Anyone expecting to see some recent images from the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD is going to be a bit surprised by this post. Because I didn’t use it at all on a recent three-day stay in London, despite my hopes to return with lots of crisp imagery of the ever-changing London skyline.
We went to London for a mini-honeymoon, choosing the city for its fantastic potential for activities and sightseeing. So the first night, we went out for dinner and a show. No sightseeing, so I left the camera at the hotel. The third day was reserved for a tour of the Harry Potter sets at Warner Brothers studios. There was no restriction on lens types there, but I’ve been before, and knew that you’re never really far enough away from anything in there to use that sort of focal length. The second day was to be our main sightseeing day. My wife has never been to the nation’s capital before, so a ride on the London Eye was essential. Then I remembered some problems I had on a previous visit…
The first time I went to London with my 17-55mm, I was chased away from a few parts of the city because I was using a large camera. At the time I was told that this was done to security concerns. At the time, I was fairly new to photography and this seemed fairly plausible, but experience has taught me that it’s far more likely that it’s a way of maintaining a stranglehold on marketable images of popular London sights. Maybe that’s the cynic in me, but with the progression of technology, this seems ever more likely. Gone are the days of seeing signs proclaiming “No Photography”; it seems that stemming the tide of amateur photographers has reached the point of impracticality, now that cameras are in almost every phone and mobile device. So although there is no practical way of stemming the flow of available images, it seems that the interest of certain establishments is now to maintain the rights to large-format, sharp images. Some places may tell you that “long lenses aren’t allowed”, but those same places are unlikely to offer a definition on what constitutes a long lens. And you will quickly find that any attempts to explain the differences between a fast, physically large lens and a long lens will usually fall on deaf or -at best – uninformed ears.
I first became aware of this outside the London Eye, trying to use a tripod one evening. At the time, the site was owned by British Airways. I was chased off under the pretence of “elfin safety”. There were about five people (and definitely no elves) there at the time, being as it was quite cold and wet at the time. I went to buy a ticket to go up for a “flight” and was refused – not because of my tripod, but for the lenses I had on me at the time.
Nowadays, the Eye is owned by EDF. However, I thought it was best to check on the website to see what was said about photography. This is what I found:
Restrictions apply to some types of photographic equipment. This will include (but is not restricted to): multiple lenses, long lenses and tripods. Those wishing to board the London Eye with any such equipment are advised to first contact the press office.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to contact them by the time I thought of it, as we had a morning ticket booked, so I can’t say how helpful they are. We were staying an hour from the city centre, so we couldn’t easily return to the hotel to pick up anything else for the day. What left with us in the morning had to be on us all day, as there was no mention of secure lockers at the Eye, or in the immediate area.
Now, if you’ve ever seen a 70-200mm lens, you’ll know that they aren’t exactly discreet pieces of kit which can be easily slipped into a pocket. Nor are they generally regarded as anything but professional equipment by the non-photographic community, due to the fact that they do look a bit intimidating. Even if they were acceptable, I would need another lens for other parts of the day, which would render me victim to the clause about multiple lenses. Given that I was on honeymoon, I wasn’t about to provoke any attention which might compromise our plans or enjoyment of the day. This meant that I made the decision to use only the Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD which I used for the initial 365-day challenge. It’s a compact lens with a range that most would easily include most security guards’ definitions of “long lens”. I’ve said before that it’s the perfect lens for travelling, and this is another reason that I haven’t mentioned previously.
Ironically, it’s not in these tourist hotspots that the differences become apparently obvious anyway. There’s nothing quite like a dirty perspex window for making your crisp 2.8 lenses perform like a coke bottle. It’s a great leveller. It’s when you’re walking around in the open air that you get the inescapable feeling that you could have taken better with the kit you left in the hotel. It was just unfortunate that my entire day’s photography was dictated by the rules at only one of several sights we wished to visit that day.
Which, given the unparalleled views at the Shard, was unfortunate. I’d have loved to have had the 70-200 for that…