Life Without My Mid-Range Zoom

Found an optical defect in one of the inner elements of my Tamron 17-50mm /f2.8 VC a couple weeks ago. As soon as I discovered the problem, I shipped the lens over to a Tamron service center. I promptly received notice from Tamron that the issue would be repaired under warranty, but I’m still waiting for the lens to return. At first I thought I’d have a real tough time without the lens, but I must say that so far, I don’t miss those mid-range focal lengths very much at all. I think it’s because the 17-50mm range just doesn’t give you a whole lot of control over the perception of space and distance in a photograph.

I usually like to either expand foreground and background elements using an ultra-wide lens, or compress the foreground and background using a long telephoto. An example of the latter is seen in the image above. Shot at 165mm, you can really see how compressed the elements in the frame are, giving Suki a really powerful presence in the photo. In contrast, check out a similar image shot at 78mm:

See? Not quite as dramatic, right? Even Suki is disappointed, as you can see by her facial expression. Now if you really want to isolate your subject from the background, try an even longer focal length:

Same location, only with my lens at 280mm. The background gets so compressed at this focal length that it becomes unrecognizable, which completely isolates Suki in the foreground. This is the kind of creative control that a telephoto zoom lens can give you. So the next time you’re out taking photos, think about what you’re trying to accomplish before you start rotating that zoom ring. Are you zooming because you’d rather stay in one spot instead of moving closer to your subject, or are you trying to alter the perception of space and distance in your image? It’s almost always best to consider the latter first.

Ok, so it’s not that I don’t want my Tamron 17-50 anymore. It’s usually the lens I grab first if I have no idea what I’m going out to shoot. But I know now that I can definitely live without that focal range.


Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR

9 thoughts on “Life Without My Mid-Range Zoom

  1. I know you use the site for your photography, but I’d really like to ask about Suki.
    I was wondering what breeder/place you had gotten her from. I’ve been looking for a nice Shiba Inu for years now but I’ve never been satisfied with what I found. Suki is honestly one of the most beautiful Shiba’s I’ve ever seen and she seems so well tempered.
    I appreciate any information you’re able to give.

    Get work with your 52 week project! I’m really enjoying looking at the pictures you’ve taken and the tips are definitely helpful!


    1. Thanks for your comment! We picked out a breeder by first taking a look at the National Shiba Club of America website, Not sure if the breeder we got Suki from is still breeding Shibas though. Thanks again!

  2. さすが!I’m learning a lot from your blog, you know:))
    I was a chance photographer; I took photos only when I felt, “oh, it’s lovely!” But I’ve understood for becoming a good photographer, it’s really necessary to take a lot of photos at one scene.
    I will try different lenses that I have, though it’s troublesome to take various lenses with me.

    I laughed at your description about the second photo; Suki-chan does seem disappointed! ;DDD

    1. コメントありがとう!
      One of the things I really like about your work is that many of your images spring from those chance moments. You don’t always have a lot of time to catch those tiny instances in time that come and go so quickly (especially the ones of all those cats in the street!). Also, I’m glad you learn things here! ^_^

  3. you’re one of those photographers who inspire me to try things outside of my comfort zone =)

    when i saw suki’s expression on the 2nd image, i bursted out laughing along with your comment =)

    1. Hehe, isn’t that photo hilarious? I was thinking of putting an “outtake” album together of all the photos I have of Suki of her making weird faces =)

      I’m glad you can find inspiration in my work, because I definitely find it in yours. Your travel and portrait work is always amazing!

  4. hey,
    I’m also considering a living without a mid range zoom. I have 10-22/17-50/55-250. I’m thinking of doing some upgrade about my set. Like buying 135L/2 to use as my telephoto lens(I’m also looking for toki50-135 instead of this expensive L lens, that’s how i found you on the internet btw:)). And a 35/2, instead of using 17-50 since i have also 10-22 for taking wide-but-no-distortion photos (i meant 17-22mm). But I like my tamron 17-50 too..

    So i know you have also 11-16,35/1.8,17-50,50-135 and stuff…
    Don’t you ever think that “i have 16mm,35mm and 50mm with different lenses so why i should have tamron 17-50?”

    I’m just wondering…. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      Yes, I do ask myself that question a lot. Because I love to use more extreme focal lengths, I find mid-range zooms to be a little boring, and hence my 17-50, while loved, is my least used DX lens. That being said, a mid-range zoom is still good to have as either a single lens travel solution (especially if it’s stabilized) or for wedding/event photography.

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