Fstoppers Answers - What is Your 'Can't Live Without' Lens?

Fstoppers Answers - What is Your 'Can't Live Without' Lens?

In our newest segment, we've turned to the public to ask some of our writers about working in the industry as professional photographers, and invite all of you to participate in the discussion. Last week, we asked about our favorite light modifier, and the week prior, about commercial photography. This week, we ask "Your camera is suddenly only able to mount one lens. What is it?"

Noam GalaiAssociate Editor | Commercial Photographer If my camera let's me mount only one lens, it means somehow I switched to Canon without noticing. OK, all kidding aside: If I have to choose only one lens to use, I would take the Nikon 24-70mm 2.8. This is the most versatile and high-quality lens out there for that range and with it I can shoot wide as well as more zoomed images. As a Nikon D800 shooter I'm able to crop my images more than most cameras in the market, which gives me the ability to get even 'longer zoom'. The lens produce very sharp images, and is able to focus fast, and handle low light situations. The perfect choice for all work in my opinion.


Taylor MathisStaff Writer | Food Photographer If I could only have one lens on my camera it would be the Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro! It is an amazing lens for food photography and I use it on about 95% of my shots. With its close up macro abilities and long focal length, I can always find the perfect angle of any dish to capture.


Dave WallaceStaff Writer | Commercial Videographer My 24mm 1.4 II L is by far my most versatile lens. If I'm shooting on a crop sensor, I'm essentially shooting with a 35mm equivalent. That's my ideal "run-and-gun" focal length.When I'm on a full frame, the 24 is great wider angle for steadicam/slider shots with very little lens distortion. Great lens for any kit.


Jaron SchneiderFeatures Editor | Commercial Photographer I know it can be a bit wide for head-and-shoulder portraits, but I have to say that if I could only shoot with one lens, it would be the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. It's unbelievably sharp, focuses easily, has great flaring control and just feels so right on the end of my camera. I've raved about this lens in the past, and for good reason. It really is nearly perfect and is able to handle anything from product images to portraits (as long as you frame the subject right). After shooting with the 35mm and then trying to shoot with something else, things just aren't quite the same. If I couldn't shoot with it anymore, I would miss it more than any lens I've ever owned.


Rich MeadeStaff Writer | Fashion Photographer This is a no brainer for me, the Sigma 35mm 1.4DG HSM. I used to be a fan of the 50mm for my "normal" focal length, that is until I got this lens. It's ridiculously sharp, nearly silent focus, exceptionally well built, and of course super fast. Since I've owned this lens it really is a rare occasion that it comes off of my camera.


Matt KennedyStaff Writer | Wedding Photographer Such a hard question! I would probably mount a 24-70mm 2.8, which is very uncharacteristic of me as I actually don't use one day in and day out. I wouldn't want to sacrifice the chance of capturing something important just for the sake of having a lower depth of field. That being said, I would way rather have my 50 1.4 on if I wasn't in a high pressure situation.


Sarah WilliamsStaff Writer | Wedding Photographer Definitely the Sigma 35mm 1.4. The contrast is rich and the it allows you to deal with more confined environments without distortion. It also has a minimum focus of .3m so it allows to get the shallow depth of field on ring shots if needed. (And according to Stubborn Zach it will fail in a couple years so I'll just buy a new camera by then if I can't swap it out)


Peter HouseStaff Writer | Commercial Photographer For me this is a very tough question. For the type of work that I do I either find myself in the ultra wide focal length, or the medium telephoto. My most used focal lengths are roughly 20mm and 100mm. So if I were to choose ONE lens, it would have to cover both those focal lengths, or at least in some decent proximity. I would love to choose a prime, but I'm afraid it wouldn't be too practical for me in this regard. The lens I would probably choose would be the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8. The reason I would choose this lens is not because its the best of the best, but because it would be the most practical. It is tack sharp, it is light, it covers a great range, it opens wide, the bokeh is decent, and focus is fast. It's just a great all around lens and I always carry one with me wherever I go. If I'm in an uncertain situation, that's usually the lens that is on my body because no matter the situation I'm confident it will do the trick. The other big plus of this lens is that it is cheap. The going rate on the used market is $250-$350 which means I'm not afraid to put this lens through hell. I've got quite a fond spot in my heart for that old Tamron lens. We have taken many pictures together.


David BickleyStaff Writer | Fitness Photographer If we're talking 35mm SLR, definitely Canon's 85mm f/1.2L. It might be the most difficult lens to learn how to use properly but man once you get it...Look out! In medium format it's the Hasselblad 120mm f/4 macro. These two lenses are essentially the same thing, just for different kinds of cameras.


Zach SuttonAssociate Editor | Headshot Photographer One month ago, I would have said the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II. At that time, I used that lens for essentially everything, and absolutely loved everything about it. Since then though, I've bought the Canon 50mm f/1.2L, and am having a complete love affair with it. For weddings, I find it on a camera body during the entire day, and I'm also playing around with the 50mm focal length much more in my personal work. While it may be a little bit too wide for headshots, which is my primary business, I could see it coming through and providing some excellent results. I never thought I'd love a 50mm, but I have in a big way.


As always, we encourage your input in the comments below, and ask that you answer the question. Also, if you have any questions you'd like to see our team of writers answer, please post them below and perhaps we will choose your question for an upcoming weeks feature question.

Zach Sutton's picture

Zach Sutton is an award-winning and internationally published commercial and headshot photographer based out of Los Angeles, CA. His work highlights environmental portraiture, blending landscapes and scenes with portrait photography. Zach writes for various publications on the topic of photography and retouching.

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Gotta say the lens that keeps finding its way to my camera is my 50 1.4, its become quite the lens for everyday use and I use it for almost all my portrait sessions and photo walks in the city.

my 50 1.4 SSC has NEVER come off my Canon AE-1.

Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZE! Favorite lens I've ever owned.

Surprised there weren't more Zeiss lenses mentioned. Maybe the no auto focus part? I don't know, but for me in commercial work, still or cine, the Zeiss is the way to go. Maybe I need to take a look at the MTF charts again and see if I'm missing something.

That Canon 85m f1.2 is an excellent lens though.

Canon 85mm f/1.8. I can walk around with it much easier on the street than I can the f/1.2 ;)

I feel that way about my 85mm F/2 Nikkor.

Tokina 16-28mm. Landscapes and owning a Canon make this the best combination for me.

Tamron 24-70 f/2.8. The IS makes it great for run and gun video and it's sharp enough for good stills.

I had one of those, but it had pretty ratty edges at 24mm. However I think I may have had a bad sample. Hopefully your 24mm images aren't smeared at the edges like mine were.

For my D600, my 35-year-old 135mm F/2 Ai Nikkor.

Canon 85 1.2

Didn't even read the article: Canon 85mm f/1.2L. I'd weld that thing on if I could.

50 1.4, no doubt.

Voigtlander f.95 - t'is a thing of beauty.

Canon 24-70 f2.8 LII

As a sports photographer it would have to be my Canon 70-200 2.8 is II. It doesn't get me as close as my 400, but you can only back up so far in a stadium.

Maaan Tamron 28-75 f2.8 really is a great all-around lens... mine was sent in for repair for at least 2 months but HASN'T BEEN FIXED yet.

My Nikkor 50 f/1.4 is my workhorse lens. I only take it off for those 12-24 wide-angle shots. Guess which lens I use the least! If you guessed 18-200 you guessed right. But I do love my Nikkor 105mm N lens. I just wouldn't want that to be my 'stuck on the body' lens.

saving for the sigma 35 and the mythical f2 24-70 :-)
both will be on my cameras!

Without a doubt my Canon 24-70/2.8L II. It's on my Mark III 90% of my shots. Most versatile lens I own. And I own a few.

Get close, go wide: Nikon 10-24. I shoot all day with that thing, and I love it.

Definitely Sigma 35/1.4. On the second place is Sigma 150/2.8 for me.

Recently, I had to answer this question for real. I was on a very limited baggage international trip and could only take a single lens. I even had to strip off my battery grip and rely only on the popup flash (as well as what I found on location). My choices was the Nikkor 24-120. Not a very fast lens, but that was not a big issue. The range is very useful on an FX sensor, making it a reasonable choice for wide shots and head shots. It is not my favorite lens, but it covers a lot when you can only have one.

If it would had to be a prime - the answer is sooo easy : Sigma 35mm f:1.4 - absolutely a staggering lens. If it can be a zoom lens then Nikkor 24-70 would be my choice although I don't own the lens and never did, but shot with it from time to time. It's a stellar optical performer and gives you versatility in most situations. Why don't own it is because I love primes ( I own: Sigma 24 1.8, Sigma 35 1.4, Nikkor 50 1.8G, Samyang 85 1.4 along with Nikkor 16-35 F4 and Nikkor AFS 80-200mm f2.8 ). Since I got the 35 ... the 24 gets little if ANY use but I still don't want to sell it cause is kinda rare ( well not that rare ) and I still think it's freaking unbelievable but no match for the mighty 35 which is pretty much one of the BEST AF ( if not the best ) lens in history of man kind !!

I've got an old canon 50 1.4 that's been dropped on to gravel from 5', has a chattering focus ring, and is still mounted to my 5D more than my 28, 85, or a 24-70 ever has been.

No question, the 50mm 1.4 on my D700. A close second would be an older (not plastic) 20-35mm which I use for most of my architectural work.

Canon 28-70. Classic

my 35mm 1.4 canon. on a crop sensor. love it.

Tamron 17-50/2.8

exif analysis tools:

My chart is 3yrs old now. Got to update it.