My lens broke. And it made me a better photographer.

October 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment
I'm still relatively new to the world of "real" photography, having owned a DSLR for less than two years. It's simply amazing how much I've learned in that amount of time, and as is usually the case, the more I learn, the more there is to learn. Take, for example, my recent education about zoom lens dependence.

One of the first upgrades I purchased after owning my camera for a few months was an "all in one" zoom lens to replace the two kit lenses that came with the body. I thought that by having a lens with a range from 18 to 270mm I might never have to change lenses again. And by buying off-brand I was saving almost 50% over the price of a Nikon lens. I was so smart! Just like I expected, for months that lens never came off, except for cleaning.

Fast forward a few months, and after learning that I didn't know as much as I thought I did, I had picked up a wide aperture portrait lens (because my all in one couldn't do shallow depth of field or soft focus) and a macro lens (because my all in one couldn't focus close enough for life size detail). By this time I realized that my all in one was really a most in one, but it was still my primary lens, especially when I was traveling.

Then, while coming home from a family wedding this summer, I turned the zoom ring and something snapped. I could only zoom part of the way out, then I would have to pull the end of the lens out a bit, and continue zooming. I sent the lens in for service, assuming that only fourteen months into a six year warranty this would be a covered repair.

Here's where the story turns a bit ugly. I received a repair estimate of $260 which indicated there was evidence of "shock damage" that voided the warranty. After a little bit of research it seemed that the claim of shock damage was quite common among people sending their lenses in for repair, and seems to be the manufacturer's way of controlling warranty costs. I called and politely asked them to review the file, as I had always transported the lens in a padded bag, and had never dropped it. They refused to even review my claim, so I declined the repair, had the paperweight lens returned to me, and swore never to buy anything but Nikon lenses again.

Since then, I've been using my Nikon 35/1.8, Nikon 85/3.5 macro, and my Nikon 10-24/3.5-4.5. With the 10-24 lens I find that I use it at 10 or at 24, never anything in between, so it's sort of like two prime lenses. What I've found since then is that by essentially having only four focal lengths to choose from, I actually have to spend a few seconds thinking about what I want to photograph. And when I think about what length to use, I have to think about where I need to place myself, which usually leads to the conclusion that my first thought about the picture was wrong. But, I never went through that process with the big zoom lens - I would just put the camera to my eye, crank the zoom ring in and out, and fire away, hoping for the best.

I came to realize that, for me at least, a superzoom lens was a crutch that actually inhibited my growth. Though, I certainly wouldn't complain if someone threw a 70-200/2.8 my way. Maybe I should thank Tamron for refusing to honor their warranty. I'll still never buy another of their products, but they indirectly made me better.

And what's a photo blog without photos? Here's the difference just in the past few months:
541994_3634647543909_1050617134_n
Taken with the superzoom. Snap, snap, snap.
308266_469349963087544_1509220638_n
Taken with a prime. Think, then shoot.


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