I recently parted ways with my Nikon Z 24-200mm f4-6.3, not because it's a bad lens and not up to the job, but simply because it didn't fit in with my portfolio. Or should I say didn't feature heavily in my portfolio, if at all.
Let me just reinforce how useful this lens is. At 570 g and with a focal range of 24-200mm f/4-6.3 you just can't go wrong. This is a great all-rounder if you are only carrying one lens with you on the longer hikes as it's lightweight and it does indeed produce sharp images. In fact, the last image I took with the lens happens to be one of my own personal favorites.
Now there is nothing special about the above image, but for me, at the time I knew that this would probably be the last image with the lens so I'm glad it delivered on this last outing; not from a sentimental point of view, just simply knowing that it was going. Funnily enough, it was captured within a focal range of my other lens at 35mm. Upon seeing this it made me think about the focal ranges I was using and I promptly checked the lens metadata in Lightroom.
What are Your Main Focal Lengths?
As you can see by the above illustration the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is by far my most frequently used lens; It's also affordable, very sharp, and reliable. From there we see that Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S and the FUJIFILM XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS WR come in second and then the Viltrox 85mm third, with the 200mm on both the Nikon and Fuji systems rarely being used. On a side note here I'd like to point out that I found the FUJIFILM XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS a particularly sharp lens as well.
Please, hear me out before you jump in and disagree. The article is based on personal experience, and shooting practice, and is not a general overview of how lenses perform. It's looking at what lenses feature heavily in my portfolio and do I need them?
The 24-200mm is a great lens, and please take a look at the images within this article. All are photographed with the 24-200mm, and none of them feature in my portfolio; it's just not the lens for me and the work I want to create. Currently, I cannot afford the Nikkor Z 70-200mm F/2.8 VR S, and to be honest I can't see that happening for quite a long time. But would I use it much if I had it?
Focal Length: It's Not Just Size That Matters
Focal lengths are probably the most important factor in how your images will look. Not only can they change the way your work appears totally, but as you are aware, can also dramatically alter the amount of depth within an image. It is important to know what focal length you would like to use for each photo in your portfolio. When I looked back further it turns out that I've owned 25 lenses of varying focal lengths and over various camera systems. When I looked even further into that, the constant focal lengths used were between 14-135mm. These lenses also varied in aperture from f/1.4 to a max of f/6.3 at the longest focal length.
Look at the focal lengths that you most frequently use and ask yourself why you use them. Do these focal lengths feature heavily in your portfolio images? Do your eyes see a particular composition in terms of focal length before you capture it? If you do, are there any lenses in your collection that you hardly use and only have them just in case the need arises? I'm not saying here that you should only have a few select lenses, have a myriad of lenses if you want. That is entirely your prerogative, but do have a look at your catalog to see what ones are used the least.
Most of the images I take are between 14 and 135mm, with an emphasis on the 24-70mm range, and for the most part, I can move closer or further back without compromise; remember this is based on landscape photography with the occasional portrait and product image thrown in. So, very rarely do I shoot between 140-200mm, and on many occasions, I wished I had further reach in terms of focal length. So, would the Nikon NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S best suit my photography and my portfolio? For myself, the answer is an undeniable yes.
Renting a Lens
With more and more companies offering a rent a lens, try before you buy service, is this something more photographers like myself should consider. It's not throwing away money that could be used to buy the lens, but rather it's an investment to save yourself money in the long run. Don't get me wrong I did shoot and felt I needed the 200mm max focal length but when I finally checked the metadata I saw that it was seldom used. Not money that was thrown away but a learning curve in the exploration of my own photography.
Worth A Look?
A photographer's portfolio is a reflection of their work. It's the first thing people will see when they visit your site or view your photos on social media. A good portfolio will show off your best work in an aesthetically pleasing way. However, it can be difficult to figure out which shots are the best ones to showcase in your portfolio.
Look at your catalog of images to see what makes up your main focal parameters. Do these images form the greater part of your portfolio and if so what lenses do you actually need? Should you consider selling the lenses you don't use very often to make way for the lens you actually do? That is entirely up to you, but what I can say is check the lens metadata, you’re going to learn so much about your own style—and so much about yourself as a photographer.