Robert Surtees: On Zoom Lenses

From American Cinematographer, Photography for The Last Picture Show interview by Herb A. Lightman (Jan. 1972)

What kind of lenses did you use on this picture?

"The entire picture was photographed with one lens, a 28mm. We used it for every shot, although it did cause something of a sound problem with camera noise when we would move in for the close-ups. Bogdanovich wouldn't even allow a zoom lens on the set. He detests the zooms, even if they are just used to follow someone. Orson Welles had told him that a zoom creates artificial movement, and technically, he's correct. A zoom shot is merely a magnification of an object. It doesn't at all give you the same perspective that you'd get, for example, if you dollied through a doorway. However, there were many times when it was necessary to move the camera a couple of feet to tighten up the composition on a shot. Using the zoom would have literally saved days on this picture, but Peter insisted on laying dolly track and dollying that couple of feet. He has his integrity-- which is very important to him-- and you have to respect him for it."

- Robert Surtees, ASC

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