Every new lens release tests the will power of photographers around the world, creating financial dilemmas for those fighting the infamous G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome). New lenses are almost always better in one way or another, promising to be sharper, faster or better-built.
In previous articles, we’ve discussed must-have lenses for photography and shown you our gear bag, but much less discussed is the concept of going minimal and only purchasing what you absolutely need. The question of “how many lenses should a photographer have” is often raised so we decided to compile a list of 5 lenses you can probably live without. Of course, each photographer is unique as an artist and so are his/her lens needs but we’ve discussed in the past that investing in your gear doesn’t make a better photographer, developing and nurturing your art does. If you already own a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8, you can probably get by without the following:
While this may come as a surprise that this lens even needs to be mentioned, we feel as though it deserved a spot on this list for the small group of photographers needing something beyond a 16mm focal length. Often times real estate photographers, usually crammed into tiny spaces, relied on the fisheye lens to save them from distorted images. The fisheye look definitely had its moment a decade or two ago and was all the craze, but that has since died and people have found a way to make it work with wide-angle primes or zoom lenses like the 16-35mm f/2.8 or 14-24mm f/2.8 Sigma Art. Another simple way to avoid having to get this wide of a focal length is to create a panoramic stitch using a wide that you currently already own.
100mm Macro Lens
Unless you’re a product photographer, the 100mm Macro lens might not be a lens you use often. If you’re a wedding photographer, you might find yourself using this for one or two ring shots throughout the entire day, but it’s a hard sell when you are only using it for less than 1% of your shots in a wedding day. You might be better off purchasing a set of Kenko extension tubes and saving yourself $500 or more or using your 24-70mm @ 70mm to get the look of compression.
1 of the Following: 24mm, 35mm, 50mm
Sigma Art lenses are essentially the gateway drug for wanting to shoot only prime lenses, so chances are you already have one, if not two, of the above-listed lenses. A prime lens is often the second or third lens most portrait photographers purchase because they crave the shallow depth of field look in their images. however, having all three of these lenses is overkill because of how similar and overlapping they tend to be. A 24mm and a 35mm lens don’t have much of a difference in look or focal length and would almost cancel each other out in your bag. It’s also a tough sell to buy any of these three lenses when you already own a 24-70mm zoom lens because all of these focal lengths overlap with this lens. A 50mm, while much tighter in scope than a 24mm or 35mm, is still only a bit of a jump up from a 35mm giving them too similar of a look. Decide which is best for your style of photography and what you are lacking in your own kit that one of these focal lengths can make up for and go with that.
Rewind: Prime Vs. Zoom Lenses
This mention may come with some debate from portrait photographers around the world, but we said what we said! The 135mm lens is somewhat of a specialty and not an absolute necessity. While the bokeh and compression that this lens offers are otherworldly, it typically takes up a huge chunk of space in your gear bag and isn’t the most versatile or compact-space friendly. You can get a similar look if you own a 70-200mm lens, just not with the same shallow depth of field. The 105mm lens, a specialty Sigma Art lens, also falls into this category.
90mm Tilt-Shift Lens
While the tilt-shift aesthetic is one that many photographers fall in love with, it is by far one of the most niche lenses on this list. This is another lens that was commonly used by real-estate photographers. Most portrait clients won’t understand why only portions of their photos are in focus and might even see it as a mistake rather than an artistic choice. This lens also can loosely be categorized as a “trendy” buy, with popularity in your portfolio for a year or two that will soon fade with the times. If you really do enjoy the aesthetic of tilt-shift photography you can always emulate the effect in Lightroom.
So hopefully this answered the question of “how many lenses should a photographer have” even though there is no right answer. You may already own these lenses and love them and that is perfectly alright – to each their own! If you need tips on buying new gear or What lenses do you think are overrated or don’t belong in a professional photographers kit? Let us know in the comments below.