My Dream Lens: Hari Mahidhar


The wide-angle capabilities of the standard zoom helped me include the surrounding area. Photograph/Hari Mahidhar

The wide-angle capabilities of the standard zoom helped me include the surrounding area. Photograph/Hari Mahidhar

If you were allowed to use only one lens all through you life, which one would that be? Which is the lens that defines your vision and style of photography? Raj Lalwani posed this question to five internationally renowned photographers and got some interesting insights. Along the way, they also gave some great tips on using different kinds of lenses. Here is what they had to say.

Kit Zoom Fundas
Hari Mahidhar talks about why a standard zoom lens, like the 24–70mm (or even a simple kit lens) is all that he needs.

There are many exotic lenses available in the market, but the question that I would like to ask you is whether you really need that unusual fisheye look or ultra telephoto 600mm. Barring a few genres, most kinds of photography can be achieved with a standard zoom lens like the 24–70mm. I am talking about the use of this lens on a fi lm or full frame camera. On a DX camera, the 18–55mm does a similar job, which is probably the reason why camera manufacturers pack this in as the kit lens.

All That You Need
Unless you are shooting in a very constricted environment or trying to capture far-off birds, a standard zoom is good enough. The good thing about this lens is that it can do a little bit of everything! It covers a some wide-angle, some telephoto and all the focal lengths that are there between.
In fact, using it will help you understand whether you need to buy any other lens at all. If you are constantly thinking that the 24–70mm (or 18–55mm) is not wide enough, you should probably buy a specialist wide-angle lens. Alternatively, if you crave for more reach, maybe you are more of a telephoto user.

Simplicity Meets Quality
The 24–70mm lens has stunning optical quality. While this expensive lens is ideal for professional use, amateurs and students need not worry. The budget options of this lens may not have a fixed f/2.8 aperture, but even the basic kit lens is quite sharp.

Avoid Changing Lenses too Much
There are two main ways in which you can pack your camera bag. Either carry 2–3 prime lenses or one zoom that can cover the entire range. Both approaches have their own benefi ts, but I always advocate the use of a zoom. Considering that one lens stays on your camera, it means less sensor dust and no lens caps getting lost!

It is Everywhere
The 18–55mm is probably the most common lens amongst digital photographers. So if you go for a trip and your lens stops working, chances are that a photographer friend will have the same lens. You can share filters and also exchange notes as to how the lens performs in different shooting conditions.

Combine Zoom and Perspective
Try this simple exercise. Shoot a person against a backdrop using the maximum focal length your lens allows. Then, zoom out completely and try to shoot a similar frame by going closer to the subject.
Though the framing may be identical, the composition will be different. The apparent distance between the subject and background differs. Other things that will change include the depth-of-field and also how good your subject looks!
Thus, always remember that you can use both zoom and perspective to change the way your photograph looks.

Experiment with Both Kinds of Portraiture
When you meet someone interesting, you can use a standard zoom lens to shoot two different kinds of portraits without even changing the lens. Zoom in to the person’s face completely and throw the background out of focus.
Then, before the mood of the place and his temperament changes, go closer, use the widest focal length and capture him interacting with his environment.

About Hari Mahidhar: Though he is most known for his gritty industrial photographs, Mahidhar has experimented with different genres, both within the studio and outside. This photographic artist confesses that he is a huge fan of technology, and greatly enjoys any new equipment.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: Shooting Technique, Raj Lalwani, Composition, Lens, may 2011, Kit Lens, 18-55mm lens