Don’t Choose the Best Camera and Lenses, Choose What Suits You Best

Don’t Choose the Best Camera and Lenses, Choose What Suits You Best

A lot of new lenses are amazing. Although the quality of the predecessors was already good, the new generations are even better. But with the amazing quality comes a size, weight, and prize. You should ask yourself if these are the lenses you need.

During my travels to Lofoten in 2022, I had a discussion about camera equipment with one of the participating photographers. He was carrying a relatively small Fujifilm mirrorless camera, together with a set of nice matching lenses. It all fit into a small shoulder bag, easy to carry around.

On the other hand, I had a big and heavy backpack with a Canon EOS R5 and three lenses. These were all L lenses, namely the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II, the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III, and the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II.

I must admit, I also had a DJI Mavic Pro 2, Smart Controller, and two spare batteries in my bag. Together, It all weighed almost 10 kilograms, significantly more compared to the Fujifilm system of the other guy. The question arose: did I need the lenses I carried with me during this trip, or was a smaller and lighter system better for the sort of photography at Lofoten?

The equipment I carried with me during the Lofoten 2022 photography trips. The empty space allowed me to take one or two apples with me.

A Small Camera Can Be a Solution

In a way, I felt jealous. Wouldn’t it be nice to go on a photography trip carrying everything in a small bag? The only way to achieve this is a smaller system like that of a Fujifilm APS-C camera and lenses or a M43 system like the one from Olympus or Panasonic.

Often the camera isn’t the issue. But since an APS-C or M43 camera allows smaller lenses, choosing such a camera will reduce a significant amount of weight when it comes down to lenses. And indeed, the Olympus photographers that accompanied me on previous trips often had more lenses or even two cameras while carrying less weight.

The Olympus M43 system is small and lightweight. This set of four lenses can be fitted into a small shoulder bag, together with the camera and a filter set. Isn't that great? The image quality produced by this camera is great.

Choose the Lenses That Suit You Best

A long time ago, I decided to buy a Canon camera. Since that time, I have invested a lot of money in a set of lenses. It would be possible to make a switch to Olympus, Fujifilm, or Panasonic. This way, I would save a lot of weight during my travels. But I wouldn’t save a lot of money. That is why I won’t switch to another brand. But there is another solution.

A couple of years ago, I took this Panasonic Lumix M43 camera to Lofoten for a review. In the back, you see the equipment of the photographers I took with me on this trip.

The investments I made are in high-quality Canon L lenses. The best there are. But for landscape photography, these lenses are not always necessary. It’s true, the lenses produce an amazing quality image, but for most landscape photography, you won’t need an f/2.8 aperture. If the lens has a maximum lens opening of f/5.6, for instance, that’s fine. A lot of landscapes are shot with a larger depth of field, which requires an aperture of f/8, f/11, or even smaller, if you accept a little diffraction.

During my first visit at Lofoten, I took a lot of pictures with a small Fujifilm camera. The results are great, just as this one shows. You may ask: why carry a big camera with you when a small one can also produce these results?

Instead of choosing a camera system with a smaller sensor size, I could use non-L lenses for my Canon EOS R5. This way, the weight can be reduced, and size is reduced at the same time. The lenses may not produce the best possible quality available on the market today, but even these lenses produce amazing results. It would also save me a lot of money since these lenses are significantly cheaper.

Although my camera bag as shown in this article offered no problem during this flight back from Lofoten, a small bag is always more convenient. 

The Problem With My Photography

The discussion during my trip did make me think about switching to smaller, cheaper lenses. For landscape photography, these lenses will do perfectly, especially at apertures f/8 and f/11.

But landscapes are not the only photography I perform. I also shoot weddings and, on occasion, some corporate photos. For that sort of photography, I prefer lenses with a large aperture, preferably f/2.8 or even more. Also, for night sky photography, an f/2.8 lens allows me to capture twice as much light compared to an f/4 lens.

Do you need the best quality lens available for these kind of landscape photos? I think not. I think it would be wiser to choose the best lens for your photography instead of the best quality lens.

In other words, it seems I need (or want) lenses with a large aperture. On most occasions, this leads toward the large, expensive, and heavy L lenses. I could choose a second set of lenses for landscape photography, but that is money wasted. 

But if I would decide to go for a second set, it would be wiser to go for another system altogether. A nice Fujifilm set would be great, offering a lightweight solution for my travels.

I took this selfie with all luggage for my two weeks at Lofoten. Perhaps the camera bag could become smaller if I would choose a smaller camera system. But I don't think that will happen any time soon.

Advice for Photographers

Although it isn’t perhaps the best choice for me, I think a lot of photographers could be wise to take the use of their gear into account when buying a new lens or even a new camera. We love to go for the best quality and spend thousands of dollars, but that may not be the best choice for you.

If you travel a lot and take photography tours, it may be wise to ignore the big and heavy but near-perfect lenses. Those large apertures are often not needed, so why invest in such a lens? A smaller, lighter lens can be a better choice. For landscape photography, even an APS-C or M43 camera works great, sometimes even better than a camera with a large size sensor because it’s easier to achieve a larger depth of field.

Shooting landscapes doesn't need a big camera sensor. Especially when a large depth of field is needed, a small sensor may be of benefit. On top of that, you don't need a maximum aperture of f/2.8. So, why would you take such a lens with you? Ah well, perhaps for the Northern Lights.

Are you one of those photographers who needs the best quality lenses available, or do you choose the best lens for your kind of photography? I would love to learn if you would advise a photographer that performs different kinds of photography to choose a dedicated camera and set of lenses for each of those. Let me know in the comments below.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

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I shoot with a Nikon D7200, and most of my lenses are old manual AI or AIS lenses. Fortunately, there are a variety of adaptors available, which would allow me to use them on Fuji camera bodies. It's one of the main reasons why I won't discard them.

I made the switch from Nikon to Sony in 2015 after Trey Ratcliff showed me what a mirrorless camera could do. The change substantially reduced the weight in my camera bag. My walking around lens is the 24-105mm f/4 Sony. Fast enough for what I need and a good general purpose lens. I have the Sony 14mm f/1.8 lens which weighs 460g for astro work. For wildlife, I use the 100-400mm f/4-5 - 5.6. I also use this lens for some landscape work. Many of my lenses are zoom because I like the flexibility they offer and I believe great improvements have been made in zoom lens design.

This is my full landscape photography kit, inside the Lowepro 300 aw iii camera bag, X-T2, XF10-24, XF16-55, XF55-200 (that i can sub for the 70-300 and 1.4TC for extra reach) and another small slot that either has my Samyang 8mm fisheye, 12mm f2 or one of the small Fuji primes. Round and Square filter sets with a couple of CPLs and some other accessories and spare batteries. I also have a torch, rain jacket and rain cover for the bag, and a couple of LED light panels, then i carry a 3LT Winston mk2 tripod on the side, total weight 7.5kg. A travel tripod can reduce that weight and size further if im travelling.

I wouldn't change it for the world.

The very words I live by. Thank you. Use what YOU like and feels comfortable to you.

Hobbyist here and the decision on which camera to bring on a trip is easy because I only own one: a Sony APSC. For me the challenge is limiting myself to fewer lenses and accessories. If I were to follow advice from social media "influencers", my backpack would be filled with accessories that I don't need... been there, done that.

Typical travel kit nowadays: A6400, Tamron 17-70 f2.8, Sony 10-18 f4, spare batteries, and a small tabletop tripod. BTW, that Tamron is the heaviest lens I own, but as you said "choose what suits you best", and the wider aperture gives me more flexibility for shooting indoors or the occasional evening photos.

Another option, since you're shooting the R5, just take the RF 35 f/1.8. Need longer perspective, crop. Need wider, stitch. This little lens won't let you down.

That's a good idea indeed. I've been using the RF 50mm f/1.8 and that's also a great lens, somewhat similar to the 35mm

Ah, don't feel too jealous, with a couple of long zoom lenses and wide aperture zooms I can easily make my Fuji kit weigh as much as your Canon kit! 😅

And a packed lunch, and maybe a 4 pack of beer:)

I still have my X100t, which is a great camera. I love to use it even after all those years

Ah, but you can't change the lenses on that camera so you can't really increase the weight of that package a lot. ;-)

Exactly :)

I've always wanted light and compact. But over the years, I've wanted higher quality photos. I now have the Sony a7Rii and their 24-105. It's a bit too heavy for my preference but the quality of the photos is addictive. I previously had a Lumix DZM-200 (I forgot its real name) with a 24-600 built-in lens which was about perfect for weight and range but obviously the quality of the photos falls way short of what I can take now.

So true, I believe that being a photographer is about solving problems and capturing beautiful images. What camera feels the best in your hand, which manufacturer files are easiest for your to process and edit to your style. Do you mainly shoot on a tripod, carry gear to locations, through airports or mainly in studio? Which manufacturers lens lineup work with your typical projects? Most of the time, it is tough enough getting the images, dealing with Art Directors, inexperienced Clients, Stylists and crew so you need the gear to just work.

Sounds like you are trying to talk yourself into another rig!! Yes APS-C are smaller but a 10mm lens is just 16mm wide. I will tell a long unknown secret of light weight lens no one looks at and the is the 2012 Sony APS-C lens E 10-18mm f/4 (16-27mm) that is superb on a full frame from 12-18mm (18mm if you remove the light shield). It looks like an old film lens being so small but is OSS and has threads for filters. Yes f/4 But doing astro MW barely ever above ISO 6400 and pinpoint stars with no coma problems due to f/4. You get a small lens but 12-27 mm in a lens that will fit in a pocket. You believe you need a f/2.8 but if you check your lens for clarity at all f/#, two stops above wide open on most any lens will be the sharpest. Back before f/2.8 there was mostly f/4 the reason for f/8, yes you get faster SS's with f/2.8 or more light with sunset/rises. Another lens the FE 24-240mm (APS-C 36-360mm) has reach but will give wide. First two E 10-18 second two FE 24-240. These are my everyday carry in a teardrop bag everywhere I go!

Absolutely..a very sensible article. It would be fair to say all leading manufacturers have made good reliable cameras and more than adequate optics...particularly with the post processing capabilities of software. I am just as happy with the results from my 50 year old Mamiya Press lenses as my Nikon ais to current nano coated "marvels"..

Choose your format to suit, choose your recording medium to suit, film or digital...and bear in mind if conditions are harsh there are still benefits to purely mechanical cameras?

Equally important, one super expensive camera/lens that fails probably isn't as useful as two cheaper one's. As a pro one appreciates the benefits of always carrying back ups...not that my f2as/f100/Press/c220's/d700's have ever let me down!!

In the Sony system with the R3 or R4 you can get the camera plus the Tamron trinity of 2.8 zooms
(17+28, 28-75, 70-180) at total of 2.4 Kg including the camera and excellent image quality. This was the point that i switched to FF since weight became comparable ro APSC if you uaed 1.8 primes and zoom combination. This also allows you a uniform 67mm filters. Typically for landscape only you might want to remain with the 17-28 and 70-180 and a fast and light 1.8 prime between 35-55mm using xropping to frame in cases where the focal length limits you and end up at around 2Kg. Price is also significantly lower than the Sony equivalents.

As long as it never rains right.

I can also get a Canon R5 with the trinity of lenses. Although these are "only" f/4 lenses, the weight isn't that much more: 2673 gram including battery and memory card. Still, if you switch to a APS-C sensor, and choose the lenses well, the weight will be less.
That said, if the weight is less than 3 kilograms, it will be no problem to carry with you.

Virtually all full frame mirrorless cameras are stabilized . Take that into consideration when buying a 2.8 lens that is less than half the price and weight of some big glass. Every other industry that relies on electronics has been able to miniaturize. Camera equipment can too

Image stabilization isn't the answer when capturing moving objects. A larger aperture does help in that case. Don't forget, f/2.8 allows twice the amount of light to pass through a lens, compared to f/4

Exactly! That's such a common trap for new photographers to fall into simply because someone told them that The Real Photographer TM always uses Canon, shoots in manual mode only, knows Photoshop by heart from day one and always, I repeat, always gets it right in the camera! And so people struggle through the gear that doesn't totally suit them and don't let themselves learn simpler tricks via something easier like photoworks, otherwise they aren't real photographers. Been there, done that.

Whatever you do, I would NOT recommend buying a second, incompatible system. The Fuji X system is FANTASTIC, but when I had it and my Canon setup, the mental stress of deciding which to bring for a given trip was too much. Some asshole stole my whole kit and I had to start over. Went with a Canon-only setup, which works best for my work. I still miss the Fuji and have wanted to add a X100 to my kit, but I can't go back to owning two systems again (by systems, I mean interchangeable lens systems).

That may be a wise advise. Thank you

I do frequent and long trips on a bicycle and don't print my photos, only see them on laptop or phone screen, sometimes share on IG. For this style of photography, I don't need the best camera or lenses. My gear is Olympus om-d10 Mk Ii with compact Zuiko 14-150mm F4-5.6. I'm very pleased with the images I got from this gear. That's all I need, and I don't bring any gear that I don't need.