Wide vs Tele: From one extreme to the other

The most popular question X-Photographer Mark Gilligan is asked is “what lens do I need?”. In this blog Mark compares wide vs tele lenses for landscape photography.

By Mark Gilligan

Everything we do in photography is a matter of perspective. My view is different from yours. We can stand side by side and look at the same thing but we don’t view it in the same way. We might recognise the exact features our eyes see but how we perceive and construct it is never the same.

Aren’t we lucky because if we all saw it exactly as each other surely the world would be a boring place?


There is no right and wrong. It all depends on what we want to do. It is so impactive in our photography allowing us to present achieve the images we achieve. One question I am regularly asked is, “when I come on your workshop, what lenses do I need?”

My reply is, “which lenses have you got now and how do you use them?”

The answers vary but without doubt many feel that a greater array of lenses in their arsenal will help them achieve everything in photography. That is not the case.

I won’t argue that quality glass helps, but it’s what you do with it, coupled with your own ‘eye’, that goes a long way to making the picture. The composition and your technical ‘know how’ combine to let you experience and practice the art of photography.

From my own perspective, I do have a number of lenses, ranging from primes to zooms but in the main, and by that I mean my landscape photography, I only use three: the FUJIFILM XF10-24mmF4, XF16-55mmF2.8 and XF50-140mmF2.8.

My ‘go to’ lenses were usually the former two but in recent times I have been utilising the XF50-140mm, or the ‘beast’, as I call it, far more. I was never keen to carry weighty glass up and down dale all day and moving to the mirrorless format helped me shed considerable bulk. That’s both yours truly and the camera gear…!

When I choose a lens, it is on the front of my camera to capture what I want to show. How I see it. That might seem an obvious statement but the focal length you utilise will change the image considerably. They will shape the image you present. Again, it all depends on what you are aiming for.

Take Birker Fell for example. It is one of my favourite locations, presenting you with one of the iconic views of the lakes. Well, that’s when the clag isn’t down! It is a vast moorland, leading you onto the Scafells, the upper Esk valley towards Bow Fell and Hard Knott… a fantastic sight.

Birker Fell At Dusk, X-Pro2 with XF10-24mmF4 | 1/60 sec | F14 | ISO500

If you want to be reflective of the location and to give the feeling of space, then the wide angle at its widest, will do its job. However, as it does here, it can exaggerate the view, pushing the fells further into the distance. The plus side being that it emphasises the vastness of the moorland.

It all depends on what you want to capture. You will not see it this way with your own eyes. It will give a much greater depth to the image. In time, with experience you will be able to ‘see’ the effect you will get before you attach a lens.

I tend to use wides when I can demonstrate ‘space’. They do need a useful feature in the foreground that reflects the landscape in front of you, leading the viewer into the image… a sort of pre cursor, but it needs to be balanced within the photograph. To obtain a near ‘normal’ view of the Birker and the fells you need to use a telephoto or zoom lens.

Birker Pano In Spring, X-Pro2 with XF50-140mmF2.8 | 1/30 sec | F9 | ISO320

I wanted to capture a nice panoramic of the location as dusk fell and this is a three image stitch, tripod mounted, with a focal length of 84mm. It ‘compresses’ or ‘pulls’ the rear of the image nearer, towards us, being more natural to the eye. It also renders more detail.

One photograph I had wanted to capture for some time was the sun literally ‘letterboxing’ just below the summit of Bow Fell at dusk. I have been there countless times but it is just a matter of luck and judgment.

I took the expansive wide-angle shot the night before, but was defeated by the very strong winds in taking any more successfully. Even when mounted on a tripod, photography was proving difficult, so I went back the following evening and the breeze was easier to deal with.

Bow Fell at Dusk, X-Pro2 with XF50-140mm2.8 | 1/8 sec | F14 | ISO100

The image above was shot at its maximum of 140mm. It is one of my favourite captures also illustrating a completely different perspective of the two types of lens.

Contrasting Light One Mid Summers Afternoon in The Langdales, X-Pro2 with XF10-24mmF4 | 1/125 sec | F11 | ISO200

The Langdale Pikes are a lakes favourite, no matter what the weather and whilst most take photographs of Blea Tarn as their foreground, the majority of land before you is grass and rock. This image still shows the tarn but with more emphasis on the rocks and grass. The upward curve of the foreground is balanced with the downward curve of the sky towards it and that can only be achieved with the wide angle.

Storm Approaches The Langdale Pikes, X-Pro2 with XF50-140mmF2.8 | 1/4 sec | F20 | ISO200

A storm was gathering (well it was mid-summer after all) and as the clouds began to darken, I knew that by putting the ‘beast’ XF50-140mm on and shooting at its maximum 140mm I would capture the Pikes at their best. Moody and beautiful!

My physical condition has always been at the back of my mind when deciding upon which lenses to pack. It wasn’t laziness but a reality due to my health issues that meant I had to carefully choose which lens to take out with me.

Now though, I am grateful that these new lenses on my mirrorless set up are definitely lighter and consequently allow me to take my work even further. Literally.

So I get back to the original question of what lenses do I need?

Is one more beneficial than the other?

Can I cope with one and if so, which one?

For me you need both.

A good wide angle and a decent zoom.

It is all a matter of perspectives.

Obviously you will ‘weigh up the weigh up’ so to speak, but it is all down to what you want to achieve as they will give you a greater perspective on what you see and therefore fulfill your photography even more.

Now that cannot be a bad thing!

More from Mark Gilligan

Website: http://www.wastwaterphotography.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GilliganPhotography/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wastwater1

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More about FUJINON XF10-24mmF4

An ultra-wide angle to wide angle zoom, ideally suited to indoor shoots and any situation where space is tight.

An ultra-wide angle zoom offering a 90 degree*1 horizontal field of view and covering focal lengths equivalent to 15 to 36mm in the 35mm film format. The 10mm setting is perfect for indoor shots when you cannot move very far from your subject, plus its resolving power also makes it the perfect lens to capture vast wilderness or architecture. The 24mm setting is great for portraiture and general snapshots.

*1 When the aspect ratio is 3:2

More about FUJINON XF50-140mmF2.8

Packing a premium optical performance, yet weighing less than 1kg, this rugged telephoto zoom is ready for anything.

With a telephoto range equivalent to 76mm to 213mm in the 35mm film format this lens, which offers a constant F2.8 maximum aperture, is suitable not only for portraiture, but also for fast-moving subjects such as sports, animals, and more. It features six ED elements, including one Super ED lens element, for superb results. An image stabilization system equivalent to five shutter speed stops is also featured for shake-free results, while the triple-linear AF motor maximizes focusing performance. The dust-resistant, splash-resistant and low-temperature resistant design also ensures it can be used in almost any shooting conditions.

Author: Fujifilm EMEA

This blog account is managed by the Corporate Communication team for Fujifilm in EMEA.

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