"In the camera bag" columns have been a staple of…
Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 AFS G
Photo by Dave Black. Courtesy of Nikon.
14mm on a full-frame camera is wide. Really wide. But you might be surprised at how good the optics are on this zoom lens – some even claim it’s sharper than primes that fall into this range. But “te cuidado,” my friend, because this bad boy doesn’t allow a front filter. So if you’re prone to banging your gear into a wall, you might want some equipment insurance.
Canon 24mm f/1.4
Ruby. Photo by Jason Burfield.
If you’re used to wide-angle zooms that max out at f/2.8, you’ll be thrilled to have more than a stop of extra light and a super shallow depth-of-field. Getting this level of isolation out of a wide angle almost gives the pictures a view camera-esque perspective. This is a lens that makes you wish you shot Canon.
Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron-M
Some people think 50mm is the ideal focal length. I respectfully disagree. When it comes to shooting “wide”, this lens is pretty close to photographic nirvana. Whether you’re shooting a war or a wedding, this lens has the field of view and lack of distortion to put all the “mmm’s” in Summicron.
Zuiko 50mm f/1.4
Here’s the nostalgic pick. My first camera was my dad’s Olympus OM-10 with this lens. Then when I was in 7th grade, my parents picked up an OM-4 for me on a trip to Hong Kong and I shot the crap out of this lens. Considering the price, size and quality of this lens, this has to be one of the best “normal” lenses ever made. Maybe it’s no $6,000 Noctilux, but for $25 on eBay, you can’t go wrong.
Nikon 105mm f/2.5
No longer in production, this legendary portrait lens is renown for its sharpness, contrast and “compression” of scene elements. You can find this bad boy on eBay for a decent price, but lazy photographers beware: it has what we call “manual focus.”
Canon 200mm f/1.8
This lens is so fast, it’d give Marion Jones a run for her money even with steroids. Due to lead used in the construction of the lens, it has since been replaced by a pretty sweet f/2 version, but the diehards can’t let it go.
Canon 400mm f/2.8
Photo by Brad Mangin
Go ahead. Ask any sports photographer what their favorite lens is, and chances are they’ll tell you about this hunk of glass. Sharp, fast, good bokeh. The lens will focus even if the camera won’t (ZING!).
Canon 1200 f/5.6
Justin and Jason with the 1200mm f/5.6 on a monster tripod
Ok, arguably, a 600mm with a doubler is better than this behemoth, but c’mon. This 36lbs monster is the kind of lens you use once, and then tell regale your buddies with stories of your virility and stamina. Outside of hooking up a telescope to your camera, how else are you going to get this much length? No, I’m not compensating, Dr. Freud.