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Wednesday, 25 January 2017


For my Sony NEX APS-C and I own and use these lenses.

1. 24mm F1.8 Sony/Zeiss
2. 55mm F1.8 Sony/Zeiss (FE)

These give me roughly 35mm and 85mm equivalents.

Since my camera bodies are Panasonic micro 4/3s, if I were limited to two lenses they would be the Panasonic 12-35mm/f2.8 zoom and the Panasonic 35-100mm/f2.8 zoom. And yes, I own both. And even more yes, I'm finding them in my camera bag and on my camera bodies, to the exclusion of all my other lenses, more and more.

Two lenses only? Tough because having one zoom to augment a couple of primes is useful. But I'll play: The Fuji 23mm and 35mm f/2.0 WR primes. Yes, I have them both.

FWIW- My sole companion right now is the stellar 28mm(e) on the Ricoh GR. Landscapes or an event with crowds--I'll also take an analog Nikon with a 20mm. Portraits from the waist up--the Ultron 40mm.

My two top picks are Nikon 180 and Nikon 17-55, and I am lucky enough to own both at present. Yes it was a very long trail to get here, maybe 75 different combinations, but eventually it became clear that these worked best for me. The 180 after the 70-200 f 2.8 lenses that seemed too big, too heavy, too much money invested, too intimidating when using in public, and the 17-55 after trying primes and fumbling lenses changes, and trying Sigma and Tamron standard zooms that were "just as good" but weren't for me. It no doubt cleared my mind, also, when I retired from
retail powersports managment and no longer had to do photography for the business and the website, and I could just do what I wanted to do, and have just the equipment I needed to be able to cover my situations. Also seemed to have reached "sufficiency" with D200 and waited for the post D300s model, but now that D500 is here, it feels like the D200 is doing what I need at present. Feeling like I am out of the equipment swirl at present, which is a very nice place to be when you finally get to retirement !

Oly 12-60 zoom, Pana 100-300 zoom on two Oly E-P3s
Tried primes (Oly 17 & 45) but I now have a zoom mindset.
Movies: Hidden Figures about NASA in its heyday from a new viewpoint.

The Canon 50mm f2.5 Compact Macro and Canon 24mm f3.5L II tilt-shift.

I own them both, I use them both. I would be quite constrained for some of what I do (life without the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS Macro, and 65mm f2.8 MPE is hardly life at all), but most of what I shoot--for money and pleasure--comes from those two lenses. Sure, I'd also be hurting for 50 and 90mm tilt-shifts, to say nothing of fast glass and wide glass and stabilized glass, but I'm already hurting for that stuff. They'll make my life easier and more fun if/when they do arrive, but they'll be gravy, not the meal.

Difficult decision, but I'll give it a go.
Assuming the camera in question is my current one (X-Pro2) I would choose the two old Fujinon XF 35/1.4 and 18/2. Two lenses with a lot of problems judging by the "general internet opinion" but from my experience they make a good-quality, small, light and versatile kit.

I am a Micro 4/3 user. I have numerous primes and three zooms. If I had to give up all but two, the first keeper would be the Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8. my favorite lens ever. The second would be harder, but I love the Panasonic 45mm macro. I am rarely in need of a lens out side of these borders.

In truth, the 12-35 would probably be enough.

I own and use just two primes on my XPro-2, the Fuji 23mm/f2 WR and the Fuji 35mm/f2 WR. I purchased them in reverse order but I've had the 23mm practically glued to the camera the past few months, which surprises me, but there you have it. I can't seem to find an excuse to purchase a third lens; these both capture pretty much everything that interests me.

Canon 35 1.4 L; not even the II; I take 90% of my photos with it
Canon 28-70 f2.8 II; The images are always better looking than they should be

for movies;
Secretary (offbeat; S&M that is not objectifying)
Days of Heaven (my favorite movie ever)

35mm Summicron and 90mm Summicron. I can say that with confidence because...well, I did have three, the M3 came with a 50 (collapsible), but I know which ones I used most. I kind-of repeated it when I replaced stolen gear with my first Nikon, I had the 35mm/1.8 AIS (still have that one) and 105/2.5 AIS (I somehow didn't know about the 85mm; I never liked the 105 and would almost certainly have been much happier with the 85, I have the 85/1.8 AF-D now and do like it).

And got the 35 and 85 when I went to old Olumpus (OM-4T). And have the 20/1.7 and 45/1.8 as my primary lenses on my current Olympus Micro Four-Thirds.

Not that I'd ever have only two lenses. I got past that point in my second year of having an SLR I think, so that would be 1970. When I had the Leica, I also had an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic with lenses from 28mm to 400mm, plus extension tubes for close-ups. But a strong majority of my shots were with the Leica while I had both.

Hi Mike,

I can see it from both sides (yours and Thomas Rink) but I'm starting to lean towards keeping it lean and simple when it comes to lenses. For me it's a single FF body, a Canon 6D and two lenses: the 24-70mm f/4 IS L (which I have) and the 70-200mm f/4 IS L which I'll be getting soon. The more lenses you have the more likely you'll be reaching for the one you don't have on the camera body. Or worse you'll miss a shot while deciding on which lens to use. I won't even open the door to the debate on having several primes vs zooms... In my case the above two lenses are more than enough for my needs (image quality, focal length range and being weather sealed). I have other lenses in my kit but for travelling/landscape these do the job.

Movies that my wife and I enjoyed in the last few years:
1. Bridge of Spies
2. The Tempest (the recent version starring Dame Helen Mirren as Prospera)
3. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
4. Not a movie, but a Masterpiece Contemporary production: The Last Enemy
5. Midnight In Paris
6. One of our favorite TV series: Treme

If I had to choose my two favorite "specialty" lenses they would be my Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L (for beautiful low light photos, particularly portraits) and Canon EF 135mm f/2L (for sharpness and bokeh). However, if I was choosing for all-around general photography I would stick with my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lenses. Note that choosing ANY two would be painful and I plan to avoid making that kind of choice.

Olympus m.zuiko 45/1.8, and panasonics 20/1.7 and 14/2.5. Two pancakes count as one, right? Right!?

I own both of these and find they cover most of my needs: the 28mm f/1.7 Summilux fitted to my Leica Q, and the prosaic looking Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 fitted to (usually) an Olympus Pen F. Why? Appreciate you didn't ask that, but I just love the way both lenses draw, differently, but appropriately (i.e. to my satisfaction) for the subjects I shoot.

Irony of ironies, in my last comment, the two links I posted to photography for money and pleasure were both taken with the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS Macro, rather than the 50mm. Blame my fat-fingers for filtering by the wrong lens in Adobe Bridge...

If I had to limit to two lenses, I would choose

both in Hasselblad mount:

zeiss 50mm f/4 distagon CFI-FLE
zeiss 120mm f/4 makro planar CFI

I own earlier versions of both of these lenses, so I may or may not qualify for the "already own them" bonus points. They're both high quality, sharp lenses. The macro is probably better at close distance, but is still good enough at infinity and the macro capability adds usefulness. I think my version of the 120 is the same optics as the CFI version. The FLE version of the 50 is said to do better at close distance than my plain-old C T*.

Good movies? The current "Hidden Figures" is very good, but you're not going to watch it at home yet. "Kubo and the Two Strings" is a fun stop-motion animated film from Laika studios in Oregon. Now available on video. "Carol" from last year is good, and has some photographic interest.

With every year I'm more sure of it: 35mm-e and 50mm-e, these days the Olympus f/1.8s.

Zeiss Batis 25 and 85. Yep own 'em both (on A7r-you know, the one that sucks)

My two lenses would be the Lumix 20mm 1.7 and the Sigma 60mm 2.8, which I already own. I also have an Olympus 12-40 2.8 that sees much less use than the two above. Back in the film days, I owned an array of lenses but the ones that were used the most were the Nikon 35mm 2.0 and 105mm 2.5. Modest moderate wide and tele must be my perspective on the world.

My two lens kit (mounted variously on Sony NEX5T, A5000, or A6000, depending - that in itself could be a long boring conversation):

Sony 50mm f/1.8 SEL OSS
Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN E

In truth, if we pared this down to just _one_ lens, it would be the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN E. This lens has done the needful on a great many projects for me.


In the days of film I tried carrying a choice of lenses, but in the end found multiple lenses and gear to be simply distracting.
My current preferred lense is the one attached to the original FujiX100, which is still my main camera.
I do also own the Fuji 18-55 zoom - a quite good lens if one works at its sweet spots - which is attached to my X-T10. I work mostly in black and white and only needed the 18-55 ( and attached X-T10) as a "back-up" for the very occassional social events I get asked to cover.

Mark Fawcett

First is easy, Canon 50 mm f1.8. Second is a little harder but I think the Canon 70-200 mm f4L. I own both.

I'd pick two lenses: 24mm and 85mm, which would get me through anything I usually shoot. On the SLR, it's the Nikon 24/1.8G and Tamron 85/1.8. My travel kit consists of a Ricoh GR and a Sigma DP3M, so a little less range on either end, but versatile enough that it covers almost everything I'd like to do. The other bonus is that both cameras share the same batteries.

I find that a zoom lens freezes me with indecision as well because there are so many possibilities that I become compositionally indecisive instead of really trying to make one focal length work.

A fisheye and a walk around zoom.

Right now I have a generic 8mm f3.8 fisheye for my micro 4/3 camera. The size is just about right, image quality is good enough, but barely.

Right now I have a Canon G1 X, which has 28-112 equivalent zoom. Image quality is pretty good, more dynamic range would be welcome.

Ideally I would prefer 24-120 range, but that lens (Panasonic 12-60) is too big and heavy for me.

Extra-Extra Credit Incoming:

Fuji-X 23mm 1.4 and 56mm 1.2

They're both great and between the two of them I feel pretty comfortable in most situations.

On cameras, I got a XT-2 recently, as an upgrade to the XT-1 I've had since it was released. Other than that, I've had zero interest in camera news/reviews/rumors. The XT-1 was a great camera, the 2 is a nice upgrade. I'll probably get a XT-3 in a few years and be happy with that too.

OK I'll bite! Picking only two lenses implies picking only one camera or camera system, so in my case that would be my Leica M ("Veblen goods for the carriage trade" indeed! I'm still getting over that!), and the lenses would be the 35mm Zeiss Distagon f/1.4, and the 90mm Elmarit–M f/2.8. These are two of the finest lenses I've ever owned. If I could break your rules and add one more lens, it would be the 21mm Super Elmar–M f/3.4. I've traveled for weeks with just those three, and could happily live the rest of my life if I was restricted to those alone.

If I want to behave like a normal person I would pick my Micro 4/3 cameras for the Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 Pro, and the 40-150 f/2.8 Pro. Super lenses, and versatile enough for anything.

Oh, and my favourite movies at the moment: 'An Officer and a Gentleman', with Richard Gere and Debora Winger, and 'No Way Out', with Kevin Costner and Sean Young. Old ones but good ones!

Years ago, I gave up a Canon full frame for mirrorless Fuji's mostly because of the weight and size. And have been very content.

About six months ago, I added a Nikon full frame (and three prime lenses) so maybe this doesn't count when talking about minimal gear. Although both systems are different enough that they each fill different needs.

But focusing on the Fuji (which would be the system I'd pick if I could only have one), I could live very happily with only Fuji's 35mm f1.4 (this lens is reason enough to own a Fuji camera) and 14mm f2.8. Both of which I own.

Movies... gosh, where to start? I know: what kind of thing do you like? It's very personal, after all. Oh, all right, some of my own faves: Midnight Run (never tire of it), Raising Arizona ('She gotcha on a mighty short leash, ain't she, H.I.?' - pure poetry), Dr. Strangelove, Toy Story (1 to 3), The Importance of Being Earnest (in fact, anything with Joan Greenwood), Colonel Blimp, Les Enfants du Paradis, Kwaidan, The Glenn Miller Story, Johnny Got His Gun, Shoah (not as recreation, obviously)...

Lenses: I think I'm a 35 and 50 person. I have the 35 Loxia for my A7II, and I like it a lot. Also for Sony FE, I have the mad Zhongyi 'Dark Knight' 50mm f/0.95. But I'm discovering the joys of macro, so I'd better reveal a guilty secret: CV 125 f/2.5 SL (Canon EF fit). Wowee. What's left of my lifetime still needed to measure up to that!

This should be easy, since I once shot for over a year with just the Fuji X100. I don't think I had fewer keepers in that year. I've tried almost all the affordable m43 lenses, and I now have just two primes: the Panaleica 15mm and the Sigma 30mm f1.4. Longer primes just don't work for me.

Full disclosure: I also have two slow zooms for travel and outdoor stuff, the Olympus 9-18 and the Panasonic 35-100 f4. But I could really live with just the two primes.

And if Fuji went back to a Bayer sensor, I could scrap the lot and live with an X100. Or maybe I should buy a used X100 Bayer ... hmmmm

I spent about three years shooting one film (HP5+) with two camera bodies (Canon F1N) and two lenses (FD 35/2.0 and FD 135/2.0). Made life very simple.

When I had the 5D Classic, the only lenses I had were the EF 35/1.4L and the EF 135/2.0L. I have a 5D3 now, and I've added a 24/3.5 TS-E mark 2 and an 85/1.2L mark 2.

It wouldn't bother me if I could only use the 35/1.4 and the 135/2.0 and a 5D3 body for the rest of my life. Fewer decisions, tiny light kit, and more time taking fotos.

(I've tried an OMD EM5 kit with 17/1.8 and 45/1.8 lenses, and a Sony A6000 with 20/2.8 and 50/1.8 lenses to get a smaller lighter setup, but haven't fallen for them).

Olympus 12-100/4
Leica Lumix 100-400/4-6.3

Double extra credit?

Nikon 5T achromatic C-U lens fits both. Extra half credit?

If you are talking about lenses rather than focal lengths then the Sony 10-18 f4 and 16-70 f4 both for e mount are my favourite two. Over 90% of my images are with these two. Both smell light with good image quality they accompany my A6000 every where.

2 lenses : 18-55mm & 55-200mm (or 35mm, or 28mm pancake). Currently only have 18-55 Fujifilm XF. I’d use the pancake to have a more compact camera, but could only use it with image stabilization, so would have to be Olympus, but not sure there even is such a lens.
Films: “Elvis & Nixon” was probably the best film I’ve watched in the past year (on DVD). “Cafe Society” was also good. Worst, “The Revenant.”

Unfortunately for me, I'm both kinds of people, in a constant tug of war: I like trying lots of gear, I'm interested in a variety of styles/genres and I want to dabble in all of them, and it's just plain fun to buy and use gear. So stuff builds up for a while...and then I have a sudden, almost physical, need to simplify simplify simplify. And I sell stuff off...and then the cycle rebuilds. *Sigh*

Having said that, I do sometimes go through that mental exercise, which is fun: what (1 or 2... or 3) lenses would I absolutely keep? The answer currently would be two primes...the Fuji 23 f/1.4 and the Fuji 90 f/2 (and my third, if allowed, would be the Fuji 14) which I have and use a lot.

Easy. Fuji 23mm 1.4 and 35mm 1.4. Both owned and sitting on an X-T1 each. But I like to flirt with the 16mm 1.4 too...as I get older I find I hanker after wider models more. And I want an X100f...

Incidentally, in my head the 23 is really always a '35' and the 35 always a '50', etc. Do others have this problem?

That's an easy one. The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-35mm f/2.8, and the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 - both for my Olympus E-M5 and E-M5 MKII. I actually dropped the camera with the 12-35mm mounted on it, lens down, onto a rock. Luckily I caught it before it rolled into the creek. The filter was smashed to bits but I can't find any difference in the shots.

"If you're the type of person who couldn't get by on two lenses and thinks the question is stupid, one word: understood. You're excused."

I don' wanna be excused . . .

I could get by on* two lenses, but can't figure out why I either should or might want to.

I am more than content both that others should be free to use however many or few of whatever lenses they choose, and that I don't concern myself about that.

* Should that not be 'with'?

leica summilux 50/1.4 and leica summicron 35/2, both asph. Love them on the Monochrom.

I would think your "favorite" lenses have to do with what you like to shoot- there is no "right" or universal answer. So with that in mind, for a long time, long, long ago, it was 2 Nikkor lenses a 50mm f1.4 and a 135mm f2.8. As time and finances allowed I added a Nikkor 28mm f3.5, and a 200mm f4. Did everything I needed to do with that combination. A Nikon Ftn and Nikkormat Ftn did it all and lasted for years. How times have changed!

I do have a lot of gear but if i was to get by with one body and two lenses i guess it would be my Canon 6D with my new Sigma 50mm 1,4 ART and the Canon 70-200 f4 IS , they fit perfectly in my camera bag and are likely to come with on my trip to my girlfriend's country of origin, Cameroon.

Canon full-frame body with a 35 1.4 and a 85 1.2. I own both personally and my work owns both, got lucky there. I like to have a 24 1.4 also, but while I like to have it, I don't really use it nearly as much. Having said that, while that is how I like to shoot, it only works for certain types of jobs. At the end of the day, I, like most photographers, take the gear with me that gets the job done.

Hi Mike,
Ah, what a nice question! Catnip for lens loving folks.

I can answer it truthfully: for years I only used the Panasonic 20/1.7 and the Olympus 14-42 MSC MkIII kit lens. And if I had to go back to that, I would. Most of my photography is family related or observations of light, texture, and gesture. Most of my photographs are best taken at 28mm-e, 35mm-e, or 40mm-e. And even though the 20/1.7 focuses slowly, and the kit lens is f/3.5 at best, both true frustrations, they are more than sharp enough for any of my practical purposes. Today I keep the 20mm on one camera, and now have a 14/2.5 on another, with a 42.5mm lens in the drawer for occasional use.

Also, today, I have an older Olympus camera with a 105/2.5 Nikkor, on a tripod, pointed at a bird feeder :) So, it isn't as though I could do everything with my usual setup. Nor is it true that I didn't have a drawer full of cheap manual focus lenses to adapt all these years, but it's not as though I "needed" them to achieve my goals. After all, that's why they sat in the drawer!

If you were to ask me what I would pick if I could go back in time, say to 1985, well, I think I'd pick an Olympus XA, or similar partially-manual point and shoot. And I'd try to get a hold of some kind of cheap medium format, normal lens camera, with a Tessar formula lens. Maybe a Yashica TLR (loved mine!), or a 6x6 folder, or a mini Crown Graphic with a rollfilm back. I'd be tempted by a Rollei 44, which is a 127 film camera: very tempted by Kodachrome "super slides". I've always liked TLRs. I've always enjoyed Kodak Retinas too, though they aren't wide enough for my taste.

I can't speak truthfully to what I "might" get someday that would be as good. I suppose some kind of Fuji camera plus a pancake prime, and perhaps something wide to go with it. Fuji does make very nice lenses, I don't think I'd be disappointed. If Panasonic or Olympus ever made a fast wide prime that focused better than the 20/1.7, I'd be interested of course. I just don't use cameras that can't be pocketed very much, so I'm kind of limited in what I could pick from.

Hi Mike;


B+W: 35 & 28

Color: 35 & 50

All Nikkors.


16-85 & 60 micro

I work mostly in B+W film for me and color digital for work.

Couldn't resist the challenge of trying to narrow it down to two lenses (given I own six Fuji XF lenses) and that I shoot a range of subjects.

XF 60mm Macro and the XF10-24mm. (I own both.)

And then I thought, I've always really liked the XF14mm prime so that could replace the the wide zoom. (But I don't own that one.)

And then I thought, I'd have to use both of those on the X-Pro body having realised that I tend to use my primes on that body and my zooms on the XT1. And if you were going to limit me to one camera, I'd take the slightly less perfect X Pro 1 over the XT1 - nothing more than the enjoyment of using a rangefinder styled camera.

And then I thought I have to stop over thinking this one and wait to view what other readers think in response to your post.

Add some more extra credits for me.
I could live happily for the rest of my life with two lenses I own and actually use. And what's more, they make for roughly 95% of my shooting. They're the Olympus OM G-Zuiko 50mm-f/1.4 and the G-Zuiko 28mm-f/3.5. (I also have a 135mm-f/2.8, but I seldom use it.) The 50mm is a bit too bokeh-ish for my tastes, but it's great nevertheless. And the 28mm is inconveniently slow at times - I'm currently dabbling with the idea of replacing it with its faster sibling, the 28mm-f/2.8 -, but its sharpness is to die for.
I'm quite satisfied with these two vintage lenses that I bought for peanuts. And - I guess that could earn me another credit - I can use them with my digital camera via an adapter. How great is that?

I must admit 2 prime lenses would be one two few for me ideally, either just one or three would be my choice. Anyway, the two would be the Fuji 60mm macro lens and the 23mm f/1.4 both of which I have and use on my X series cameras. That leaves out a wide angle choice. Trouble is I like narrow as well as normal and wide. Initially when I got my X-Pro1 I had just the 3 lenses that they made, the 18mm 35mm and 60mm and it was perfect, then I started to buy the zooms, the 14mm superwide, the 23mm, and now I have too many choices as I can't carry it all around. I now have the X-T1 as well further complications the situation and choices, plus the great X20 which I can stick in my pocket.

I don't know if I'd call this my all time, desert-island choice, but I sold off all my Canon gear then bought an Oly E-M5II, 12-40/2.8, and 17/1.8. I've been quite satisfied with the results (and the lighter load).

Personal to Mike Johnston:

Dear Mike,

Cleaning my desk I found a note I meant to send along last summer. We watched a documentary film titled Cooper and Hemingway: The True Gen , about the unlikely friendship between Gary and Ernest. I am not writing to recommend the film. What I am writing about is a quote from E.H.'s son Patrick to the effect that “before photography celebrity as we know it did not exist”.

R.W. Bloomer

If I could only have two lenses then I'd take the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 (which I own) and a 45mm-ish lens to go with it. I already have the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and since I like it I could just keep that one as well. (For this example I'm barely even tempted by the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 for… reasons.)

If you asked me to pick only one lens it'd still be easy: Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. That said, I intend to buy a 25mm lens just to see what happens (slightly flatter photos, which might suit me well – we'll see). If my main lens were 25mm it would complicate this exercise, since I suspect that where my 20mm barely ever makes me feel like I need to switch it out for a wide angle, a 25mm might feel more… confined in that way.

P.S. Is your "thinking about gear" kick caused be you not photographing? I find that it usually happens for me at least once a year, usually in winter, that I, for some reason, don't photograph and then I furiously research gear instead as a substitute. That period was cut short at the end of last year after venturing out a couple of times and coming home with some photos I was happy with. Also, like Thomas Rink mentioned, seeing photos I was happy with, and them being of pleasing quality, made me feel much better about my equipment.

P.P.S. I don't watch a lot of films (I immerse myself in streamed television however), but not long ago I watched Arrival and it gets my seal of approval.

If limited to only two lenses, I have very defined preferences.
A 28mm equivalent and a 85mm e.
I also like them small and att least a little bit fast. I have had several different kits based around this idea and it works well for me. I end up using the 28mm for close to 80% of the pictures but appreciate and really miss the other 20% if I don't have a long option.
I'm playing around and trying to find a kit that is small but sufficient at the moment and am currently using a Panasonic GX80 with a AF30mm 1,7 and a AF 42,5 1,7.
Reasonably close to my optimal focal lengths, yet small and light. I carry them with me without noticing the weight, yet the kit is quite capable.

How does this work anyway, if I want the taking lens of my TLR to be one of the lenses, does the viewing lens automatically have to be the second lens? :)

For me, I could get by with a 28mm-e and a 50mm-e. I have an Olympus E-M10 now, and use a 14/2.5 Panasonic plus a 25/1.4 Panasonic almost exclusively. The 14/2.5 is solid, probably a bit underrated. The 25/1.4 PanaLeica lens is a real cracker. Not sure that'll work for the rest of my life, but it works just fine for now.

Of course, in real life I have a pile of other lenses also, but I'll bet if I looked in Lightroom (and didn't count my phone), about 90% of my pictures are taken with those two.

That's easy for me. I mostly shoot landscapes, so I won't be without Canon's 24-70mm f:2.8 L II and the 70-200mm f:2.8 L II. They probably serve for about 90% of what I shoot. Both are noticeably sharper than their first iterations, and the 24-70 in particular is much more robust mechanically despite feeling a bit lighter.

Except that...I'd be embarrassed to tell you how many lenses I routinely carry in a large LowePro backpack. I hate hiking a couple miles in, only to find I'm lacking just the lens I want. So I also carry a 180 mm macro, a 16-35mm and a 100-400mm lens. Nuts, I know.

But then...when I photograph people, I swap all these out for (usually) an 85 mm f:1.4 and Canon's older 24-105 f:4 L lens. The latter isn't spectacularly sharp, but it's good enough, and the focal length range is fabulous for crowds 'n parties. The optically much better 24-70 just isn't long enough for me, hence the absurd duplication. And I try to only have these two lenses. Otherwise it's too tempting to keep changing, and I've noticed that I always miss the best shot while swapping lenses.

Lens choice relates to how one grew up. "Old Folks" remember the "35 mm/50 mm/135 mm" regime that ruled the day back then. Our significant "brain drilled" images are based on these 35 mm equivalent lenses.

Hello Mike,

I've gravitated towards mostly shooting wide over the past couple of years. The wonderful Fuji 16mm on my XT-1 and the 23mm that's attached to my X100S.

Steve B.

"Hunt for the Wilderpeople"

When I am shooting for my pleasure, I have going out for a good number of years with a pair of an old Summicron 35 (V2, Canadian made) and a old Summicron 50 (V4, Canadian as well) I get very nice and satisfying results on my Monochrom. Their small size made them cute, especially the 35mm.

I have owned other and "better" lens, like the ASPH versions of these focal length, they were better performers at wider apertures but their heavier weight did not fit as well balanced on the Leica M. But still, they were a 35 & a 50.

There is one movie that I have "discovered" recently and keep recommending to friends: "The Man from Earth" (2007). A couple of good actors, a single cabin as set and great conversations carried by a intriguing script.

I forgot to add that (because of work) I own a lot of cameras and lenses. All Nikon. The primes are all old AIS used with a couple of old well maintained F3s. The digital stuff is FX,DX with 3 main zooms and a micro.

I take 90% of my pictures with 10% of this gear.

I did a survey of 30 yrs of images for archiving. When working with Kodachrome, almost all the really good images were taken with a 35 and a 55 micro, my standard 50. About 10% were done with a 180, 400, 24 or 18. Spend your money on the focal lengths that are used the most. Forget the fancy long glass (owned:400,500 cat, 1000 cat.. never used any much but the 400. I had these to keep clients happy) unless you're photographing birds and similar stuff. I see these people with huge fast zooms that keep them from getting through a doorway without banging the lens.

Keep it as simple as possible and concentrate on the image.

I have several lenses, but bring only one or two. On a few occasions, I have brought up to four, but found that one or two just stayed in my bag.

A 24-120 f4 and a 50mm f1.4 - FF equiv. If it were three lenses, I would ditch the zoom and go 24mm 1.8, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.8. I find that three-prime-set-up very liberating, light and encouraging of creativity.

I have dozens of lenses at home. But I've adopted an approach similar to Thomas'. I use two bodies and two prime lenses.

1. Panasonic GM5 with Olympus 25mm f/1.8

2. Panasonic GX7 with Sigma 60mm f/2.8

I don't do wide. The GM5 with the 25mm gives me a small, fast, sharp camera/lens combo that is perfect for walking around and general use.

The camera-based stabilization of the GX7 helps with the slower, longer 60mm lens. This is my portrait combo. Frankly, the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 seems to make every portrait beautiful. I don't know how its possible, but it does.

With this combo, I never need to change lenses, both cameras easily fit into a small camera bag with the lenses attached, and I'm never left wanting for another lens.

Perfect (for me, at least).

I have two answers, one for film, one for digital. For the former, the 43 mm Biogon derivative and the 80 mm Plasmat of the Mamiya 7. For the latter, the 28mm-e on the Ricoh GR and the Panasonic 42.5 mm m4/3 tele. I own and use all four. Film when bulk and weight are no object (a tripod being essential for the Mamiya); digital for compactness and light weight.

This is harder than it sounds... it is easy to get caught up in "well, if I could have lens -x-". But I'll go for the extra credit and stick with what is already in my bag. First, the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G VR. I picked it up simply to have a wider-ranging lens for my D610, never expecting much from it. Instead I ended up with a lens that renders surprisingly well, has the versatility I was wanting, and effective VR to boot.

The other would be my current favorite, the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G. Like many, I prefer the look of this lens to the more expensive 85mm f/1.4G, and while I always liked its "D" predecessor, the G lens is sharper, has better color, and is generally more predictable in varying light.

Were we talking m4/3, which I'm currently not in (but may add back to my bag), it is easily the 45mm f/1.8 and 75mm f/1.8 Olympus m.Zuiko lenses. Two of my favorite all time primes!

Sorry for cluttering up the comments with a non-answer ... like the Thomas, I love the idea of simplicity. I'm frustrated by having too much gear from different brands and dream of simplifying down to a single body and as few lenses as possible. In practice, I do tend to carry pairs of lenses (or even a single lens) but the pair I carry changes. I'm not a specialist, but not really a generalist, either ... more a "multi-specialist" ? So I tend to shoot this with a DSLR and these couple lenses, that with a DSLR and those couple lenses, something else with mirrorless and these couple lenses and that stuff with a point & shoot.
If I accept that I probably won't specialize any further until I'm forced to by age, then the next best solution for me would be a single brand that offers the half dozen lenses I want, a bigger, performance-oriented body as well as a compact body plus an enthusiast-oriented 1" sensor compact all with very similar user interfaces so I can easily switch from one to another.
Sony has settled on a consistent menu system so moving between the RX100 and A6000 isn't bad, but e-mount lacks the lenses and the enjoyment factor that makes me want to use it.
Nikon has the long lenses and the bigger bodies; the wide stuff (for APS-C) and the compact options are missing. Ideally, they'd make a mirrorless, ala EOS-M or even a compact F-mount mirrorless body ... the D5500 could substitute, but I don't want to go back to a DSLR without micro AF adjust. This is an area where Nikon 1 missed the boat - the UI was alien. The upcoming DL series hopefully behaves enough like bigger Nikons to fill in.
Canon has the bigger DSLRs, the compact Rebel SL-1 as well as EOS-M and some 1" bodies. It's probably a 'safe' choice, but somehow seems very uninspiring.
Fuji has the XT2 for performance and the XT20 or XE-series for compact options, plus a nice selection of lenses.
Olympus and Panasonic both also have bigger, expensive, performance-oriented bodies as well as compact options - I don't know if they have the similar UIs. Panasonic has 1" sensor models. These options seem more "hodge podge" than Fuji, though, less cohesive and coherent. Maybe it's the mish mash of IBIS and OIS, cheap lenses and expensive lenses. I'm not sure I could put together my ideal kit from lenses from just one brand or the other.
That's what I'd like - a top to bottom system offering performance when I need it, compactness and convenience when I need it, with as much consistency as possible. Canon is probably the most sensible, Fuji the most appealing, m43 brands practical, while I wait to see if Nikon offerings improve because of vested interest and some very compelling lenses.

I have/had a very tight budget for camera gear. So after getting my EM-1 a few years ago (ouch! for the price), the lenses I have been using most and like a lot:

(1) Sigma 60 mm F2.8 DN - this one feels so natural as it essentially covers the width as how I usually look at things. (I have normal eye sight.) The image quality is amazing. This is the lens I carry if I don’t take anything else.

(2) Olympus 35 mm f/3.5 macro (4-3rd format, bought used, really cheap) on the free 43:m43 adapter came with the camera. If not that I already had this lens before getting the camera, I'd go for a Sigma 30 mm F2.8 DN.

(3) Sigma 19 mm F2.8 DN - this is as wide as I can see/visualize an image in my head before checking in the viewfinder. Chromatic aberration is apparent with this lens, but can be corrected easily in ACR. Not the sharpest, but pleasant enough.

(You only asked for two … but)
All these together can be carried in a tiny bag.

If I could have only two, I think it would be the Olympus 12-100 f4 (which I don't own, given that I have the 12-40 and 40-150 f2.8 pair) and the Olympus 25mm f1.2 (which I own and am really enjoying). That pair would give me incredible range (24-200 EFL) with nice sharpness, and a fast prime at a flexible focal length when I need to shoot in low light or want a lot of subject separation. I think I could probably get by happily on these, but I would miss longer primes, wide angle for astrophotography, and a macro. Great question, Mike!

I have a lot of lenses, mostly DX and FX primes, plus several Nikon bodies, but if I could only have two lenses they'd be two of my Fuji's, a 16/1.4 and a 18-55, to use with my x-pro2. They are good enough to more than exceed my abilities, and the form factor is so much easier to pack than the Nikon's.

For almost three decades my camera "system" was a Hasselblad with two lenses, as 60mm and a 120mm macro (so basically a moderate Wide Angle and a moderate Telephoto). These two lenses saw me through my commercial assignments, personal projects and extensive travels.
Now, shooting with a full frame digital, I could be totally happy with my Sigma 20mm f/1.8 and Canon 90mm TS. I find the 20mm shoots wider than I would usually use, but with perspective correction in LR I'm usually cropped in to around 24-28mm. The 90 TS is simply a superb lens, extremely sharp.. and focuses quite close.
So there you have my choices... two great prime lenses and I'm a happy camper!

For me, these two lenses would be what I used during these last two years: The main lens is a 35mm f/2.8 PC-Nikkor (a shift lens), and a 50mm f/1.8 Ai Nikkor (long barrel version). The camera is a Nikon D800. Both lenses together cost me about 450€ on ebay. Especially the 35mm is not for sharpness fanatics and is a pain to use (manual diaphragm). Nevertheless, I like the prints from both lenses a lot for their somewhat organic look.
I currently do one project exclusively with the 35mm, another ongoing project is with both lenses. The decision to switch to prime lenses was due to a suggestion by German landscape photographer Michael Lange during a workshop. He suggested us to carry at most two prime lenses, for the reason to minimize the amount of decision-making in the field, thus freeing the mind to focus on the pictures instead.
If I remember correctly, Mike, you gave a similar advice some years back (OCOLOY?). For me, this works really well and I think it is sound advice.

Best, Thomas

I could very well get by with my Fuji XF 18/2 and 35/2 lenses which I use on X-Pro2 cameras. In 35mm terms they correspond to 28mm and 50mm focal length. Lightroom tells me that more than 80% of my recent pictures are taken with these two lenses.

I happen to have seen some wonderful movies lately, all high in quality and originality:

Mustang by Deniz Gamze Ergüven 2015
The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos' first English language project. 2015
Sweet Land by Ali Selim 2007
and Everlasting Moments (which I know you've seen, because you recommended it. Thanks!)

Sweet Land may interest you in particular, for its subject (it's about Minnesota immigrant-farmers ca. 1920, and written and directed by Minnesotans), wonderful compositions on 35mm film inspired by Selim's love of Hopper, A. Wyeth and Rothko, and a painfully inaccurate but otherwise wonderful scene with a view camera that's critical to story and characters. Possibly the most low-key approach to drama I've seen in a movie, yet still makes everyone tear up.

Mustang is about four spirited sisters growing up in an ultra-conservative household in Turkey. Stunning in many ways, but emotionally rough going.

The Lobster is indescribable, but fair warning: among other things, it's a somewhat brutal take on alienation and loneliness. I'm tempted to say: think Kafka meets Updike through Chaplin, but that could be misleading.

Less recently, I was just as blown away by Koreeda's Still Walking and Farhadi's A Separation.

Hi Mike,

I'm playing. My two lens kit:
- Cosina Voigtländer Nokton 40mm F/1.4
- Cosina Voigtländer Apo Lanthar 90mm F/3.5

My main camera is a full frame Sony A7. The Leica M mount Nokton is mounted on a Yeenon helicoid adaper, which allows to shoot much closer than the normal 0.7m minimum focus. Even with the adapter, it's one of the smallest and lightest fast normal lens you can get. It's also a lens that is very sharp in the middle of the frame wide open, making it usable for low light candids at F/1.4. At F/8, it's plenty sharp over the whole frame for general purpose photography.

The Apo Lanthar is in Pentax K mount and can natively focus to 0.5m. It's almost perfectly corrected for all aberrations (there is only a small amount of longitudinal chromatic aberration when used wide open) and has a very nice rendering (including bokeh).

The camera and both lenses fit in a small waist pouch and there is very little that I cannot do with this nice duo. Even wide vistas are trivial with the help of the panoramic feature of the camera or by stitching a few images when the need arises.



Even as recently as three or four years ago, my answer would have been simple: a Rolleiflex 2.8C. which two lenses? Well, the viewing lens and the taking lens, of course! But now I hardly shoot film at all, and my collection of lenses just keeps getting bigger.

Olympus 14-35mm f2 and 35-100mm f2. I have both.

Easy choice for me. Fuji 23mm f/1.4 and Fuji 56mm f1.2. I already own them and use them joyfully.

I'm much enamored of the two lens idea -- been trying to get it together for some years now. For me, the ideal is a 28mm f/2 (or 2.8) and a 55mm f/2 (in 35mm equivalent terms). I could get it with a Sony A7 and the Sony FE 28/2 + Zeiss 55/1.8 lenses in a size that I could live with (though wouldn't love). But, alas, that setup bears a price I'm so far unwilling to pay. If size/weight were no object, a pretty similar setup would be easy to do with Canon or Nikon.

I recently spent a couple weeks shooting with the Fuji XF 18/2 and 35/2 lenses (27 and 53mm equivalents). Both are really nice, but, try as I might, I can't really fall for any Fujifilm bodies, so far. I'll probably keep trying on the ridiculous theory that love can be willed into being.

I have a Sony a6000 and the Sony E 20/2.8 (somewhat different than the 28/2 equivalent I really want) and the E 35/1.8 (really nice). For now, it'll do, but I wish the Fuji 18/2 worked on my a6000.

Funny you should mention it. I was just checking up the value of some lenses I no longer use on Ebay. For the past three years I only used two lenses for my leica. The first is a 35mm F1.4 Summicron. The other is my Zeiss 1.5 Sonnar. The others are mostly all going on the block.

I have just completed my two lens set for my a7MkII. First I bought Sony 70-200 f4. I have had only this one for over 9 months. That was really tough exercise, because I prefer to use shorter focal lengths. The second lens, which had to be postponed, is Sony Zeiss 16-35 f4. I think that it should be enough. Maybe someday, something like 50 mm prime will come out useful, but not now.

While I own more than two lenses, two are all that I use. A fast normal for indoors, low-light and candid portraiture, and a competent all-weather zoom that starts at 24mm eq. for most everything else. I already own two excellent examples of each, the PL 25mm f/1.4 and Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8. They do what I need and I have a decent idea of how they behave.
That said, if money were no object, I might trade both of those up for an Olympus 25mm f/1.2 (more light, faster AF) and Olympus 12-100mm f/4 (more reach, greater IS and most of the time I use the 12-40, I stop it down anyway).

Nikkor 35/1.4 and 14-24/2.8. I've got 'em both. If my 20-35/2.8 were better in the corners with less CA, I'd be fine with just that. When all my gear was stolen in 1996, I bought the 20-35. My stolen lenses were eventually recovered, but I used the 20-35 almost exclusively for the next ten years.

For me, having too many lenses can be more of a detriment to my work than having too few. Based on what I use, I could/should unload a bagfull of lenses, but for some reason, I just can't seem to bring myself to do it...

Despite having a fairly wide selection of very nice lenses, I've been using the Ricoh GR (28mm FOV) almost exclusively for the past three plus years.

I really prefer and enjoy traveling light these days. I've told quite a few gear-oriented friends on Instagram (who were shocked I'd only taken the GR to Cuba) that in reality you'll never have time to use all the lenses you lug around in that overstuffed camera bag. And I counseled them that's it's far better to take only one or two lenses, so you have a consistent perspective with all of your images...if you' trying to tell a story about your destination.

The only other lenses I recall using in the past few years are my beloved Pentax FA* 31mm and a 35mm Summicron.

Although this probably doesn't directly answer your question, in my case I've come to realize that a 28mm or 35mm lens probably best suits me for the way I see life. And as I get older, and hopefully wiser, I realize I don't earn extra points for carrying around a bunch of lenses that I probably wouldn't use anyway.

For digital,

+ the Fuji 27mm 2.8 pancake lens, which turns the X cameras into very compact and capable photo instruments. This is my everyday, go-into-my-shoulder bag combination.

+ the Fuji 23 mm F2, when I am out for dedicated shooting, for the extra stop, extra width, and lovely out-of-focus bits--what's that called again???

+ and since that's a pretty small kit, I am going to insist on a third lens: the Fuji 35mm F2, for when I just want that normal lens look.

I rarely need any more coverage than these three wee lenses.

For film:

+ Hasselblad 80 mm Planar for my V series camera. VERY flat field, and a look all its own, IMHO.

+ Pentax SMC 55mm for my Pentax 67 -- just lovely wide-angle images.

Thanks for askin'.

I used to get by just fine on my Pentax MZM manual focus 35mm film SLR with my Pentax KA 50mm f1.7, my first lens and bought second hand, and my Sigma 24mm f2.8 (marked "SUPER-WIDE II") which was a present from my father-in-law. I learned to see with these lenses and I'd happily go back to those lengths in whatever equivalent I'd need for my M4/3 and APS-C cameras, on both of which I have zoom lenses that only go to 28mm-e and which I'm constantly cursing for being not wide enough.
Today I watched "End of Watch" (Jake Gyllenhall, Michael Pena) which isn't my usual type of film but which I found to be disturbing, thrilling and the movie equivalent of unputdownable. Loved it.

If I am allowed zoom lenses, then my answer is the current Olympus 2.8 pair (12-40 and 45-200 or whatever the long lens is).

If I am not allowed zoom lenses, then the current Olympus 12mm and 45mm primes. I think. 12mm is a little wide, but I'm willing to crop if I have to.

If I have to list the prime in terms of 35mm framing, then a 35mm/2 and something like an 85/2.

The F2.8 zooms for 35mm cameras (and the later F4 versions for full frame digital cameras these days) were always too big for me, so they do not go on the list.

Leica 35mm Summilux for the M, and the new Olympus 12-100 f/4 for M4/3. I own both.


#1. 50mm Summilux-M
#2. 35mm Summilux-M

Both pre-aspherical, and I actually have one of each. And shoot on Tri-X film with them.

I very nearly pulled the trigger on the Leica Year project last week. The proposed outfit would have been an M6 with a DR 50mm Summicron (though I hadn't settled on a film yet). If it weren't for the fact that I have a current project photographing for a local zoo, I would have done it. Alas, the requirements for the project just didn't work with the Leica and I want to commit 100% when I do my year. Maybe when the zoo project is completed.

I think part of the appeal of the Leica year project is learning how to see more effectively with a focal length that I've never really mastered. When I look at the photos I'm truly happy with, they're almost always wide angle or telephoto. I don't see well in the middle ground. I'm hoping that by spending a year with the focal length, I'll learn how to use it more effectively.

Barring the Leica and one lens idea, if I had to limit myself to two lenses, I'd probably stick to two that I own — my AF Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8D and Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 II. The former is not the newest or sexiest telephoto zoom on the market, but I know it well and have a higher rate of great shots with it than with the rest of my kit combined. I purchased the Sigma after a rental from LensRentals just to see how wide 12mm really is. I was smitten by the unique way of seeing the world and had to own one. It's still a challenge to use effectively, but it's a fun, useful lens for me.

Well....this answer is sort of cribbed from Fred Picker.....but my 2 are a 210mm nikkor....and a 120mm nikkor....i have added a 90mm as well...all on 4x5.I own them all...bought used on e bay.

For movies, how about:

  • Le Quattro Volte -- beautiful & mysterious

  • Far From Men -- nice turn from Viggo Mortensen, also lovely cinematography

  • Force Majeure -- interesting moral tale

I own 2 lenses and both are my favorites and use them often.
They are very similar. A Nikkor 85mm 1.8 with aftermarket AI modifacation and a 6 digit seriel number. This model is used in the movie "Blow-up" and a website said it has a cult following....I enjoy the weight of the thing and the experience of nostaligic feeling I get when I use it with an aperature ring and manual focus. I even sometimes wonder if this is the actually the lens used in the Film. Currently on my NEX7 with the smaller sensor It becomes a 127mm. My other lens is a Zeiss 55mm 1.8 which now becomes 82mm. I'm looking forward to another full frame body then my 2 favorite lenses would now become 3. Speaking of "Blow Up" I watched it about a month ago after watching it in a movie house back in high school in the early 60's. It still holds up. Within of 30 days I found 2 hidden images when I opened the computer. A shot of a wave at the beach where the spindrift mist caught the split second of a rainbow, and a palm orchard I photographed the spot where I buried my cat showed my perfect shadow at the bottom that I never saw when I took the shot.

I had similar discussions with friends recently. My choice would be a 28mm Summicron and a 50mm Summilux, both of which I do own.
They are my two most used lenses anyway, and anything needing a wider view can be done with multiple images and stitching. If needing a longer view and I can't get closer, then cropping is usually ok, given the quality and size of files nowadays, but for me it is rare to use a longer lens.
But the answer is really what pair of lenses do I need that day...

By far my most used lens is the Olympus 17mm f/1.8. The second most used lens is the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. But if I had to buy everything new again I would probably go for the Panasonic 42,5mm f/1.7, because this lens is more practical for getting close.
But why only two? These micro 4/3 lenses are so light and small that you can easily take five of them without noticing the extra weight and space.

I think I could get by pretty nicely with two lenses, and one of them would be the Fuji 35mm f1.4 that I have, mostly because I've had it a while and keep coming back to it as my default lens. I suspect that the 2nd lens that I would use most is a 23mm (which I don't yet have), but at the moment I'm swapping between 14mm and 60mm from day to day with mixed results.

These days, for everything other than when I go somewhere specifically to photograph wildlife (for which I have an 80-400 lens), I use a refurbished, relatively lightweight D750 with two lightweight but very capable Nikkor lenses: a 24-85 kit lens and a 70-200 f/4. I tried a lot of combinations over the past decade, but I now have everything I currently need or want.

I've actually been thinking about this quite a bit, and I have convinced myself that I would be perfectly content with the PanaLeica 15 and 42.5 with my GX8 `forever'. I don't own either, but I do have a similar pair - the Panny 20 and Oly 45. If I could have one more, I would add the Panasonic 35-100 f/2.8.

Fuji x100 series 23mm f2.0 and Canonet QL17 GIII 40mm f1.7. Normalish focal lengths, plenty fast enough, digital and film. I've taken lots of fine photos with this pair. I was tempted to pick a portrait length lens but in the past 12mo, I have not used the one I have.

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