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Crunching the Numbers on Focal Lengths

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by jloden, May 22, 2012.

  1. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    This post will probably make me look like a stats geek or like I have major OCD, but I swear it's just garden variety curiosity :tongue:

    I've been looking at different lenses and trying to decide what ones are actually likely to be more useful to me. It finally occurred to me that it might be of help to know what my previous shooting habits have been. I couldn't find a plugin or app for OS X that would give me a distribution of recorded focal lengths from EXIF data, so I wrote a very quick and dirty script to do the analysis.

    The data isn't as meaningful as it could be, because I only had 2 lenses up until recently (20mm and the 14-42 Oly kit zoom), but it confirmed what I expected: I use the 14-42mm range on the zoom almost always at either 14mm or 42mm. That tells me that though I do use the zoom across the focal length, I'm most frequently wanting either as wide, or as tight in as I can get.

    In practical terms, this suggest to me that something like a 14-140mm might get a lot of use from me with the extra far end, and/or a 12-50mm which has a little extra at both ends of the spectrum. Particularly since I note that I've also taken quite a number of pics with my 12mm prime in the short time I've had it. What I'm really looking forward to is being able to do the same kind of analysis in the future after I've had more time to make use of a larger variety of lenses and see how the distribution looks.

    Anyone else ever do anything like this? I found a few blog posts online on similar topics and I found it very interesting. Note that I'm not trying to overthink things here - obviously you work with what you have and a good photo is about what's behind the camera more than anything. Nonetheless, I think it's kind of cool to be able to use EXIF data crunching to reveal a little about your shooting style.

    I'd love to hear from you all - what's your most commonly used focal lengths and why?
  2. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    I don't think they make a mac version but I have used this handy tool in the past :
    • Like Like x 1
  3. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    There's a plugin for LightRoom somewhere that works OK for OS X, but no basic standalone tools. I find my shots with my zooms 'live' either at the extremes (24 and 105mm equivalent), or in the medium wide/normal range (35 to 55 mm). Telephoto shots also varied, but a significant portion are at around 120-140, another bump around 250 or so, then a bunch at 400 (shooting the 100-400).

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, my favorite primes to shoot with are 35mm, 50mm and 135mm lenses on full frame. I like the 35's for capturing the feel of a scene without losing some of the intimacy wider angels of view provide, 50 is just a very useful 'normal' length and works well for people pictures indoors (less well for groups of people). 135 is one I've grown used to shooting the (absolutely amazing, favorite lens in terms of rendering) 135L, which is a great outdoor portrait medium telephoto. I've never gotten along with the 85mm f.o.v. (don't like 50mm glass on crop bodies much - always wanted wider or longer) particularly well. I can't 'see' that way.

    I occasionally shoot ultrawide, but I think the reason I don't is largely a learning curve thing - it's more difficult to compose pleasantly, I tend to prefer stitching and I rarely carried the 17-40 around when traveling, preferring to opt for a 24-105, 100-400 and 35mm/50mm fast prime setup.
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  4. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    While this type of analysis can be interesting I'm not too surprised that the ends of the zoom lens get more use than the middle. When you think about it, you'll rack the zoom to the end any time you would like to use a focal length beyond that limit, so 14mm on a 14-42mm lens actually represents all focal lengths up to 14mm and 42mm represents all focal lengths beyond 42mm. I don't think I'd use this type of analysis to prescribe a particular lens.

    That said, if your right brain has already determined it wants the 14-140mm and this exercise is just a way for it to trick your left brain into understanding the utility of that acquisition, them far be it from me to intercede. :wink:
    • Like Like x 1
  5. MizOre

    MizOre Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 26, 2011
    Lightroom metadata (LS 3 and 4) will let you sort this for library catalogue shots if you're in multi-photo view. What I've looked for was bumps in between the ends -- generally, I do shoot more at either end, but the intermediate peaks would probably be good focal lengths to consider for primes, plus or minus a few millimeters.
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  6. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Tells me that you don't need a 14-42mm at all. You need a 7-14mm and a 35-100mm. ;) 
    • Like Like x 1
  7. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    I agree, it doesn't necessarily point to a particular lens suggestion. Just more than likely means I'd find a little more reach on either end useful. I'm actually not looking to buy the 14-140 :tongue: it was just some random observations. I'm very interested to see what the numbers look like several months or a year from now though, when I'll have had some time using a couple different zooms on different focal length ranges.
  8. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    I've done this. It's very easy in Lightroom.

    Grouping similar FLs together (i.e. counting 55 as 50), my #1 is 50mm lens, though that's spreadout over a 5D, Canon Rebels and m43, all which yield different FOVs

    #2 is 14mm in m43, and the #1 lens is the 14mm pancake

    #3 is the 20mm in m43. If I combine 20mm with the 25mm on m43, then it actually takes the #1 spot, but those are two different lenses really, so I'm not sure it's fair to combine them.

    #4 is shooting long -- different lenses, but all more than 300mm in 35mm equivalence FOV (or 150mm+ on m43)

    I'm next going to try the 2 body approach. Zooms are fun, but when I look at the picture distro, it's almost always short end and long end, and nothing in between. Next trip, I'm going to take two EPM1s -- one with the 14 or 20 and the other with the 45, and see how that goes :) 
    • Like Like x 1
  9. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Very cool, I like hearing how this scales out for other folks. I'm just trialing LightRoom now but it sounds like this will be another benefit to switching over to it.

    It occurs to me an even better sampling would be to look at the subset of my favorite images, since that'd tell me at what settings most of my "keeper" shots are taken.
  10. nseika

    nseika Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 22, 2010
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    Same with the zoom lens, always go for the extremes most of the time.
    The middle usually feel half-hearted to me and less exciting.

    A change is when I got the 14-42 PZ and use it mostly in step zoom mode (nicknamed it penta-elmar, if there's such lens :p ).
    Usually set it at 35 or 50mm (35mm equiv) and shoot around like it's a slow prime lens.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. MizOre

    MizOre Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 26, 2011
    You can rate photos (with stars) and then look at the rated photographs in the multi-shot view in library and select the metadata and look at focal lengths. Just tried it. You can create smart collections for a range of things, then check metadata on them for dates, focal lengths, shutter speeds, lenses, cameras, etc.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I've never done a statistical analysis, but I know how I shoot. When I have a typical zoom (whether 14-42, 12-50, or 14-150), I keep it jammed at the wide end the vast majority of the time. And I occasionally jam it onto the long end. I occasionally shoot somewhere in the middle, but very rarely. With my 9-18, that's a totally binary lens. I'm either shooting it at 9mm for its UWA capability, or when I'm walking around I'm shooting it somewhere in the 14mm area. If I really want to go to 18, I probably want to go a lot farther than 18 and I usually switch lenses.

    In terms of primes, I shoot the 12mm on my m43 and my 18 (essentially a 14 in m43 terms) on my Fuji X-Pro almost always. When I'm shooting in very low light, I'll go for the 50mm equivalent on my Fuji (I used to do the Panasonic 25 on my m43 cam, but I just sold that since I don't use that length much and I don't need two really excellent f1.4 lenses at that spot). And for candid portraits, sitting around after dinner, etc, I use the 45mm. Once in a while when I feel weird, I'll go with the fisheye, but that's pretty rare too. I used to have a 100-300 but I had to actually think up stuff to go shoot with it because I'd never use it in my natural shooting routine - its no longer with me...

    I'm a wide angle guy. I can't fight it. I can put a 50mm equivalent on and force myself to use it and I'll adapt and do OK, but as soon as I can get back in the 24-35mm territory, I feel like I've come home. Its how my head perceives the world I guess. Stats would not help me understand this...

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  13. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    LOL ... typically I also shoot either all the way cranked out or all the way cranked in ... with all my zooms. But then I shot zoomless for decades so I guess I treat my zooms more like primes.

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