Last week, Scott Kelby unleashed the wrath of the interwebs by daring to suggest that beginner lenses take beginner photos. A lot of the vitriol seemed to be coming from photographers who were married to their $2000 24-70 f/2.8 lenses. (I guess its like telling someone they have an ugly spouse). While Scott was very diplomatic about it, I am going to go out on a limb here and say it straight out: the 24-70 is a crap lens choice. And here’s why…
First of all, I don’t own a 24-70 f/2.8. That’s right – I don’t own one because they’re $2000 and almost always a crap lens choice! But, I do rent a 24-70 f/2.8 on a regular basis – for pretty much the only thing that a 24-70 f/2.8 is good for – wedding photography (in fact, here is an entire article on photographing a wedding with just one photographer, one camera, one lens and one flash). I used to own a 24-70 f/2.8 (or more accurately its little sister, the DX format 17-55 f/2.8) and guess what – it was the first lens I purchased when I decided that a bigger lens on the front of my camera would help me look more pro. The reason I got rid of it? Because it was almost always a crap lens choice!
When a 24-70 f/2.8 Is a Good Lens Choice
Technically speaking, the 24-70 f/2.8 is an excellent quality lens. Once you step up your game to shooting manual, having a lens with a consistent f/2.8 aperture through the entire focal range is indispensable (compared to this f/3.5-5.6 kit lens garbage). Artistically speaking, the 24-70 f/2.8 is perfect for photographing fast changing, dynamic events with a mix of indoor and outdoor photos at relatively close range. In other words, weddings – or any other event where the ability to quickly compose shots on the fly is more important than artistic vision.
When a 24-70 f/2.8 Is A Crap Lens Choice
For pretty much everything else. Think about it this way. Tradesmen/women have a mantra: “Use the right tool for the job”. You’ll never ever see an auto-mechanic trying to change a tire using a pair of vice grips to take out the lug nuts. Could the vise grips do the job? Yes, probably. Would an impact gun and the proper socket do a better job? Of course – that’s what they were made for.
Five Wedding Photos You Can’t Take With A 24-70 f/2.8
Even with it’s pièce de résistance – wedding photography, a 24-70 f/2.8 is often not the best tool for the job. To better explain what I mean, here are five wedding photos you can’t take with a 24-70 f/2.8.
Wedding Photo 1: Nikon 50mm f/1.4
This is a 50mm at f/1.4 on a full frame camera. I still remember the first time I upgraded from a cropped sensor (DX format) 17-55 f/2.8 (the DX equivalent to a 24-70 f/2.8) to a full frame 50mm f/1.4. Going from a cropped sensor to full frame is a big enough improvement – but going from a cropped sensor with a 17-55 f/2.8 to a full frame 50mm f/1.4 was a revelation. It was like a light suddenly turned on – ah ha!!!!! that’s how they do it! (The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is even that much better too!)
Wedding Photo 2: Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
This photo is taken at 14mm with a 14-24 f/2.8. The 14-24 costs almost as much as a 24-70 – and guess what? I don’t own a 14-24 either! However, after scouting out this venue, I rented a 14-24 specifically so I could take this exact photo at this specific location.
Wedding Photo 3: Canon 20mm f/2.8
24mm is wide, but I am always amazed how often its just not quite wide enough! This was taken with a 20mm f/2.8. My reason for choosing to use a 20mm? Because even with a 20mm, to fit the context of the room in the frame, I was literally holding the camera flat against the wall behind me.
Wedding Photo 4: Nikon 85mm f/1.4
Everyone has tried to take this photo with a 24-70. Except that the bokeh of a 24-70 at 70mm f/2.8 looks nothing like the bokeh of an 85mm at f/1.4 (or a 70-200 f/2.8 either for that matter). For the record, I don’t actually own an 85mm f/1.4 either. Most of my work is at the mid to wide end of the spectrum, so when I know I’m going to need an 85mm, I rent one.
Wedding Photo 5: Canon G9 Point-And-Shoot
A bride’s really cool (ha – get it ;) ) emerald engagement ring. OK, so maybe this isn’t really fair, the 24-70 isn’t a macro lens…which is why you can’t take this photo with it. In fact, this photo was taken with my seven year old Canon Powershot G9 point-and-shoot in macro mode (the little flower).
But I Love My 24-70!
If you’re married to your 24-70, the point of this article wasn’t to tell you that you have an ugly spouse. The point I was trying to make is that its OK to explore a little, see what else is out there, see what you like and what you don’t – you might get a surprise and find something better. The best part is, you don’t even have to be in a long term relationship – it is perfectly acceptable to rent (we’re still talking about lenses).
What Do You Think
Is your 24-70 f/2.8 still your perfect lens? Do beginner lenses take beginner photos? Is it always the skill of the photographer, or does gear have a roll to play? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!