For a few years now I've considered the 35mm focal length to be my standard lens whenever I was travelling light with just a camera slung over my shoulder. I'm not quite sure how that evolved since, like most people who grew up during the film era, the first few 35mm SLRs I bought came with 50mm lenses.
It began with an OM1 and a 50mm f1.4 Zuiko when I was 18 and was followed by just about every other good SLR from the '70s and '80s, all sporting the ubiquitous fifty. Being a "serious" photographer, it didn't take long before I started adding other focal lengths and a spare body but one camera/one lens outings invariably featured the 50mm.
I then went through a medium format spell before getting into digital. With the latter, I always found a zoom to be more convenient. Then I went back to film a few years ago and, for some reason, my standard lens became a 35mm. Whether I was going through a Nikon F, Pentax MX, Minolta XE-1, OM phase or whatever, I found I preferred the slightly wider view of the 35mm.
He said, "Here’s one lens that’s utterly forgotten yet absolutely magnificent: the Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2 Macro. You can use it as a normal lens and I promise you, you will never use a better 50mm. No matter what name is engraved on the barrel." So I mounted it on my OM2n, shot some film and grew to like it more and more.
It's unlike most Zuikos in that it's quite large but that's a consequence of its macro capabilities and quite a fast aperture. But it really is just about the perfect lens if you're going walkabout. It's very sharp, has great bokeh, handles well for its size and focuses to just a few inches and so is very versatile.
For weeks I used little else other than the OM2 and the macro as I began to move away from the misty, moody shots I took in the country to my preferred subject matter (at least for now!) of the graphic image. Then the Leica M2 entered my life with 35mm Summaron, 50mm Summicron and 90mm Elmar. The Summaron and Elmar have haze issues which will need to be sorted by a camera technician but it was no hardship continuing my new photographic style with the M2 and Summicron.
Yesterday, after dropping Cath off at church, I thought I'd spend an hour wandering about the beach before picking her up. The only camera I had with a film in it was the Hexar AF so I scooped it up as I headed out the door. Well, that's when I realised how much I'd grown to like the 50mm - I couldn't find anything worthwhile to photograph at all with the wider angle of view of the Hexar's 35mm f2 Hexanon. It's a brilliant lens but, at least yesterday, I was somewhat immune to its charms. I wandered around for a while, realised I was seeing nothing at all and went back to the car to start writing this post.
What does all this mean? Am I now less able to take photographs of the kind I want with a 35mm lens? I don't think so. It's just about what you're used to. Photographers who find 35mm too wide have simply become accustomed to seeing life through the field of view of a 50mm. Force them - or me - to use a 35mm lens for six months and I bet we'd all being saying the 50mm is too restrictive. That's certainly how I felt during my 35mm phase.
So, for now, I'm a dedicated 50mm photographer - the pics accompanying this post are a mix of the Zuiko and Summicron. In the future, who knows?