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My Favorite vs. My Most Used Lens

April 24, 2020

What's your favorite lens? More often than not, I hear people tell me something like the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III or the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS. But when asked what lens they use the most on any given shoot, and it’s typically a completely different answer. The type of photography or videography you specialize in will usually determine your most used lens. Your style as an artist and how you visualize shots will likely be a deciding factor in your favorite lens.


As an NYC NJ Wedding Photographer, my most used lens is easily the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L lens. I even went as far as creating a video about why I use a 50mm lens for everything. It's not that I don't change lenses, it's just that I can shoot almost everything that lens. It's fast-focusing, versatile, lightweight and great in low light. If I could only take one lens with me on a wedding, it would easily by my nifty fifty. Sure, I have to use my feet to zoom, but it's golden on everything from wedding details and family groups, to walking down the aisle and catching that first dance.


Some would argue that it's a boring lens visually, and I'd have to disagree. I understand the mindset because the 50mm lens on a full frame camera is similar to what the human eye sees. I'm currently using the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III – you can see my thoughts on that camera here. However, creating an interesting image is about lighting and composition, posing and story-telling and so much more. Some of my favorite images were created with my 50mm lens.


Even though the 50mm is my most used lens, I wouldn't say it's my favorite. My favorite lens is actually a much more difficult choice! I love my various lenses all for different reasons, and ultimately I was stuck between my Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS and EF 135mm f/2.0L. I love the image stabilization in my 85mm and I just love that focal length. But the 135mm was the winner because something about the combination of its field of view and f/2 max aperture simply made magic.


I often say that the 135mm lens is Canon's secret prime lens. It's such a great buy for about $1,000 (I believe the least expensive L-series prime lens) and very few people have it and opt for using a 70-200 instead. The 70-200 is great and a lens that should absolutely be in every wedding photographer's gear bag, but think about the 135mm. It goes down to f.2 and it's SUPER lightweight. Compare that to the 200mm f/2, which is super heavy and usually requires a monopod and you'll realize just how special the 135 is. You have a nice long focal length with crazy good low-light capabilities, fast-focusing power, and it won't break your shoulder carrying it around all day long.

Aside from the specs, the EF 135mm f/2.0 lens is my favorite because of the effect it has on images and the way it can turn backgrounds into a creamy, smooth piece of heaven. It easily adds that "wow" factor to an image and takes the viewer outside of their normal field of view and what they typically see with their naked eye. It's great for hiding (or rather transforming) unpleasant or messy backgrounds and it's flattering for almost any portrait setting. While the 50mm is more versatile, the 135mm is hands down my favorite to use.


Ultimately, lens choice is subject to the style of the photographer, and the kind of work they're doing. For fun, put a bunch of your favorite images in a folder and take a look at what most of them were shot with (there are quite a few software programs that let you sort images by lens). Then, in any given job (ideally a large one like a wedding or an all-day shoot) do the same and see what your most used lens is. You may be surprised that they're not the same lens!

About Vanessa

Since 2002, Vanessa Joy has been photographing couples and educating pros worldwide. She focuses her business in the NJ and NYC area, and alongside her partnerships as a Canon Explorer of Light, Profoto Legend of Light and Adorama Syndicate she helps pros take their businesses to the next level. To learn more visit: vanessajoy.com

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Link to Vanessa's Book:
The Off Camera Flash Handbook: https://amzn.to/30pPfu7

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