So you upgraded to a DSLR to take your photography to the next level and you now feel a strong urge to step into the big bad world of professional photography. You have the kit lenses, but you know they won’t cut it. Let me introduce you to the must-have kit lens of professional photographers.
Your Direction in Photography
When I transitioned from a hobby photographer to a part-time professional, I started off with model portfolio shoots and event photography. Then came weddings, portraits, editorial and commercial shoots and so on. A fair few of you will start off your professional photography career in a similar fashion. Or at least cover some aspects of the above-mentioned path.
When I was feeling that strong urge to make the jump to professional photography, I was given some great advice by a senior photographer: your next purchase needs to be a fixed aperture lens, preferably f/2.8 or lower. Upon further exploration of that advice, I fixed my gaze on a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8. I saved up for it, bought it and can confidently say that it was the best return on investment I’ve had from a single piece of photography gear ever!
Hey Versatility, Meet Your Photography Twin
I call this my bread and butter lens. That’s because it may not be a specialist lens or rated top-notch at any of the focal lengths or have the creamiest bokeh, but you can use it to shoot events, weddings, portraits, editorials, products, travel, landscapes and so much more at a comfortably high quality. So versatile!
Reliability, Are You Sure Your Nickname Isn’t 24-70mm f/2.8?
Whatever the situation, whatever the lighting, this lens will deliver. Over the years, as I became better at photography, I relied more and more on primes and other specialized lenses. But if there is one lens I always carry, it’s the good old 24-70mm f/2.8. For example, in low light conditions, certain primes like the 50mm f/1.2 might struggle with auto-focus and when shooting an event or a wedding that can be a risky affair. I’ve found my 24-70mm f/2.8 to be much quicker in this regard.
Arguments Against Purchasing the 24-70mm f/2.8
“It is not as versatile as 24-105mm f/4”
One could argue for the 24-105mm f/4 as an alternative but I’ve found that extra stop between f/2.8 and f/4 to be a lifesaver many times. When I started shooting weddings, I came to understand why f/2.8 felt a whole lot more magical than f/4. For one, in low light situations that one stop of light made a huge difference if I wanted to maintain a reasonably low ISO and could not use external light (e.g in a low lit church during the ceremony). Secondly, I found f/2.8 to be a sweet spot between blurring the background to bring focus to my subject and not blurring my background so much that it loses context (e.g. shooting dynamic groups during events). Yes, at times I did wish that my lens also had a focal length of 105mm but it was always an easy compromise given its advantages over f/4.
“It makes you lazy as a photographer”
This probably has some truth in it. It’s a classic zoom lens and you can get comfortable with it. But if truth be completely told in context, when you’re starting out as a professional photographer, you are learning so many new things about your craft that it can be overwhelming at times. You can run out of poses for your client to do or your lighting may not be working with a particular scenario and on and on. You can allow yourself a crumb of comfort in the form of this lens as long as you keep developing your skills as a photographer. Moreover, I’m sure, further down your career, when you have the cash, you won’t mind honing your skills on your brand new bokehlicious 85mm f/1.2!
The best part about this lens is that because it is so popular among professional photographers, pretty much every lens manufacturer has had a go making this lens. So you have a variety of prices (with some variation in quality) available to you. I won’t get into what is the “best” 24-70mm f/2.8 option out there but if you have one of the unenviable kit lenses that came with your starter DSLR, like the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, you will be better off with any of these options below. However, I do recommend hiring some of these out to try before you settle on a favorite.
The Best Starter
Tamron - from $1,199
I have found it to be slightly slower on the auto-focus compared to its peers along with a yellow-er skin tone. But overall, a great starter lens.
For the Experimenters
Sigma - from $1299
This one is about 200g heavier compared to it’s Tamron and Canon cousins but I’ve been impressed with its overall image quality.
These are the steam engines of the business: quick, easy, rugged and either one would be a great investment for the long term.
On a side note, these lenses hold their monetary value quite well. So if you wanted to sell these a few years down the line, you’d still get a decent return on your original purchase.
Is there another lens you’re considering purchasing as your first on your way to becoming a professional photographer? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.