Making Due With One Lens

August 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Most of my photographic outings involve me loading my camera bag with pretty much all of my camera gear: my 4 lenses, lens cleaning kit, blower, tripod, charger, lens brush, wireless remote...the list could go on.  Too often I return home and wonder why I brought every piece of equipment I own.  I justify bringing everything because, well, what if I need it?  There are undoubtedly times when, depending on the nature of the outing, all your gear is required.  But I'd argue there are just as many times when you can leave most of it home.  If you're one of those shooters who has to have all your gear with you, challenge yourself to bring only one lens on your next outing.  If possible, bring a prime lens, a lens with a fixed focal length.  Two prime lenses take up spots in my bag: Canon's EF 85mm f/1.8 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/12182-USA/Canon_2519A003_85mm_f_1_8_USM_Autofocus.html) and the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/870179-REG/Canon_40mm_f_2_8_EF_Pancake.html).  While the former is a superb portrait lens, the latter is an incredibly versatile 'walk around' lens that has quickly become one my favorite go-to lenses.  Released in June, 2012, many were skeptical of this cheap prime and the odd focal length choice.  Indeed, 35mm and 50mm are two of the most popular focal lengths around and Canon sells these respective lenses by the boatload.  Those in the know, however, consider the 40mm focal length to be the most ideal focal length on a 'full frame' camera, like the Canon 6D I shoot with.  To add to its appeal, Canon made the lens tiny (it's often referred to as a 'pancake' lens) and cheap.  Having just enough money saved up (the lens was going for $149 when I bought it), I figured I'd give it a shot.  This blog post is not so much a review of the 40mm f/2.8 STM, but more of what the blog's title hints at: shooting with just one lens.  Before I address this, however, let me give you a very quick review.  In short, I LOVE it.  Its relatively fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 allows respectable shallow depth of field and subject pop; it's tiny; the focal length is perfect for landscapes, street shooting, and portraits; and its starburst quality is AMAZING. 

OK, so why photograph with just one lens?  Again, consider your shoot's purpose, but if you find yourself always dragging around every piece of gear you own on every outing, chances are you can make due with much less.  So try it.  Leave your bag at home, attach your most versatile lens (preferably a prime) and go!  I can almost guarantee you will feel much more free.  When you realize the limitations of your lens, you will begin to not even attempt shots you know you can't get, which will allow you to really slow down and focus on the shots you can get.  Shooting with one lens, specifically a prime, forces you to be a more critical and reflective image maker.  You will find yourself moving around a lot more, adjusting your feet, just to get the angle and perspective you're searching for.  It's a liberating experience.  With my other lenses, zoom lenses especially, I find myself wishing I could zoom wider another millimeter or zoom in another 100.  I'll over-expect from these lenses, thinking they're more versatile than they are.  They're great lenses without a doubt and have a place in my bag and on my camera.  A prime, however, is a lens in its simplest form.  It doesn't fool you with its capabilities or under-deliver when mastered.  When the situation calls for it, challenge yourself with just one lens.  You may just create some of your most favorite images. 

Here is a selection of shots taken with the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM paired with my Canon 6D.  Further down are shots taken with the EF 85mm f/1.8.

Some shots with the EF 85mm f/1.8, a great focal length for portraits and even landscapes.

 


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