Nothing like  a nice acronym, don’t you think so?

And anyways, HoToP sounds and looks quite good! But what does it mean?

Well it’s simply the abbreviation for

The Holy Trilogy of Photography


What trilogy? Silly question! The trilogy of lenses that should be in anyone’s photo bag!

And though my fellow blogger Dan James writes in THIS post on his great blog 35hunter that he comes to rely increasingly on zoom lenses for his photography, I tend to prefer the prime lenses I learned on in my youth.

OK, I used to have the 28, 50mm primes and naturally a 70-210mm zoom with my Canon AE-1 when I was young but that thing was big… and heavy, and very big….  and did I mention it was very very heavy?

So in these later days I still use the 28 and 50mm lenses with gusto but the big zoom of my youth has been replaced by a wonderful 135mm lens.

Those three give me all the outlooks to the world I want and need. I found over the years that if I have one of these lenses on y camera, I don’t need a zoom. I don’t need to rush closer or edge farther away to get the right frame. I seem to wander automatically to the spot that gives my the right crop for the lens I carry. With time you learn to see the world according to your lenses!

Anyways, I mostly don’t carry all three when I’m out in the wild. I just stick one of them to my camera and that’s it. I don’t like changing lenses while walking, I don’t like carrying to much weight about.

So just as Dan is very happy using his zoom like a prime, fixed to specific focal lengths, I prefer to limit myself from the start to those angles of view.

I won’t deny that when I had those incredibly great Fuji X10, X20 or X30 cameras with their 28 to 112mm equivalent focal length lens I was exceedingly happy. A small digital with a compact zoom…. one camera to rule them all, as Tolkien said. But well, it was digital and as I preach so often here, I prefer film…. though I’m a sinner by nature.

But how do these lenses work out for me?

In the midst, enthroned for eternity, sits the Everlasting Fifty. 

It’s the so called ‘normal’ lens. Normal insofar as Oskar Barnack of Leica fame declared it so… and it’s the easiest lens to design with the lease aberrations…. and the cheapest to build and included by the millions as a so called kit lens before the cheap zoom lenses started ruling the world.

Band of brothers – left to right Industar 50, Leitz Summar, Leitz Summitar and last but not least Jupiter 8

And by the way, as I said HERE, the perfect normal is not 50mm but rather around 42, corresponding to the diagonal of 35mm film and the human angle of view.

50mm is for me the main lens, either on my Leica IIIa or on the Canon SLR cameras. Well for the Leica I don’t have any choice as I own only fifties… It’s just right, not too wide, not too narrow, it’s the way I see the world.

Small and light, it’s THE lens to carry all day without regretting the others.

And it’s not even a really compact 50!

In fact it’s a compromise lens but it does it’s job so incredibly well that makes you forget this fact!170628 - Leica IIIa - Kodak Tmax 400 (13)

170617 - Canon AE-1 - Ilford HP5 @3200 ISO (6)

170402 - Leica IIIa - Ilford HP5 (13)

To It’s right hand sits the venerable Twenty-Eight

Twenty Eight on the AE-1…
on the beautiful A-1…
and even on the mighty T90. Gotta tell you about that one next time!

He sometimes, asks his friends the Thirty-Five or the Twenty-Four to stand in for him.

I will dwell primarily on the worth of the 28mm as it’s the one that comes very naturally to me. I can visualise the results before raising the camera. I can ‘see’ in 28mm you might say.170615 - Canon AE-1 - Ilford HP5 (3)

Landscapes and cityscapes are his domain but also in street photography it can get you closer to your prey – yes, it’s not the zoom that gets you closer, it’s the wide angle. With a wide angle you can single out the individual person in his environment, the essence of street photography.170422 - Olympus XA2 - Ilford HP5 (1)


And to his left sits the mighty 135,

One thirty five on the AE-1

He of the amazing portrait power! He who can pick out tiny details in a scene and bring them before your eyes, taken out of their context. He who can turn part of an everyday scene into a graphic object.

Of course, for you he can be replaced by a 105mm or even an 80mm if you like. For me it’s the 135. As I showed some weeks ago during a Summer Day’s Walk,170615 - Canon AE-1 - Ilford HP5 (27)

If you had told me some months ago I’d fill a roll only with one focal length I would have laughed. But no, it’s entirely possible. You must try it one day. Go out with one of those wonders and see the details of our world. See selectively, focus on the small details… Absolutely rewarding if you ask me.170615 - Canon AE-1 - Ilford HP5 (13)

170706 - Canon AE-1 - Ilford FP4 (5)

170615 - Canon AE-1 - Ilford HP5 (9)

And those zooms you ask? What about those zooms?

Yes they might work for you but I think not for me. But I’d be happy to be proved wrong and perhaps I’ll try one day – thanks for the temptation, Dan James 😉

Well, they are but lowly zooms, zooming by and never stopping at any focal length. Always changing, willful things they are. Not to be relied upon!

Or not… we’ll see!

If you have any comments or your experiences with prime lenses and zooms, please comment!

Thanks for stopping by!

5 thoughts on “HoToP

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  1. Thanks for the mention Frank, glad it spurred you to consider your favourite lenses and focal lengths.

    I actually agree about your zoom comments – “zooming by and never stopping at any focal length. Always changing, willful things they are. Not to be relied upon!” This is why I can only seem to use them at rounded up focal lengths I already know, like 24, 28, 35, 50 etc. Knowing I was taking a shot at say 39mm or 87mm would freak me out. I have to see them as a set of primes (whose focal lengths I’m already familiar with) rather than an excuse to stand in one position and zoom in and out willy nilly until the scene fits. This just strikes me as lazy and unconsidered photography!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. another nice article Frank. Your post “I Just Can’t get enough” inspired me to take to the bay in search of a 135mm canon FD. Duly purchased and am waiting on results (i’m still using a high street lab currently for c41). I also have canon zooms and yes they are heavy (especially hanging from the T90!). Now I’ll go and have to look for a 28mm! I do have a 24mm by sigma which seems to give good results, but FD glass is awesome. Better I think than EF lenses – yes I have a couple of those too with a couple of EOS film cameras. I thought about rationalising my kit and going for Canon EF but now i’m not so sure. For 35mm focal length I’ve got mtrusty XA. XA2 and XA3. For “Normal” I’ve got Trip 35 and 35RC. Any more suggested focal lengths?


    1. I think that’s enough focal lengths you have. More lenses, more choices, less good photos! That’s my opinion.

      The T90 is really a beast, a gorgeous camera that is a pleasure to hold and shoot. I ove the multi spot meter!

      I recently bought an EOS 650 for just 19€ and it seems great but I lack a lens for the moment, I ordered a very cheap Yongnuo 50mm, a copy of Canon’s cheap 50 EF lens, cheaper still. Problem is it does not work on the 650. Some changed protocol that the chinese copy does not support. I’ll try to find a lens to test my EOS 650 but I don’t know if I’ll invest deeply in EF stuff. FD lenses are so cheap and extremely good.

      Happy to have inspired you to buy a 135mm!


  3. I sold of all but one zooms, a Nikkor 18-70mm for Nikon D200, and this is only used for family events, plus road accident outside my house recently.
    I find the modern digital zoom lenses do seem better than the older zoom optics we used for film cameras from the 1980’s – 1990’s, but when it comes to using film photography a prime glass to my mind is just superior than any zoom. On film there never seems to be the same quality in the image with a zoom lens compared with a prime lens, unless your prepared pay large sum of money, and don’t mind the larger, heavier lenses, most zooms are not very fast, only have a f/3.5 – f/3.3 maximum aperture.
    All I use these days is an FE, with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai, and a 28mm f/2.8 I use occasionally, couple of hoods, plus a few 52mm filters, rolls of film and that’s all I carry in my small camera bag. So much better I find, less weight with only two lenses, and I think it makes you work harder to get pictures. Funny enough I don’t seem to miss not having a short telephoto in the bag anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

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