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Prime lens selection with full frame DSLR?

Richard Harris , Apr 12, 2008; 09:50 a.m.

Hi all,

I thought this would be the best place to ask, seeing as you guys have had full frame DSLR for quite some time now and there are bound to be quite a few 5D shooters out here atleast id think.

I feel this question is quite different to 35mm prime selection, as you dont always have the ease of cropping so quickly, or of course seeing your results so quickly. I have read about a few landscape 35mm prime shooters who carry quite a number of lenses with them, for the reason i just mentioned. But digital is a completely different matter of course.

Im not talking landscaping, just general shooting. What lenses do you carry with you? I much believe in the idea of 'less lenses more photos'.

I'm not really interested in what zooms you may or may not use, just your small prime selection preferrably... on your FF DLSR of course.

Any input appreciated and much encouraged. Thanks for your time.

Best regards,



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Bill Clark - Minnetonka Minnesota , Apr 12, 2008; 10:05 a.m.

I use the 50mm f1.4 and the 135 f2.0 lenses on my 5D's.

John Crowe , Apr 12, 2008; 10:24 a.m.

14, 28, 50, and 200. I have shot with a very similar selection of lenses for over 20 years now. I will eventually need a 20mm and I am currently considering a 100mm or 135mm or xx-200 fast zoom.

To me there is no difference in lens selection tactics between 35mm film and full frame DSLR. When I see a scene whether I am using 35mm film, 4x5 film, full DSLR or crop DSLR, I envision what I want in the image and select the most appropriate lens while making sure to fill the frame the way I want it. I have learned to "see" scenes with respect to the focal lengths that I have available in my camera bag.

G Dan Mitchell , Apr 12, 2008; 10:49 a.m.

Can't help but respond to "I much believe in the idea of 'less lenses more photos'."

I agree. That's why I carry zooms for the most part. One zoom can cover a range that might require three primes - and more switching among lenses. And I can more precisely frame the photographs in many cases, eliminating or greatly reducing the need to crop. (By not cropping as much I also can negate IQ advantages that the primes might otherwise provide.)

I'm not 'against primes' - I do use them, but not for the simplicity reason. I'll use a prime if I know that a particular lens will be right and/or I need to reduce the size weight of my gear down to one camera and one small lens, or if low light or need for very narrow DOF are significant issues.

I agree with John that there is little or no difference between 35mm and DSLR in regards to how you approach lens selection. In either case there are issues to balance including the effect on IQ of cropping.

Take care,


Michael Liczbanski , Apr 12, 2008; 11:07 a.m.

Im not talking landscaping, just general shooting. What lenses do you carry with you? I much believe in the idea of 'less lenses more photos'.

Well, using a lens for landscaping may be detrimetal to the lens, but you have to define "general shooting" to get a meaningful answer: you should pick the right tool for whatever you are doing. Say, just recently I spent almost 3 days shooting exclusively with a 35 mm lens. Last week a 300 mm lens was permamnatly attached to the camera for a few days and it looks like it's gonna be a 24-105 day today...

Mendel Leisk , Apr 12, 2008; 11:30 a.m.

I'm using a 5D. I carry a 50mm f1.4 with me, and as often as not, that's all I do with it. It's handy for low light, interior, night shots. But, my 24-70 sees much more use. I have access to a 35mm f2.0, which is a nice compact wide prime. I've been toying with getting the 35mm f1.4, maybe before an upcoming wedding. Still, the 24-70 is just more practical for me than an assortment of primes.

Richard Harris , Apr 12, 2008; 12:11 p.m.

Dan, I suppose you are right there, my statement kind of clashes with its self really!

I dont know what i prefer. I just like primes because they are easier to compose with, they often give better IQ, are usually smaller and lighter and i like the freedom of using them in low light and playing with shallow DOF.

Maybe I've gone crazy though. :/

General shooting is everything really Michael. It excludes specialised stuff like natural, macro, etc. Just the gear you would carry with you on an every day type basis, when you dont know what you're shooting. But maybe a logical guess comes in handy here..?

I dont know. I too have had a 300/2.8 lodged on my camera for the last few days! I obviously knew what i was shooting after... but then i dont always know what i will.

Maybe im over thinking he whole thing too much. Maybe I should accept that a good zoom and a good prime should get you everywhere. I have a 24-85/3.5-4.5 and a 50/1.4 lens. Maybe I shouldnt think beyind that with FF.

I'm shooting with Minolta/Sony SLR's and DSLR's. We dont have a FF, but I'm very much planning for one, hoping atleast. It will probably be out of my price range/a waste of money anyway.

Thanks to all for your suggestions/words.

G Dan Mitchell , Apr 12, 2008; 12:19 p.m.

"Well, using a lens for landscaping may be detrimetal to the lens..."

Indeed. I find that using a shovel, hedge trimmer, lawn mower, and so forth is much more effective for landscaping. Using a lens for this is ineffective and tends to ruin the lens.



Mendel Leisk , Apr 12, 2008; 12:28 p.m.

I dunno: a nice row of on-end L lens could smartly define a path edge.

G Dan Mitchell , Apr 12, 2008; 12:31 p.m.

Yes, but have you ever tried to work around them with one of those string edge trimmers? Really difficult. It might be easier to line up a bunch of 400mm lenses end to end.


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