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.