What is your “go to” lens?
During the course of an art show season, this question will be asked, typically by hobbyist photographers.
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 can get very busy and thus try to keep the non-sales questions short. In the lull periods, I may expand the answer, though slightly.
Interestingly, 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.
Although I have owned many Canon L lenses over time (including 100-400, 500mm f/4 IS USM I & II, 50mm f/1.2 L, 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 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM II
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM II
- Canon 180mm f/3.5 macro
- Canon 300m f/2.8 L IS USM II
Starting with something – but never the same
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 will start with the 180 macro.
In large open areas (the mountain valleys, or Lake Michigan with open sky), I may start with the 16-35mm when considering wide angle images. For sunstars, I’ll almost always go with the 16-35.
The 24-70 fits those applications where I may wish to keep the scene (and vertical lines) more “natural”.
For those situations where I plan to photograph isolated areas of the landscape, (waves of Lake Michigan, more intimate views of the forest, etc.), I’ll utilize the 70-200.
Starting with one lens doesn’t guarantee it will remain the active lens for that day. If something is of great interest which requires a different lens, I will definitely switch.
When that occurs, my “go to” lens just changed.
Little use of extenders
While I own both the 12mm and 25mm extenders, I rarely use either, and normally only carry the 25mm.
Beyond the experimentation, I’ve used it sporadically on the 70-200 and 180 macro.
The 25mm extension tube has been useful with the 180 when I want to focus closer to an inanimate object, such as water droplets on a feather.
Teleconverters when needed
Occasionally, the 1.4x III and 2x III teleconverters are employed on the 70-200mm lens, and most recently on the 300mm.
There are situations where adding the 1.4x III to the 180 macro has proven very beneficial. I do not use the 2x III teleconverter on the 180 macro.
For a quick comparison of lens usage, using the statistics available in Lightroom I’ve totaled all of images within my library for each year from 2012 – 2016 inclusive. 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.
- 70-200mm (54.16%)
- 180 macro (20.2%)
- 24-70mm (18.17%)
- 16-35mm (7.45%)
The 70-200, at least by percentages
From this short 5 year evaluation, the answer to the “go to” lens question is the 70-200.
With this zoom lens, I use its’ full focal range. With the 70-200 already on the camera, if a subject of interest is at 70mm, rather than switching to the 24-70, I’ll use the mounted lens.
Perhaps I also keep more images shot with this lens than I do the others.
The Final Selection
Ultimately, the lens selection depends upon the subject, perspective, and what I want the image to say.