About one week ago I raised the question of whether "telephoto-design" lenses pr oduce pictures that look in any way different than "normal-design" lenses in the same focal length. The answer to my question was understandably universal: no. But in the course of answering the question some people pointed out that I was w rong in my perception of the effects of long lenses, in that LONG LENSES DO NOT COMPRESS FOREGROUND AND BACKGROUND, BUT (FOR LACK OF A MORE PRECISE WAY FOR ME TO PUT IT) MERELY "CROP THE IMAGE AND ENLARGE IT". Well, at the time I first re ad this, I didn't think much of it because I was much more concerned with the po ssible differences between telephoto and normal-design lenses. But since then, I have gone back and reflected on this other aspect of their answer, and simply can't understand, for the life of me, how this could possibly be true. If long lenses do not compress foreground and background space then why is that when I have used a 105mm lens (or a 135mm, or a 200mm for that matter) in a 35mm format to photograph people, for example, did the space between the subjec t and the background seem to shrink, and the things in the background seem to mo ve closer to the foreground subject--or vice versa? And why is it that when I a m watching a movie that takes place in a city and the camera has a long lens foc used on a busy sidewalk full of people walking in one direction, do all the peop le appear to be walking on top of each other? And why is it that if a long lens was focused on two cars in the distance following each in a car chase would the two cars--even if they were separated by a great distance, be seemingly brought closer together by a long focal length lens--and the longer the lens, the greate r the closeness? Or is this effect due exclusively to the illusion of diminishi ng perspective (inherent in our own unaided eyesight), and the fact that the lon g lens merely crops the portion of this diminished perspective, and appears to h eighten it by presenting just a small piece of it? I am only really interested in answers to these questions, insofar as they rel ate to THE PROPER LENS SELECTION FOR LARGE-FORMAT CAMERAS. Basically my problem is this: I own 150mm, 210mm, 240mm, and 305mm lenses for my 4 x 5 camera, but I would like to get a longer lens that hopefully will provi de greater "compression of space" in my portraits, making my pictures of people "more dramatic" by "exaggerating their size or presence". So far, neither the 24 0mm nor the 305 have really accomplished this effect for me. Is it true that the 210mm will yield a perspective that is IDENTICALLY THE SAME, for example, as a 480mm, as long as I move close enough to create the same cropping between the tw o lenses? But if this were the case, then why do people recommend long lenses, such as the 300mm or 360mm for 4x5-format portraiture? Isn't it true that the l onger lenses alter the space, volume, perspective (call it whatever you like) an d "flatten" the face, reducing any possible exaggerations of nose and chin etc, thereby effecting a more complimentary look?
But, then again, I have become quite confused lately because I recently compared pictures taken of a person with a 360mm and a 210mm, and the pictures taken wit h both lenses DID look almost the same (or perhaps exactly the same, but I can't quite believe it nonetheless), if I simply moved closer to the subject when I u sed the 210mm.
Is there any point in purchasing a long lens if one is able to move close enough with a 210mm, to produce the same cropping with the shorter lens?
Am I wasting my money on a huge misapprehension--if this is all I "plan" to acco mplish with a longer lens? (In this case, the 360mm lens in question is about $ 1400--so the answer is really important.)
Will a 420mm or a 480mm lens not produce pictures that are in any way more "dram atic" or "foreground-and-background-compressing" than say a 210mm lens positione d much closer (to produce the equivalent cropping)?
Is the purpose of a long lens merely to bring distant objects closer that might otherwise be too small because they are too far away (as in the case of a nature or sports photographer)--WITHOUT EFFECTING ANY CHANGE IN THE SPACE OR VOLUME BE TWEEN FOREGROUND AND BACKGROUND?
I have taken pictures for many years--albeit with 35mm more than large-format--a nd I am really embarassed that I don't know the answers to these seemingly basic but admittedly elusive questions. Embarassingly, they have dogged me for some time, now that I am shooting exclusively in large format and seeking to achieve a certain "look" or "effect" with my portraiture--and I've yet to grasp it or co me to a clear answer in my head still in all the hours I have spent studying my prints. The answer is important because it determines which lenses it is necessa ry--or pointless--to buy.
Anybody's help would be much appreciated.