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 five 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, 300 f/2.8 IS USM II, 500mm f/4 IS USM I & II, 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 f/3.5 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. I’ll also grab this lens for shots deep in the woods.
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. It is also very useful when I’m on vacation, and a family hike is the primary objective, with photography being secondary. (When photography is the primary objective, I take my all my equipment and 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 is used, though infrequently, on the 180 macro. For most of my macro photography, the 180 macro lens, by itself, does a great job.
Occassionally, the 1.4xIII teleconverter is employed on the 70-200mm lens, and rarely 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.
- 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.