Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jon_kobeck|1, Dec 12, 2009.

  1. I do mostly fine art photography. I have owned several lenses at various times over the years. But the lens I use 99% of the time is the 35L on a 5D.
    I read that Henri Cartier Bresson used a 50mm for his entire life.
    Just curious if I am the only one using one prime lens exclusively?
    Does anyone think I am missing out on something?
    And I know this does not apply to wedding or commercial photogs.
  2. Such a romantic notion: a man and his one lens. When I was a starving student I only had one lens and it was a 50mm prime. Now I have a lot of lenses. More than I can carry. However I can only use one at a time so, for that moment, I'm exclusive and feel like a starving student again. Actually I haven't removed the 50 1.2L from my 5Dii since last summer so the nostalgic rush just goes on and on.
  3. In a sense yes, but probably not how you think. I have only one prime: 85mm 1.2L orig. On the other hand, I have other lenses that are all zooms.
    That being said, there are certain types of photography that I do and want to get better at just because I love what this lens can do. Presumably if your interests in photography were specific enough, you could quite happily use one lens and never 'miss out' on anything that didn't raise your heart rate. It's about what intrigues you.
    The real question is, "Do you feel limited by only having one lens at this point in your exploration of photography?"
  4. HCB reportedly owned lenses ranging from 35mm to 85mm. He also lived in an era in which primes were the only option - I wonder if he would so limit himself today?
    The "do you feel limited" question seems odd to me. I would certainly be limited in my own photography if I only had a 50mm prime to work with. Which is not to say that I don't occasionally go out with just a 50mm prime on my camera.
  5. Dan-- So would I. My point is, maybe Jon doesn't. It is a question each photographer must answer with respect to their own personal interest in photography.
  6. HCB reportedly owned lenses ranging from 35mm to 85mm. He also lived in an era in which primes were the only option - I wonder if he would so limit himself today?​
    He'd probably be ah one lens wonder 'n be humpin' ah Tammy 18-200 on street 'n sidewalk. Or maybe a cellphone camera would be his weapon 'o choice: stealthy, in your face and always in hand to nail city dwellers on hoof.
  7. Nope, I've got a closet full of apparati.
    However I have great fun when I go out with just my 400D and a 50mm lens.
    (Another combo I love to take out -not weighed down by other equipment- is my 50D plus 100mm macro.)
    These outings can last anywhere between 30 minutes and 12 hours. The 12 hour ones are mostly events in which I participate like a family outing, a work related casual trip or an evening out with friends. Those are the 400D+50mm/1.8 outings.
  8. I usually have my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 on my 20D. Very nice combination which I use almost exclusively.
  9. HCB owned and used 35/50/90mm lenses, though he heavily favored the 50mm.
    Here's a guy who's done well using one lens on his film Canons:
    He used to work with a 28mm, but has gone for the reach of a 35mm
    Here's another guy who managed with two Leicas and two identical 28mm lenses:
    A Magnum member who uses 28mm and 35mm lenses (yeah I know, two):
    Here's a guy who's done essays for National Geographic on Viet Nam, Cuba, The Border, NASCAR, all with only a 35mm lens on his Leica, and leaves the 28 and 50 in the hotel room.
    I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Limiting as it is, and as much as the idea terrorizes photo retailers, it's possible to "get by" with one lens for some people.
  10. I used nothing but a 50mm for decades. Well almost: I picked up a horrible zoom and played around with it for a while, resulting in a few amazingly chromatic abberated shots. I currently have a 50mm f1.4 with my 5D: I tend to use it a lot for interior and night shots, but do find the fixed focal length limitting: I prefer a normal zoom for the most part.
  11. It is interesting to read his notions about shooting. He was apparently uninterested in careful and slow consideration of images, and preferred to work very quickly - taking literally the notion of "drawing with light" and being attracted to the speed and spontaneity with which this could be done.
    He also was completely uninterested in darkroom technique and the technical quality of the print from that point of view. He had others print his stuff for him.
    I think it is interesting when people become fascinated with any particular iconic photographer and think that if they select the same equipment that the photographer used that they'll be closer to creating similar results. For me this is problematic on several levels. First, the earlier photographer had the equipment of his/her time to work with - who is to say that he/she would use the same possibly antiquated gear today. Secondly, the fact that photographer X used a particular sort of gear to get a certain shot must be informed by the knowledge that photographer Y used different gear to get shots are arguably in similar genres. (I was thinking about the Arbus photo of the kid with a hand grenade - a photo not made with a Lieca and a 50mm lens.) Third, while it is am important exercise to understand the way that previous photographers worked, the idea is to apply what you learn about this to developing your own approach that is most effective for your subjects, your working circumstances and methods, and your output format.
    There is no question that HCB did great work with the gear he had at his disposal, as did many other photographers from earlier eras. There is some question about the value to trying to emulate their equipment choices.
    (Who confesses that he is about to head to San Francisco armed only with a single 50mm prime... :)
  12. The lens I use about 80% of the time is my 50.
    I hardly use my 24-105 as the F4 limits my needs at the moment.
    I just got the 100L and I rather like it. since I went FF my 16-35 II gets way less use.
    I f I was made to choose one lens, it would be the 50.
  13. 100mm 2.8 macro is my lens of choice most of the time.
  14. Luis thanks for those references ! And add Magnum photographer Bruce Gildern to that mix, he solely uses a 28m lens.
    G Dan: Well you made some interesting points. Personally, every now and then I get sucked into the "gear head" mentality that permeates boards like these. On my own personal level, I am finding that I get easily distracted by the "process" and forget why I take photos. That is why I am trying to make a serious effort not to get into that "more gear -latest and greatest" mindset. For me its all about the narrative and concept behind the image, as opposed to the technical process. Well, at least thats what I want it to be about, lol.
    If I were a commercial photographer who needed to make a living at this it would be a different story.
  15. If I were doing the same thing all the time, I guess one prime lens might do. And of course, there's always "sneaker zoom."
    However, I sure do find a lens like the 24-105mm on the 35mm-sensor (or the 17-85mm on APS-C) to be awful handy when I'm traveling "light". If I had to make do with only one lens, I'd choose something like that.
    Is the person who chooses several lenses, each appropriate for particular tasks, more of a "gearhead" than someone who arbitrarily says they will only shoot with one particular lens? I wonder.
  16. I'm getting increasingly addicted to my 35/2 and 50D combo and I could probably live with only that for quite a while. Yes indeed. Having said that, I'd find it frustrating to never be able go wide or get the effects that only a 85-100-something prime can produce. An ultra-wide zoom, a normal FOV prime and a short portrait/tele prime would be minimum. After all, apart from speed, changing lenses is what SLRs are about to a great extent.
  17. Always a good idea if possible to master one tool before moving onto the next I think. I've always leaned towards long telephoto, but before I took a break I was trying to master the wider angles. From looking at others photos I can easily say that great pictures can be taken at all focal lengths, but individually we all see the world just a little different. I happen to really like the 50mm Portrait, but I don't get the chance to photograph people very often.
    That said I've been thinking the new Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS macro would make one heck of a walk around lens if I could not carry the 100-400mm zoom.
  18. I also use only primes (btw as does anybody using a rangefinder). I have the following lenses: 24/2.8, 50/1.8 and 100/2.8 Macro. I generally carry always two lenses: one on the camera and the other in the backpack as a "backup". I use primes mostly because of their good IQ/price and light weight. I tried the 80-200 but it is too heavy and too conspicuous for me.
  19. I started off with zooms but picked up a 50/1.8 (mk1) and have since
    sold most of them. But now I'm using digital more (cropped sensor),
    so will probably get a 28/1.8 or sigma 30/1.4 soon. Or save up
    for a 5d - Puppy Face's 5d/ 50 1.2L combo sounds pretty ideal.
  20. Yes. 35mm L, 85mm 1.2 II L, 135mm f2 L, and 200mm 1.8 L.
    Had 70-200mm 2.8 IS also but sold it. Actually 35mm or 135mm stay 95 percent of the time on my 7D. Sold my 5d, and am now waiting for 1Ds IV.
  21. Yep I do for my Nikon F2. When I decided to pick up 35mm shooting again last year and decided on a F2 body, I really wanted to keep it simple. That left it at one prime lens. I much favor primes over zooms. I went with the 28/2.8 AiS. Nice lens but after a year, I decided I wanted something a bit faster and a bit tighter so I bought a 35/2 ZF Distagon. So far it's a great lens and I'd love to use it more if my F2 wasn't in the shop so much these days for shutter issues lol! Anyway, I don't feel limited at all with one prime lens.
  22. I have to ask one question: WHY?
    What's the purpose in shooting with only one prime lens? The viewer of your images will never know that you had only one lens - unless you tell them.
    I have to theorize that it's some form of ego gratification, but I can't help but wonder how many killer portfolio images any photographer misses by limiting himself to one lens. Even one zoom lens, much less a prime.
    In my arsenal, I carry: Canon 24-105 L IS, 16-35 L, 28-300 L IS, 70-200 L IS, 600 L IS and a Sigma 50-500. Plus a 5D MkII and a 7D.
    On most advertising / portrait / wildlife / landscape shoots, I carry them all. I carry fewer only when a specific job is well controlled, like a wedding where I know exactly what I'll need ahead of time.
    In other words, I choose the tool that's right for the job. Today, I spent a few hours chasing Snowy Owls and Snow Buntings. A 50mm 1.2L is just the wrong tool for both. Just as my 600mm is the wrong tool for shooting weddings.
    Ego gratification is all well and good, but erecting artificial barriers and claiming some self-proclaimed accolade for overcoming them seems to miss the point of photography.
    It's all about the image, not the tools. But that's just my opinion...
  23. What's the purpose in shooting with only one prime lens?​
    A cheapo 50/1.8 can give nice effects that none of your zooms can reproduce. Some people like it.
  24. my 500 f/4L IS is on my camera 95% of the time.
  25. Interesting, that someone with many lenses would accuse one with 1 lens of ego gratification, seems like the shoe is on the wrong foot; Perhaps the images of Rinze Van Brug, a single noctilux ( gulp) on an M8 will answer the question; of course he could not shoot surf photography with it. Why is it that the people most threatened by these one lens posts are those with many lenses ? What is the sound of one hand clapping ?
  26. I too use only primes, and they happen to be the same ones that Vel uses: the 24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8 II and 100mm f/2.8 Macro. They're relatively light and easy to carry. The 24mm and 50mm easily fit in my jacket pockets. I might upset the apple cart and buy something crazy like a 200mm f/2.8 II, but I have no plans for a zoom.
    I took this approach mainly because they are the highest quality optics that I could afford. The cost of all three is less than a 24-70 f/2.8, and they are at least as high quality. The approach allowed me to spread the cost of my kit into three smallish parts. Now, I really like primes. Sure, I may miss a shot or two, but most of the time I like to take my time anyway.
  27. It sounds like charlie does a lot of work and needs many lenses but the challenge of a prime, an all manual prime... I love the zeiss zf lenses although I have enjoyed the 180 2.8 af nikkor but that 25mm zf just brings it home! : )
  28. ""Interesting, that someone with many lenses would accuse one with 1 lens of ego gratification, seems like the shoe is on the wrong foot; Perhaps the images of Rinze Van Brug, a single noctilux ( gulp) on an M8 will answer the question; of course he could not shoot surf photography with it. Why is it that the people most threatened by these one lens posts are those with many lenses ? What is the sound of one hand clapping ?""
    Very good point Bill! I feel the focus should be on the image, not the gear.
  29. I have a 28 1.8, 50 1.4, 85 1.8 and 100 2.8 macro. I use the 28 a lot, even with all its so so reviews I seem to capture my favorite photos with the 28 1.8 but I really wish I could keep 1 on most of the time. I find I switch lenses very often and I keep considering going with a 24-70 2.8 thinking I would be able to just leave it on the camera 99% the time. Maybe if I got the 35 it would be the only prime I need. :-}
  30. Could not agree more. But it takes a while to get to the realization that more equipment won't really help (at all). It's just too much fun and too tempting to think "one more lens" will all of a sudden revolutionize your shots.
    Rather, it's working on the composition and pushing the limits in trying to be creative that makes a difference (as cliche as that sounds, I think so so many people just truly don't get that's not something you can be told, you have to learn it the hard way, I certainly did)...
    As to your original point, the constraints of taking only one lens (say a 35mm, or a 50, or an 85) out actually make things paradoxically easier (it eliminates a huge amount of mental clutter of having to think about "could I possibly get that shot or this one?", and instead I focus on the almost infinite amount of shots I can get with the lens that I've got handy). That being said, it was quite a journey (equipment, time, experience-wise) to get here.
    I've lately been taking my EOS 5D (original) and typically take any of 35, 50, or 85 (yea yea I got the L's, but this was just a luxury and really my dream system...if you only use a few lenses, may as well get the best no?), and then just shoot away.
    It's the pictures that matter, not the equipment.
  31. I am almost ashamed to even throw in on this thread, being that my extensive experience with DSLR photography amounts to about a month... Anyway, I just purchased a 50 mm 1.8 prime lens for my T1i. The kit came with two zoom lenses that are just fine for outdoor shooting, but I really wanted a good portrait lens and the 1.8 was affordable at the present time. In the week that I have had it, I have found that it is quickly becoming my favorite lens. I would love to have a 1.2, but that will have to wait until my kids go off to, and finish, college.
  32. Hi James, that's actually a great setup. The 50/1.8 is well known as a "plastic fantastic" and renders excellent portraits on the T1i.
  33. until October 2009 i had 50mm 1.8 only on F3 or FM10 and when i had Rebel and Rebel XT it was the same 50mm 1.8 only AF combined 4 years. the Canon with that lens traveled with me to India, Ecuador and Peru for over a year total - and . however, in October i was going to hike Grand Canyon and got 28mm 2.8. i wouldn't trade the 50mm for any kind of zoom ever.
  34. I have only one prime lens, a Nikon 60mm F/2.8 'Micro'. I bought this just for macro photography. I hope to trade it up for the new Nikon 85mm Micro lens...
  35. Why is it that the people most threatened by these one lens posts are those with many lenses?
    Questioning this approach certainly is not the same thing as being "threatened" by the idea.
  36. it's the best way to learn photography, and although i use two prime lenses because of the work that i do, i could happily go back to just a 50mm prime if circumstances were different.
    HCB with a zoom lens........that'd be like James Bond using a .50 Desert Eagle!
  37. I've worked with a 50mm lens on a Petri GX-1 for months now. Went to Berlin with me. I like it, and I'm starting to get comfortable with that focal length. Often I'll look around me and put a frame around something, then raise the camera to my eye - to see if my frame and the actual one are alike. Increasingly, they're identical.
    However, I also think it's good to try a focal length you're uncomfortable with. I'm not a fan of telephotos, so maybe I should shoot solely telephoto lenses for a while. As an exercise in composition. And not because I'd like a new lens..
  38. Early on I started with a 50mm (35mm film), but soon found I benefited greatly by having a wide angle and a moderate tele (105) to get what I wanted. These covered all my needs: mostly people/doc/portrait/etc. In the 90's I added a 55mm micro Nikkor and 35mm f 2.0 Nikkor. I also picked up an old 200mm Nikkor. I used 4x5 for landscape, and medium format for portraits as well. Now, with digital I use the same lenses, but 18-70 Nikkor kit lens is used the most for general purposes. My sample of this lens is very good, and performs as well in general as the primes. It just doesn't have the aperture for low light shooting. I use each lens in my arsenal to achieve a certain look or for special conditions. If I only shot individual people, the 50mm could be an only lens, but it isn't as handy for group shots or landscapes. With the aps size digital format the 35mm could be an only lens, as the OP uses, but for me it is nice to have a "palate" to work with to achieve different looks and effects as pre-visualized. A good zoom is very convenient as well. So, in my 40 year experience with 35mm shooting I found that a wide angle, a 50mm and a 105 were the best combination of lenses to meet all my needs.
  39. I only have two lenses but I rent other lenses from time to time. A prime and a zoom. If I could afford a 50 1.2 I would never remove it from my camera. Ever. Not ever. Right now my 50 1.8 pretty much stays on my camera but I'll switch to my zoom 18-55 kit lens for group photos and things like that. Doesn't happen often. Out of 300 photos, only about 5 of those will be taken with a zoom. I'm just a prime kinda girl I guess. Maybe I should rent more zooms and I'll find one to fall in love with like the 50 but it hasn't happened yet.
  40. I have plenty of zooms of different kinds, but most of the time I just use a Nikon D5000 with a 50 mm 1.4 prime. If I had to sell all lenses but one, that would be the one to keep. Small. Light. Powerful. Fast. Wow!
  41. My 5d has my 24-105/4L 99% of the time but I also have a 50/1.4. With more "classic" cameras, I often have lots of lenses, but rarely use anything but the 50. But if I have my preference I like a zoom with a little range. I would like to find a good 35mm focal length lens for my Sony A350 but for some reason the 35 exists only as a very wide aperture special lens for a fabulous price. Very dissapointing.
    I'll say this -- the 5d with the 50 on it is a lot more manageable a package than with the 24-105.
  42. I think the OP is bringing up a very common phenomenon amongst photographers who have really honed their craft. For many, photography is about capturing the world through one's own distinct viewpoint. It's about showing others how one sees the world, putting one's own stamp on something. And often one's own viewpoint will correspond heavily to just one focal length. Not all the time, but much of the time. I normally carry around three prime lenses when I shoot, but the reality is I shoot the normal focal length the vast majority of the time, probably around 80% of my shots. That is the way I see the world, the way that I compose, so it's not unusual for me to sometimes take only my normal lens out with me if I want to keep weight down to a bare minimum.
    Not every photographer will shoot this way, but judging from the number of posters on this thread who do use just one focal length the majority of the time, I'd say it's also not uncommon or unusual.
  43. Yes - Canon 450D, 35/2 - first SLR camera and after 4000 photos is the only tool I need, although calling a luxury item a tool marks us out as one of the privileged places in the world.
    The framing of the thread title is odd. Can you imagine a group of pianists sitting around listing off pianos they own/use for this or that purpose? Would they do such a thing? Or a group of cooks comparing cooking pots they use when food insecurity is commoner in this world than food as a toy or an art form? One lens for life is indeed a romantic notion in one sense - about as romantic a notion as one eau de parfum.
    At some point we need to re-frame how we answer this question and BREATHE because the sum of these posts 1) is an informative case series, although rather information-overloading, and 2) it makes me feel less alive.
  44. I use 2 the 50mm.1.8 E series Nikon & the 90mm.Tamron 2.5!
  45. if I had to use one lens I would, and I'd be quite satisfied. I don't have to use one lens, therefore I don't, and I am also quite satisfied at that,
  46. best answer of all, Carey.
  47. I spent last summer's vacation almost exclusively with a 35 f/2 on my Canon Xsi, and it was nice to concentrate on shooting instead of thinking about the weight around my neck or in my pocket. I'd do that all of the time if Canon would just update the lens with quieter, more accurate focusing. I've actually considered getting a used Nikon D40 or D60 just to use their spiffy little 35 f/1.8. That would sure beat any p/s that's available...
  48. I spent last summer's vacation almost exclusively with a 35 f/2 on my Canon Xsi, and it was nice to concentrate on shooting instead of thinking about the weight around my neck or in my pocket. I'd do that all of the time if Canon would just update the lens with quieter, more accurate focusing. I've actually considered getting a used Nikon D40 or D60 just to use their spiffy little 35 f/1.8. That would sure beat any p/s that's available...
  49. "Own" is not the way I'd put it, but since I normally use mostly Nikon AF zooms (nowadays on a digital body), I find it rather liberating to load up some B&W print film in my trusty Canon A-1, complete with standard manual-focus 50mm f1.8 prime, and go out-and-about.
    Since my living doesn't depend on it, I can take only shots which suit that focal length, although I often have to work a little harder to get a suitable composition for monochrome. It's fun and if I mess it up, it really doesn't matter! Of course, if I had to do this all the time, I might feel differently…
  50. I own only one prime lens... and many zooms.
    Do you want to buy a Canon 35mm f/2 prime? it's for sale. That would be even more romantic... a man and his lack of any primes. maybe they'll write a book about me someday.
  51. I once spent around a year using a 50mm 1.8 and only shooting B&W film. Over all it was a good experience and one I am thinking of trying again.
  52. If I was just shooting for me then yes. I use my Yashica Lynx 5000e whenever I'm going out for "me" photo time. It's a fixed lens rangefinder so there isn't an option.
    If I am shooting for work, then no. I work at a newspaper, and am called on to shoot everything from football to craft fairs, long distances and tight distances. No one lens can handle that well enough for the demands of the paper to beat other local competitors. Just can't be done.
    That being said, I've tried to keep my kit as minimal as possible. I shoot a Nikon D700, 20mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4 and use the 80-200mm f/2.8 for nearly everything else.
  53. Anyone own only one prime lens?​
    Yes. I've been exclusively using a Pentax 43mm f1.9 for close to 2 years now. Ego gratification (as one poster posited)? Hardly. The timing of a layoff and major financial setbacks right around the time I was looking into purchasing another lens were the primary reasons involved. But I lament neither my choice of lens, nor the supposed limitations it places upon me.
    Almost anything is open to dispute for some people, but I would have say that carrying only one prime has made me a far better photographer. I shoot for me, and this lens does the job. Will I eventually purchase another lens? I'm sure I will. But it may very well be another prime.
  54. I own only three lenses: the Nikor kit 18-55 with VR, which really isn't all that bad; a Sigma 70-300 that I only use outdoors, obviously; and the Nikor 35 1.8 DX. I own one dSLR camera, a Nikon D60.
    Some people would look at that gear and say, "Yeah, whatever... amateurs." But, on the other hand, I bought my entire setup for less than $1,000.
    Imaging is really just a hobby, a necessary tangent from my life as a professional musician. The two fields share some interesting parallels, e.g. I tell all of my violin students who complain about their instruments that with only a few exceptions, "the equipment you play is over-rated, it's the player that matters."
    My artistic vision behind the lens is not limited by the number of lenses I carry, but only by the care I take to get the shot just right. Is it perfect, no... do I love the challenge... (I don't even need to answer that question;-)
  55. Let's engage in some critical thinking and careful reading here.
    I was not criticizing those who have only one lens. Nor am I questioning the image quality of prime lenses. To make either assertion is simply to read things that I did not write.
    I am questioning why someone would INTENTIONALLY limit themself to only one lens. That is presuming that one has the ability to buy more than the one lens in the first place. I would never question those who could not afford to buy additional lenses - that is an ENTIRELY different issue.
    Quoting the OP; "I read that Henri Cartier Bresson used a 50mm for his entire life. " Though Wikipedia asserts that he occasionally used a wide angle for landscapes. (, which seems to disarm the entire discussion.
    But based on the OP's original assertion, it seems to me that a lifelong decision to use only one lens is something more than the inability to afford another.
    And my supposition is that someone who would do so and then brag that their portfolio was shot with only a single lens - as though they had climbed some perilously high mountain of achievement - are engaging in ego gratification.
    Perhaps you can build a house with only one big screwdriver, but my question remains: WHY?
    Why not just use the right tool for the job? As I said earlier, it's about the IMAGE, not the TOOLS.
    So before you fire off the big guns at my response, make sure you've aimed at what I said, not what you incorrectly infer from what I've written.
  56. I'm more or less with Charlie in most cases here. I'm not saying that it is impossible to do fine work with a single lens if your photographic vision is of the sort that is best fulfilled by using a single lens, but I don't buy the idea that there is something more pure or noble about shooting with the gear (that you like to think is pretty similar in a few ways to the gear) that HCB used. (By the way, do you also turn off your AF, train yourself to focus manually without looking at the camera/lens, and shoot by quickly raising the camera with one hand and firing?)
    The simplicity argument doesn't (usually) work for me either. Although I did - as I posted earlier - spend the better part of a day shooting in San Francisco yesterday armed only with a prime, that was more for practical reasons having to do with my specific plans than anything else.
    HCB really had no choice but to shoot with primes , and if you buy into his entire approach to shooting - and don't tell us you do until you really understand it, and until you come to terms with his later views on photography as an art as well - one could argue that you are the equivalent of someone who drives a Model T Ford because "they really knew how to make cars back then." Or perhaps you won't get a flat panel TV because the tube televisions of the 1950s were "real" televisions. No Gore-tex for you when you ski - no, nothing is better than old oiled Egyptian cotton. And so on...
    There is no evidence that I'm aware of that HCB made a choice to avoid zooms and instead use primes . The types of zoom lenses we have today were simply not an option for him. Primes were the tools available. Thinking about how he shot - quickly and instinctively - there is as good of an argument for zooms based on his approach as there is for primes. I certainly find that I can work very quickly and intuitively with a single zoom for example - and having AF and IS on my lenses makes this even more intuitive and second nature.
    If I want to limit myself to a singe prime - and at times I may, as I did yesterday - I can certainly do that, either by going out with just the prime of by setting my zoom to 50mm and not moving it. (Unless I see a shot that really, really would be better at 70mm or 35mm... ;-)
  57. I had always dreamt to buy FM-3 and 50/1.4 before digital era appeared. For 5 years I had had F90 + 50/1.4AF and now I've got Olympus with the pancake 25/2.8. The budget pancake is head and shoulders above many mid range zooms of 400-600 USD. I compared side by side, and this is confirmed by Dpreview. Thread for a filter is 43 mm, weight is only 95g! A steel mount, golden contacts! At A3 the kit competes with FF with 50 mm (with lesser DOF though)! I still have 50/1.4AF to fit to a future successor of D700.
    I did entire wedding with 50 mm and my Nikon F90. It is simple pleasure. Reporters do need tele-zooms. Concentate on composition, lighting - whereas others try to squeeze ALL into the frame or zoom at 10X. That is not my type of photography.
  58. Very interesting discussion here! Thanks Jon for starting this. I love doing fine art photography also. My lens of choice since i bought it is the 100 f2.8 macro. I have it about a year now but only in recent months have truly adjusted to it. My thoughts are to each his own. As photographers we go out and photograph what we like and we choose a lens to accommodate this. Personally it has helped me to stick to this one lens it keeps me focused on the subject. I realised that if i keep it on i adapt I try harder to compose things and look objects and scenes longer in essence it is training me :p I love it! and i am enjoying its macro side more than anything.
  59. For the longest time I did my street shooting with only a Tamron 17mm 3.5 on a crop body.Finally I decided I needed somthing a little faster with more range and bought a Sigma 18 to 50 2.8.But now this lens spends most of its life at the 18mm end @ 5.6 or 8!.I have several other lenses but they are only used for paid gigs.
  60. Thanks Jon for sparking an interesting discussion here. I have a couple of prime lenses (50 & 100mm Macros) and a couple of zooms (20-35mm and 100-400mm). I probably use the 100-400mm the most and have never really thought about going out to shoot with just one lens. After reading the various posts here I plan to do just that...with my 50mm. Happy Holidays!
  61. i have been running the 35mm point of view for quite some time now. recently spent a whole two month assignment overseas with 28mm being the name of the game.
    quite fine for me (on rangefinders).
  62. Jon,
    This is a great question. I have often wondered the same thing. Most photographers, professional or amateur, maintain kits with numerous lenses. Yet, how many of those lenses are typically utilized? Galen Rowell apparently had quite a few lenses, yet often went out with only one or two. When I shot with an A-1, I did so primarily with an FD 24mm f/2.8, and used the Tamron SP 70-210mm f/3.5 for close-ups. I find the 24mm focal length to be ideal to my eye. It offers enough depth of field to ensconce the viewer in the photograph, yet not so much distortion that vertical lines are impossible to handle.

    Now that I have moved to digital (450D), I have had to accept using a wide-angle zoom (Tamron SP 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6) in place of a prime in order to obtain an equivalent to a full-frame 24mm on a crop sensor. The rectilinear options near 15mm are currently out of my price range.

    Others in this thread will no doubt balk at the following, but I prefer to leave the lens permanently set to 15mm. I have even thought of taping the lens barrel to eliminate having to set the zoom collar every time I take the camera out of the bag.
  63. Jon I think you are missing a lot, at least conceptually. If one lens suits your photography style why bother asking what others think?
    This is a one of several perpetual topics or questions brought up on internet photography forums, which BTW has little or nothing to do with EOS cameras.
  64. Perhaps you can build a house with only one big screwdriver, but my question remains: WHY?
    Why not just use the right tool for the job? As I said earlier, it's about the IMAGE, not the TOOLS.
    So before you fire off the big guns at my response, make sure you've aimed at what I said, not what you incorrectly infer from what I've written.​
    Charlie -- Good points. Apologies if it seemed I was firing off on you. To intentionally restrict oneself to a single prime does seem (take your choice): foolish / reverse-snobbery / limiting.
    To play devil's advocate for a moment, and utilize your house building analogy. I think anyone who has been around photography for a while has come across that curious creature, the Acquisition Monkey. They may only be building a single story wood frame house, but, by god, they've got a blow torch, a rivet gun, and a 20 story crane. I think we've all come across this character much more frequently than the Single Prime Snob. There's as much ego gratification involved in pointing to too many tools as there is in boastfully pointing to only one.
    And although I cannot understand intentionally limiting myself to one lens (snowy owls, Charlie? With my 43mm? As you pointed out...forget about it), I can see some advantages to doing so on a temporary basis.
    As Giuseppe alluded to, there's a certain discipline that comes from having to compose and zoom with your feet. And, if you can only afford one lens and you want the fastest, sharpest glass for your money (and what you're shooting justifies a prime over a zoom), a prime might be the best way to go. And last, in my particular case, an "economically enforced" usage of one prime has helped me to better understand what my next lens purchase should be. The shots I regret not being able to take have told me more convincingly than anything else what kind of lens I need. Small consolation for a tight belt, but consolation nonetheless.
    As for what HCB (or Adams or Winogrand or Avedon, et al) did or did not use...I don't really care. I cannot help being influenced by the work of photographers I admire (not necessarily the ones I've mentioned), but ultimately I have to be me. I will do whatever it takes to serve that, whether it be one lens or 100.
  65. I think that the person who adopts the one-lens-only posture for supposed reasons of photographic purity is no more genuine than the photographer who adopts the "I have every lens!" approach. In both cases the focus may be essentially on proving that "I'm a better photographer [than you] because of my equipment choices."
    There are many ways other than making photographs to reassure yourself that you are a "serious" photographer. One is to own a ton of the very most expensive and impressive looking equipment and to snort about "non-pro" gear from time to time. Another is to use only the "purest" equipment - that Leica and a 50mm prime - and snort that "HCB didn't need anything else because he [like me?] was a great photographer." In both cases the photographer may be attempting to use equipment choice to buttress his/her belief that he/she is a real photographer.
    Please do not misconstrue my point. I am not saying that a photographer who decides to use only a single lens is a poor photographer - that would be absurd. Nor am I saying that every photographer who owns a large collection of equipment is simply suffering from "lens lust" - that would be an equally absurd generalization.
    I am making two points:
    1. It is quite possible to become obsessed (and distracted) by the equipment itself rather than by the photography. It is an occupational hazard in fact.
    2. Choices of equipment should be driven by the photographic results you are trying to achieve.
  66. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Wow. A lot of replies. I was in the same boat for my first 15 years, a 50mm f1.4 SMC Takumar on my Spotmatic F. I was so clueless I couldn't figure out why ANYONE needed more lenses. But then I took a lot of really crummy photos back then too.
    As a general nature photographer, its really not possible for me to go back to those days. But I learned a lot too.
  67. I'd come at this from a slightly different angle. Yes, on some level I think the OP was meant to suggest a kind of superior artistry by limiting one's gear, and I don't totally disagree with this. I find primes often preferable to zooms because they force me to work with a given perspective. Having too much choice can paralyze.

    However, I've also heard quite a bit of talk on the DSLR front about people limiting their use of multiple lenses because of the problem of sensor dust. To this I must say it's my strong opinion that the main reason for being of the SLR is tied up mostly with lens choice. If you don't want lens choice, there are perfectly great picture-taking machines called point and shoots which are quite amazing these days in their capabilities. Why spend the money for something if you won't use its main strengths? Whenever I shoot, I'm swapping lenses as fast as the opportunities demand. I did it with film, so far in my DSLR days I'm seeing no reason to change; on the contrary, even more reason for lens selection given the superior ability of digital to realize success in the field vs film. My 2 cents.
  68. I agree that the Zeiss (ZF) lenses are the best for a Nikon. I have several as well as 3-4 Nikon lenses. I would dislike being restricted to one lens, but could cope if needed. It would be the lens I use most on my digital camera, a Zeiss 85mm f1.4. My favorite lens overall, is the Schneider 210 XL. I use it as a normal lens on 5x7 and as a wide lens on 8x10.
  69. for my dslr i have two primes. i use the old 58mm all the time. it is a minolta pf 58mm 1.4. the body is sony a100. the lens works with an adaptor. i also have an auto focus minolta 28mm 2.8 lens. for whatever reason i use the older 58 mm lens all the time.
  70. My opinion is similar to Charlie and Dan's here. That's all it is though - a personal opinion - and clearly there are no definitive rights and wrongs when it comes to pursuing a hobby and following your passions.
    Photography for me - personal or professional - is purely about images. Every shot starts with a series of decisions... angle of view, background separation, composition, differential focus (or not), use of motion, lighting, color, etc. These decisions dictate the equipment I need to make the photograph I want. Cameras (in different formats), lenses, lights, shaping devices, etc. are all tools that you have on hand to realize your vision - the one thing I never want is to be limited, either creatively or technically by my equipment.
    To initially limit yourself technically would seem to be coming at things from the wrong end (for me). The first time I saw a shot that needed a compressed perspective, perspective corrections, a wide view, etc. and found myself stuck with a 50mm lens I would be done with the experiment.
  71. klc


    Wow, I thought I was the only one on the planet with this combo.
    I have a 5D + 35L and I love shooting with it. I also own a 50 f/1.8, but I hardly ever pull it out.
    For me, I come from the old film days with my F1N + FL55 f/1.2 and FD35 F/2. I finally moved to digital with a 20D + 50 f/1.8, but I didn't like the focal length. I waited until a 35L came up on the local craigslist and jumped at it. I loved the combo 20D + 35L. Then last year, when a used 5D came up for the right price, I traded up. I now shoot with a 5D and 35L. I shoot everything with this combo, my kids, flowers, architecture, and even wedding receptions all with available light. I find the combo magical.
    I have used other lenses like 24-70 f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8, and 17-40 f/4 but in the end I love shooting the 35L at f/1.4.
    To be fair, I have thought about picking up another lens, it's also a prime - 135L.
  72. I use only primes, but I have many of them, most used somewhat regularly. Years ago I made a jump to medium format (35mm never satisfied me, though FF digital does) when I bought a Hasselblad. For several years I could only afford a normal lens, the 80. It got me crazy and when I went to a 3 lens system (50mm wide, 80mm, 150mm) I felt like the world opened up and so did my photography.
    Today I might adapt better and if forced to one lens it would be an 85, but I would still feel limited with only one lens for personal use.
    For proffessional use, I could not stick with one. My work would definitely suffer.
  73. Some people need a boatload of lenses, some one. It's an individual thing, and apparently it is possible to shoot mammoth, complex assignments, like NASCAR, Viet Nam, Cuba articles for National Geographic with one lens. As with everything photographic, it's up to the individual.
    I don't know if I could live with only one lens, but in spite of having nearly three dozen lenses, usually I use just two (with either Canon or Nikon), a short zoom and one fast prime, the latter rarely.
  74. I use almost exclusively the 100mm macro, now the IS L, but recently bought my daughter an 85mm 1.8 and yes I know its not a prime but its as good as it gets and at the price produces stunning shots throughout the range. I guess if I were to start again I would have started with the 85mm, but then I may never have moved on to anything else.
  75. Does a master painter use only one brush?
  76. For what little its worth I tend to favor using a 24mm and a 50mm lately. I find that it works a bit better for me most of the time. i would rather have a wider prime and the 50, this covers a lot of what i like to shoot and i find that it can be very user friendly compared to hauling around huge zooms.

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