There are so many lenses on the market and uses for each, I figured I would give my two cents about each lens I use and what I use it for.
If I had to pick one lens to shoot everything with, it would probably be 50mm on a full frame. I never fully understood the allure of that focal length on a crop sensor but when I recently upgraded one of my camera bodies to the Canon 6D, I had an 'aha' moment. It was wide enough to get head to toe portraits at a comfortable distance but telephoto enough for minimal distortion and provides great head and shoulders portraits.
I will talk more about that lens in a bit, as I will structure this blog post from widest focal length on up.
I can't say enough great things about this lens.
-landscapes, astrophotography, large groups of people, wide scenes at events
Almost all of my landscape photography work is done with this lens. In general I like to capture entire scenes in my landscape work and this allows me to do that. For astrophotography, the wide end allows for the longest shutter speed at lowest ISO possible for cleanest images without unwanted star streaks.
This lens is great for capturing the scene in tight spots, or when you need to capture the overall scene of a big room or chapel. When shooting weddings with this lens, I am especially careful when shooting any type of portrait/human subject when fully zoomed out at 16mm. You can get some pretty crazy and unwanted distortion when shooting close to your subjects and especially on the outer edges of the lens. I like it for the groomsmen but not really the bride and never close up on the bride; but it works great for group shots.
Watch out for barrel distortion especially at the wide end, use sparingly for portraits.
Too much can be too much, but I like to add this lens to a portrait session.
-wedding and couple portraits
I love to photograph couples with this lens because I can control the blur so much and it's just kind of dreamy. Although Photoshop has a tilt shift effect, there is no way to duplicate the quality this lens provides and the incredibly gorgeous bokeh you can achieve. I only ever tilt this lens, as my purpose for using it is to add blur outside the selected area of focus. It should be noted that this lens is manual focus, and if you have shot video on a DSLR pre video AF then those focusing skills will come in handy.
Using this lens with families or larger groups can be tricky. If you are tilted too much, you may accidentally throw some of your subjects out of focus. For larger groups I dial the tilt back a lot or just switch out for my 50mm depending on what I am trying to accomplish. The further away you are from the subject the better, with larger groups, as you are more likely to get the desired subjects in focus and still have some tilt on the lens and get the tilt shift look.
Same goes for couples: if you are too close and too much tilt, you might have issues if your goal is to get both their eyes sharp. I have the best luck with the tilt no more than halfway
I almost never use this lens for landscape work, although you can use the shift capabilities to shoot a 3 shot panorama. Also, you can get creative with this lens and shoot some very interesting landscapes; something on my todo list.
Too much tilt will result in inability to get everyone's eyes sharp in a group portrait. Stay back and less tilt.
The one lens to rule them all?
-in-house product photos, low light situations, indoor newborn photos, single person portraits, general portraits and small family
Like I said at the very beginning of this post, this lens really can do it all. I use it for all my product photography (although my most recent canvases I photographed with my iPhone 4S and some nice window light). When I can't fire flashes or don't want to, this is my go-to lens.
For getting ready shots, I don't even think twice and start the wedding day with this lens. I open some windows and work with available light and shoot at f/1.4. The shallow depth of field will blur things in the background nicely and help a disheveled hotel room appear slightly less so.
For single person portraits I can shoot that lens wide open at f/1.4 for an extremely shallow depth of field and it is very reasonably sharp.
When shooting backlit, the chromatic aberration is pervasive. There will be purple and green fringing in the highlights that will need to be fixed in post production. This can be fixed easily in Lightroom, but if you are shooting jpeg, use caution. Also, shallow depth of field at f/1.4 can mean missing focus more than you are used to. Be advised.
The lens that has reach.
-wedding ceremonies, sports, news, single person or couple portrait.
This lens gives you the reach you need to get relatively tight shots of the bride and grooms hands, but wide enough for head to toe shots. I use this almost the entire ceremony, especially if it's a quick ceremony. If I'm going to get stuck with any lens on my camera during this important part of the day, the 70-200mm lens is the best option.
No explanation necessary for this category. Although even more reach would be great, this lens at 200mm and wide open at f/2.8, is a night sports photography dream come true. Just enough reach coupled with my Canon 7D crop sensor to cover most sporting events.
When I am on assignment and I don’t want to lug two camera bodies around, I will opt for this lens on my Canon 6D full frame, as a highly versatile and rock solid option. For news photos, you are typically looking for a tight crop, focusing on some specific element or person involving the story. If you HAVE to choose between wide or telephoto for news, I like to go telephoto (in general).
The telephoto on this lens lends well to portraiture and has minimal to no distortion. This means your subject looks their best and the camera has little chance at adding 10 lbs.
Although I shoot the majority of my landscape, seascape and astrophotography with my wide angle lens, the 70-200mm really does work well and provides detail-rich, compressed scenes.
Up close and personal.
Previous to purchasing this lens, I was using a set of macro extension tubes I purchased on Amazon for about $15. Those really do work great in a pinch, and you can actually get a little closer with the extension tubes than you can with this lens.
So why the lens purchase?
The biggest thing is auto focus. Being able to auto focus means I can use this lens for a variety of purposes, not just macro. This is particularly useful for weddings, because if I have my face buried in a macro shot and all of the sudden something is happening in the room around me, I can quickly pop up and snap a few frames using this lens. The auto focus allows me to be better prepared for the moment.
Here are a few sample shots from this past weekend.
I'm really satisfied with my current lens arrangement, so much so that I am blogging about it. I hope you enjoyed reading and found this useful.