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Shooting with just one prime for a whole day or more?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by BigMackCam, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. BigMackCam

    BigMackCam TalkEmount Regular Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2018
    North East of England
    I've become increasingly aware of a photography trait of mine...

    When I go out to shoot (which isn't enough recently - I blame the weather, but it's partially laziness too), depending on where I'm going, I'll typically take the following with me:

    (Travelling light) - fast wide-to-short-tele zoom

    (Travelling not-so-light, to capture "everything") - fast wide-to-short-tele zoom + fast tele zoom

    (Driving to a destination, kit in car) - fast wide-to-short-tele zoom + fast tele zoom + several primes (and potentially much more)

    It seems like I consider my fast zoom lenses to be both a convenience and insurance policy that ensures I'm fully covered for every field-of-view I might need... Yet, I love my prime lenses, and I especially love some of my vintage primes... but I don't seem to have the guts to go out and shoot with just one or even two primes, in case I find myself in a situation where I can't "zoom with my feet", or the perspective of my chosen lenses won't work.

    So, I wonder... How many of you good folks go out for the day with just one lens... a 35mm, 50mm, or something wider or longer? And if you do, how have you found it? Do you miss many shots as a result? Has it helped your creativity, helped you to get the best from a lens, or just frustrated you?

    I'm genuinely interested to know. I have a collection of Soviet primes, and I'm keen to spend a whole day (or more) shooting with each one, but the temptation to carry my 24-70 and/or 70-200 in case I miss an opportunity is almost unbearable :blush:
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  2. bdbits

    bdbits TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 10, 2015
    I find I almost never use zooms, actually. In fact I only own two - the kit 28-70 and a legacy Minolta 35-70, and I am not sure the last time I used either one.

    If I know what/where I will be shooting, I will often just take a single prime, or maybe a complementary length for the just-in-case scenarios. If going out of the area I will pack more, if I think I will have the opportunity to use them. Lately my CV65/f2 seems to be stuck on the camera anyway, though I am trying to change that as the weather improves. Not sure I will succeed. In any case, sure there are times when I wish I had a lens I did not bring. But if I had to haul a lot of gear with me all the time, I would probably not bother at all.

    Thing is, it is very much an individual thing. If you enjoy shooting lots of different focal lengths, a zoom may be just the thing for you. Especially if you have the higher-end zooms, the IQ can be excellent. Primes do still have a pretty strong lead for low light shooting, and zoom versus prime is quite a different experience to me. But whatever you are comfortable using and enables you to get the pictures you want is what you should use. For me, that is a prime or two most of the time.
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  3. firemist

    firemist TalkEmount Veteran

    Dec 4, 2015
    Yes, just in the last month or so I've shot two locations using just my A7ii and the 40mm/f2. But as Bob says, you need to have some general idea of what you'll be shooting and/or what photo opportunities might arise. I only use my zoom (70~300) at the zoo or bird sanctuary etc. when I'm sure I need either AF or a FL greater than 75mm.

    I guess most people would suggest a 28mm or 35mm as the preferred choice for a one-lens-one-body outing.
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  4. AlwaysOnAuto

    AlwaysOnAuto TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Feb 17, 2015
    If I'm shooting cars at a show it's going to be with my 24mm. It has proven to be the most reliable for getting the shots I like. I've tried 55mm and it's too long. Haven't had much chance to try my new-to-me old 35mm yet. I used to use my 18-200 on my Nikon D7000 exclusively (it was the only camera I had) but it's too heavy for this old man to cart around much any more. (I sound lazy don't I? I'm not really that old, or am I?)
    If I go to get surf pictures it's a 100mm or short-tele zoom. I like my little 70-150 Vivitar since it's light weight and I'm usually walking a distance from the car to get to the pier.
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  5. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Legend

    Oct 8, 2013
    Depends on where I’m going / what I expect to encounter.
    I use legacy Canon FD lenses on the NEX7 model...and If I’m going for a walk around an Arboretum for flowers / butterflies, A single lens like a 100 or 200 macro usually covers everything.
    If I’m hiking woods around a lake, I’ll take a 20-35 and a 35-105, with the latter having built in macro.
    If the hike will involve a visit to a favorite Osprey nest I’ll have a 200 or 300 in the backpack.
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  6. Kmac76

    Kmac76 TalkEmount Veteran Subscribing Member

    May 3, 2016
    New Jersey
    I have made it a point, albeit only in the last couple of months, to make it a point to use different lenses, even though I know I will miss some shots that I would usually get with my 24240 -go to lens.

    I have found that it has been rewarding to get different, sometimes better photographs with better lenses, and being more creative with my position or perspective on a subject then just cranking the zoom on/out and firing away...I have also been more cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses of each lens...

    My quiver of lenses, at this point, are the kit 16-50 pz, the 50mm 1.8, and the 90 macro g oss, all Sony. I am watching several threads about the primes < the 50mm range, because I am noticing a void there when I am trying to commit to the “only one lens” outings...
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  7. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    I think it's a good exercise to select one focal length and head out for a day's shooting. Anticipating what you're likely to shoot, helps determine what to select. Street, cityscape, interiors, candid portraits, nature hikes, etc. I've found that on APS-C, the 19, 28/30, and 38mm primes were able to cover a lot of subjects and compositions satisfactorily.
    I believe it's because the FOV is the most useful range of 28-50mm. If I need anything wider, there is always stitching a series of shots later. I've found that I don't really use focal lengths more that 100mm (150mm FOV) for landscapes and cityscapes. Once again, this depends on your personal preference and subjects.

    For non critical outings, like heading out routinely with a buddy to the city, I'd choose a prime and a body and step out. Sometimes native AF, but mostly a vintage fast manual.
    I've not regretted once that I didn't bring additional lenses or a zoom.

    One photo specific outing, I had a number of lenses and gear in the car. But chose to only use one lens for the duration of the trip to the final location. I chose the Sigma 30 f/2.8, and felt it was the way to go. Small, light, fast enough, sharp, and inconspicuous. The 45mm FOV was very natural for composing. WYSIWYG.
    I took a chance during such an outing, where I don't recommend to only have one lens if you're on a once in a lifetime, or rare opportunity to shoot, occasion.
    Even if you can't take a bag of lenses with you, then have one lens to cover as much focal range on the camera, and pocket a longer reaching prime for those moments. A 100 or 135 f/3.5 is pretty portable.
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  8. chalkdust

    chalkdust TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Sep 25, 2015
    Bert Cheney
    I often go out with only only one prime lens. In fact sometimes I even travel with only one prime lens. I feel that I miss more shots changing lenses or trying to decide which lens I should use. I do not think it makes me a better photographer, in fact I might do better if I worked more at imagining which perspective and field of view would be best instead of deciding where to position the camera for the best image with my single lens.

    Oh also, I am lousy if you hand me a zoom. I almost always push it to one of its two extremes for every shot. I just never got good at cropping with the camera.
    • Like Like x 3
  9. runnerpsu

    runnerpsu TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Feb 12, 2016
    South Florida
    Since purchasing my A 7 II I've only purchased two lenses for it (55 1.8 and the 28 2) so I'm restricted to shooting with primes. I don't feel restrictive with just these two lenses. I would like to add a manual 35 prime (Loxia or Voightlander). So for now, I enjoy my primes.
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  10. Andy Clement

    Andy Clement TalkEmount Regular Subscribing Member

    Feb 1, 2018
    I used to take every single lens I owned when I went shooting. Didn't matter where I was going or how long I was out. I felt like I needed to be covered for every occasion/opportunity.

    I still do that when I'm going somewhere I've never been, on vacation or someplace I won't visit for a while. If it's a multi-day excursion, I'll line up all my lenses in the hotel room, take a look at the weather for the time i'm there and pick one or two lenses to shoot with per day. Although, most of the time I end up only shooting with those one or two lenses the entire time.

    For daily carry, I'll just pick a lens to use and leave everything else at home. I find it's challenging and creative when I force myself to shoot with just the single lens (and in my case, the single focal range, 98% of my lenses are primes, all are vintage btw).
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  11. JonathanF2

    JonathanF2 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 16, 2014
    Los Angeles, USA
    I don't believe in the one lens theory. Depending on what I shoot I'll bring a specialized pair. If it's street, I'll bring my CV 15mm f4.5 or 40mm 1.4 lenses. If it's people, it's the 28mm f/2 and 85mm 1.8 FE lenses.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. TedG954

    TedG954 TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2014
    South Florida and NE Ohio
    Ted Gersdorf
    I often go out with only one lens, particularly when it's a lens that I haven't used much. I'm particularly fond of the Tokina 20/2; the Sony 28/2; and my 55/1.8
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  13. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    I've gone out with only one lens on occasion, usually the FE 2.8/35 or Olympus OM 2/40. Or with the FE 4/16-35 set to 16mm for a specific project. The number of lenses I take is limited by the size and weight I'm willing to carry; sometimes the camera with the FE 1.4/35 for night shots is all I'm prepared to endure, sometimes I take 4 lenses in a sling bag. My default setup these days is a small bag with the A7R2 and Loxia's 2/35 and 2/50 and that will probably change when my interest shifts to a different kind of photography.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 22, 2012
    I can do 80% of my photography with my 25mm and 55mm lenses, so they are my frequent go-to combo for travelling light. If forced to pick a single lens, it would probably have to be my 16-35/4. I'm keen on that Tamron 28-75/2.8 that's been announced to complement it, although I also have GAS for the Sony 85...
    • Like Like x 3
  15. newst

    newst TalkEmount Veteran

    Aug 20, 2014
    Troy, MI
    Steve New
    I am in the same boat as bdbits and rarely use a zoom lens. Depending on where I am going I will generally take the camera with a single prime mounted. On rare occasions these days I will bring a two or three prime set but not so often these days as in the past.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. BigMackCam

    BigMackCam TalkEmount Regular Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2018
    North East of England
    Thanks for the interesting responses, everyone.

    I guess I need to bite the bullet and just give it a try :blush:

    I've been thinking, it might be best for me to visit some locations and subjects where I've already taken some nice shots - (a) so I can try similar shots with just the one focal length limitation, (b) to see what different perspectives I can achieve, and (c) so that I won't be too disappointed if I can't get the shots I'd like.

    If I start out gently with something in the 35 - 50mm range, it seems like that would be a pretty low risk approach :) 
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2018
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  17. runnerpsu

    runnerpsu TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Feb 12, 2016
    South Florida
    Sounds like a good plan. Looking forward to seeing your work.
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  18. Jeffcs

    Jeffcs New to TalkEmount

    Jan 28, 2018
    I offer go out for the day with just 1 prime it’s makes you think and streatch
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  19. As a photography noob, I’ve frequently found myself going through these questions and, to answer them, have taken a similar approach to what you describe here. I have a passel of good lenses now (mostly manual) and it’s tempting to take my full bag with me everywhere. But I felt like I was missing some of the depth of understanding how to best use each of the lenses I now have, because I was only spending a little time with each.

    Now I make a habit of sticking a lens on my camera and staying with it for several days to a week, so I can really start to get used to each one’s opportunities and shortcomings. Sure, sometimes it means cropping a shot or something, but overall I feel like I am learning more this way. This is just what feels like it’s helping me, YMMV.

    Today it was my 35mm f2.8. I really wanted my 135 when we encountered the beavers (they were about 20ft away), but settled for the crop with only my 35 on board.

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  20. Jeffcs

    Jeffcs New to TalkEmount

    Jan 28, 2018
    You’ve got a good start on learning each lens just because you don’t have a zoom lens you have zoom feet! When I was starting out in late 60ds I had 1camera with auto nothing and 1 lens a 50mm 1.8. I was a kid I shot kid stuff I learned from there
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