Photo Tourism with a Fixed Focal Length

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During two trips to Europe, I’ve decided to shoot primarily with a fixed focal length. During my first trip to Paris, I mounted a Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens on my Canon 60D and shot virtually all our travels with the equivalent of a 50mm focal length. For this trip to France, I have been shooting with a Fujifilm X100s which with its 23mm lens sports the equivalent of a 35mm focal length. Though I initially focused on the potential disadvantages, the reality was that working this simply has its benefits.

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Ready Access

I just leave the hotel with a single camera which is attached to the Custom SLR Glide One Strap. The camera is small and compact enough the I can access it easily whether it’s inside or outside of my jacket.

No Camera Bag

I don’t have to worry about the burden of carrying a camera bag with an assortment of lenses. As I am easily putting in at least 3 miles a day on my feet, I don’t have to be concerned with the added weight of a heavy kit bag.

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Faster Response Time

Because I’m working with a single focal length, I don’t miss a moment adjusting the zoom. I don’t have to contend with missing a great shot, because my focal length was set to telephoto rather than wide angle. I can see and respond to a moment as fast as the camera is able to focus.

Previsualizing Composition

Because of using a single focal length, I have a sense of how I want to compose my photographs to make best use of wide focal length. I’m not only consider the placement of my subject, but also their surroundings to help produce a strong photograph.

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Depth of Field

The native focal length on the X100s provided ample depth of field even with a moderate aperture of f4. So, this helps to achieve good sharpness when maintaining a relatively fast shutter speed is also a priority.

Less Conspicuous

Using a camera with a smaller form factor relegates my to little more than tourist in the eyes of most people. So, even when the camera is pointed in their direction, there are less apt to be intimidated as compared to when I’m using a DSLR.

Composing for the Edge of the Frame

The wide focal length allows me to include people in the edge of the frame. Though it may seem to them that they are not in the shot, they actually are.

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Low Light Performance

The fast maximum aperture of a fixed focal length lens makes it easier for me to shoot under very low light. Though I sometimes must still use higher ISOs, I don’t have to set them as high as when I am working with slower zoom lenses.

Slow Shutter Speeds

It’s also much easier to shooting at shutter speeds as slow as 1/30 second and still achieve sharp images, even without the benefit of image stabilization. By just carefully handing the camera and slightly depressing the shutter release button, I can still achieve tack sharp photographs.

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More Fun

The fact that I can go a full day of walking and sightseeing without feeling exhaustion frees me to enjoy my time. I no longer have to feel an eagerness to get back to the hotel and unload the bag. If I no longer want to shoot, I can simply the camera in my coat pocket.

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