Forums > Photography Talk > My 3 Favourite Lenses Of All Time And Why!

Photographer

Jim McSmith

Posts: 762

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Over the past 25 years I've had the pleasure of using a wide variety of lenses except the most exotic long toms or super wide fisheyes. I'm talking focal lengths between 17mm and 300mm specifically.

My favourite lenses after lengthy consideration might surprise you;

1. The Canon 50mm 2.5 Macro Lens - I got a mint secondhand one on ebay a couple of years ago and even though I have the 100mm 2.8 Macro, I have to say I prefer the 50mm. Why? It's so sharp throughout the aperture range. It makes a good short portrait lens on crop sensor DSLR's which makes it excellent for glamour. The results from it for macro work and portrait work are first rate. Finally it is so easy to handle and focus, this lens easily gives me the most satisfaction. Check Ken Rockwell's review of the lens, he seems to agree.

2. The Tamron 80-210 and 70-210 f4 adaptall lens. I have a couple of these lenses and bought the later 70-210 version new in 1987. This was the best selling lens of its type in the UK throughout the 80's. I've had nothing but pin sharp results from this lens and I really like to use it at 135mm at f4 for really nice bokeh. Nowadays they can be had really cheap secondhand. They focus and zoom nice and smooth and provide good results when used with the Tamron 2x converter. The  70-210 3.5 version is said to be the best of it's type including those of marque lenses but the f4 version offers much better value for money secondhand since the 3.5 can sell for about £100 on ebay.

3. I guess my third choice has to be Canon 100mm 2.8 Macro lens. I'm talking about the non IS version which is much better value. Like the 50mm it really does shine throughout the aperture range. Capable of beautiful results for macro and portraits. Not too heavy and well constructed. The only thing I don't like is it's a bit too long for the crop sensor cameras for portrait work although if you shoot insects the extra length would be better. If you're using full frame then it's ideal. I do prefer using the 50mm Macro though because of it's compact size.

Let us know what your 3 favourite lenses are!

Feb 03 13 03:49 am Link

Photographer

Hugh Alison

Posts: 2119

Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

The 105mm/2.4 for Pentax 67, shot wide open.
The only reason I still shoot film

Canon 35mm/1.4L and 135mm/2.0L.
The reason I bought Canon.

I also have the Canon 85mm/1.8 - a very nice lens.

Haven't used anything else much for years.

Feb 03 13 07:17 am Link

Photographer

Al Lock Photography

Posts: 16071

Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand

Nikon 300mm f2.8
Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VRII (replacing the manual focus 80-200 f2.8)
Nikkor 105mm Micro-Nikkor

Feb 03 13 07:26 am Link

Photographer

1k-words-photograpy

Posts: 354

Leesburg, Virginia, US

As a Canon guy I'd have to say:

1. Canon 50mm 1.4 - I use this to create some great looking and unconventional portraits, I like it a lot.

2. Canon 70mm-200mm 2.8 - Its just so versatile and sharp, beautiful pictures every time.

3. Canon 85mm 1.2 - I love this for street photography to get candids and portraits. You can park yourself at a street cafe and capture lots of good shots without being intrusive.

Feb 03 13 07:53 am Link

Photographer

Zack Zoll

Posts: 2622

Glens Falls, New York, US

Schneider 135mm f/3.5 M42

Schneider 210mm f/5.6 APO-Symmar 4x5
(I really like Schneider lenses smile )

First-gen Minolta 58mm f/1.2.  It's terrible wide open, and has CA like nobody's business, but I really like the way it renders, and the focusing ring is just so nice and easy to use.  Not so good for colour, but my favourite walking-around lens for black and white shooting.

Feb 03 13 07:57 am Link

Photographer

ArtisticGlamour

Posts: 3846

Phoenix, Arizona, US

Minolta (Maxxum/alpha mount) 50mm/f1.7
Sony (alpha) 16-50mm/f2.8

Still working on determining favorite best "landscape" wide angle for the Sony alpha mount. Right now I guess it's the Minolta (maxxum/alpha) AF 28mm/f2.8, but I'm looking for something ultra-sharp!...probably will be an old MF lens of some type.

Feb 03 13 11:45 am Link

Photographer

-fpc-

Posts: 616

Port Chester, New York, US

Nikkor Noct 58mm 1.2

pin sharp?..rarely, due to my manual focus challenges
but when you nail it....aahh

Nikon200/2 VR

nothing isolates or creams the background better
unless you shoot wildlife...


Nikon 35/2 AF non -D

still do a fair amount of "street" work, and this is the perfect balance of size,weight,image quality
(the new Sigma 35/1.4 may pose a serious threat here)

Feb 03 13 12:32 pm Link

Photographer

Russell Tracy Photo

Posts: 1011

Norfolk, Virginia, US

Nikon 50 f1.8 -

it's inexpensive (about $130) and has great overall performance for the price. There has been plenty of times where I've put this lens on and used it all day for everything from portraits to journalism to sports.


Nikon 28-70 f2.8

One word to sum it up..."tank". All metal construction, giant body and weighs 2 pounds. The one I used got beat up, tossed around, and just pain abused sometimes and still continued to take amazing photos. Although the newer 24-70 is a little lighter, a little wider, and takes the same quality if not a little better photo it's still more expensive and the plastic body is not as durable.


Nikon 300 f2.8

Awesome quality and super fast plus i can hand hold it all day no problem. Besides that you can use it for just about any sport, modeling, nature, automotive, etc. IMO it's one of the most versatile prime lens Nikon makes.

Feb 03 13 02:39 pm Link

Photographer

Henry The Artist

Posts: 293

Blackpool, England, United Kingdom

1. Arax 80mm f2.8 - it's the lens I use most. A fantastic general purpose lens.

2. Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f2.8 - my favourite portrait lens of all time for MF.

3. Schnieder-Kreuznach 75mm f5.6 - best wide angle lens for LF I have ever found. Absolutely NO barrel distortion!

Feb 03 13 08:06 pm Link

Photographer

fullmetalphotographer

Posts: 2788

Fresno, California, US

(1) AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
If Your Pictures Aren’t Good Enough, You’re Not Close Enough - Robert Capa
When I think of this statement this is the lens I reach for.
This is a lens that is fun to shoot and pushes my creative envelope. I us it for EP work and a lot of news work. An extremely sharp lens.


http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3006/2613616068_69533d0973_m.jpg
TheLoftSalon01061908 by FullMetalPhotographer, on Flickr

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3219/2882780193_5da6036979_m.jpg
BudgetVeto11091708 by FullMetalPhotographer, on Flickr

(2) AT-X 300 AF PRO -TOKINA 300mm f/2.8
I have use this lens for a very long time. I have used it with the Nikon F5 and now use it with the Nikon D3. I used it for just about every shoot you can imagine from the NFL, Politics, weddings, news and glamour a true workhorse. I tnot a very fancy lens but effective.

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3109/2606990878_392f16acca_m.jpg
McCain9062308 by FullMetalPhotographer, on Flickr

http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6112/6260765211_40e8b567de_m.jpg
AirShowDayOne120101611 by FullMetalPhotographer, on Flickr

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3635/3475758322_df3d196bf7_m.jpg
JillSharp02 by FullMetalPhotographer, on Flickr

AF Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED
Thats right the old push pull lens. This is a great lens in both AF and Manual. In someways this excels in manual focus with its one touch. This is a sweet portrait lens. I have used this lens for a every type of shoot. One nice thing no vignetting on a D3.

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2610/3748163949_39917bc730_m.jpg
glam2_127 by FullMetalPhotographer, on Flickr

http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4054/5147635607_ba5740ce18_m.jpg
Cash by FullMetalPhotographer, on Flickr

Honorable mentions:
The AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR 28-70mm f/2.8D IF-ED
I shoot this lens daily I doubt that I switch to new 24-70mm anytime soon just a great solid lens.

AT-X 287 AF PRO SV - TOKINA 28-70mm f/2.8
I shot this lens for 10 years until a reporter killed it so i switched to the AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR 28-70mm f/2.8D IF-ED. It is an extremely sharp less at f/2.8. It was a lens I had bought originally thought I would shoot only 2 years then switch to Nikon but it such a sweet lens that I shot it for 10 years.

Feb 03 13 08:53 pm Link

Photographer

Jim McSmith

Posts: 762

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Interesting to hear about the Tokina 28-70 2.8 although I've always been impressed with the optical quality of Tokina lenses. I had the Sigma 24-70 2.8 lens when it first came out and although I sued it a lot for 2 years it was pretty much unuseable at 2.8, average at f4 and so I tended to use it most of the time at 5.6 onwards.

I should also mention I have used Schneider large format lenses but I can't really include those because large format is so good due to the size.

Feb 03 13 11:11 pm Link

Photographer

fullmetalphotographer

Posts: 2788

Fresno, California, US

Jim McSmith wrote:
Interesting to hear about the Tokina 28-70 2.8 although I've always been impressed with the optical quality of Tokina lenses. I had the Sigma 24-70 2.8 lens when it first came out and although I sued it a lot for 2 years it was pretty much unuseable at 2.8, average at f4 and so I tended to use it most of the time at 5.6 onwards.

I should also mention I have used Schneider large format lenses but I can't really include those because large format is so good due to the size.

Tokina is interesting because it was founded by former Nikon engineers so their lenses tended to work well with Nikon but were rough with Canon.

I had a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 that fell apart while I shooting a verdict in a murder trial. I sent the lenses for repair two months latter it came back did the same thing a week later. Found out the lens was basically held together by tape. That was how it was designed.

Went with tokina after that.

I thought about a couple of medium formats, and large formats but decided to stick to 35mm size. I also thought mentioning the Nikon 180mm f/2.8 manual focus lens. It was the workhorse of photojournalists for years.

Feb 03 13 11:45 pm Link

Photographer

Jason Bassett

Posts: 2338

Hollywood, Florida, US

Canon 135L.. Don't know what else to say but ... it created some really beautiful looks for my images for years. It was my only lens.

Canon 100mm Macro 2.8L.. Love the macro/IS/portrait ability. Great lens

Canon 24-70.. Great versatility and rarely let me down

Feb 04 13 01:12 am Link

Photographer

Frozen Instant Imagery

Posts: 3739

Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

The first two are easy:

Canon 135mm f/2L
Canon 85mm f/1.2L

The last one is tough. Could be the Canon 200mm f/2L (although I don't use it a whole lot), or the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II (the only Nikon that I'd consider for this).

Feb 04 13 03:19 am Link

Photographer

MarcMarayag

Posts: 77

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

85 f1.2
135 f2
14mm f2.8

i love portrait lenght and the first two lenses are amazing at it

and ultrawide is fun to when i get the chance in shooting in that lenght

Feb 04 13 06:07 am Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

Al Lock Photography wrote:
Nikon 300mm f2.8
Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VRII (replacing the manual focus 80-200 f2.8)
Nikkor 105mm Micro-Nikkor

Almost identical..

Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8VR
Nikon 105mm Micro-Nikkor (AF-D version, not the new G version).

Feb 04 13 06:11 am Link

Photographer

RKD Photographic

Posts: 3265

Iserlohn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Nikkor AF 35mm f/2D
My go-to general-purpose walkabout lens - and for the times that a 24-70 is too big/heavy/obtrusive.

Nikkor Af 85mm f/1.4D
Best portrait lens ever - accounts for 80% of my studio work.

A split on the third:
DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2 and DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2
Both these lenses account for the remaining 20% of my studio work.

I also use Nikkors' AF 17-35 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4 and 70-200 f/2.8 VR-II for various jobs - it's just that those lenses above get more use these days.

Feb 04 13 07:01 am Link

Photographer

Moon Pix Photography

Posts: 3892

Syracuse, New York, US

1. Canon 85 1.2
2. Canon 35 1.4
3. Canon 70-200 2.8 IS

The 85 1.2 is magical
I bring the 35 1.4 any time I need something wider than 70mm.

(I had a tough time deciding between the 70-200 and the Canon 135 2.0 for the number three spot).  However I use the 70-200 much more often, so...

Feb 04 13 08:22 am Link

Photographer

Phil Drinkwater

Posts: 4785

Manchester, England, United Kingdom

Canon 50mm 1.2
Canon 135L
Canon 24-70 2.8 II (The first version wouldn't have been in the list, but the II is so good at 2.8 and focusses so well it deserves to be there)

Feb 04 13 08:24 am Link

Photographer

Bob Helm Photography

Posts: 18210

Cherry Hill, New Jersey, US

Nikon 300mm 2.8
Nikon 180mm 2.8
Leica 90mm 2.0

Feb 04 13 08:35 am Link