I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist. I know about this, that, and the other thing. A good deal about some stuff, a little something about lots of stuff. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge ought to be good for something.
I’m an expert at just one thing: me. I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, given an opportunity.
To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.
In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum the next month of December.
That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1, I think (not sure) in 2011. Close enough.
The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive (it’s not cheap now). Especially for me. I was even more broke five years ago than I am today, which is saying something.
Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then; this one had a great reputation. Except — I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effective 40mm), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond. It’s not flattering as a portrait lens. Not unflattering, but not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of your friends or dogs.
I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.
Eventually, I gave in. I bought it. Used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (macro), the f1.8 45mm, and the f2.8 60mm macro.
What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t. No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to be know what I suits me. I’m not a newbie testing the waters. As a photographer for almost 50 years, I know the types of pictures I take. I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.
Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or a vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.
Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.