At a Stretch

For the railway photographer, aside from the standard 50mm, one of the most useful lenses was the old 200mm telephoto. With its 4x magnification on a 35mm film camera, it provided the opportunity to get closer to the action and gave a pleasing foreshortening effect. On a hot day you also magnified the heat haze – very atmospheric 😉 That was how things were when I first started photographing trains back in the early 1970’s. We all used prime lenses because Zoom lenses were very expensive and were not as sharp. Although times have moved on and most non-professional cameras come with a kit zoom lens, I’ve stayed traditional in my standard lens choice – a 35mm prime lens on the Fujifilm X-Pro2 (the equivalent of a 50mm on a 35mm film camera). For wider shots I use a 23mm prime.

But, when it comes to telephoto work, I now use a 55-200mm zoom lens which gives me a 35mm film camera equivalent of around 85-300mm due to the crop factor on my X-Pro2. It gives me the opportunity to take photos that I couldn’t get otherwise – at least not without trespassing on the railway, which is a definite No-No! Here’s a shot of a Thameslink unit approaching Farringdon station…

That’s at the 200mm end of the zoom and 6x magnification. Close to the opposite end of the scale at 63mm (around 95mm equivalent), here’s an Intermodal service approaching Highbury & Islington…

The sharpness of the lens combined with the focal length flexibility makes it a very useful tool. I have one last tool in my armoury when using this lens – the size of the uncropped frame produced by the X-Pro2. Provided I don’t need a 6000×4000 pixel final image, and you rarely need anything like that size image, I can further ‘zoom’ in by cropping out undesired elements in the frame. As I normally publish my shots at 2048 pixels on the longest side, this gives me plenty of scope. Without the capabilities of the zoom at its maximum 200mm combined with further cropping at the processing stage the shot below would not have been possible because of foreground clutter…

…That’s a South Western Railway service approach Chessington South. I would not have been able to get that shot with a 200mm lens back in 35mm film days, so I guess there’s been some progress in the past 50 years😂

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