Casual Photography and the 55

The Holidays are usually frantic – lots to do, lots of chaos with presents, food, kids, you name it. It’s a time for family most of all.

As a photographer, it’s time to record these moments. Both for myself and my family. But my goal in these situations is to be as unobtrusive as possible. That means no lights, no muss, no fuss. Stay in the background and don’t make a big deal of it.

Fortunately I’m blessed with a camera that excels in low light situations that is also small and unobtrusive. Paired with the 55mm Sony/Zeiss f/1.8 lens, I find it the perfect combination for these occasions.

I think many photographers would prefer a wider angle of coverage, like that of a 35mm or wider, for the compressed space that interiors – the environment of most holiday shots – provides. But I’ve always preferred a longer field of view; the 55 is considered ever-so-slightly longer than a “normal” frame of view (one could argue a 35 offers a “normal” perspective also – albeit on the wide side). In the confines of interior spaces, the 55 to me gives a more intimate feel. Perhaps it’s my background in portraiture, but a hint of intimacy and focus seems to simplify the chaos. And I’m a big fan of simplification.

Speaking of focus, I either shoot that lens wide open or at around f/2. That means the possibility of razor-thin depth of field and missed shots. But it also means a defocused background that again helps to separate who I’m shooting from the background. It’s fortunate that the 55 is considerably different from most other f/1.8 lenses on the market in this focal length. Normally f/1.8 50’s are considered “budget” lenses, with the f/1.4 being the “professional” one. The Sony/Zeiss 55 was designed (and priced) from the ground up as a professional calibre lens with excellent sharpness and pleasing bokeh even wide open, yet be small. 55mm filter size small. Although there is a 50mm f/1.4 that is marginally better (and in fact one of the best 50’s on the market), it is considerably larger and more expensive (not that the 55 is inexpensive); the 55 suits me as to its size and performance.

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. | kidona.com

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. | kidona.com

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. | kidona.com

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. | kidona.com

But even the inexpensive 50’s have their place. For the money they generally offer the best price/performance of any lens. Stopped down just a smidgen they are often sharp enough. And on a cropped frame (35mm sensor) body they offer a similar view to that of a 75mm lens of a full frame 35mm sensor; that might present a problem as that is in short telephoto territory, so the 35 may be the better choice (and you are starting to see 35s being offered in a more affordable f/1.8 or f/2.8 range).

I hope your holidays were filled with joy, and the happiness that comes from being with family. And you were able to capture at least some of those moments for you to reminisce for years to come.

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