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Q&A: What I Wish I Knew Before…About Buying Lenses

I think I get asked at least once a week about my gear, and the Numero Uno question is about what lenses I use to get such sharp images. Lucky enough, for the non-technical me, this is one I can easily give my humble opinion on. πŸ™‚

Early in my lifelong learning career as a Photographer, I was of “that” mindset that I needed to fake it ’till I made it. This was long before my friend Dane Sanders said it was okay to be humble and admit when I was clueless (which was most of the time) and ASK (what a novel idea) other photogs for their advice. But I was sooooo shy and couldn’t fathom the idea of further lowering my lowly self to such a level as to grovel for handouts of knowledge from experienced photographers. So, when it came to purchasing gear, I just bought as much as my money would afford and unfortunately I thought my camera body was always what needed updating, instead of my lenses. A good camera body IS important, but in my humble opinion, having the latest and greatest is much less important than budgeting for good lenses.

After dozens upon dozens of inexpensive zoom lenses, I finally found my personal golden egg…L-SERIES PRIMES! Once I shot with my first high-quality glass, prime lens, I was in love. I’ve learned that truly knowing your camera, inside & out, is better than constantly upgrading to the newest body style. And I’ve learned that lenses with a higher quality of glass really DO make a huge difference in image clarity.

Next favorite question I get asked…What is my FAVORITE lens? Of course the answer to that is very specific to me, and my own shooting style…obviously. πŸ™‚ Just as every good photographer has their own style of shooting, they also all probably have a different favorite Β lens. I too have my own style and my own “baby”…the 50 mm f/1.2. I just LOVE that lens! The hood housing actually broke on it the other day after two weeks of being on the road with it…and I almost cried. Lucky for me, the closest Canon Repair Center isn’t far from San Diego (it’s in Irvine) and I had it back in a heartbeat. However while my beloved 50 was off at the doctors, I TRIED to re-find the love I had for some other amazing lenses…like my 85 mm f/1.2. It’s an incredible lens, and along with the 50 1.2, shares the widest aperture setting Canon makes…I think. (That’s about as technical as I get…honestly.) But alas…no go. I just missed the closeness to my subjects when I’m shooting with my 50. It’s just MY comfort zone. I feel like I’m in the next room when I shoot with the 85. Boo. Hiss.

Here are two non-prime workhorses (Canon, of course) I have and love, too:

70-200 mm f/2.8… A “must” for all my wedding sharp shooting and crowd candids, and it’s also remarkable for gorgeously compressed portraits.

24-70 mm f/2.8… This is one of my traveling lens that makes short work out of going cleanly from wide angles to a bit of zoom.

There IS a time and a place, in my opinion, for zooms…absolutely. But when I’m calling out my favorite lens…they aren’t it. And because everything is easier to SEE when you actually see it (brilliant, right?!), here’s a very quick comparison of Mia’s Flossy the Rabbit shot in the shade…the first is with my old 28-135mm zoom lens and the second (right side) is with my 50 1.2. Amazing, instant SOOC difference. I’m sure, with a bit more time, I could have created a little better, more interesting image with the 28-135, but just a quick shot-from-the-hip shows what a difference a lens makes.


Love to hear your comments and, as always, thanks for sending your questions my way!

xo, B

  • Betsy - That’s awesome Amanda! πŸ™‚

  • Amanda Kate - Ok, I feel like i know you just from this blog post. THANK YOU for making me feel normal for not knowing the technicals, and for this advice and input. I am at the beginning of my professional photography journey and I appreciate your wisdom!

  • Linsey Wilt - Great post! I completely agree, in fact reading this post is almost like hearing myself talk! My 50 1.2 is my baby as well!! I shoot with it about 85% of the time, absolutely in love!

  • Betsy - Timbo: It is a pretty dang great lens! I love mine, fo sho…just love that little 50mm a titch more. πŸ™‚
    Christina: I completely agree. And Tim’s right, that the 70-200 is a fun lens…but like you, I just wish it had the oomph that the 50 had!
    Erica: I wish I could gift it to you…but I would be willing to part w/ it for the right price. πŸ™‚ And thanks for all the love! xo

  • sir timothy - Stranded on a desert island and have to chose one lens only, 70-200 2.8 IS, nuff said πŸ™‚

  • Christina - I feel the same way about my 50mm.. I just miss the ability to zoom in and out but nothing seems to compare to the 50mm

  • Erica Mahan - Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! It is refreshing to find seasoned photographers that are willing to share their knowledge. If you want to donate your 85 to a starving artist let me know! lol Love your work!

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