As I read forums and have conversations with photographers I am noticing a troubling misunderstanding concerning photographic lenses. The conversation most people seem to be most interested in is: what is the best lens? The marketeers have created a delusional flock of photographers thinking they will be better shooters with more expensive lenses. Many photographers that own zoom lenses seem to use them only at either the widest or the longest settings. They seem to regard reality as more interpretive when looking in a fun-house mirror. And prime lens users tend to be elitists regarding a fixed lens as a better optic. Rarely do I hear conversations about aesthetics and perspective and lighting. This, fellow photographers, is what you should be talking about. This is a case of the photographer being used by the lens, not the the other way around. It’s a case of “the tail wagging the dog”.
As a photographer, you should understand that the distance from the subject is what creates the perspective. A wide angle lens will contain the exact same image as the telephoto if the image is taken at the same precise spot. The wide angle would, of course, have to be severely cropped to be the same as the telephoto ….but the central image will be the same. Portrait lenses are called portrait lenses only because they encourage the photographer to stand at a distance from the subject that will render facial perspective to be “normal”. Stand closer and the nose gets longer, and the ears get smaller. Stand farther away and the face gets flattened. This is physics. And the same applies to all other images.
So when selecting a lens one must first asked themselves “what perspective will achieve the look that I feel is my style”. Then select the focal length that achieves this. Zoom lenses are effective on site cropping tools, so in my opinion a very good option. That being said, the difference between a very expensive lens and a cheaper is that the pricey one may have a slight edge in low light or may have a particularly beautiful “brokeh” (out of focus area). But most stunning images are made by the soul and vision of a gifted artist. The lens is merely a tool, no different that the brush of a painter. When is the last time your heard painters having passionate discussions about which brushes they use? As photography get easier to do, there seems to be an increasing lack of discipline. This is an observation. I also understand there are some very gifted shooters out there.