With the previous posts I’ve already explored the differences between different focal lengths (here) and deconstructed the idea of 'the standard focal length' (here). There is no standard focal length that could be based on biology of human eye or technical reasons. Nevertheless, we have actually two 'standard focal lengths' as both focal lengths 35mm and 50mm are often mentioned when searching for a natural field of view. The double standard is interesting because there clearly exists a certain kind of tension between them: some photographers think the 35mm is the standard focal length which resembles natural field of view while others prefer the 50mm.
In fact, if one reaches out to history one will find that many famous photographers preferred either one or the other. For example, the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson preferred the 50mm which, he said, “corresponds to a certain vision”. Then again, the great Annie Leibovitz prefers the 35mm because she finds it “more environmental”. Bill Cunningham also favored the 35mm, while Andrius Burba again prefers the 50mm. Well, you get the idea. But like I’ve already written, the truth is that there is no 'real' standard focal length and no single focal length is magic. Photographers have different favorites and as long as they’re in the right hands, both can be used for excellent pictures.
So, where does the Batis 2/40 CF fit in this situation? Well, as long there exists this tension between 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, it seems to me that 40mm presents a pretty nice compromise between them. Personally for me, it comes even more interesting as it is also a rather unpopulated focal length and therefore doesn’t carry a same kind of historical load and imagery as the 35mm and 50mm tend to do. In my mind it opens up 'a new approach' where I’m free from the visual heritage of 35mm and 50mm. Detachment from the tradition also fits perfectly for the future oriented Batis lens family. Finally, it raises interesting intellectual questions. Without history and tradition we could design any kind of lens families with any kind of gaps and rhythms. What kind of photography would this result and what would be differences compared to today’s photography? I find this an intriguing idea.
Well, of course the Batis 2/40 CF is not as revolutionary lens as I tend to make it up in my idealistic mind, and in practice the differences in focal lengths are rather small to each direction. Maybe small enough that it’s difficult to see the differences – and this probably leads to images that have some resemblance with both 35mm and 50mm lenses. Nevertheless, while some might find the 40mm focal length insufficient (because it isn’t exactly the 35mm for example), I’d rather see it as an interesting opportunity, for the reasons stated in previous paragraph. For these reasons this might well be my standard focal length as I see it having some sort of inspirating effect on me. And besides, there’s also a one very practical benefit with the 40mm lens: I don't need to swap lenses between 35mm and 50mm. Now, that’s a nice new standard for a change.