Behind the Lens: Changing of the guard

Lenses aren't supposed to split into two pieces like this. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

This is slightly embarrassing.

This past weekend I broke one of my lenses. Before I go any further, I want the record to show that I didn’t break it on purpose and it wasn’t realistically my fault. But to get to the point, I broke my Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 lens. For the majority of you guys, that probably sounds like gibberish. To be fair, a lot of times it still sounds like gibberish to me as well. That lens is one of those big but not really big lenses that you see journalists using a lot of the time. They are especially prevalent when covering sports games. In fact any professional, commercial photographer or photojournalist has one for their kit. It’s a pretty important lens. And now mines broken. ☹

Worse than it being broke, it’s not easily fixable. Nothing in photography is that cheap. This lens literally broke along one of the major body points. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it broke along the body point that some of the wires run. Which of course ripped the wires through. Fixing this lens would cost me around 500 dollars, probably considerably more. You know who doesn’t have 500 dollars? This guy.

I’m sad about the lens breaking, but it isn’t like it was a total surprise. This lens has been structurally shaky since the summer. In fact in July, a repair shop told me that it would, at best work for another two months of continuous use before something major happened to it. And this lens has lasted for a long time. It was used by someone else for three and half years. Then it was mailed half-way across the country where I used for another two and half years. And I used that lens to death. I took it on hiking trips, shot almost every single sports match with it and used it for a ton of everyday assignments.

While thinking about finally putting that lens to rest, I started to think about all of the camera equipment that I’ve had and used in my six plus years being actively involved in photography. I’ve never broken a vital piece of camera equipment. I’ve stopped using things, but this 70-200 was the first thing I’ve ever broken.

I’ve mentioned this before, but my first camera was a crappy small Canon point-and-shoot camera. I’m calling it crappy but it was the perfect learning tool. I then moved onto my first DSLR, a Nikon D3100 with a kit lens and a 55-200 mm lens. Think really plastic lenses that weren’t that good but again were great learning tools. A few months after joining the paper, I retired my first lens. I put the kit lens in a box somewhere and bought a pro-version of that lens. That lens would become one of my longest serving lenses. In fact even after upgrading to a better camera, I kept using that lens and even brought it with me to Tanzania.

Since coming back from Tanzania I’ve basically retired my original kit, including the D3100, the kit lens upgrade and the 55-200. I now mainly use a Nikon D610, a 35mm f/2, a 50mm f/1.8 and 24-120mm f/4. Again none of that means a lot to most of you but to me it represents how things have changed over time. What were originally a major part of my kit have morphed into other things. It’s kind of like a changing of a guard of in a way. Because as much as things change, the more they stay the same. It doesn’t really matter what tools I have. Sure it hurts when one breaks, but at the end of the day as long as I can tell a story I’m going to be okay.

Amar Batra is a senior staff photographer and weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email He tweets at @amar_batra19.