Seven Lenses Hath October

Election anxiety diminished my productivity throughout October, but I still made some photos. While reviewing the month’s work in Lightroom, I noticed I had used seven lenses, and took the opportunity to reflect on my choices.

Maceo Parker on Saxophone. Nikon D500; Nikon 16-80 f/2.8-4.0

This lens would not be my first choice for concert photography. Nikon D500; Nikon 16-80 f/2.8-4.0

Nikon 16-80 f/2.8-4: Hired to take some post-show images with fans, I took up a position near the stage door when I thought the band was on their last number. They continued to play for almost an hour.  The camera was set up for group shots backstage, but when I realized that I was the only person in the theater allowed to have a camera and I was pretty much the only person in the room NOT taking pictures, I fired off a few frames. At f/4.0 fully zoomed, this lens is just too slow and too short for this kind of work, but I still managed a couple of respectable shots. Midrange zooms like this are always in my bag, because small group shots are a big part of my work.

Nikon D610 and Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, a relatively fast and optically excellent lens.

Nikon D610 and Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, a relatively fast and optically excellent lens.

Nikon 24-70 f/2.8: The other midrange zoom in my current collection, this workhorse lens gets less work nowadays, because I’m smitten with the D500/16-80 combo. Typically I shoot events with an FX camera (D610) carrying the 24-70 and a DX camera (D500) carrying the 70-200 f/2.8. It’s a pretty flexible combination, except that the two cameras work just differently enough to trip me up now and then in the heat of shooting. I don’t use these midrange zooms much for personal work, but I’d guess that 80+% of my paid work was shot with this lens. When I replace the D610 I’ll have to think long and hard about whether to go all DX with a second D500. Even so, I might keep this lens.

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Nikon D500; Nikon 35mm f/2.0D. On a DX body, this 50mm-equivalent lens is very versatile and fast enough to provide good subject isolation with today’s high-ISO cameras.

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Nikon D500; Nikon 35mm f/2.0D.

Nikon 35mm f/2.0D: This old lens is not highly regarded among the Nikon experts, but it delights me every time I use it. As a lightweight 50mm-equivalent walk-around lens on a DX camera, it is surprisingly versatile and optically pleasing.

Nikon D610; Nikon 50mm f/1.8D

Nikon D610; Nikon 50mm f/1.8D

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D: I tried using the D610 with 50 as a walk-around camera like the D500 with the 35, but the honeymoon is over. The D610 is a GREAT camera, but the D500 is better – not least because the superior focusing system compensates for the weakness of my eyesight. This is the only personal image I shot with the full frame camera in October. I do know from experience that this lens produces sharp, colorful, and contrasty images on a cropped-sensor camera like the D500, so I’m still a fan, but I use it more like a 75mm f/1.8.

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Nikon D500; Nikon 70-200 f/2.8.

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Nikon D500; Nikon 70-200 f/2.8.

Nikon 70-200 f/2.8: My other workhorse lens. If I do 80% of my event work with a midrange zoom, I do 95% of my performance work with this lens. Mine is now two generations behind state-of-the-art, but it’s still a fantastic partner.

Nikon D500; Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

Nikon D500; Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G: In my mind, this is my best lens, yet in my Lightroom library, it is represented almost entirely by images made for the sheer purpose of testing the lens. I’ve had good luck with it as a family party lens on a D610, but nowadays I’d probably prefer to use the lightweight 50mm lens on my D500. Technically it really is my “best” lens, but it can be difficult to use well. At f/1.4 on an FX body, the razor-thin depth of field demands extremely accurate focusing. Perhaps I’ll get back into portraits and nudes and rediscover the lens’s charms, but at the moment it’s not that good a fit for my professional or personal work. At the moment.

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Nikon D500; Nikon 200-500 f/5.6.

Nikon D500; Nikon 200-500 f/5.6.

Nikon D500; Nikon 200-500 f/5.6.

Nikon 200-500 f/5.6: This lens has been the best antidote for my election anxiety.  I walk away from the horrors on my computer screen and into the beauty of nature with a hand-holdable, optically excellent 750mm-equivalent lens on the D500. Not only does this lens cheer me up every time I use it. but it also makes the 70-200 feel lightweight, which will really help when I shoot a four-hour dance concert later this week!

Bonus Image:

iPhone 6s with Snapseed's HDR filter. I stopped for a scotch on Halloween and saw this thoughtful scribe. When the light demands a photo, you use whatever camera/lens you can get your hands on.

iPhone 6s with Snapseed’s HDR filter. I stopped for a drink on Halloween and saw this thoughtful scribe. When the light demands a photo, you use whatever camera/lens you can get your hands on.