I’ve been shooting with the 40mm pancake almost exclusively for a half-year now, and I’m not going to stop, but I’m really itching for something better.
If you read the comments on that pancake link above, they say smart things, and others have written about the virtues of running with a prime (no-zoom) lens. Let me pull together my personal list.
Compact · My aged Pentax *ist-D is smallish and lightish as DSLRs go, and the pancake is small and light by any standards. I can easily hold the combo with one hand for an hour at a time as I walk around and shoot. Also I get to tease the other photogeeks with their huge swollen Canon lenses by waving my diminutive setup around airily as they struggle with monopods and the straps around their necks cut off circulation to their brains.
I’m using Lauren’s old camera bag, a beat-up looking canvas thingie designed to hold an SLR with a big zoom. Except for, in the bulge where the zoom is supposed to go I have my flash-card reader and the 21mm wide-angle, and the whole package is light. I do sometimes wonder, for example when stopped by a busy street in Shanghai changing lenses, what would be so bad about using a zoom, but dammit, Art demands Sacrifice, everybody knows that.
Another side-effect of the diminutive setup is that I now take the SLR along on lots of trips I wouldn’t have, before.
Fast · Because I don’t have to think about the zoom, I can shoot more pictures per unit time. Yeah, I have to compose with my whole body, but these days, composition is less important because I’m gonna level and crop in Lightroom anyhow.
Intimate · It’s like this; after six months of working with this puppy, I totally know the field of view. When I look at something maybe-interesting, I find that my mind is automatically figuring out what’s going to fit and what isn’t.
Insensitivity · Life isn’t perfect: this setup is just not sensitive enough. I want the lens to be faster and I want anti-shake and I want the image processor to produce images that are smooth as butter at ISO 1600 and above. Basically, I want a Nikon D3, only half the size.
These days, for indoor shots at conferences at the like, I shoot on manual, hardwired to ISO 400 or 800, 1/60 of a second, and f2.8. They’re mostly a little underexposed, but with the judicious application of Lightroom I can get some decent effects.
Shiny New Toy? · Hmm, check out the new Ricoh GR Digital II. Everyone loved the ergonomics and lens quality and general artfulness of its predecessor, but its low-light performance was wildly controversial. Some of the controversy even showed up in the comments on an earlier piece.
This puppy is said to offer “dramatically” improved high-ISO performance, which sounds very interesting. Mind you, the company’s demo images are all shot at ISO 100; grmph. No anti-shake, though.
Hey, I’m going to be in Tokyo next week; staying in Shinjuku this time too, which is a good camera-shopping district. Hmmmm.