What awesome documentary-style photographic lenses should I get?
March 16, 2004 5:19 PM   Subscribe

For an amateur photographer who is interested in documentary style photography, what are some "must have" lenses? I've got a tamron 28-105mm fixed 2.8 which rocks the masses. I'm looking to add one or two more lenses in the next year.
posted by inviolable to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
 
something wide-angle, maybe something macro.
posted by Hackworth at 5:34 PM on March 16, 2004


A fast (like 1.4) 50mm prime. I'm considering selling off a lot of my fancier lenses as I move deeper into digital, but I'm keeping mine.

Also, if you're doing documentary-style get a super wide angle. The near infinite depth of field and freakishly large field of view means you can take candids with ease.
posted by bshort at 6:13 PM on March 16, 2004


I second bshort. I almost always have a body with a Nikkor 17-35 mm lens on every assignment - it’s my favorite.
posted by azul at 7:34 PM on March 16, 2004


Since I assume you are on 35mm, a fast prime wide lens is going to be the most versatile (like a 28mm), and also a prime 50mm.

Basically what bshort said.
posted by jazzkat11 at 8:38 PM on March 16, 2004


yep. at least 35mm. Better to have 28mm and even 24mm isnt outrageous. The faster the better.
posted by gen at 8:38 PM on March 16, 2004


Stick with name lenses: Canon, Nikkor, whatever. Avoid Quantaray and Tamron; the quality just isn't there. I second the fast 50mm lens suggestion, and something wide-angle would be nice, a 28mm or so. So what bshort and jazzkat11 said.
posted by The Michael The at 9:21 PM on March 16, 2004


Avoid Quantaray and Tamron; the quality just isn't there

Not necessarily true: some of the newer Tamron zooms are really nice lenses and extremely good value for the money.

I know lots of people like them, but personally, I absolutely hate 50mm lenses and almost never use the one I have. Maybe it's just me, but I can't think of many things which will look better shot at 50mm than at a longer or shorter focal length (for an everyday lens, I'd much prefer a 35mm or even an 85mm to a 50mm). Since you've got a nice range of focal lengths in your zoom, I'd look for a good bright wide angle lens (20 or 24mm) and a longer telephoto (180mm or 300mm). I love that Nikkor 17-35mm, that's a gorgeous lens. My absolute favourite lens on my film camera is an old manual-focus Nikkor 105mm f2.5, almost everything looks good through that lens (there's a 1.8 as well).
posted by biscotti at 11:50 PM on March 16, 2004


Since I assume you are on 35mm, a fast prime wide lens is going to be the most versatile (like a 28mm), and also a prime 50mm.

yep. at least 35mm. Better to have 28mm and even 24mm isnt outrageous. The faster the better.

Bingo. Ultra-wide focal lengths are especially crucial for documentary-type work if shooting digital, and speed counts for available light. Both the Nikkor 17-35 and the Canon 16-35 are ideal, but they might be priced out of range for amateurs (although the Canon 17-40 is reasonable if slow), as might some of the truly fast wide primes (such as the Canon 24/1.4). But there are plenty of either moderately-fast or moderately-wide primes that can fit the bill at lower prices. Canon's lineup include the 20/2.8, 28/1.8, and 35/2, for example.

I'm not sure how much longer than 105mm you need for documentary work really. You're looking at some heavyweight lenses past that focal length, especially past 200mm. Having said that, if you're a Canon shooter needing more reach, the 70-200/4 should be at the top of your list.

Sorry for all the Canon examples if you shoot Nikon or something else.
posted by DaShiv at 12:20 AM on March 17, 2004


Thanks, everyone for the great suggestions. I'm shooting with a Canon D60 and a manual Nikon FM2 (I actually own the Nikkor 105mm F2.5). I can't wait for my tax refund.
posted by inviolable at 3:30 AM on March 17, 2004


Late - but I have an FM2 with a 24/2.8, it's great! It's the default lens for me.
posted by carter at 6:06 AM on March 17, 2004


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