Jump to content

Why HCB uses a 50mm lens


kivis

Recommended Posts

Advertisement (gone after registration)

Henri Cartier-Bresson on the 50mm:

“It corresponds to a certain vision and at the same time has enough depth of focus, a thing you don’t have in longer lenses. I worked with a 90. It cuts much of the foreground if you take a landscape, but if people are running at you, there is no depth of focus. The 35 is splendid when needed, but extremely difficult to use if you want precision in composition. There are too many elements, and something is always in the wrong place. It is a beautiful lens at times when needed by what you see. But very often it is used by people who want to shout. Because you have a distortion, you have somebody in the foreground and it gives an effect. But I don’t like effects. There is something aggressive, and I don’t like that. Because when you shout, it is usually because you are short of arguments.”

Link to post
Share on other sites

15 minutes ago, kivis said:

Henri Cartier-Bresson on the 50mm:

“It corresponds to a certain vision and at the same time has enough depth of focus, a thing you don’t have in longer lenses. I worked with a 90. It cuts much of the foreground if you take a landscape, but if people are running at you, there is no depth of focus. The 35 is splendid when needed, but extremely difficult to use if you want precision in composition. There are too many elements, and something is always in the wrong place. It is a beautiful lens at times when needed by what you see. But very often it is used by people who want to shout. Because you have a distortion, you have somebody in the foreground and it gives an effect. But I don’t like effects. There is something aggressive, and I don’t like that. Because when you shout, it is usually because you are short of arguments.”

https://the.me/dont-just-shoot-50mm-because-henri-cartier-bresson-did-so/

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

35 with a EVF is ok for accurate framing. It doesn’t scream.
However 28mm screams and can never be used as a 1 lens only thing, or it wears out fast.

Viewing images from a 28mm very quickly becomes tiring, boring and annoying.

The 50 is magical in the sense that looking at photos taken with it absolutely never wears out. No “screaming”, not too many objects polluting the image. The viewing experience s smooth from start to finish (except for the bokeh fad which is frankly an agression)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that 50mm is the worst possible focal length on a rangefinder. It's too long to be wide and it's too wide to be long. It's a lost focal length.

Despite the popular myth, 50mm does not equate to the human field of vision. 21mm is much closer to that. Perhaps that's why that 21mm is the focal length that I use 80% of the time. The other 20% is 35mm. 21mm feels to me the most natural focal length for rangefinder use, on a full frame rangefinder.

In my view (and it is only my view), 35mm and wider are the optimal focal lengths for a rangefinder.

I simply don't understand the concept of a lens 'screaming' or images from it becoming 'tiring, boring and annoying'. Only the photographer can do that, not a lens.

Ernst

Link to post
Share on other sites

3 minutes ago, Ernstk said:

I think that 50mm is the worst possible focal length on a rangefinder. It's too long to be wide and it's too wide to be long. It's a lost focal length.

Haha exactly the opposite here :cool:. Most of my photos have been taken with a 50 for 30+ years and even with a zoom i mostly use the 50 position. @Capuccino-Muffin suggested the 35 does not scream above. HCB said it « shouts ». 

Quote

« Moi, le 50mm c’est ma vie. Une certaine distance avec les gens. Le grand angle gueule, et le 90mm me rappelle ces cornets acoustiques qu’utilisaient autrefois les vieilles dames. »
Free translation:
The 50mm lens is my life. A certain distance with people. The wide angle shouts, and the 90mm reminds me those ear trumpets that old ladies used to use in the past.
Henri Cartier-Bresson
Photoportraits sans guillemets
Hervé Guibert, Le Monde 10/10/1985

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

28 minutes ago, Ernstk said:

I think that 50mm is the worst possible focal length on a rangefinder. It's too long to be wide and it's too wide to be long. It's a lost focal length.

Despite the popular myth, 50mm does not equate to the human field of vision. 21mm is much closer to that. Perhaps that's why that 21mm is the focal length that I use 80% of the time. The other 20% is 35mm. 21mm feels to me the most natural focal length for rangefinder use, on a full frame rangefinder.

In my view (and it is only my view), 35mm and wider are the optimal focal lengths for a rangefinder.

I simply don't understand the concept of a lens 'screaming' or images from it becoming 'tiring, boring and annoying'. Only the photographer can do that, not a lens.

Ernst

A bit of theory knowledge wouldn’t hurt: a medium’s sweet spot focal length will be its diagonal length. 

For 35mm film, the diagonal is 43mm, thus the 50mm.

For aps-c, it’s 28mm

For medium format it’s 80mm

And so on.

It is a scientific calculation and has nothing to do with feelings or with personal opinions. And that is exactly why you say it’s nor here nor there, because it’s exactly in the middle. The diagonal measurement of the medium.



 

Link to post
Share on other sites

For sure, the wider focal lengths are more difficult to use on a rangefinder (for me). Always felt easier to get "good" shots with a 50 on a rangefinder, because that pretty much matches what you see, but to get more than good, something unique, something not so flat, required something a bit different. That's just for me, everyone's different, but I find there's a few tricks the wider focal lengths have that just can't replicated on a standard lens as well (eg, something prominent in the foreground with a wide receding background, giving pictures lots of depth, not so flat).  Not sure why he would call those tricks "screaming."  

Of course all of this depends on the skill of the photographer. A good photographer takes good pics with anything, no matter lens or camera type. Also so much depends on subject, environment, style, ect ... obviously. So don't think you can make black and white statements in this area, just individual preferences. Ha, ha, and sometimes they change over time.

Wonder whether someone like this would be different if they grew up shooting SLR's, or at a time where there were better, faster wide angle options? I mean, he practiced his craft when pretty much 50mm ruled, right?  I think he was very much the product of his time.  

Maybe a bit heresy, but looking at his pics, not many he couldn't also have taken with a 35mm focal length, and some would actually look better with a bit more breadth.  

When it comes to rangefinders, I like the minimalistic idea. Just a camera with one lens, keep things simple, and if I want to get closer, I just move my feet (and you can always crop). Ha, ha, I may travel with multiple lenses, but all the same focal length -- 35mm. If I mix up too much gear, the quality of my pics drop. Won't get every pic with that just one focal length (50 or 35) but you'll get most of them.

 

Edited by TheBestSLIsALeicaflex
Link to post
Share on other sites

I think no lens or focal length screams, is lost, is boring, annoys, tires or anything else. Only photographers can do that, and they can do that with any lens/focal length.

Isn't it great we all have a choice to use what we like and/or are good at?

The title of this thread is "Why HCB uses a 50 mm lens" and not "You should use a 50 mm lens because that's what HCB liked most"

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've tried going closer with a wider lens but the perspective wasn't very flattering.

Welcome, dear visitor! As registered member you'd see an image here…

Simply register for free here – We are always happy to welcome new members!

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

22 minutes ago, TheBestSLIsALeicaflex said:

Maybe a bit heresy, but looking at his pics, not many he couldn't also have taken with a 35mm focal length, and some would actually look better with a bit more breadth.  

If one considers that his "Derrière la Gare Saint Lazare" is cropped, it looks more like a 35mm frame to me than a 50mm, but perhaps I am wrong.

https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/derriere-la-gare-saint-lazare/

Cartier-Bresson started with a Leica I, which only had a 50mm lens and until the late 50s the choice for 35mm Leica lenses was rather limited. Perhaps he convinced himself that the lack of choices was the best of all worlds.

Didn't he use a compact Leica with a 40mm lens during his last years?

Edited by UliWer
Link to post
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Ernstk said:

I think that 50mm is the worst possible focal length on a rangefinder. It's too long to be wide and it's too wide to be long. It's a lost focal length.

Despite the popular myth, 50mm does not equate to the human field of vision. 21mm is much closer to that. Perhaps that's why that 21mm is the focal length that I use 80% of the time. The other 20% is 35mm. 21mm feels to me the most natural focal length for rangefinder use, on a full frame rangefinder.

In my view (and it is only my view), 35mm and wider are the optimal focal lengths for a rangefinder.

I simply don't understand the concept of a lens 'screaming' or images from it becoming 'tiring, boring and annoying'. Only the photographer can do that, not a lens.

Ernst

Read long ago in an old Leica magazine, something like 21mm corresponded to your vision including peripheral, 50mm was your vision with blinders, and 90mm was one eye with blinders.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

When we see a wide landscape, we focus several places with our eyes and “stitch” the pictures together with our brain. That’s probably why I think a panoramic picture that is stitched from several 50mm pictures looks quite natural, much more natural than a single wide angle picture.

Edited by evikne
Link to post
Share on other sites

Jeez, no wonder I have tinnitus from so many years of shooting with a 28mm as my ‘normal’ lens. The screaming is deafening, lol. 

HCB is of a different time - a huge influence of mine, but also a photographer whose proclamations I take with many grains of salt. IMO images should speak for themselves. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Capuccino-Muffin said:

A bit of theory knowledge wouldn’t hurt: a medium’s sweet spot focal length will be its diagonal length. 

For 35mm film, the diagonal is 43mm, thus the 50mm.

For aps-c, it’s 28mm

For medium format it’s 80mm

And so on.

It is a scientific calculation and has nothing to do with feelings or with personal opinions. And that is exactly why you say it’s nor here nor there, because it’s exactly in the middle. The diagonal measurement of the medium.



 

A scientific calculation you say? Of what? What is the definition of "Sweet Spot"? I imagine that you can back this up?

Link to post
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, convexferret said:

A scientific calculation you say? Of what? What is the definition of "Sweet Spot"? I imagine that you can back this up?

Of course.

But you seem very doubtful... which in turn indicates that you are fairly new to the photography world.

Let me guess, you have a blog, and you are a pro photographer offering advice and courses to other photographers, or you do photo equipment reviews on the net? Or a content creator?  An artist?

Don’t worry, this is the usual curve. The theory always comes last and the “art is about breaking the rules” always comest first.
 

Back in the day, people took classes involving theory. There is theory and science, believe it or not.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...