My Previous Focal Ranges
With my Powder Hill Photography, fine art landscape photography business, I have long owned four primary (not prime) lenses.
The four (three of which were zooms) – supplemented periodically with additional lenses in different focal lengths – are listed below.
- 16-35mm f/2.8 L (II & III)
- 24-70mm f/2.8 L (II & III)
- 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L (I & II)
- 180mm macro f/2.5 L
2018 Lens/Focal Length Review
At the time of my study, I owned the above four lenses as well as a 300mm f/2.8 L II.
Note – I do not keep every image I capture. Rather, my retention rate is somewhere around 15-18%. Therefore, my evaluation is only based on images kept.
16-35mm wide angle lens
Although I had the 16-35mm lens for a number of years, I found that I rarely used it. Just over 7%, based on a five year review (2012-2016).
When I did use this lens, I rarely used the lower focal lengths within 16-23mm.
In critically evaluating the wide angle images, most were around the 24mm plus range. The images that I had captured in the 24-35mm range taken with the 16-35mm could have been taken with the 24-70mm, (and vice versa) which I also owned at that time.
24-70mm mid-range lens
Although I found the 24-70 f/2.8 L III lens useful, once again, my Lightroom study revealed I mostly used the lower focal range (24 – 35mm) of this lens.
The vast majority of 70mm images were taken with the 70-200 lens.
Three “anchor” focal lengths started to appear from this review: 24mm, 35mm and 50mm.
70-200mm short telephoto lens
During the same five year evaluation (2012 – 2016), the 70-200 L (I and II combined) was my most frequently used lens.
Of the images retained with this lesn, almost 25% were captured at 200mm.
Although I considered the Canon 135mm f/2 L prime as a replacement, I couldn’t give up the versatility of the 70-200.
Instead, I decided to upgrade to the version III. The 70-200 was the only zoom lens not replaced with a prime.
I’ve considered multiple times removing this lens from my bag. However, it is impossible. I have found no other lens to take macros like this one.
During my 5-year study, the 180 macro was my second most used lens.
I’ve used the 70-200 with both extension tubes and a front diopter. Both work. The macro lens works just that much better!
Although I use all lenses at their minimum focusing distance to shoot “close-up” on ground objects (like leaves on the ground, rocks, etc). Only the 180 macro allows me to capture the true macros that I find of interest.
Not a wildlife photographer, over the years I have owned the Canon 500mm f/4 L II and 300mm f/2.8 L II lenses (not at the same time). I rarely used either for landscapes, and far less for wildlife.
Since I also take pictures of our grandkids sporting events, I had justification (or so I justified to myself) for keeping a lens longer than 200mm.
Perhaps hard to believe – I found both lenses too long for my style of photography.
With my desire for faster lens in low light (such as in a gymnasium for kids sports), I started thinking about the 200mm f/2 L prime, replacing the 300mm f/2.8. The 500mm had been replaced previously with the 300 f/2.8.
Recently I purchased the 200 f/2 L which has proven very useful in low light. Since it overlaps with the 70-200, I don’t intend to carry it in my landscape photo bag. Rather, it will be relegated primarily to the grandkids sporting events.
The radical change-out to primes
Using above three zoom lenses listed at the top of this article, I found the vast majority of my images would be easily accommodated with three replacement primes plus the short telephoto and macro.
The 16-35, 24-70, and 300 f/2.8 L lenses were each sold the 2018 summer and replaced with the following:
- 24mm f/1.4 L II
- 35mm f/1.4 L II
- 50mm f/1.2 L
- 70-200mm f/2.8 L III (replaced the version II)
- 180mm f/3.5 L macro (retained)
- 200mm f/2 L (basically dedicated to grandkids sports)
Why the Switch
As convenient as zooms are, I found myself looking at the scene, making a determination of only the desired zoom lens without regard to the intended specific focal length. This was particularly true of the lower focal lengths.
Having used primes in both the macro lens and larger telephotos, I was accustomed to moving to a new location (to get closer) which often brought with it a new perspective to the subject – one not previously apparent from the initial zoomable location.
Shallow DOF & Low Light
Although I shoot landscapes with great depth, I also like to shoot landscapes with shallow depth of field.
Placing the key element in the front and letting everything else go deeply out of focus is something I enjoy. The 1.4 and 2.0 apertures greatly aid in this compositional theme.
The second is low light. Deep in the shadowed woods, in the morning before the sun clears the hillsides, I find these lenses very useful.
Why the 200mm f/2 L?
The 200mm f/2 is targeted mostly for grandkids games in gymnasiums and soccer fields. Particularly the school gyms for basketball and volleyball are quite dark.
I don’t like shooting at anything above 1600 ISO, and actually prefer to be lower than that. The extra stop of light over the 70-200 has proven most beneficial. With seven grandkids, this lens will see plenty of sports action.
And again, “what’s your go to lens”?
The answer to this question remains as before.
It all depends on what I wish to capture, relative to positioning, depth of field, etc.
I don’t doubt, that that perhaps the 70-200 will remain my “go to” lens.