telephoto compression

A while back I decided to do a series of posts called 7shots. The plan was to do a blog post with at least 7 images at least once per week, and each post would have some sort of common theme. The goal of this series was to get out and use my photography equipment, especially the stuff that I don’t use very often, such as prime/macro lenses or my flash. With the year almost over I only have around 20 of these posts, so I’ve obviously been lazy.


So anyways, I recently bought a new lens, the Pentax 18-135mm. I bought the lens because I wanted something smaller and lighter (and cheaper) to use while traveling. It’s the small lens on the left side of this image, and while it’s smaller than the other two lenses in the picture, it covers almost the entire range of both the bigger lenses combined. Plus it’s still weather sealed, which makes it great for all the dusty and wet environments that I often find myself hiking in.

IMGP4941So a 7shot post would be a good way to get to know this lens. It’s a lens with a fairly long zoom range, with exactly 7 focal lengths printed on the lens. That makes the theme of this post easy enough. I’ll just take an image at each of these focal lengths to see the effects of telephoto compression on a landscape shot.

This series was shot at the Mexican Hat in Utah. The car didn’t move between shots. The Mexican Hat didn’t either. The only things that are changing between shots are the focal length and my distance from the car.

IMGP4637The lens at it’s widest, 18mm. I shot this from a few yards away from the car.

IMGP4638Here is the same scene at 24mm. I had to step back a few more yards to get both the car and the Mexican Hat in the frame.

IMGP463935mm. Again farther back, but zoomed in more.

IMGP464050mm. I’m a few dozen yards away already. I’m gingerly picking my way through the cactus to get farther away.


70mm. I’m really in the weeds (and cacti) at this point. Here you can really start to see the effects of telephoto compression. Even though the car and the rock haven’t moved, the distance between them appears a lot smaller. The rock in the background appears a lot bigger now.

IMGP4642At 100mm I’m starting to run out of room. I’m probably at least a football field length away. I can’t fit the Mexican Hat into the frame anymore, I can just get the base of the rock into the frame.

IMGP4643One last shot at 135mm, fully zoomed in on this lens. It’s hard to tell from the image, but I’m really far from the car at this point. I had a long walk back to the car through the weeds and cacti, and stupidly enough I was wearing flip flops. And my friend Tim was wondering what the heck I was doing so far away…

This was a nice little exercise to get to know my lens better. I’ve heard it often said that you should buy a prime lens and zoom with your feet. That’s true to a certain extent. But if you use a zoom lens and move around you have a lot more options for framing your images. You can use the wide end to make the foreground more prominent, or you can use the long end to make the background appear closer. That sort of flexibility is lacking with a prime lens.

So anyways I’m glad to have this lens for when I’m outdoors. Granted there are some big trade-offs. The lens isn’t as sharp (especially at the long end of the zoom) as its two bigger brothers. There’s a fair amount of chromatic aberration. It’s especially visible on the upper left of the 100mm shot , the purple fringing where the rock meets the sky. But on the plus side it’s nice to have this much flexibility in one lens. Hopefully I won’t be too lazy to move around and make the most of it.

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