In this article, I will discuss the reasons for any photographer to carry just a single lens.Two types of completely different lenses will be discussed. And hopefully you will find your way to a new favorite lens slightly illuminated after reading this post.
Why only one lens?
Lens changing is one of my least favorite things to be doing, because every second spent messing about with your equipment, is a second in which you can miss the perfect shot.
Dragging around 10 pounds of glass in your backpack doesn’t make for a quick-shoot, portable equipment pack either. And if you’re on a trip, you don’t want half your luggage to be lenses, leaving space for a toothbrush and maybe half a sock.
So what does one do in such desperate times? It all comes down to finding the perfect lens. And what is that perfect lens? That totally depends on your needs. Nowadays they make the ‘perfect’ all-in-one solution lenses, they’re called super-zooms, often with a range from 18mm (wide-angle) all the way to 300mm (tele-zoom). These lenses are compact, portable and not ridiculously expensive.
Sigma and Tamron both produce these lenses for most DSLR brands.
- Relatively affordable
- A lot of zoom
- Widescreen shooting
- Tele shooting
- The picture quality isn’t all that good
- Often not an all to great build quality (not very durable/plasticky)
- Small Aperture size
-No, or poor Bokeh
-No low-light photography
-slower shutter speeds, higher ISO settings to get proper shots
I used this type of lens for a while, but it didn’t work for me. I found that the compositions were often made by me zooming, instead of properly thinking about the whole picture (lacking a bit of creativeness). I also needed more light to flutter onto the sensor for those nightly street shots and indoor pictures I wanted to make. And blurring out the background properly was on my wish list as well (Bokeh). I also found that a lot of shots needed loads of Photoshop tweaking to fix them, because there was a lot of distortion of all kinds, visible in the pictures I made with my superzoom lens.
Now I found my answer to all of these problems in a lens that I now regard as my favourite, one and only go-to lens. I often head out, with just this lens on my camera body, and nothing else.
I am talking about my 30mm f/1.4 Sigma DC EX lens. This, unlike the lens we discussed earlier, is a lens that doesn’t have any zoom at all. It’s fixed focal length means that your shots will be of much better image quality, very little to no distortion at all. It also makes you think about your composition a lot more, it makes the photographer actively participate in the act of composing a shot, that makes it much more of a creative process.
The maximum aperture of f/1.4 makes it very fast. It lets in a hell of a lot more light (it’s a bunch of f/stops faster). Meaning you can crank up your shutter speeds and turn the lights down low. This gives you the ability to do some great photography without ever touching a flash (I kinda hate flashes). This also gives one the possibility to create a very shallow depth of field. Giving you the option of blurring out whatever’s not in focus (bokeh again).
The 30mm focal length is the aps-c (non full frame) equivalent of a 50mm Prime lens. And that ‘magic’ number has been said to create shots that just feel right, due to the fact that it equals the human eye. So there is no need to zoom! because with this lens… man you can feel the shot.
30mm Prime lens with large max apperture
- Great image quality
- Often very properly built
- Great low light performance
- Great Indoor performance
- Fantastic Bokeh
- Very fast
- No Zoom
- (that’s really all I could come up with, if you’ve got some more cons for a fixed focal lens, please let me know, and I’ll add it to the list)
So in the end it all comes down to what you want. If you are a real zoomer, and can’t live without the ability to bring close what’s far away, instead of getting in close yourself (like wild life photographers). a superzoom lens is probably best for you.
If you are more of a street photographer, who also likes to shoot portraits and do indoor and night photography, perhaps a fixed focal lens will be your way to go.
When it comes to choosing the one lens for you, it is also a matter of feeling, Sometimes it just feels right . When it seems to do all that you want it to do, and images become exactly how you envisioned them, you know you’ve got the right lens. I found that in this sigma 30mm, combined with my Pentax K5.
But that’s my personal preference, maybe yours will be completely different. And the only way to find out, is to try it out. So get out there, pick up an old second hand fixed Focal lens or super zoomer, and see what it does to your photography.