choose the equivalent of a 50 mm lens, a 35 mm focal length much better matches my personal way of looking at the world.

The Olympus 1.8/17 arrived yesterday and is supposed to be my new "normal" prime. Its viewing angle corresponds to a 34 mm in full format, coming pretty close to how I see photographically. My aged Panasonic 1.7/20 and the rarely used 1.4/25 are both going to be replaced by the 17 mm.

For a first test, I took the lens to the National Museum of the American Indian, near the Capitol in Washington DC. As the 17 mm is not wide enough to do the museum's architecture justice, I focused on the play between lights and shadows inside the building:

One of the fascinating details of the museum is a tall, multi-story window on the south side of its wall, which contains a number of glass prisms. On a sunny day, the prisms create a beautiful rainbow-colored pattern that slowly moves along the inner walls of the museum.

The interior of the museum and its exhibitions also make nice subjects:

After a while, I left the museum and walked towards the Capitol (which was just ready for the upcoming Presidential Inauguration):

Back home, I got another nice shot when the afternoon sun fell into my office window:

After all, my first photo session with the 1.8/17 was a pleasing and rewarding experience, and I look forward to shooting with it again. According to some reviewers, the lens might not be as sharp as the the 1.8/45, or even the 1.8/75. But it's fast and silent, nicely crafted, and its image quality seems to be good enough for everything I may want to use it for.

PS. In times where 20x superzoom cameras are ubiquitous, one might ask why bother with prime lenses at all? There are a number of reasons, believe me. But that's another story and I shall tell it another day.