This is why I now only use one lens

May 24, 2017

A.B Watson

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This is why I now only use one lens

May 24, 2017

A.B Watson

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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After many years of experience using different lenses, I now have resorted to only using a single prime lens. I started with a 50mm then added an 85mm, 35mm, 100mm and 28mm to my collection, and I’ve played around with zoom lenses. But now I exclusively use a 50mm lens. No more zooms and no more choices. But why would I volunteer to limit myself?

Why would I limit myself from the start?

Why would I choose to only use one lens for all my work? There are a few things that might be freeing to you if you decide to go the route I did. One is the fewer choices you have to make the easier it is to begin, and the fewer choices the less doubt you have about the decisions you made. Have you ever taken a photo and wished you brought along the 70-200 telephoto or the 28 wide angle lens? If you only have one lens you only have one option, the result being no more buyer regret or anxiety over your gear.

Choose your poison (lens)

A great reason to shoot with one lens, be it prime or zoom is you get to know your lens inside and out. You get to know the framing of your lens. You can visualise the crop even before you bring the camera up to your eye. I found when I look at a possible photograph I know where to stand, what I am able to capture, and the angle and position I need to be in to get the desired look. And you know what, it all happens subconsciously because I know my lens inside and out.

One lens means no more lens changing. No more dust on the sensor, no need for multiple cameras or a camera bag. Don’t fear the person who knows 10,000 different kicks. Fear the person who knows one kick and has practised it 10,000 times. Become that one trick pony. Less gear means, less gear to carry, less to insure, less to worry about. Giving you more time to spend on mastering your craft instead of focusing on your gear.

Why I only use one lens

Why choose just to limit yourself to a 50mm lens, why not choose a 35mm or a 28mm? The reason I chose a 50mm is because it was the focus length I would default to. Be it Portraits, Events, it’s my favourite focal length. I did have other lenses but for my style, other lenses would include or remove so much content in the frame, which didn’t appeal to me or my photographic aesthetic.

Familiarity

For me, it’s like looking through my own eyes. I know the frame lines before I even bring the camera up to my eye, the familiarity you learn from using one lens quickens my photographic process. My only issue with my 50mm lens is it can’t focus on a subject any closer than 0.7 meters (2 feet). But that just forces me to think outside the box, it challenges me and the way I approach a subject.

Conclusion

Well the reason why I only use one lens, it frees up your time which would have been wasted deciding on gear. Using one lens starts your path on becoming a master of that focal length. You learn its limitations and capabilities making you more efficient when capturing a scene. And the added bonus is all your work has a consistent look and feel to it, which contributes to your photographic style. Why I only use one lens is because I choose to become a master of one lens not a jack of all lenses.

About the Author

Alexander Ben Korako Watson, best known as A.B Watson is a photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. You can find out more about him on his website, follow his work on Instagram and Facebook or reach out to him through Twitter. This article was also published here and used with permission.

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18 responses to “This is why I now only use one lens”

  1. Del Robertson Somerville Avatar
    Del Robertson Somerville

    I could survive with a 1.4 50mm easily.

  2. Alan Gamble Avatar
    Alan Gamble

    Well for events I shoot with two cameras… so one lens might be a challenge haha.

  3. Tommy Bordenkircher Avatar
    Tommy Bordenkircher

    being a collector, i have to say No.. but I could get by with a decent 50mm

  4. Albin Avatar
    Albin

    The Japanese film maker Yasujiro Ozu famously shot his movies (i.e. forced his cinematographer, who groused about it now and then – on DVD extras) to attain a human perspetive: always a 50mm lens fixed for minutes at a time, one meter high to replicate the view of a person sitting quietly on a tatami mat.

  5. Ulysses Segatto Avatar
    Ulysses Segatto

    Henry Cartier-Bresson anyone?

    1. JimCracky Avatar
      JimCracky

      Used more than one lens

    2. mlsc Avatar
      mlsc

      Henri. Jesus Christ.

  6. Kimberly JM Avatar
    Kimberly JM

    Great article. I’d like to be a two lens girl, 50 mm and a 70-200/300 zoom. I think so many people get caught up in the latest greatest equipment, they put creativity and mastering their craft, their art on the backburner.

  7. TByte Avatar
    TByte

    Why stop there?
    Why not shoot exclusively one color (black and white) while you are at it?
    And only one rotation (portrait or landscape, your choice)?
    Also, how about just one subject. Say..shoes, as in your sample image. You could really get to know photographing shoes in black and white in landscape mode with a 50mm lens, and truly be the master of your craft.
    Right?
    I’ll think about you while I’m out shooting landscapes, macros, and birds in flight.

    1. Burt J. Avatar
      Burt J.

      your comment made my day

    2. Trino Pam Avatar
      Trino Pam

      <3

  8. KC Avatar
    KC

    I’ve gone “minimalist” again and I enjoy it. It’s not ideal for every situation, but after a bit you realize that whatever you have isn’t either. I like 50mm (equivalent) lenses. The view through and over the camera is about the same. My typical kit is a GX7, 25mm 1.7 (50mm equivalent), and a Metz 26-AF2 flash. The flash is small enough to toss on a pocket.

    But my favorite, I’m going out with a camera to have fun, camera is my FZ1000. (I think of it as a “fixed lens mirrorless”, or “FLM”. That sounds better that “bridge” or “superzoom”.) The FZ isn’t small or light, but it’s a fast, easy handling, flexible, and competent camera with a great zoom lens.

  9. Tafelapfel Avatar
    Tafelapfel

    I do that too, but involuntarily – when I shoot with one of my folding cameras (6×6 or 6×9). And I often have my trusty Dual-range Summicron on my analog Leica (does not fit any of the digital M models), giving me 48cm shortest distance (and that makes a huge difference to 70cm with a “normal” 50mm M-lens); in this case I can be quite happy.

    With non-moving subjects (e.g. landscapes or for portraits) you can do “pseudo wide-angle” by using the “Brenizer” method (just kind of a panoramic technique using longer lenses), but this is best done with a digital camera (no fun and quite expensive with film).

    That said, I would not limit myself to one lens in general. Only 1 camera, yes; but with lenses, I prefer a little bit more variability …

  10. Trino Pam Avatar
    Trino Pam

    why not just stop shooting? Freeing you from any time wasting decision on what to shoot, if you should take your camera out of the bag or not to capture whatever caught your eye.
    You would be soooo freeee :) lovely thought heh? ;)

  11. Jim Photoman Avatar
    Jim Photoman

    When I first started shooting 35mm (in 1973), I used a 55mm lens — I hated it! I then bought a 135mm, then a 35mm, then a 28mm (all prime lenses); what a difference my first telephoto lens made! I don’t remember it’s range, but it opened up new photographic opportunities and possibilities. Now that I shoot digital, my two go to lenses are my 18-55 and 70-300; they are two of my camera bodies; the third body holds my 28-70. I wouldn’t change my gear set up for anything!

  12. JimCracky Avatar
    JimCracky

    Just silly. I’ve been shooting for 40 years. These are silly exercises in futility. Carrying several lenses or a zoom is not hard work. Picking the right focal length is called being educated. It’s trivial to make that decision.

    This is like one of the assignments from photo school, meant to sharpen a particular skill, not to provide the best photo.

  13. James West Avatar
    James West

    Doing something like this can be a great exercise in honing one’s eye and disciplining one’s self. I think the great Sam Abell limited himself to two lenses. Limiting choices forces you into a different creative headspace.
    I remember years ago in a creative writing class being given the task of writing a sonnet. I youthfully and naively rebelled against “form”. It turned out to be one of the few decent poems I’ve written, and ended up being published in a good literary journal.

  14. Nicholas Fanzo Avatar
    Nicholas Fanzo

    Sam Abell uses a canon dslr for years now with a 24-70 zoom lens.

    This article is hardly accurate when referring to his methods and gear