I sold all of my camera gear a while back and consolidated it down to just the Fujifilm X100T, which is a fixed focal length camera at 23mm — a 35mm equivalent view on a 35mm frame camera. This is also, effectively, the same focal length of your iSight camera on an iPhone. In other words the only two cameras I use, are fixed at 35mm.
While I could add adapters to the X100T to make it wider or longer in focal length, I have yet to do that, and don’t foresee doing this anytime soon. Honestly, I preferred a 50mm focal length before I began this experiment, but when I reviewed all my images it turned out that most were taken closer to 35mm than to 50mm. So I felt like this would be a fine problem to have — shooting closer to what I used, than to what my heart told me I loved.
After almost a year shooting nothing but the 35mm focal length, I can tell you without a doubt: I haven’t had a single issue. Yes there are some shots that I miss, but unless I had a large telephoto with me, I would miss those shots anyways. And there are far more keepers too, as I am never caught changing lenses.
Missing Less Shots
As I mentioned before, if you never get caught changing lenses, then your camera is always ready. Just point and shoot. You would be amazed how much more you see and experience when you aren’t fiddling with your camera gear.
There is, though, another side completely to why you miss far less shots: you already know the frame. People often tell new photographers to only shoot with one focal length so that they begin to see with their own eyes, in that focal length.
If this experiment has shown me anything, it has shown me this is a very true statement. When I pick up the X100T, I already know where that frame is going to fall. This is massively important, not because I spend less time composing, or I know what the shot will look like.
No, this is important, because I can get my body into the right position before I even bring my camera to my eye. It’s one fluid motion, instead of doing the zoom lens dance where you are twisting your wrists back and forth while bobbing up at down to find the right frame.
Often I am getting the camera to my eye as I am stepping back 2.5 steps and moving one to the right — then when the camera hits my eye, it’s already the frame I thought it was going to be.
That’s how you really miss less shots. Once you bring your camera to your eye, people freeze up, so if you can instinctually frame before you even lift the camera, you are already ahead of the game. Parents, take note.
Shooting Things I Otherwise Wouldn’t See
When you have a big kit of camera gear, you end up shooting the first shot you see in your mind because you have the different focal lengths available to try and find that shot. So if you see a great portrait you grab your portrait lens and get some nice compression, blow out the background, and bam — shot done.
You see some action far off and you grab the telephoto lens and get in close to show it. You see a beautiful vast landscape and you go as wide as you can to grab it all. There are endless great shots you can get when you have all the focal lengths covered.
But what about when you have just a 35mm focal length? What happens when you can’t do anything but move your physical body closer or farther from your subject?
I would argue that what happens is far more interesting. You are forced to think about what other shots you might take of the same scene, since you can’t actually frame as tight or as loose as you might have “seen” the picture in your mind.
Your portraits look far different. They are either taken physically closer, show more intimacy, or they are shot wider with more of the scene incorporated.
You end up playing with shapes more. You play with the scene itself more. And some times, on really special occasions, there will be no shot you can find and so you just lower the camera and enjoy the memory.
A Small Adjustment, Not a Large One
When I first went to 35mm full time, I constantly thought about the fact I was shooting only at 35mm. It’s like pretending you cannot take landscape oriented pictures any more — you constantly think about the constraint. That was a real issue for me, but it only lasted for a month.
After that month passed I stopped thinking about the focal length completely. I began to just go out and shoot and not worry about focal lengths, or what lenses to bring with me. It was a much more minor adjustment than I had initially suspected.
It’s Much Simpler
I’ve oscillated over getting the telephoto adapter which gives you the 50mm focal length. Because the thing is, there are a few times each month where that would be really handy to have, but every time I look at buying it, I am reminded I simply do not have a need for it.
And because I don’t have a need for it, it would just complicate a perfectly great setup. There’s no need for complication here. If I need something more, than this is the wrong camera for me.
I’d really encourage people to try this setup, because it really is fantastic. It’s not for everyone (it sucks for sports, or birding) but for everything else it is sublime.