Aloha everyone, it’s Friday!
Sorry for that last AF being so short. At least there were a couple good photos in there though, right? Anyhow, what I want to talk about today is lenses…
Remember, what I write about here is just a guide based on my opinions. There is no law to any of this, just what I’ve found works best for me. I have had many, many lenses over the years and I have used many, many more. A lot of the photographers I know can’t leave their house without 5 or 6 lenses in their bag. Not me. I own three lenses. I travel with two, and 90% of the time I’m using the same one. Which one? Keep reading, I’ll get there.
Well, this really depends on what type of photography you’ll be focusing on. Are you planning on shooting a lot of people? If so, you’ll want to make sure you have something with a really big aperture like an f2 or f2.8. What a big aperture like this does is it helps to take in a lot of light very quickly so you can take very fast photos. Usually the benefit of this is not just to capture moving objects, but it also allows you to have your subject in focus and the background blurred away. All those model photography shots, those wedding portraits or family portraits, yep, f2.8. Not only do you want to look at the aperture, but you’ll also want to stay away from wide angle lenses as they will distort your subject.
Say, however, you’re not as interested in shooting people as you are with shooting landscapes. Typically, landscape photographers aren’t as concerned with the big aperture numbers as they are with the focal length of the lens. A good wide angle lens is key, something in the 16mm to 18mm range is usually very desirable.
Maybe you fall in between. You want a lens or lenses that are very versatile. If this is the case you’ll have to look at the focal length capabilities of a lens and get something that can shoot wide enough yet still zoom in far enough to get those nice close shots of people, with a little background blur.
Now before we go any further, I have to warn you, lenses vary in price quite a bit. And that old saying, “you get what you pay for” really rings true in this department. Plan on spending your money here. But the good news is, a good lens, well maintained, can far outlive your camera body. So even though you’ll likely gawk at the price, the value of lenses doesn’t depreciate very much of taken care of. And they can last a long, long time.
Many off brand companies like Sigma and Tamaron make really nice lenses, but if you want the best, you’ve gotta stick with Canon or Nikon. They’re just better. Better glass, better internal components, smoother operations and built tougher. I use Canon products, so I’ll be speaking about Canon lenses, though Nikon makes a lot of very similar lenses at similar price points. If you shoot Nikon, use Nikon glass. If you shoot Canon… you get it.
And when you’re looking at Canon lenses, be sure to look for that little red ring around the rim of the lens. This lets you know that its going to cost you a fortune, but you’ll be getting “L” glass as well. Which is the best that Canon makes. You may also see lenses with a few other colors. A dashed gold ring indicates the lens has an Ultrasonic Motor (USM). Pretty good stuff. A Green ring signifies the lens uses Diffractive Optics (DO). These are lighter weight lenses that are built very well. A silver ring means that it is a non-professional series lens. Definitely a more affordable lens, but not as good of construction or glass involved.
Many portrait photographers really like prime lenses. When I say prime, I mean lenses that are at a fixed focal length. 50mm prime lenses are very nice, 85mm prime lenses are very nice, 100mm and 135mm lenses are very nice. Prime lenses generally have much bigger apertures than telephoto lenses. f1.2, f1.8, f2 these are not uncommon sizes for prime lens apertures. Which is one reason they are GREAT for shooting people. You can blur out the backgrounds and focus only on the subject’s eyes if you want to.
Because I shoot a full-frame camera, the 85mm prime is my favorite length. There is an f1.2, and an f1.8 version of this lens. The f1.2 goes for about $2199. The f1.8 goes for about $420. Big difference in cost, both are excellent.
Sometimes, your subject isn’t sitting still and you want to shoot sports photography or wedding photography. Then you’re going to want a telephoto lens. Probably one that can still hit those big aperture numbers. One of the most common lenses in this arena is the Canon 70mm -200mm Lens. Now, there are several variations of this lens, but basically, one has a big f2.8 aperture and one has a slightly smaller f4 aperture. There’s even variations with an Image Stabilizer and Ultrasonic Motor. The best one is the EF Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM L lens. It’s pricey, but just about every wedding photographer out there shoots this lens. This bad boy will run you about $2500.
Another popular lens for wedding photographers is the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L II USM lens. It is very good. Much lighter than the 70-200 but just as sharp. The focal length isn’t that long, but as an alternate to a 70-200mm lens, this is a very nice option. This lens runs around $2300
For sports photography, you may want one with an even bigger focal length. 400mm, 500mm, 600mm maybe more. A 600mm f4 IS lens from Canon can run around $10,000. These are really nice if you’re on the field for a football game or shooting surf photography from shore.
I don’t shoot a lot of portraits, sports or weddings (in fact, hardly ever… just not my thing), but I do have a lens in my quiver that is excellent when I have to shoot an impromptu portrait. I choose a Canon 85mm f1.8 lens. It’s excellent all around. And the cost is only $420.
Wide angle lenses are the favorite of most landscape photographers. If you can pickup a lens between a 14mm and 18mm you’ll be sitting pretty. Especially on a full-frame camera. If you forgot what the benefits were for full-frame cameras, click here and read up! Generally, however you may want something more than a prime lens here. Something that can give you that wide angle, but also have a little bit of a zoom. Well, you’re in luck. Canon makes a couple top-notch lenses in this field. Both of which are L glass and will blow your socks off. First is the 16-35mm f2.8L II USM lens. This thing is unbelievable. Excellent in every factor. Cost on this lens is $1700. The second lens in this category is a 17-40mm f4L USM lens. Another very good lens, at about half the cost. It does have a smaller aperture, but for landscape photography rarely is that a factor.
If you can afford the 16-35mm lens, it is the better lens. For me, however, I shoot the 17-40mm f4L USM lens.
For versatility you’ll want something with a wide enough focal length to get those landscape shots but something that can zoom in enough to shoot people on the far end of the room. Canon makes quite a few good lenses in this range. One is the 24-105mm f4L IS USM lens. This lens goes for around $1200 and gives you everything you could need. Great range, super sharp clarity, its fast, quiet and rugged. The other lens I think is very good in this category is the 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. It is a steal at $470. I used this lens for years with great results. Personally, I think it is the best, most versatile lens on the market for under $500.
I shoot the 24-105mm f4L IS USM lens, Its greatness far outshines anything else in its class (In my opinion). The 24-70mm lens is very, very good too, and it does have a bigger aperture, but to me, I’ll sacrifice the aperture to get a little more focal length. That’s just me, you may prefer the aperture.
90% of the time I use the Canon 17-40mm f4L USM lens. In fact, all of the images below were shot with the 17-40mm lens.
9% of the time I’m using the Canon 24-105mm f4L IS USM lens.
1% of the time I’m using the Canon 85mm f1.8 lens.
As a travel photographer, I love to pack light. The lighter the better. And I’m all about stripping down weight wherever I can. That’s why, even though I love to shoot Canon’s 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM lens, the thing weighs over 6lbs. I can’t have that. I swap that for a nice versatile 24-105mm and I’m dropping significant weight and space in my bag. Now throw in my 17-40mm and I’m done. That’s all I need to travel with (lens wise). Oh, yea, I travel with one backpack. With everything. All my camera equipment, toiletries, clothes, etc. Bare bones. You’d be surprised, but it can be done. That’s an article for another time, though…
Hope this helps give you a little better glimpse into the world of lenses. Here’s a link to Canon’s extensive lineup. Don’t just take my word for it, read up! Learn more, shoot more and you’ll figure out which ones are the best for you!
Sunset at Kawakiu Beach on the far Northwest corner of Molokai
Sunrise over the East end of Molokai. That’s Maui island in the distance.
This is a shot from Pepeopae, deep in a bog in the center of the island. Very long way to get to this place, but well worth the journey!
Mark my words: One day I will have a home on this beach.
Sunset at Papohaku.
Beautiful Halawa Valley.
A hui hou, Molokai! We will be back!