One Lens: – a rambling muse

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.

Leica M8 24 mm Elmar

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.

Leica M4, 35mm Summicron 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).

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