The importance of a small telephoto lens

Just as people who contemplate the end of their active work life are drawn to downsizing (the lure of a cottage in the countryside with a rose-scented bower seems irresistible to a weary mind), photographers of a certain age wax lyrical about downsizing their gear.

Hugh Brownstone can’t stop talking about his Leica Q2 with a fixed 28mm f/1.7 Summilux, which he manages to push to 50mm and beyond by reducing the pixel count. In his words, to “crop the hell out of” the image. Yes, the Leica with its 47M pixels, well nigh perfect glass, and $5K worth of German wizardry will indulge. Just one camera with one fixed lens.

Even younger folks, like Joshua Jackson and Sean Tucker have long switched to the equivalent of between 30 to 50mm to prowl the streets of London in search of a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. Simplicity they say. Immediacy, others echo. No futzing, says Hugh.

And yet.

There are cheap, slow telephoto zoom lenses that cost not much more than a train ticket (in a certain decadent European country, you know). I have managed to grab hold of a grey import of the Fujifilm 50-230mm, which is quite blind at its f/6.7 at the far end, but boy, does it pull!

230mil is the equivalent of 345mm full frame. That is 7 times (!) your normal focal distance.

All of that at 4 inch long. All of that weighing in at 13 ounces…

And it has optical stabilisation to boot — but don’t hold your breath, it’s not amazing.


I was walking across the Ivel Springs nature reserve, and something made me turn. I saw a crescent moon and a white angel soaring against the dark blue of an evening sky, and I saw smoky black foam shimmering underneath. All three were squatting on a tiny patch of the celestial real estate.

It was with a trembling hand that I fetched my telephoto zoom and pulled it out to its 230mm limit; pointed the X-T30 in my hands skyward, exhaled and pressed the trigger.

Stay safe. May the angel spread his wing over you.

A happy Thanksgiving.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s