Could You Force Yourself to Use Just This One Lens?

As a landscape photographer who is addicted to the big vista, I have often wondered just how hard or easy it would be to force myself to only use one lens, and that lens being the 70-200mm. The versatility of this lens is fantastic, and many of you will know this already. However, the best thing about having my 70-200mm is that it's always in my bag and ready to be deployed whenever I need it, but what if I were only to have this lens?

If you are a portrait photographer, then you are acutely aware of the benefits of having a 70-200mm: the compression of the scene, the picking out of the faces in the bigger area, the beautiful bokeh, and the flexibility that you get just by using this one lens.

Wedding photographers will use this lens more than they will use their wide-angle lens because it allows them to capture candid moments in a larger crowd, and for us landscape photographers, it allows us to pick out a vignette from the larger scene, which can make us and the viewer wonder where it could be.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love my wide-angle lens and I love to use it every time I'm out in the landscape. The flexibility that it gives me, in my opinion, is second to none, and by putting it into portrait orientation, it allows me to stretch the top and bottom of the frame, thus changing the scene completely, but I felt that this was too easy. Now, if we bring the 70-200mm into the mix, what that makes us do is to think differently, it changes the norm. It mixes things up and, most of all, gives us a totally different view of the scene that's in front of us.

Over the last month or so, I have found myself using my 70-200mm more than I have done in the last six months put together, and what it has taught me is that this lens is indeed a phenomenal tool to have in my bag, but even more phenomenal when it's the only one that I can use. I went to my local woods, for example, armed only with my 70-200mm on a frosty morning and managed to find totally different shots, as I was no longer looking at the larger scene. I was now looking for smaller, more intimate scenes in the woodland that is full, as the cliché would say, of chaos. Additionally, I went to the coast, and with my 70-200mm, it allowed me to tune in to the waves and the crashing waves as they hit the coastline in front of me. My approach was going to be completely different from how it normally would be when I'm at the sea, and I didn't even use any of my filters. The results of this coastal wave shoot were that I got some of my best shots of the year (so far).

What I have also found is that when I do use my wide angle lens, I invariably end up using my 70-200mm for a portion, if not most, of my shoots, and I really enjoy the perspective that it gives me. Plus, I also enjoy the ability to be able to pick out certain things that I would normally take for granted with my wide-angle lens. If we look at a scene that we will photograph with our wide angle lens and get one shot, and now for a moment imagine how many individual shots you can get from that one scene by using your telephoto lens, I have found that there were many.

I also have my Sigma 150-600mm, and this lens has proven to be a fantastic lens in the right circumstances. The zoom is not suited to every scene, of course, however, when you do need to get that extra bit of reach, it is extremely helpful and beneficial to the results that you can get from one scene. It is with the 70-200mm, however, that I found the most versatility, and as I said above, it seems to be that I'm gravitating to it more and more on every shoot.

I have also gone on shoots with only my wide-angle lens since, and I did not feel restricted. In fact, I felt liberated, free from my tripod as such, and free to explore more through my viewfinder. It can be all too easy to overly rely on our tripod, however, we all have been gifted with our own human tripod, our legs and arms, and with this fluidity, I feel it can be hugely beneficial, not only to the images that we capture of a scene but also to our skill set overall. I would encourage you to try this approach and force yourself to only use your 70-200mm. I firmly believe that you will be surprised with the results that you will get, not only from this shoot but also in subsequent ones because you have learned a number of things along the way.

There is a saying that we should do things that scare us often, and while this approach may appear as a scary task for many, it can, in fact, be a very helpful task. Helpful in that it takes away choice, makes our brain think differently, makes your imagination stronger, and most of all, helps your eye for a shot improve. Some of the best images I have seen over the years were taken with a telephoto lens, and I feel the reason they are so strong is that they are different from the norm, they are something that doesn't appear immediately recognizable.

How about you? Do you use your 70-200mm more than your wide-angle lens already, or is it something that you wish you would try more of?

Let's continue the conversation in the comments below.

Darren Spoonley's picture

Darren J. Spoonley, is an Ireland-based outdoor photographer, Podcaster, Videographer & Educator with a passion for capturing the beauty of our world.

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I started my Wedding career using a Hasselblad 503CM (6x6cm medium format film), a waist level finder, 1- 12 exposure back, and a manual focus 150mm lens (equal to an 85 in 35mm)- and that's all I had. What's my point in light of this article? I was *forced* to make my lens and its perspective work for me in EVERY situation. And what resulted was a very unique look to my images and in my clients' wedding albums. (ever shot a large group, in a church with an 85mm lens?!) And because their album images looked so unique: my business exploded with referrals. Seriously consider using just one lens for a long period of time and you'll discover a new and creative perspective in your work.

That’s an excellent point actually!

I was a diehard 70-200 f2.8 user. However, I have been using 24-120 f4 and 35-150 f2 -2.8 with amazing results and not missing 200mm, at all (sports and wildlife may, but I am new to mirrorless and at 40+ megapixels I can crop to what I use to get with 24 megapixels with the same (better) results . I am leaning more toward the 35-150 these days but absolutely great lenses (both) for event, portrait, and wedding.

Having the ability to crop in post is the difference I guess ?

Darren captures the 70-200 advantages perfectly. As an airborne ranger trained to drop behind enemy lines and create havoc using stealth, lightness and mobility, I've always prioritised agility and shot everything from the Super Bowl to NCAA swimming to track & field to triathlons with this lens. With earlier EOS versions (8+ MP) there were some compromises that current mirrorless cameras (R3) simply have wiped out: Even quite heavily cropped stuff has enough information. One body-one lens. (I've also had the luxury of guidance and friendship by the indomitable Eric Bakke in Colorado.)

As I see it, rather than "futzing" with multiple bodies and lenses, this set up allows me to navigate my moto driver into position. Light, background, athlete, (what story am I telling), camera settings correct, all I do is frame and shoot: 30 to 45 seconds, done, let's get outta here!

In other sports and with some knowledge of the event, say, American football, it's relatively easy to be in a good enough position (and sometimes THE position) to capture what you need. Yes, the QB can pass long, waaay over on the other side, but that's life...

Swimming used to be tricky. With 8 fps, you could miss the perfect milliseconds in freestyle or butterfly, however, with later bodies' much higher framecount, this, too, is easier.

Do I sometimes miss a 24-70 f2? Yes. But the compromise of lugging a second body with an even heavier lens does not have enough payoff, at least for me. Sports is split moment and having a two-lens (or more) choice, takes brain processing (and TIME!). The risk is missing everything altogether.

Tony Svensson
35 years shooting the Kona IRONMAN

Thank you very much ! I think you have captured the advantages perfectly ! Great narrative Tony 💪💪

I sold my Canon EF 70-200 F2.8L when I went to mirrorless and wanted to fill my kit with RF lenses. It was a bit heavy and cumbersome but a very sharp lens. To me a 24-200 or 240 mm range is an ideal landscape lens allowing you to carry less gear while hiking. Unfortunately Canon's RF 24-240 lens has some serious flaws besides not being weather sealed. Nikon has done much better with their Nikkor Z 24-200 F4 and from reports everyone really like this lens. It would be great if Canon would rollout a 24 or 28 to 200 or 240 mm L lens. I understand they've already published a patent for it.

Yes the 2.8 is quite heavy for sure!
I use the f4 for my landscapes as I rarely shoot at wider! The 24-200 is looking like a go too lens alright

Could I? Sure, if I didn't want to make photographs that fit my vision any more. For what I like to shoot and display, wide angles work much better. The idea than any one tool is all you need is silly. One lens, even a zoom, is no more the "right" tool than is a hammer or screwdriver. It all depends on what you want to do with the tool.

Good point which others may think the wide angle is the only lens to have :-)