6 Types of Lenses You Probably Won’t Need Anytime Soon

6 Types of Lenses You Probably Won’t Need Anytime Soon

There are amazing lenses available. It is tempting to buy a special lens, because it can open doors to a whole different kind of images. But there are lenses which you probably won’t need anytime soon. Here are six of them.

Just look in any random online shop, a real camera store, or on manufacturers' websites, and you can find almost every lens imaginable. For any type of photography, you probably will find a lens that works best. It is easy to order a new lens because someone is saying how well it performs for some kind of photography. If you shoot landscapes, you must buy a certain wide-angle lens. For portrait photography, a portrait lens with a large aperture is a must. You probably can find a lot of other examples.

I have listed six lenses that are wonderful pieces of engineering and can provide amazing results if you are in the market for them. It is tempting to buy one of these or even more than one. But these are lenses you probably won’t need anytime soon, if ever.

1. A Tilt-Shift Lens

Perhaps this kind of lens is the most amazing piece of engineering. It originates from the old large format technical cameras, which use bellows to manipulate the plane of focus. The tilt-shift lenses make this possible for normal cameras with relatively small sensors.

A tilt-shift lens, perfect for architecture and real estate.

The tilt-shift lenses for normal cameras have some limitations concerning the amount of tilt and shift you can have, but the lenses do make it possible to correct converging lines of large buildings or manipulate the plane of focus in a way to gain a large depth of field with a large aperture.

There are amazing tilt-shift lenses available, like the Canon TS-E collection, ranging from 17mm up to 135mm. Also, Nikon has some nice ones available, like the 19mm tilt-shift.

But, you don’t really need these lenses unless you do some real architectural photography or product photography. You might think real estate photographers also would use these a lot, but most of them don’t; I know from experience. With Photoshop, a lot of perspective correction is possible.

2. Super Macro Lens

We all love a nice macro photo — flowers, insects, mushrooms, you name it. But on a lot of occasions, these so-called macro photos don't even have a 1:1 magnification. With a macro lens, a 1:1 maginification is the maximum size you can get, and I bet most are not that much.

Super macro lenses can get really close, with magnifications up to five times and perhaps even more.

You can get even get a larger magnification. The Canon MP-E 65mm lens is a good example, reaching a 5:1 ratio, meaning it will enlarge the subject five times. A couple of other super-macro lenses are also on the market, like the strange Laowa Probe lens, making it possible to see the unseen.

But it is a completely different kind of photography that requires some real differentiation. I have shot some macro (not super macro), and one thing I have learned is how intensive this kind of photography can be. I believe some macro and near-macro is great, and it can be done with a regular macro lens. But on most occasions, you don’t need a super macro lens for that.

3. Fish-Eye Lens

A fish-eye lens has a field of view that is roughly 180°. There are different types of fish-eye lenses. Nikon even has a fish-eye that has a field of view that is larger than 180°. Can you imagine? That lens looks behind itself.

Look at me, shooting with a fish-eye lens. It was fun, but I got tired of the distortion very quickly (photo by Hetwie (http://www.hetwie.nl))

These fish-eye lenses seem great to use. But with almost everything in view, everything becomes really small, unless you get very close. In that case, some serious perspectives can occur. And don't forget the wide-angle distortion.

Although a fish-eye lens can be used for some great images, it is very difficult to use it in a good way. Often, it becomes a nice picture to look at, nothing more, nothing less. I know a lot of photographers that used one for some time, then left it at home eventually, or they even sold the lens.

4. Super Tele Lens With a Large Aperture

Yes, we all have seen the big white lenses of Canon and Sony. You can get a Nikon version if you like, but these are black and don’t stand out so much.

Regardless of the color, using super tele lenses, from 400mm up to an amazing 800mm or more, is all but practical, Especially when combined with large apertures like f/2.8 or f/4, these monsters are very heavy and not easy to carry with you. They are all but flexible in real life. Only a small group of photographers really need these lenses.

A wonderful beast: the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L lens. Very large and heavy, it is now returned to the rightful owner, I don't miss it at all. Well, almost.

If you love shooting with long lenses, you probably are better off with a nice 100-400mm or a 150-600mm zoom lens. These fit into your camera bag, are not that heavy, and are often flexible because of the zoom capability. And you will save yourself a lot of money.

5. Lens With an Extremely Large Aperture

There are lenses that are called bokeh monsters. It is a range of lenses that have apertures that are f/1.4 or wider. Some of them even go to f/0.95, which is amazing.

These lenses don’t need a lot of light and can be used in relatively dark environments. But at the same time, the depth of field will be small. Very small. Too small on a lot of occasions.

Focal length and distance to the subject will play a large part in the depth of field story, of course. But on most occasions, these very wide aperture lenses are not necessary, I think. Oh yes, you can play with a nice minimum depth of field and have smooth bokeh. But, I believe in most situations, you would rather stop down and have both eyes of the model in focus. If you need a nice, small depth of field, perhaps a longer focal length will be the answer.

Nevertheless, these lenses are very tempting, as seen from the previous article I wrote on this subject.

6. Lensbaby

I almost forgot about these babies. The Lensbaby is a strange little thing that is relatively popular among a lot of photographers. It works somewhat like the tilt of a tilt-shift lens.

But Lensbaby has more to offer. It is a lens for creative photography with flares and other things. Perhaps you should look into it if you are in the market for it. Although Lensbabies are not very expensive, they are expensive when you buy one and never use it.

Lensbaby: strange little lenses that produce strange results. You love them or you hate them.

Of the six lenses mentioned, the Lensbaby is probably the one you can try without spending a lot of money, but only if you like a strange and unexpected out of focus element in your photo. You love it or hate it.

To Sum Up

This article is not to prevent you from buying a lens, but to help you avoid buying something you don’t need. If you are one of the photographers that is a real target for one of these types of lenses, you will know. Or you will learn eventually. So, think twice before buying. Perhaps you will find out it is a lens you probably won’t need anytime soon, if ever.

I would like to know if you bought a special lens that is gathering dust. Or perhaps you can think of a lens that has a small niche and isn’t for a lot of people. Please share it 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.

Log in or register to post comments

Don't tell me how to live my life, Nando! (goes to hug 85mm f/1.2)


Such a beautiful lens. I also love my sigma 85mm 1.4.

The 85mm f/1,2L Had one for years. Love that lens, but I replaced it with the 85mm f/1,4.

I replaced my 85 f/1.2L with the 1.8 and haven't really missed it.

So, basically niche lenses.

LOL, you literally JUST ran an article last week about how Tilt-Shift lenses were a must for all kinds of photography... not just architecture work

Well, most of us don't need it. But as you read through the comments, some of us do. ;)

This is not the first time that I have read that I don't need a tilt-shift lens. I know I don't! But article on using one made them sound very interesting. As tempted as I'd ever get.

I wish my 1.8 lenses were 1.4. Much faster, and my musician pics might well become random-in-focus facial features. Physics is unkind. Slower than 2.8 would be a waste of my money. I learnt that with the kit-lens pair that came with my camera: they are the ones that sit unused in the cabinet. Well, yes, I should get out (in the bright sunshine) more!

I used a 35mm f1.4 and a 85mm f/1.2 for my concert photography for years, while my fellow concert photographers all used f/2.8 zoom lenses. I loved the f/1.2 and f/1.4 :)

I'm photographing Indian classical. Far from the challenges of rock. But I never realised, until I started photographing them, how much these people wiggle their heads! And the lighting, in small venues, is not bright. BTW, my favourite lens is my Sony 85/1.8 on an APS-C a6500.

hahaha, artists are not living statues at all ;)

Oh, if you don't need the EF 50 1.2 I'll be happy to use it for you! (alongside the 24 1.4, 35 1.4 85.12 😉)

Same! The idea that nobody needs a 1.x aperture lens is like saying nobody needs a car that goes faster than 35 mph.

Nooo, it is like saying nobody needs a car that goes faster than 135 mph The car that goes faster than 35 mph is a f/5,6 lens ;)

see what you did there LOL!

uhm, did I miss something?

5.6 is equal to 35 mph...or so I thought

I've found myself "needing" super teles. Albeit not the large aperture variety and not for their usual uses: wildlife and sports. Catching sunrises/sunsets, full moons, etc. behind structures and other objects with said celestial body being huge in relation, can't be had with short focal lengths. I've been renting them at times. But, soon the cost of rentals will close in on just buying my own.

#5 shouldn't be on this list. Sometimes, when you primarily only shoot one genre of photography, you run the risk of giving bad advice. :P

1. It won't
2. When you need to shoot in low-light, you can use the exactly same lens.
3. When you need to or want to stop down, you can use the exact same lens.

1. If you think about it, even back in the large/medium format days, for portraits. Butter smooth bokeh. Fast forward to today, even some phones have fake soft backgrounds. It is the way.

2. Then, it's not any worst than a slower lens.
-----a. If anything, has advantages:
--------- i. If you stop down for a deeper dof, lens is generally sharper. So, even if the image is grainy, it'll be very sharp. :D
--------- ii. and, obviously if shot wide open, for lower ISO and/or for faster shutter speed.
-----b. not sure what you mean by 'I need more depth than it will allow'. Will allow?

3. Goes back to what I was eluding to on my original comment. If you mostly shoot landscape, you probably don't need an 85 f1.2.

When I shot LF the shallow DOF was a problem, not a benefit.
Back then we regularly told to stick with f1.8 or f2 50mm lenses as they were a better value. F1.4 and 1.2 were good for low light focusing but the shallow DOF was still an issue and a tripod or faster film was recommended .
It is inarguable that the preoccupation with shallow DOF is as much a fashion as big hair was in the 80's. As this is your current business model you absolutely need a fast lens.When the fashion passes you can still use the lens. Just stop it down. ;)

There are people that will call anything and everything a fad. In the case of narrow DOF, it is just a practicality very often in low light or when shooting flying birds or running athletes or whatever. It is needed to reduce noise and it is very often the only practical way to separate the subject from the background when there is something moving and you can't pose for a specific background. I would rather see a blurred background than a noisy one all day every day when there is no better way to separate the subject from it.

Back in the 70's we knew this but still did not need mad aperture to do this.
As for BIF, really? Maybe sitting, but flying?
Noise issue is way overrated. Today's sensors are immensely capable at high ISOs. Even the usual whipping boy, Canon, can deliver superb results at ISOs that were only dreamed of 10 years ago.

Pfft I enjoy my bokeh monster and my super macro thank you!

Perfect, that makes my happy :)

I completely disagree with #4. In fact, reading that made me angry and all worked up inside. Now I want to lash out and hurt someone or something because that part of the article was so freaking dead wrong. Sheesh. I shoot most of my images with a 300-800mm f5.6 and a 400 f2.8. Freaking tell me I don't need those lenses when I do need them - damn you. How dare you tell other people what they do or do not need - how the freaking hell would you ever know?

I hope this comment is sarcasm... otherwise you need to calm down ffs.

If you failed to get the gist of the article then that’s no ones but the fault of yourself. So calm down mate, it’s not all about you.

Oh, I get the gist of the article all right - the author purports to tell others what is best for them. And that is an absolute outrage, my friend. If you don't get that, then that is no one's fault but your own.

Whether he meant it in a friendly, suggestive way or not does not matter. The simple fact that he is telling others what is or is not useful to them is preposterously controlling and haughty, whether the author meant it in that way or not.


1. Tilt-Shift Lens - had one for years and finally got rid of it.
2. Super Macro Lens - bought Laowa 5x and it is amazing when I use it.
3. Fish-Eye Lens - had a Nikon 10.5 - got rid of it
4. Super Tele Lens - 300-800 5.6 Sigma - use it at Surf City a lot
5. Extremely Large Aperture - sure sounds fantastic but rarely shoot wide open
6. Lensbaby - why?

In short, I have owned most of the types of lenses listed above but only really use 2 out of 6. That's 33%.

If you think I wrote this aricle with you in mind, you are mistaken. If it looks like that, I am sorry. I did not mean you any harm.
But really, why so angry?

Pretty sure he's trolling. If not, then he's certifiably insane. Either way, who cares?

I couldn't agree with you more

I guess that whey you use the word "you" in the title, then that makes it seem like every reader is supposed to take it personally. If you had used the words, "many photographers" instead of "you", then I would know that it is not meant personally to each and every reader.

The problem with making it personal, by using the word, "you", and writing it in the 2nd person, is that you could be very, very wrong. This is because you couldn't possibly know what kind of photography each reader does, and therefore you couldn't possibly know what lenses he or she needs for his or her particular type of image-making. If you had written the article in the 3rd person, and used the 3rd person consistently throughout the article, then you would not be wrong in any instance because it could not be interpreted as being written to any particular person.

As to why I sounded so angry in my initial comment, I believe it is because I have grown very tired and impatient with articles here on this site that are not worded carefully, or that have titles that are worded to grab the reader's attention, instead of being the most accurate title that serves as a literal summation of the content.

If all your songs are one note then you only need one string...

I fail to see the parallel between your note/song analogy and the comment of mine that you are replying to. I love music that is made of many different notes and chords, but I want each note and each cord to be very carefully thought through and played with accuracy and perfection. One can be creative, yet still be precise and perfect.

I could agree and disagree with a fisheye. Totally depends on what you shoot. For me I use it a lot but I'm an action sports shooter and fall into the very small group of people that should pretty always have a fish in the bag. Most people don't need one at all.

Don't you just love it when someone tries to tell you how to do your job? My work is made easier when I use 3 of the 6 types of lenses.

The outrage is real...

Yet somehow shooting 16mm film is having a comeback

Of the list, I have not yet owned a TS lens. In return, I suggest another lens types I do own but probably nobody actually needs: a catodioptric (aka "mirror' lens) and a vintage / classic lens.

I was thinking to add a vintage lens on the list. Perhaps I should. I have a mirror lens, but never use it. :)

Oh now you're taking liberties, sir!

hahaha - I have to be careful

Actually, adding a vintage mirror lens to the list would be appropriate. Another one of my past mistakes. Of course you'll never know it's a mistake until after you buy it and try to use it.

I guess you are right. I still have a Russian 1100mm mirrorlens lying about, unused. I thought it would be fun... I guess I was wrong.
Perhaps someday

I have the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye. I use it all the time. Dance floor shots. Concerts. It's even good for snapshots because there's very little distortion in the centre (which can be corrected with two clicks in Camera RAW) and it's a very sharp image.

More comments