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A wedding photographer’s lens choice

This year I’ve been tuning my gear in function of my style. More specifically, my lens arsenal. But I haven’t reached the end of the tunnel yet. I want to be able to take just what I need and leave out the lenses that don’t see enough “action”. Damn, not an easy task!

The current line up , these lenses will start the day with me on any given wedding day.

70-200 2.8L IS

I used to love this lens, I could shoot all day with it, it would always be on one of my bodies: bridal preparation, ceremony, the shoot, family portraits, candid at receptions…. but it’s getting too heavy and for all other parts of a wedding beside the ceremony there are better prime lenses to use and get better shots. There is just nothing that compares to primes. But there is also nothing that can do what this baby can do …

Usage: So the only action this baby has been seeing lately is the ceremony…. and even then, I revert to the 85mm whenever I can (when I can get close enough without disturbing the scene too much).

Why would I drop it? too heavy, a bad fit in my shootsac and nowadays it’s only used in church.
Why not drop it? I need an alternative to get closer in on the action. I’ll never want to sell this one and when I do I’ll miss her. Can you really do without?
Replace by: Nothing really can replace this baby. And the more I think about it. I’ll never part with this lens, it will probably always come in handy at a big church or so. But if that is it’s single purpose, I will try to do without this lens the next couple of weddings… lets see how that goes …

24-70 2.8L

First L glass I owned. Yes this lens can do pretty much anything but I don’t like it. It doesn’t pack any punch, it doesn’t bring anything extra to the shot.

Usage: I use it for a close-up of the rings (best macro lens in my arsenal, pretty sad huh), and while it’s on I use it to take some more detail shots of the dress and shoes. During receptions I might pop this one on but I might as well use my 16-35 for those “group of friends having a drink” shots. If there is more space to move around I even use the 50 to mingle during the reception.

Why would I drop it? It’s good at everything but it’s doesn’t shine in any area.
Why not drop it? It’s good at everything but it’s doesn’t shine in any area.
Replace by: A macro, the 100mm 2.8 IS pops to mind.

16-35 2.8

I bought this lens last year, because I wanted something “wide” and I was hoping to make it a part of my style.

Usage: Very little on the 16-24 range , I use it from time to time on those grand wedding venues where you really want the wide shot. It’s handy when you are in a pinch eg. bride preparing in a small rooms or a tiny city hall office room. The 24-35 range comes in handy during receptions.

Why drop it? wide is not my style and this could be replaced by the 24mm or the 35mm ?
Why not drop it? I love the colors. As stated, it sometimes just comes in handy. If the venue is grand … I’ll really regret not having it with me…. an alternative would be to get the cheaper 17-40L and sell this one (save me some $ for the 50 1.2). It’s a shame that this great lens would see the action it really deserves.

50mm 1.4

I started with the plastic fantastic 1.8. Upgraded to the 1.4. If I got stuck on one focal length. Please let it be 50mm. I easily takes 60% of the shots with this one.

Usage: whenever I can. And when I can’t I find a way to use it anyway!

Why drop it? Never unless I keep eyeballing that 1.2 version.
Why not drop it? I’m starting to see the world through the 50 and I don’t want to be blind again.

85 1.8

Another recent adjustment to my arsenal. During shoots the bulkier 70-200 got replaced by this one.

Usage: Preparation, shoot, candid during receptions.

Why drop it? Nope, eventually it might get replaced by the 1.2 version but I’m too happy with this one for now. Still I have a feeling that 85 as the longest lens doesn’t always get me close enough.
Could the 100mm 2.8 IS be usefull during ceremonies too?
Why not drop it? During eSession or shoot this will always be in my shootsac together with the 50mm and the 16-35 (because I want something wide(r) with me me too.

Where to go from here .. aka “the wishlist” .. What I bought 2 days after posting this …

I start to feel more & more agitated by the zoom lenses. They are bulky and 2.8 is not wide open enough for my style. Primes suit me better, yes you have to switch lenses but that makes you work more. The more you work the better your pictures. When I started in wedding photography, the 24-70 & the 70-200 where all I needed. But now I’m feeling more and more confident during a wedding day and I want my pictures to stand out.

100 2.8L IS

Drop the 70-200 & 24-70 and get the 100mm macro. Decided not to drop the 70-200, it will do church duty
I really need needed a good macro lens. There are cheaper macro’s out there but this can double as a good portrait lens. and the IS would help me in a dimly lit church. (but is it long enough to replace the 70-200?)

Update: from my first experiences with the this lens it seems like a kickass macro lens, and a good portrait lens in a controlled environment. I’m afraid in dimly lit churches the AF might have some difficulties. After evaluating my LR catalogue it seems that most of my church pictures were made above between the 110mm-200m range.

35L 1.4

Sometimes with the 50mm I have to focus too much on the couple, not always able to frame the emotion around them. (first look, entering church, first dance, etc..) I really like shooting wide open. and without flash. Downside: When I get the 35 I know I’ll probably still want to hold on to the 16-35mm.

Where to go from here .. aka “the new wishlist”

50L 1.2

Made the error of testing this one …. I shouldn’t have. I’m am SO getting me this lens, the 50mm is my thing. But it will have to wait till next year!

My Final Bag?

So my primary bag would now contain 3 lenses : 35mm 1.4, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8. Yes, I can totally see me using just these on a controlled shoot. But for the “occasion” these two will still come in handy: 100 2.8 L IS, 16-35 2.8 L, 70-200 2.8 L IS

What is in your bag?

What I’d like to hear from you: What’s in your camera bag (wedding related). What are your experiences shooting without the über 70-200. How are your experiences with the 100 2.8, the 35mm and 24 mm?

Oh and god help me, both lenses are /del> were in stock!

17 Comments so far  
by Tom Leuntjens 09.15.10 9:31 am

@karin @kristof @ian thx for your input. interesting to see how everyone works.

by ian segal 09.15.10 8:49 am

i shoot with a canon 5D, so all these lenses are canon:

– 50mm 1.4: i use this lens 75% of the time. love it: it’s sharp, versatile, small & light, …
– 17-40mm: for the occasional wide shots (church, ceremony, first dance)
– 135mm 2.0: portrait lens & for closer shots in large spaces. this lens is a gem: super sharp wide open, great contrast & colour, beautiful bokeh, i love it. sometimes 135mm is a little bit to much, but on the other hand 85mm is too close to 50mm. i even shot small group portraits with this one to compress the background and blur it out.

i really want to get a 24mm 1.4 to replace my 17-40. wide shots with a large aperture is something i really miss right now. so for now i would go for 24 1.4+50 1.4+135 2.0. oh and maybe a 100mm 2.8 macro for a few macro shots. not on the top of my list though. and i’m staying far away from the 50 1.2 😉

by Kristof Pattyn 09.12.10 11:23 am

Hi Tom, great work recently!

My bag contains a 5D with the 35mm 1.4 (love this combo). Another 5D with 70-200 2.8 (yes the weighth is a problem, but I sometimes don’t want to interfere too much and I would miss the candid shots too much I take with this lens). Instead off buying the 24 mm 1.4 I bought myself the 20 mm 2.8 because I know I use the 35 mm much more. Then I have the 50mm 1.4 which I use much less since the 35 mm. I have an in old 17-55 2.8 in the trolley on an older body as a third backup for when Mr. Murphy would pay a visit (stay home mister 🙂 )

Greets.

by Karin Kramer 09.10.10 3:23 pm

In my camerabag:

– 16-35L USM II (2.8)
– 50mm 1.4
– 85mm 1.8
– 100mm macro (non-IS, 2.8)
– 70-200L IS (2.8)

And this is how I feel about them:

– I use the 16-35 for 70% of all shots during a wedding.
– The 100mm macro is great lens for both close-ups and portraits. However, I only use it to get some close-up shots of the rings. That’s why I wil never buy the expensive IS-version.
– For portraits the 85mm 1.8 is my alltime favorite. The colors are so lovely and it’s sharp wide open.
– The 50mm is perfect for details and reception shots, and it’s tack sharp from 1.8, mostly shoot it on 2.0
– The 70-200 is a gem and is always in my bag, but like you, I only use it in large churches. Weight is an issue…

I would never sell my zoom lenses as I need them for other (non-wedding) assignments. I might buy an extra 5D Mark II and a 24 or 35mm. I could easily shoot a wedding with just an 24mm / 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. And maybe, next year I will.

by Tom Leuntjens 09.10.10 1:27 pm

@dieter ook niet twijfelen voor die 50 1.4. super value for money. maar test de 1.2 niet!
@nimsa will do .. or already did 😉

ff mijn post updaten aan de nieuwe situatie 😉

by Dieter 09.10.10 1:19 pm

Hey Tom. In mijn tas zit de 35L, 85 1.8 en een 17-40L. Dit alles op een 5D. Kan je zeggen dat 5D + die 35L echt mooie beelden oplevert. Maar ik twijfel nu aan een 50mm 1.4. Dit omdat 35L soms wat te breed is. Heb hem nog niet gekocht omdat ik vrees dat dan de 35L misschien minder gaat gebruikt worden, wat toch een kostelijke lens was 😉

by nimsa 09.10.10 1:18 pm

Tom, die 35 mm 1.4 is ontzettend ontzettend de max! Die onscherpte.. prachtig. En net wijd genoeg voor alle schone interacties en nog net okee voor portret ook. Doen!

by Tom Leuntjens 09.09.10 11:32 am

@Steven, ik denk dat de 24 niet moet onderdoen voor de 35 (heb eenmaal een avondfeest met die lens mogen werken en AMAI) het is eerder een stijlkeuze denk ik. Ikzelf vind een 24mm prime te wijd. Ik “zie” het niet zo …

by steven 09.08.10 9:27 am

Hmm, nu ik dit hier allemaal lees begin ik weer te twijfelen: ik was van plan de 24mm f/1.4 te kopen maar ik lees alsmaar positieve besprekingen van de 35 mm.

Ik gebruik momenteel nog steeds mijn 24-70 omwille van haar veelzijdigheid.
Vroeger gebruikte ik vooral mijn 50mm f/1.4 maar om de een of andere reden presteert die niet zo goed op mijn 5D, lijkt wel een beetje last te hebben van back focus.

by ake 09.06.10 6:36 pm

Although not in the wedding scene, I hope I am allowed my say 😉
I have the exact same problem with the 70-200 and I am thinking about replacing it with the L135mm. It’s supposed to be a superfast lens!

About the 100 Macro. Don’t think about it, just buy it 😉

by aradilon 09.06.10 6:17 pm

Ik moet zeggen dat ik niet veel huwelijks ervaring heb, maar degene die ik heb gedaan waren met een Sigma 18-50mm f2.8, Tamron 70-300mm, 135mm f2.8 manuele focus en Nikon kitlens 18-105(/55mm). Ik heb nu de 70-200mm f2.8 gekocht om de 70-300mm te vervangen. Ik zou zelf nog een 50mm f1.8 willen (heb er 1 maar die is manuele focus), en de Tamron 17-50mm f2.8, omdat de Sigma van mijn broer is.

by Tom 09.06.10 6:04 pm

@arno nederlands maakt niet uit 🙂 just trying to be “international” . lol
@arno @jef die 35 lijkt me idd een no brainer. en ik zie het nu al gebeuren dat dit snel mijn 50 1.4 zal overtreffen als meest gebruikte lens…. tot ik die 1.2 er bij sleur wsch
@jef @bjorn @arno ik vrees dat ik ook geen afscheid zal kunnen nemen van de 70-200 . de 24-70 mag er uit laar ik heb een macro nodig…. suggesties?

by Arno 09.06.10 5:06 pm

Interessant artikel (hopelijk mag m’n reactie in het Nederlands)! Ik heb afgelopen vrijdag een bruiloft gedaan met drie lenzen; 35L 1.4, 24-70 2.8 en de (ik kan ‘m ook nog niet missen) 70-200 2.8. De 35 heb ik een paar weken geleden aangeschaft, en is in één klap m’n favoriete lens. Hiervoor was het nog m’n 50 1.4, maar die is tijdens de laatste bruiloft de tas niet uitgeweest. Ik denk dat ik > 65% met deze lens gefotografeerd heb. Echt heerlijk dat je zelfs met deze groothoek nog je onderwerp los kan halen van de achtergrond.

De 24-70 gebruik ik voor het snelle reportage-/receptiewerk. Eigenlijk vind ik het een heel ordinaire lens. Enorm lomp om te zien, zeker met die belachelijke zonnekap, zwaar maar wel mooi scherp en goede autofocus. Liever gebruik ik m’n 35 of 50 mm, maar soms is snelheid een vereiste. De 70-200 zou ik niet willen missen en ook niet willen ruilen tegen een prime. Scherpte en snelheid vind ik prima. Is wel zwaar, maar nog wel mooi in balans.

by Jef Janssens 09.06.10 5:02 pm

I couldn’t do without the 70-200 2.8 IS cause it’s a brilliant good & sharp lens ánd it’s got IS. Really that IS does it for me, without it I would never use that lens.
Furthermore my new favourite is the 35mm 1.4. Get it, don’t think about it. It sometimes is a bit not wide enough, especially when the dancefloor is too crammy, but that’s not a big issue. I guess I’ve used the 35 on 70% of my shots.
Now you ‘ll all gonna laugh, but the 24-105, I’ll never get rid of it. Laugh all you want, but it -there we go again- it has IS. The 24-70 is pretty useless in the typical dark living rooms of Belgium. So it’s my lens I’ll pop up at the brides place. Only if the 24-70mm comes out with IS, I’ll replace the 24-105 with that one. For the bride herself, I usually mix the 35 and the 85 1.2, though the 50mm1.4 comes in handy many times. Bear in mind though that the 85mm 1.2 is pretty useless around the wedding day except for the afternoon shoot given the fact that there is plenty of light. It’s just sóó slow!!! The last one in the bag is the fish eye, nice to use in church and on the dancefloor.
That sums it up.
I would like to replace the 50mm1.4 since it doesn’t give me it’s sharpness every time. I can’t rely on it. Not sure what to do, but I don’t use it véry often.
As for the 85mm1.2, not my all time favourite cause of it’s slowness. But it’s tack sharp every time. Maybe I’ll replace it withe your 100mm macro, dunno yet.

by Bjorn | Fotografie Luna 09.06.10 4:50 pm

Simple math: 200 = 100×2 🙂 I would even like a 300 or 400mm to ADD to the 70-200. Problem is that these beasts are way to expensive. I don’t really care about weight though… I carry the 70-200 all day.

by Tom Leuntjens 09.06.10 4:44 pm

@bjorn you are right. it can’t be replaced. question I’m asking is: can I do without. and could it be that one step closer could just be enough when I need it (since I need a macro). I’ll crawl from behind the pillars in church when I need to get in closer. It’s a brilliant lens.. but it’s just getting too heavy.

by Bjorn | Fotografie Luna 09.06.10 4:31 pm

I don’t think you can think of the 100 2.8L IS Macro as a replacement for your 70-200. Any approx 100mm macro can double just fine as a portrait lens, but they can’t replace your 70-200. If it could, you wouldn’t ever switch your 85mm for your 70-200 (@200mm that is), you would just get 1 step closer.