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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.