I was listening to a watch podcast the other day and they were discussing one watch collections. I made me think, if you could only have one lens what would it be.
Lets first state, no zooms.
Now in some ways I already do this with my carry around every day camera.
If I am wondering around with a camera over my shoulder its likely to be a Leica M10, M8, M4 or occasionally a Nikon V1 and I’ll have a prime on these.
Most of the the time is the equivalent of a 35mm full frame 35mm or 50mm focal length lens.
I surprise myself when I look at my meta data and find I often have the same lens on my Leica for many months at a time.
According to my Digital Asset Management program (DAM), for my Leica M10 I shot over 500 photographs in 2019, 84% of them with a 50mm lens.
For my SLR the results were even more shocking.
With my Nikon D800 I shot 629 photographs, and everyone of them with a 105mm lens.
Now I have to admit 2019 was the least amount of photography I have done in many years. I had a break and took on very little work. A couple of corporate photoshoots for business portraits, and a couple of studio sessions for local models, but it was quite a shock.
Could you manage with one lens?
Well for my street photography yes, a 35 or 50mm would do me fine. In the studio it seems I can manage with a mild telephoto. I suppose if depends on how many subjects you shoot. I did not do any wildlife last year, if I had you would have seen hundreds of shots using a 300mm /2.8 long telephoto.
If I was to put my hand on my heart, having a modern high resolution rangefinder like the M10 for my everyday camera, I would pick the 35mm. With plenty of megapixels one could crop to give you a field of view of the 50mm when needed. For studio work, well 105mm is a bit long for full length portraits, I would likely pick something in the 75mm to 90mm range; but we are talking two lens not one.
So what would I pick?
I shoot more street then studio, going wide and having a 35mm would not be an issue. As I wrote this I kept going through my Lightroom catalogue and saw that I did have some studio shots at 35mm in previous years. I could manage with one lens.
So sell all my gear and live with one lens, no do not be silly. Photographers are gear heads and love collecting stuff.
But if I did start again well?
Leica M10R with a 35mm Summilux lens
Hasselblad 80mm f/1.9 (63mm equivalent to 35mm)
No SLR, but I think those two could do most of my work, (he said while dreaming of the rumoured Nikon Z8, Z85mm f/1.2, and the Leica SL2 and lets not forget the M glass 75mm f/1.25 Noctilux).
If you are like me and still have a large vinyl and cd collection you may sometimes want to stream them. A lot of my older stuff is not on the major streaming services. So you will want to rip those CD’s to a hard drive so you can still stream around your home or to what ever device you want. Welcome to the world of music formats or shall we say containers.
Now the majority of music is all encoded to PCM 16-bit/44.1kHz audio. While there is a growing library of high resolution music, few music services offer it or broadcast/stream it.
So for the majority of listeners things like 24-bit/192kHz, MQA, DSD can all be safely ignored.
Lets get back onto the subject; you have a CD, your a Mac user with iTunes or Music as its now called and you want to simply rip it but preserve the quality.
In Music, select file, preferences and then Files, and Import Settings. From the drop down list select Apple Lossless Encoder. Its a compressed format, lossless, and can easily be converted to other open standards if necessary but just about all hardware supports apple lossless.
You might want to copy those rips to a spare hard drive, Apple products can occasionally do odd things, like delete your music files and then stream lossy versions from the cloud.
If you follow the internet and especially some well known Youtube channels then Nikon are doomed and failing and about to go bust.
Actually Nikon are doing well. Stock is low and it can be hard to get stuff but with the world semiconductor shortage everyone is suffering. Canon have just admitted that the new R3 will be in very short supply and it looks like the Nikon Z9 may be delayed. The Z cameras are competitive, each new firmware upgrade has improved them. I feel where they get a kicking is generally either because something works differently then other manufacturers or like the banding issue with the original Z7 (what issue who underexposes by 6-7 stops) is also a problem with other manufactures but no one is talking about it.
I like two card slots but its a very niche case for people who actually need them. Yes its useful for backup if your using SD cards which can suffer from reliability problems but the new CFExpress cards are engineered not to suffer from the software and hardware issues that SD cards suffer from. Nikon did listen and put two cards in the mark II models but I would have preferred two CFEx card slots and not CFEx and SD.
So where are Nikon a head, or behind, well I feel Thom Hogan in a recent article wrote about this best so go and have a look on his zsystem web site.
In the studio just using flash I find it fairly easy now to get a good image.
Outdoors with good daylight again with correct positioning and control of contrast its relatively straight forward.
This weekend I had a few ideas so with it being a hot summers day with bright sunlight, I gave myself the challenge of trying to come up with something different.
A hot shoe flash on a light stand behind the model, with a gel and diffuser on it, and for the front a battery flash head with gels and a grid.
The model was my long suffering wife, while I took several shots changing the balance of daylight to flash, using grids, diffusers and gels. Its given me a few ideas for my next out door shoot with a professional model.
For street photography people I would say 40% use a 50mm lens, 40% use a 35mm while the rest are either shooting very wide or with a mild telephoto.
They call the 50mm the standard lens for full frame 35mm photography but actually its more like 43mm but I think Pentax are the only manufacturer to actually produce one, but in the past 40mm and 45mm lens were very popular with street photographers, and with the explosion of interest again in fast 50mm lens rather then zooms, small 40mm lens are now also making a comeback.
Canon had one for their EOS mount which in its pancake format made for a lovely little everyday walk around lens, far easier to carry then a bit heavy zoom.
With mirrorless cameras offering the chance of small bodies and small lens it seems strange that no-one has released a small 40mm. Instead we have large very fast heavy 50mm f/1.2 and 85mm f/1.2, but this week Nikon announced their new 40mm f/2. A small light lens with a plastic mount. Its nothing like their un-compromised and optically stunning Z 50mm f/1.2 but then its not over £2000 and weighing over a kilogram, instead its £250 and weighs 170g so is the ultimate always carry with you lens. Lets hope more manufactures jump on this.
Since the 1980’s the 35-70mm zoom has taken over as the standard lens, now all of the major camera companies have the modern equivalent the high end 24-70mm f/2.8 and a more budget 24-70mm f/4. As a quick aside, the Nikkor 24-70mm f/4 kit lens which was released with the Nikon Z system is simply phenomenal and deserves better recognition.
Now the traditional 50mm is making a come back, people getting hold of old Leica M lens and using them with adapters on their mirrorless cameras is proving popular.
We now have Canon and Nikon releasing very high quality f/1.2 50mm lens and Youtube seems full of photographers showing what a great 50mm lens can do.
The photograph at the top of this post was taken with the stunning Leica M Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 wide open. Myself and the model were scouting for locations and taking snapshots before I got out my main Nikon SLR for the actual shoot.
The natural look of the 50mm and the ability to shoot wide open at f/2 and faster, giving far more options with depth of field and creating that dreamy look everyone seems to love is very much en vogue now. It seems all manufactures are producing large fast 50mm lens and us photographers are buying them.
A professional camera system is all about the system support.
For me the key is good support from camera RAW processor software and good flash support the the major TTL providers for when I do event and wedding photography.
There are not many medium format players left but lets start with the big boys.
Hasselblad H6D-400c: a full frame medium format camera that supports multi shot tech, that will produce a 400 megapixel file from its 100 megapixel sensor. It has 16 bits of colour data and 15 stops of dynamic range. Full support from the major flash manufactures but at over £40k you are paying for the best. If you want the best the H series cameras are hard to beat.
Hasselblad also produce a few cropped sensored cameras, its most famous the X1D 50C, now on version 2.
Phase with there IQ digital backs are at the leading edge of medium format, there XT system camera with a 150 megapixel back, plus backs for legacy cameras such as Hasselblad, and since the purchase of Mamiya there own range of medium format cameras. If your interested in system flashes then like Hasselblad support the Nikon flash standards, Phase support Nikon and Canon flash standards.
Many would say Pentax started the compact SLR type handling autofocus medium format camera. Their 645 system is often forgotten about but with its cropped 50 megapixel sensor is something to consider and for medium format a budget way of getting into things. There TTL flash support is limited but the price is tempting.
Fuji was actually the subcontractor for some of the Hasselblad bodies and lens. In the modern digital age they have been making a name for themselves with their cropped 35mm sensors. Now to partner these they have brought out the for medium format budget GFX range. For just over £3000 you can pick up a body, £10,000 for the 100 megapixels versions.
What would I pick? Budget no option I may go Phase but as I do have a budget it would likely be Hasselblad at £5400 for the X1D II 50C.
For many pressionals we would likely generally use a Canon 5D or Nikon D850 type camera, and for when we need to reel out the big boys, most rental houses carry Hasselblad H and X series cameras.
I have been looking at new cameras again, and thinking to myself: ‘if I was to start a fresh what would I buy today’.
Now I don’t want a lot.
A very good wide angle, and a very good portrait lens.
Something around 50 megapixels.
Very good flash support. TTL flash and good third party flash support for weddings and events where things change quickly.
So lets start at 35mm systems, the perfect allrounder most people think, unless you shoot Fuji or Micro Four Thirds, where you may want to place a valid argument.
We will start at the top of tree. A modern mirrorless design, with lens that could be considered the best in the world.
I would have this close to the top of my list if it was for not one issue. Third party TTL flash support. Not even ProPhoto do a TTL controller for the Leica range. Hot shoe flash does have Metz and Leica’s own flash units but that is it.
At 45.7 megapixels these are killer studio cameras, lots of glass available, some of it very good, and support from all the major third parties for TTL flash solutions. Support from third parties for accessories; the D850 also works well in the field for event, wedding and wildlife subjects, being very responsive, access to focus modes is better then its Z7II equivalent. The native Z glass is better.
Canon 5DS R
I have personal issues with Canon, I had a FD mount Canon A1 for many years and lots of prime glass. Unlike Nikon who managed to keep their mount making the transition to a new mount types easier, Canon just seem to leave you in the lurch. Yes now finally Nikon have jumped to a new mount but being a mirrorless, an adapter is available and some of the F mount glass actually focuses faster on a Z class camera then a F mount camera.
I’ll not argue if Canon or Nikon are the best; they are just about the same when it comes to quality and support. They continue to leap frog each other in terms of performance and their 5D range of SLR’s have always been about the best when it comes to high megapixel performance. The latest 5DS R at 50.6 mega pixels is another monster of a studio camera and like the D850 puts in a good show at also being an allrounder. Again lots of support from third parties.
Like Canon I am not a Sony shooter and do not follow them that closely. The cameras are generally very good but I have issues with the ergonomics for me. The few times I have used their leading mirrorless cameras I have just struggled with them. Most of the issues with their internal processing RAW files has been corrected, but they do see harder to process then Canon, Nikon or Leica. They can be considered to be the king of the megapixels. Owning their own silicon fab’s for manufacturing not just sensors for themselves but for most other camera manufactures, if you like Sony its a good choice. Their hot shoe is the old non-standard Minolta offering buts its been around a while and is supported. Turn up at a studio though and you better have your own converter for traditional hot shoe.
Panasonic (and L mount)
I’ll mention Panasonic as being a member of the L series mount alliance but their more video focussed than then still. It would be nice if the L series group got together and developed their own TTL standard and pushed others to support it. At this point I’ll mention Hasselblad, they license the Nikon standard which is what I wished Leica would do.
So what would I buy?
I would like to be able say the Leica SL, but I do events and weddings and need third party TTL flash support.
At the moment with the current level of technology I would likely pick up a Nikon D850. It could do everything I need, if I went for a Z7II then I would likely use that for landscape and studio and keep my D800 for event and weddings. The D800/D850 is still the king of fast focus and you can access and customise the focus faster on the old F mount camera then a current Z mount camera. I do think the eye select focus now available in many mirrorless cameras can make working in a studio easier and is something I wish to try.