Finding Your Lens’ Sweet Spot

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Lenses…  They’re arguably the most important component of the image making formula. Indeed, a great lens can make a mediocre camera sing in much the same way that a mediocre lens can stifle a great camera.  But should we be quick to evaluate whether or not a lens is a gem or a dud?  Recently, two image making masters sat down and had such a discussion.

While attending the WPPI show in Las Vegas, MC Contributor and Hybrid Photography Trail Blazer Will Crockett (DiscoverMirrorless.com) sat down for coffee and conversation with wildlife photography legend Scott Bourne (PhotoFocus.com), and the two got to talking lenses – namely the Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm 4.0-5.6 zoom lens, which had left Will with lukewarm feelings a few months earlier.  But is this lens worth another look?

Here’s how Will tells the story…

“A few months ago, a tribe of posters on one of the big photo forums made it clear that my opinion on the Lumix 100-300mm zoom was wrong. Ha! Dunno how an opinion can be wrong, but I’m always open to ideas and when I met up for coffee with my friend Scott Bourne, I asked him his take. He also saw what I saw in my testing, but asked me to try using it a different way. I’m more of a portrait shooter, so I have different needs and expectations from a lens than a world-class nature shooter like Scott does. So I tried it his way and guess what? Watch this video and see. It’s nice having smart friends.  (Thanks Scott!)”

The Moral of the Story…

There’s so much we can learn from experienced pros like Scott and Will, and I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation!  Right off the bat, there are a couple of important lessons that come from this story.

  1. Every photographer has different needs.  Scott and Will are both consummate professionals, but they each have a different style of shooting and therefore, different needs.  Because Will shoots mostly portraits and Scott shoots nature, it’s easy to conceive that each of them can travel with completely different sets of lenses, yet each can still achieve amazing results.  It’s also easy to conceive that each of them might use the same lenses in dramatically different fashions, so a lens that is ideal for one of them might not be a good choice for the other.
  2. Every lens has a “sweet spot,” or an ideal setting that allows it to perform at it’s best.  For example, The Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm 1.8  lens, which many agree is one of the (if not the) best portrait lenses in the world.  Shoot with that lens wide open and you’ll get some great results, but stop it down to f/4.0 and the lens comes alive, giving you crisp and beautiful images that are beyond sublime.  Much the same can be said of the Lumix 100-300mm zoom lens, which on the surface may not be very well suited to Will’s work, but once he found it’s sweet spot, he found that this lens was indeed one with which he could shoot with confidence.

One of Will’s mottos is “save on the (camera) body, spend on the lens,” because a good lens can make or break the quality of images produced by your camera.  So when you’re evaluating a lens, it’s very important that you put some time in with it, try different settings and find it’s optimal settings, because finding the sweet spot could mean the difference between a good lens and a great lens!

Buy the Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm 4.0-5.6 lens on Amazon Here

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