Only One Lens?

Photographers rarely carry just one lens, and the 50mm lens can’t get you out of every jam.

Inspired by a conversation I had with a photographer a few days ago, I wanted to write this post. He was curious about my Fujifilm X series mirrorless camera and the Pentax 55mm SMC mounted on it. We talked about gear and what we carried on a daily basis. He went on about his Canon EOS 7D with a 24-70 f2.8 as his walking around camera. He told me gave up on the 50mm because it’s not versatile enough for his style. Fair enough. I like the 50mm, but it’s not the only lens for the job.

Photographers have had countless conversations about what lens to buy first, or if you could only carry one. The routine answer for prime lenses is simple, 50mm on full-frame and perhaps 24mm for an APS-C sensor. If you really want to cover a range, then 24mm-105mm for full-frame and 16-55 for APS-C. These arbitrary choices are imposed by trends. These hard and fast “rules” do not take into account the individual photographer’s needs. The idea that we as photographers must have the full range of focal lengths is pure nonsense. The idea that every lens as a specific job and can’t used for other things is just narrow-minded.

Falling on deaf ears.

I think a lot of young photographers are led to believe that wide-angle lenses are for landscape, telephoto lenses are for portraits and 35mm – 50mm lens are for “general photography”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have a friend that routinely shoots portraits with a 35mm lens. Jillian does some lovely work too. Besides, I don’t even know what general photography means.

I agree that the 50mm lens is a great all around lens but it’s not the only lens to get the job done.

A telephoto lens is not a one-trick pony.

This afternoon I decided to head out on a photowalk for a few hours, but only armed with a 135mm prime telephoto lens mounted on my Fujifilm X.

Is carrying a 135mm lens ideal for street photography? What’s ideal? Who dictates what ideal is? Honestly, I would have preferred a few more lenses, but I wanted to prove the point to myself. There is a lot we can do with the gear we have.

Photography takes imagination, but it also takes some of technical knowledge. This knowledge can be taught, but your creativity can’t be. The more technical knowledge you have, the better equipped you are as a photographer. Technical knowledge will help with creativity, that just goes with without saying. That line of reasoning works with all fields of study.

Dragging around a telephoto lens on a photowalk for street photography shouldn’t slow you down in the least.

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