After many years of experience using different lenses, I now have resorted to only using a single prime lens. I started with a 50mm, then added an 85mm, 35mm, 100mm, and 28mm to my collection, and I’ve played around with zooms. But now I exclusively use a 50mm lens. No more zooms and no more choices. But why would I volunteer to limit myself?
Why would I limit myself from the start?
Why would I choose to only use one lens for all my work? There are a few things that might be freeing to you if you decide to go the route I did.
One is that the fewer choices you have to make the easier it is to begin with—fewer choices means less doubt you have about the decisions you made. Have you ever taken a photo and wished you brought along the 70-200 telephoto or the 28mm wide-angle? If you only have one lens you only have one option, the result being no more buyer’s remorse or anxiety over your gear.
Choose your poison (lens)
A great reason to shoot with one lens, be it prime or zoom, is you get to know your lens inside and out. When you limit yourself to a single lens, you get to know the framing of that lens perfectly—you can visualize the crop even before you bring the camera up to your eye.
I’ve found that, when I look at a possible photograph, I now know where to stand, what I am able to capture, and the angle and position I need to be in to get the desired look. And you know what, it all happens subconsciously because I know my lens so well.
One lens means no more lens changing—no more dust on the sensor, and no need for multiple cameras or a camera bag.
Don’t fear the person who knows 10,000 different kicks. Fear the person who knows one kick and has practiced it 10,000 times. Become that one trick pony. Less gear means: less gear to carry, less to insure, less to worry about. Giving you more time to spend on mastering your craft instead of focusing on your gear.
Why I only use one lens
Why choose just to limit yourself to a 50mm lens? Why not choose a 35mm or a 28mm? The reason I chose a 50mm is because it was the focal length I would default to. Be it Portraits or Events, it’s my favourite. I did have other lenses, but for my style, other lenses would include or remove too much content from the frame, which didn’t appeal to me or my photographic aesthetic.
For me, it’s like looking through my own eyes. I know the frame lines before I even bring the camera to my eye, the familiarity you learn from using one lens quickens my photographic process. My only issue with my 50mm lens is that it can’t focus on a subject any closer than 0.7 meters (2 feet)… but that just forces me to think outside the box, it challenges me and the way I approach a subject.
One final reason I only use one lens is that it frees up time that would have been wasted deciding on gear.
Using one lens starts you on the path to becoming a master of that focal length. You learn its limitations and capabilities, making you more efficient when capturing a scene. And the added bonus is all your work has a consistent look and feel to it, which contributes to your photographic style.
I choose to become a master of one lens, not a jack of all of them.
About the author: A.B Watson is a New Zealand photographer based in Auckland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, head over to his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.
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