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best lens choice for wedding photographers?

ellen scherner , Nov 13, 2006; 10:34 a.m.


I have been going through some growing pains with my wedding photography and I think I am becoming more and more confused with the lens choice out there. I recently upgraded from a d70 to a d200. I had a 28-200 lens and an 18-70 lens in my bag. I would always shoot with the 18-70 lens and reserve the 28-200 for my d100 at the church where it would just sit on a tripod and I would shoot with no flash.

Well I actually got rid of my 18-70 lens because I found a great deal on a 35-70 2.8 lens. After trying it out with my d200, I was finding I was getting soft images. I assumed it was because I was really trying to shoot wide open and as a result, everything except one thing I focused on was out of focus. So this weekend I used my 28-200 only to shoot a wedding. I had the same issue but I noticed it was only at longer focal lengths (100 or more.)It wasn't on every shot, just some. I am not even shooting at a low speed (sometimes I was at 1/100)and my ASA is at 200. So I then learned what the VR stood for and thought my problems would be solved with the 18-200VR. But I am hearing mixed reviews on it. I guess the answer would be to get an 18-70 again, but I don't know now.

I like to shoot with a really out of focus background, and given that I am shooting weddings, I think I am needing to opt for the flexibility of a zoom lens.

I am really confused with these lenses, and after re-reading my message, I sound like such an ameteur. Thanks for any input. Ellen


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Michael Madio , Nov 13, 2006; 10:47 a.m.

Sounds like you may have a depth-of-field issue. Have a look at http://www.dofmaster.com for some useful information.

Dan Victory , Nov 13, 2006; 10:49 a.m.

Reminder....you don't use VR on a tripod!

Frank Skomial , Nov 13, 2006; 10:58 a.m.

Since you say: "It wasn't on every shot, just some." so seems that not the lens is at fault ? The 28-200 (I assume the G type lens) is a good performer but a bit too slow for dark places like church.

I thing you need 17-55/2.8, or possibly 17-35/2.8 and 28-70/2.8.

If your 28-200 slow lens did well for you, so certainly the 70-200/2.8 VR will do better, being 2 stops faster and having VR.

If you need: "I like to shoot with a really out of focus background" - you need a fast lens with shallow depth of field, e.g. 85/1.4. The 70-200/VRr will do well, so the other 2.8 lenses mentioned.

I do not think the kit lens is the best for weddings, but like people say, it is the photographer...

With a zoom lens you could consider a prime lens of the second camera.

Edward Ingold , Nov 13, 2006; 11:22 a.m.

Kit lenses are just too slow (f/stop) for general use at a wedding or social event. I typically use f/5.6 at ISO 400 for flash pictures - which is a sweet spot for an f/2.8 zoom lens, but still nearly wide open for an f/3.5-5.6 lens. IMO, ISO 400 is the ideal compromise speed for hand-held shooting, even outdoors. Noise is not an issue (D2x), especially at 8x10 inches or less.

For weddings, I use a 17-35/2.8 and a 28-70/2.8 for 90 percent of the shots, and occasionally a 70-200/2.8 VR for shots from the Sacristy or rear of the church (sans flash). A 35-70/2.8 is a very sharp lens, and a good mate for a 17-35. If I were starting again, I'd get a 17-55, which would nearly eliminate lens changes.

Ryan Trace , Nov 13, 2006; 11:24 a.m.


It depends on your style (zooms vs. primes - or both) and budget. I've used both, shot weddings with Canon L zooms and then primes, and now am shooting with a D2Xs and D200 backup and the lenses listed below in no particular order of importance - I use the right tool/lens for the particular job at hand.

But in general you want speed - fast lenses. As fast as you can afford to pay that is, because good glass is expensive. That is the most important thing. Both for low light and for shallow DOF. Of course I've shot weddings and events with "crappier" lenses, so it's possible if you know what you are doing and the limits of your equipment. I've even gotten great pictures with a Canon G6 and 550EX flash mounted on top when asked to jump in. But sure there were limits - I just knew what was possible and what wasn't, and worked around it.

Anyway, here's what I use now with the D2Xs and D200:

1. 17-55 f/2.8

2. 70-200 f/2.8 VR

3. 12-24 f/4

4. 85mm f/1.4

Let me know if you have more questions. Your soft/focus issues I'm not sure are lens related entirely.


ellen scherner , Nov 13, 2006; 11:24 a.m.

The problems I am having are outside in the afternoon. Now would wind be an issue? because Like I mentioned before, I was at 1/100 outside and I was having these problems, but there was a lot of wind on Saturday.

Ryan Trace , Nov 13, 2006; 11:28 a.m.

1/100 at what focal lengths? Rule of thumb is to have a shutter no slower than 1/(focal length x 1.5 crop factor). Some can shoot at 1/30, 1/10, etc., and some can't. It depends on the person. Sure wind can be a factor. Strong winds can move you around! I was in Maine 2 weeks ago and I was shooting at faster speeds than I normally do, because of the 40-50mph winds!


ellen scherner , Nov 13, 2006; 11:49 a.m.

When I shot film, I used my 105mm 2.8 and LOVED IT. When I started shooting weddings, I found it was so hard to switch back and forth from one lens to the other. And if you don't physically have the room to go back on a fixed lens, you are in trouble.

Ryan Trace , Nov 13, 2006; 12:10 p.m.


Could be the lens being soft. But DOF is pretty shallow even at 10ft, so if your focus point moved a bit it can be off. I can't tell. If you know how far you were you can look here to see what DOF you had to work with:


Otherwise, it could be soft lens or a tad of motion blur. But nothing that unsharp mask in Photoshop can't fix here. I did a 250, 0.3, 0 USM . See attached. Also convert your pictures to sRGB before posting to the web. This was in Adobe RGB from ACR.


USM 250, 0.3, 0 and converted to sRGB

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