During the course of an art show season, this question will be asked: “What’s your go to lens?”, typically by hobbyist photographers. The lens selection is never a question for those planning to purchase a print. They like the resulting image – it doesn’t matter what equipment I used to capture it.
To answer the question, I generally provide a quick, brief response – “I have four lenses, each is my “go to” lens depending upon what I wish to shoot, relative to subject, perspective, placement, etc.” At art shows, I get very busy and thus keep the non-sales questions short.
Although I have owned many Canon L lenses over time (including 100-400, 100 macro, 50mm f/1.2, 500mm f/4 IS USM I & II, 300 f/2.8 IS USM II, 400 f/5.6, 16-35mm f/2.8 L III, including earlier versions of those listed, as well as others), below is my current photography equipment, which mostly likely won’t be changing anytime soon.
- Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM III
- Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L USM II
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM II
- Canon 50mm f/1.2 L USM
- Canon 180mm macro
Always starting with something
Truth be told, I always start with a lens mounted on my camera when I enter the field, anticipating what I might find and how I desire to photograph the subject. As an example, if I’m planning on doing close-up photography, I’ll grab the 180 macro. In large open areas (the mountain valleys, or Lake Michigan with open sky), I’ll probably start with the 16-35mm, though I also use the “cross-over” focal lengths on the 24-70.
For sunstars, I’ll almost always go with the 16-35.
The 24-70 fits those applications where I may be shooting a larger view with a “natural” look to the vertical lines.
When might I start with the 70-200? In those situations where I photograph isolated areas of the landscape, whether that is within the forest, the mountains, or Lake Michigan (ex. waves).
The 50mm f/1.2 lens is more a “hiking lens”. Each morning I take a 2 mile hike in the woods near our home. Having the 50mm lens works great in this application when I don’t plan on taking any other lenses or my tripod.
Starting with one lens doesn’t guarantee it will remain the active lens. If something is of great interest which requires a different lens, I will definately switch. In that instance, my “go to” lens just changed.
Use of extenders and teleconverters
I use both extenders and teleconverters when necessary. The 25mm extender are used, though not frequently, on the 180 macro and very rarely on the 70-200 mm lens. For most of my macro photography, the 180 macro lens, by itself, does a great job.
Seldom the 1.4xIII teleconverter is used as needed on the 70-200mm lens. Rarely, it is employed on 180mm macro lens.
For a quick comparison of lens usage, using the statistics available in Lightroom I totalled all of images within my library for each year from 2012 – 2016 inclussive. This five year window provided a good representative sampling for this quick evaluation. Although I also used a 50mm, 300mm and 500mm lens sparingly throughout this period, these lenses were not included as I only had most for a short time.
- 16-35mm (7.45%)
- 24-70mm (18.17%)
- 70-200 (54.16%)
- 180 macro (20.2%)
From this short 5 year evaluation, I tend to shoot often with 70-200 lens. With this zoom lens, I use its’ full focal range. Consequently, if a subject of interest is at 70mm, rather than switching to the 24-70, I’ll use the 70-200 lens as it is already on the camera.
The 70-200, at least by percentages
With the percentages, one could say the “go to” lens is the 70-200. Perhaps I keep more images shot with this lens than I do with the others.
Ultimately, the lense selection depends upon the subject, perspective, and what I want the image to say. The lens is only the tool to help provide this vision.