One Camera, One Lens

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Sample photo from my 50mm lens.
A Tai Chi class in Lumpini Park. Made with my 50mm f1.2 at f1.6.

One of the questions we get a lot as photo instructors is “What camera and lens should I buy?” “Should I get a Canon or Nikon ‘full frame’ body and a 24-70mm f2.8 L zoom? Or should I get an APS sized sensor and a “kit” lens? Or should I be buying prime lenses?” We carry heavy bags full of gear so we are ready for every eventuality.

I am as guilty of this as any other photographer. I don’t go out for a serious day of photography without two full frame bodies, a 24mm f1.4, 50mm f1.2, 100mm f2 and 200mm f2.8 lenses. I also carry a Micro 4:3 body with a 12mm, 20mm and 45mm lenses (equal to 24, 40 and 90 in full frame terms).

But it doesn’t have to be so. There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple. Jerome Delay, a photographer with the Associated Press, has been making remarkable photos from some of the most troubled places on the planet with just one camera and a 50mm lens.

Working with just one lens forces you to really work a scene. If you want to see it differently you don’t just put another lens on the camera. You explore the scene with the lens you have. A 50mm lens doesn’t have the distortion that is common to many wide angles. And it’s much easier to carry just one lens and camera than a bag full of lenses and cameras.

The New York Times wrote about Delay’s photography with a 50 last year. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to buy a new lens.

One thought on “One Camera, One Lens

    […] great way to improve your understanding of how your camera works. (Jack Kurtz wrote a great post on one camera, one lens that you should check out.) The fact is your prime lens can be a zoom lens of sorts using a term […]


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