Not going to lie. I have a lot of lenses. I'm often asked either (a) for advice on a lens/focal length to buy or (b) what a certain focal length does and/or what to use it for. What exactly do I DO with all these lenses? How do they differ from one another? What do photos from a certain lens look like? Sooooo, in this post I am going to go through all my lenses and what I use them for, along with example photos. Putting it all in one place. Hang on and grab a coffee or two...lots of info and many photos ahead! If this post helps you, share it! Pin it! All that good stuff.
Edit: an update to this blog was posted on 1/9/16. It includes updated photos from all lenses as well as photos from two new lenses.
First, the zooms:
Canon 16-35 F4L
This is the newest lens in my bag, and so far I'm really liking it. I don't do landscape photography all the time, but I was feeling like I wanted something wider than my 24-70. Late last fall, I tried Canon's 8-15mm fisheye lens and while it was fun, I don't think I could live with the fisheye piece all the time. So far, I am finding that this lens is fantastic for landscapes, nice and sharp, and I look forward to using it for some nifty photos on outdoor portrait sessions.
Canon 24-70 F2.8L II
This is my least favorite lens. When I say this, it often makes other photographers go hmmmm because I know a bunch of people love this lens. It has nothing to do with the image quality; it's fantastic. For me, it's just not quite long enough and also not quite wide enough...I like either really long lenses or wider than 24. That said, I still get a lot of use out of this lens...its strong suit, at least to me, is its versatility. I sometimes do use it for landscapes, for some lifestyle-type stuff, in my studio (or out of it) when I either know I will need to be changing focal lengths a lot or I just won't have enough space for my beloved 85; or if I can only carry one lens somewhere. It really is amazingly sharp and maybe I don't give it the credit it deserves. Poor, unloved 24-70!
Canon 70-200 F2.8L II
I use this lens much of the time to shoot surfing. Chances are if I'm near the ocean, this lens is with me. However, it's also a wicked good portrait lens with wonderful sharpness and beautiful swirly bokeh. There are very few times I take this lens above 2.8 unless I have to. All of the example photos were shot at 2.8 This is also one of the lenses I'll bring (usually along with my 24-70) if I'm going to a shoot and for whatever reason can only bring a couple of lenses. Some people find it heavy, but I am not bothered by the weight. This also is one of my more favorite cat stalking lenses. You may or may not know that I'm a bona fide crazy cat lady.
Canon 2X Extender III
I use this only with my 70-200 (though I have heard it works very well with the 200mm; I haven't tried that yet), and use it nearly exclusively for shooting surfing. I think out of all the thousands of photos I've taken with this combo, there are three photos that aren't surfing photos. I don't have a need for another, longer lens so instead I decided to get the teleconverter, which makes my 70-200 have a 140-400mm reach on a full frame body (multiply that x1.6 on a crop body, which is why I usually shoot surfing on crop). The trade off is that I lose 2 stops of light, but when I use this, I am always outdoors in daylight so this is not a problem for me. I've heard that earlier versions of the 2x extender rendered soft photos but I'm very pleased with how my version works.
And now on to the prime lenses. My zooms are versatile, but my primes are my babies. The look that comes from these lenses is sublime.
Canon 35mm F1.4L
This was one of my first L lenses and it's actually one of the few lenses that I use primarily for personal shooting; I've only used it on a couple of client shoots. That doesn't mean I don't love it. I've been using it a lot in documenting my daily life for my 2015 project 365. It's not a portrait lens (which is likely why I don't use it on shoots that much because I'm such a portrait girl) but it is really good at capturing life around you. It also has a pretty close minimum focus distance. It's not a macro by any means but you can get in pretty close to stuff. This was one of three lenses I brought with me to Barbados last January and it helped so much in capturing the happy time we had down there. (Also: more cats!)
Canon 50mm F1.2L
I've had two copies of this lens. The first one was awful and I cried and thought that the things that they say about the lens having focus issues were true. I sent it back and didn't get another one for quite awhile. Then I did, and I learned to love the 50mm focal length once again. (I had a very bad time with my 1.4 and rarely used it). I rarely use it in studio because it, too, is not really a portrait lens, but I have used it for the occasional 3/4 body shot, and used it for almost my entire Surfboard Stories project because of the logistics of photographing a person and their surfboard. It's another great documentary lens; it was another of the three lenses I used in Barbados. I's not as wide as the 35 but still allows you to take in the world around you. I use it a ton when second shooting weddings. (And...cats).
Canon 85mm F1.2 L
This is one of my babies. Big and heavy and could possibly be used as a weapon in the zombie apocalypse, but oh, it's SUBLIME. It's much harder to shoot with at 1.2 than the 50, but when you actually see photos at 1.2, you swoon. A lot. This is my primary studio lens, and I sometimes use it outdoors, too. It's used mostly on people but sometimes just on STUFF. (And cats, but no cats are shown here.) It does not let me down. It is ridiculously sharp. I had the 85 1.8 previously, and that was also a very good lens, but this one is just heavenly. The one negative to this lens, at least in comparing it to the 1.8, is that it's quite a bit slower to focus, but for me that hasn't been an issue.
Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro (the non-L version)
This is the only non-L lens I have and it's awesome. I did not want to pay for the L version so after reading reviews went with the non-L. I have no regrets. It's super sharp and I do not miss the IS, which the L has. I use it primarily for macro, but I have used it for portraits a few times (though I primarily use other lenses for that). You can get some nifty portraits with it due to its very close minimum focus distance. Comes in handy for those baby detail shots too!
Canon 135mm F2L
Seriously. Everyone should have this lens. Or every portrait photographer at least. It is relatively inexpensive, light (when compared to the 70-200 or even the 85) and the bokeh is ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Soooooo special. It's not swirly like the 70-200, it's almost melty. There is no way to describe it. I've used this lens indoors a few times, in a studio or a place where I had enough room to back up, but it really shines outdoors where you can see the gorgeous blur this little piece of magic produces. I have been known to stalk my forever Enthusiastic Assistant around in outdoor locales with this lens simply to capture the blur...oh, and him. He's grown somewhat used to it. I've used it to shoot surfing once, too, just to see how it did, but this is for outside. Blur. Pretty. Yesssss.
Canon 200mm F2.0L
This lens was my dream lens which I thought I would never, ever own. It's also the only lens I've ever bought used. The first time I ever saw a photo taken with a 200 2.0 I thought there may be secret magical gnomes in the lens. Late last spring my overall photo hero/colleague/all around cool guy Craig Lamere said that he, too, thought this lens was awesome and also reminded me that CPS (Canon Professional Services, of which I am a member) allows you to trial lenses. Free. Ohhhhh yeah, I forgot alllll about that. Until he reminded me, and then I borrowed one this past summer, and it was awesome. After that I couldn't stop thinking about it, but I also couldn't afford it. I kept telling myself that I could shoot my 70-200 at 200 and 2.8 and it wouldn't be much different, or that the 135 is very similar with blur. And then there was that day which I like to compare to those times that airlines mess up and accidentally sell almost all the seats on a plane for $25 due to a website glitch. It wasn't exactly that cheap, but it was nowhere near what it sells for new. I only recently got this lens and want so much to shoot with it more outdoors in the warmer weather. It is the sharpest lens I have EVER shot with, period. Both the copy I borrowed from Canon and the one I own. It still shocks me. The way it can isolate a subject is amazing. It's big (the front element is almost as big as my face) and it's the only lens I own that I might say is heavy (almost 6 lbs) but what it produces is gorgeous. I used it on my most recent shoot just a few days ago, which I still need to complete and blog, and it did awesome. So far I've shot some portraits, a little bit of surfing, some other sports, and obviously cats. My favorite photo that I ever took with this lens is actually not here (though it's on my Facebook page, posted on Christmas day). It's of my four brothers and me; I gave a print of it to my parents for Christmas. We are so sharp that it looks almost 3-D. And yes, I'm pretty sure there are secret magical gnomes in this lens.
This, for me, is pretty much a fun/personal use lens. I've had it for years and even took it to Hawaii with me quite awhile ago. I have the original Lensbaby Composer (which is a 50mm focal length equivalent). I've got the creative apertures for that optic. I also have the macro optic (I don't think there are any examples of that here actually) and also the Edge 80 optic, which I REALLY like. It is a wicked nice portrait lens when you shoot it normally and also has a tilt shift-y effect when you shift the barrel. Lensbabies are manual focus only, which can be a pain on DSLRs because manual focus is not their forte with the stock focus screens. I would love to have more time to do fun things with my Lensbaby this year, especially the Edge 80.