As someone who shoots multiple camera systems, it’s easy to see that nothing out there is perfect. But while I’ve often thought about selling off one system entirely in favor of another, there’s always a lens or two for each system that is just about perfect and keeps me with a foot in many brands.
This probably sounds like I have a bit of G.A.S., but there are different horses for every course, and being able to use the best from a few different systems works out for each style of shooting that I do.
In what’s definitely a subjective list, here’s what keeps me coming back to some of the major systems out there. These are few lenses you just have to use to understand. They’re not the most expensive or necessarily the sharpest or fastest, they just have a unique confluence of properties that make them awesome buys if you have the camera to mount them on.
Nikon: 20mm f/1.8G
I used to swear by 16-35mm zoom lenses for my wide angle needs, but then I got into star trail and astrophotography and I was looking for something that could let in just a bit more light. I gave the AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED a try and I found it had more than just one trick up its sleeve.
In short order, I was using the lens for landscapes (including the one of Montauk Point at the top of this article) and even reception photography at weddings. The wide-angle zooms that used to be my mainstay for the dancing parts of the party were replaced by this lens; almost as wide, but quite a bit sharper, and focusing that was every bit as good as top-end zoom lenses.
These days, this lens serves almost all of my wide angle needs and I leave the zooms at home.
Fujifilm: XF 56mm f/1.2 R
The Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2R is a lens that is pretty much bolted to my camera. I’ve come from using the Canon 85mm f/1.2L and the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, and this lens can hang right in there with the image quality of those legends, with the added bonus of using Fuji’s very accurate on-sensor autofocus capabilities. I’m able to hit f/1.2 shots without breaking a sweat.
And oh, how beautiful those images look at f/1.2. Foregrounds and backgrounds melt away into a sea of bokeh while your subject remains tack sharp.
With an 85mm equivalent field of view, it’s often touted as a portrait lens, but it really works great for anything where you want to make your subject pop out of whatever they’re situated in. You can do that really easily and quite beautifully with this lens.
Canon: 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II
I originally purchased the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM to hide in the bushes and shoot secret engagement photos that clients hired me for. When I started getting more sports work, I pressed it into service as a budget sports lens. In between, I sandwiched in some university events. This lens handled all of these tasks with ease. While it isn’t the widest aperture lens at any of these focal lengths, it focuses quickly and accurately, and has excellent image quality across the board. The weight penalty isn’t too much above and beyond a typical 70-200mm f/2.8 lens either, though it’s definitely the heaviest lens on this list.
Micro Four Thirds: Olympus 75mm f/1.8
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 is one of the few ways to fly if you’re looking to obliterate the backgrounds on the Micro Four Thirds system. It’s also super tiny for what essentially is a fast 150mm field-of-view (on full-frame) prime. Its small size makes it the kind of lens you can actually carry on a vacation to make nice portraits, if that’s your thing. Oh, and it comes in an awesome silver color.
If you haven’t tried out one of these lenses for your system, they’re definitely all worth a look. What are some lenses that are your favorites for your camera system?