Does 14mm really matter? For my non-photographer readers, in this case, I’m talking about focal length. In short, focal length determines how close or far the subject appears through the lens. The more millimeters, the closer things look.
I tend to like zoom lenses, which offer a range of focal lengths in one lens. This may be because when I am done working for the day, I don’t want to make any more decisions. When I get out my camera, I don’t want to have to decide if 50mm is going to be what I need. However, generally speaking, lenses with the biggest range of focal lengths often have the poorest image quality. I guess to get all that range, you have to give up something. As such, I try to buy the best quality lenses with a reasonable range of focal lengths I can.
Over the course of several years, the range of focal lengths I could cover has grown from 17-55mm and 70-300mm to 16-55mm and 70-560mm. Yet, I never could cover that 14mm gap from 56-69mm.
For a long time I thought I could live without those 14mm. But then I started running into situations where I really needed a focal length between 55 and 70mm and I didn’t have it. Granted, moving is often an option. However, when you’re shooting from a train, a car, a boat, a balcony, a roof, or even a hilltop, moving may not be within your control.
Since I am waiting patiently for my new full-frame camera and my 17-55mm lens will not work with a full frame camera, I figured it was time to fill the gap. After 5 years of no 56-69 coverage, I have now expanded the focal range to 16-560mm–with no gaps.
As exciting as this may be to me, comparing what I get at a previously unavailable focal length to other, available focal lengths seems like the best thing to do. I set up on the balcony and shoot the view I have shot so many times before. This time, I aim for 60mm–right in the middle of my new range. Unfortunately, there are no markings between 50 and 70mm on my lens, so I have to guess where 60mm is. When I load my photos into Aperture, I learn that I was shooting at 57 and 58mm. Oh well. Still within the previously missing range.
Tisen, who is suffering from a combination of allergies and a nasty rash and has been put on steroids and antibiotics, is so groggy, he barely drags himself out onto the balcony to help me shoot. As soon as I sit down at the computer, he returns to the sofa. Apparently he has grown tired of the view faster than I have.
The new photos are compared to old shoots from similar views at different focal lengths. It’s funny what a difference a few mm can make!