[This fragment is available in an audio version.]

I’ve said this before in passing, but I’m becoming passionate about it. Increasingly, I believe that if you go out for a walk with a camera, you should consider attaching a difficult, opinionated lens and just leaving it on. Herewith a gallery of ten 2020 photos taken with such a lens, interspersed with preaching on the subject.

A windy winter day on English Bay

A windy March 15th on English Bay, the part of the Pacific closest to Vancouver and what you find yourself in when your boat goes under the bridge and out of protection. It is frequently the subject of grumpy remarks from boaters concerning its tendency to nasty crosscutting waves.

The opinionated lens in all these pictures is the Samyang 135m f/2 (actually 148mm on a Fuji X-cam), without doubt my most rewarding camera purchase in recent years. Follow that link for lots more on the lens.

That picture above shows how an unreasonably long lens can layer mid-range and distant objects in a composition that ordinary lenses can’t but your eyes think they can — they can’t actually, but they switch focus fast enough to fool you.

Purple behind poppies
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Weathered fence behind purple

Purple behind poppies, and purple in front of a weathered fence. May 10th and 19th respectively.

And of course the big bright f/2.0 does that sharp-focus/soft-field thing that makes your subject stand out and your background background-y. I can’t even remember what the purple behind the orange was, but if you’d been able to see the individual blossoms they would have got in the way of appreciating the poppies. And the weathered grey cedar fence with a diamond lattice behind the pink flower is nothing special to look at when it’s in focus.

When I’m out walking with the big Fuji/Samyang combo, that’s not the only camera I have with me, because the phone’s always there. And given the right subject, it can take pictures that are just as beautiful as the “real” camera.

In fact, the distinguishing feature of the big fat prime is that every single one of the photos it takes is something that couldn’t have been captured with any phone.

Distant mountainside

Of course, another reason to wield big glass is to capture things that are long away away. Those trees are at least ten kilometers across Howe Sound.

Party boat!

Party boat! Maybe 500m away.


The heron just far enough away that it doesn’t mind my presence.

The last three pictures were captured on the first and second of August. They’re all pretty heavily processed in Lightroom, especially the mountainside. Lightroom’s “dehaze” control is super helpful on almost any photo of something that’s far away, because it’s specifically designed to counteract the effect of a whole lot of air between you and your target.

purple berries

Late-season berries, November 21st.

Once again with the shallow depth of field. And now, once again with the layering, which in this case gracefully collapses a city’s texture and topography into a little rectangle.

Downtown from across Jonathan Rogers Park
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Dog in Jonathan Rogers Park

From 8th Avenue in Mount Pleasant by Jonathan Rogers Park, downtown across False Creek and a dog playing fetch, both on December 26th.

The big bright glass lets you capture something that’s moving fast on a dull day while still usefully blurring the background.

Now, there are downsides. This is big and heavy and ridiculously out of proportion with the Fujifilm X-T30 it’s screwed onto, unsurprising and sort of OK since I bought the camera to carry along while climbing up and down the Great Wall of China.

And of course it’s manual focus, which makes everything more difficult.

Do Not Refuse

December 27th in Musqueam Park. You can figure out what the sign originally said.

Indeed, I wouldn’t normally take this thing along on an adventure hike. But it seems I never regret setting out with it when I do. Like the sign now says, DO NOT REFUSE.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Roland Tanglao (Dec 27 2020, at 22:54)

everybody hated the Light L16 but I loved it and the 28-150mm equivalent:


I only stopped using the L16 because Light stopped shipping security updates and stopped improving the camera (I was hoping for an on board full res JPEG generator; the last firmware update just generated 2megapixel JPEGs)

I agree with your thesis though! after taking 300,000 cameraphone photos I personally only use "real cameras" with a lens that's not currently possible on cameraphones.

I am currently in love with the Canon EOS RP and the 100-300mm zoom used that I bought for $150CDN from Kerrisdale Camera in November. Currently 4500 photos and counting :-)



From: Jim Ancona (Dec 28 2020, at 10:39)

I agree that putting an "odd" lens on the camera causes interesting things to happen. Do you also have the Fuji XF55-200? If so, I'm curious how the Samyang compares.



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colophon · rights

December 27, 2020
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