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Monday, 13 February 2017


Re: Two-lens kit - I'm thinking of doing a slight variation on this. I have a Fuji X-T2 and I am planning on getting a 50-140mm f2.8 and a Fuji X100F to compliment it (I may get the two add-on lenses for the X100F as well). This to me (I think) would be the perfect kit - I wouldn't have to change lenses!

I would like to make another analogy between cameras and cars: people not in the know can see both and assume you are wealthy. I have always had Canon Rebels going back to the film days. They are small, light, and affordable, which as a landscape photographer meets my needs. I use them with the big and small kit zooms. When I'm out photographing people always comment on how committed to photography I must be because of my "super expensive camera". This is usually said while taking a snapshot on their $800 Iphone.

I am fortunate enough to drive a Lexus SUV. It is by far the nicest vehicle I have ever owned, costing twice as much as my next most expensive car. It is a GX470, also known as the Landcruiser Prado overseas. Amazing car, but like you said, SUVs are all about compromise. Anyways, while it ran $60k plus new, mine is a 2005 model with 150k miles. I bought it from a nice lady last August for $10.5k. Not cheap, but not exactly lifestyles of the rich and famous either. Still, I get comments all the time from people driving cars that I know they paid more for (ie late model Tahoes, four door trucks, among others) about how rich I must be. I honestly wanted a Toyota Tundra or Sequoia, but this was cheaper!

[That's evidence that Lexus's marketing has worked. When I drove my used, $24k Mercedes, the first person in the family who commented on it said "Wow, I could never afford a Mercedes"--despite the fact that she was driving a new $46k SUV at the time. The power of branding! --Mike]

Your 2-lens strategy is the same as what I typically carry (never mind what I own). A zoom for range and a prime for shallow DOF and/or low light. And the prime typically falls within the range of the zoom (either a normal or a portrait prime). Then I find the RX100 good enough that I can carry an ILC with a fast prime along with the RX100 and avoid lens changes.

Re: structure, that makes sense based on my observations of accomplished photographers and artists. They might change their set of limitations, but seem to always be working within a set. My own isn't consciously self-imposed, but there nonetheless. (I don't stray far from a very narrow path).

Hi Mike. I do the opposite x2 with your lense suggestion !.

When travelling (as I am about to do) I take 4 lenses. Panny 12-35 with a low light / indoor back-up 20 f1.7 and the Oly 40-150 f4-5.6 (very light weight & sharp) with the Sigma 60 f2.8 as low light / portrait back-up.

These on my Oly E-M1 make, for me, a perfect travel kit.


Should we select a tool and look for jobs that it will do or should we identify a job and then select the best tool?


That's pretty much what I do at the moment. I have two Canon DSLRs, one FF the other APS-C. With the FF body I carry a v1 24-105 + EF 40mm f2.8 STM, and with the APS-C body I carry either an EF-S 15-85 (or, more recently, a Sigma 17-70) + EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM. The two STM lenses give very similar fields of view on the respective bodies, and are almost identical in terms of size and weight.

You were looking in my camera bag. I have that 25 1.7 lens on one body and a 12-40 2.8 zoom on another, both e-m10s, and I love it. I really like the look of the 25 Panasonic files, and the versatility of the zoom. Great idea you had.

Have to respectfully disagree with Speed on zooms. The Canon 70-200/2.8 L IS II is one of the finest lenses I have ever used, bar none. In my (considerable) experience with it, this is a lens that is great at everything, including portraiture.

In fact, I would wager that for pros who shoot Canon gear, it would be one the lens you would have to pry from their cold, head hands.

I enjoyed watching the first episode in Netflix's new documentary series, Abstract: The Art of Design. Christoph Niemann explained how as an illustrator he is constantly trying to maintain control and productivity while at the same time not killing creativity. He shows how he uses playful practice to keep his chops up. Highly recommended.

Ages ago, in my far-away bachelor days, a Triumph TR-6 transported me around Northern California for a few years. I'd equate that wonderful manual-everything car to a Leica M4 with a Summicron 35 attached. Umm.. wait... the TR-6 had an on-the-stick overdrive lever that could split gears. So I guess I'd have to say the car was more like a metered M6 with the Summicron attached.

Regarding camera/lens kit, I'm liking my Fuji X-T2 with the 18-55 and 55-200 zooms for landscapes/cityscapes. And then the X-T2 with 35/2 WR lens as an all-weather all-rounder kit.

Wow! That was a surprise. Thanks, Mike.

The zoom / fast prime strategy is what I was using when I had that Tamron 28-200mm (or 18-200mm, I honestly don't remember). The fast prime was a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4. This was the combo I took with me on my first long shooting trip abroad. It wasn't perfect, and it wouldn't be my first choice now, but I made it work.

If I were going to employ this strategy again, I'd probably take a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom. But then again, maybe I'd want something smaller and lighter, albeit slower.

My 2-lens kit on my Panasonic GX80:

Panasonic 20mm f1.7
Olympus 45mm f1.8

Both reasonably inexpensive lenses and they cover most of the situations I want to photograph.

Creativity from Constraints: The Psychology of Breakthrough (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1889974.Creativity_from_Constraints) argues convincingly, with examples from many artistic fields, that creativity does indeed come from constraints.

re Limitations:

You said it at different times in different ways, but I think you did better than words could by demonstrating it (or allowing people to demonstrate it for themselves) with exercises like Leica Year and OCOLOF.

re Zooms:

I recall a conversation here on TOP about how most people (including me) use zooms 80% of the time at more or less the two extremes of their range; i.e. most often like a two-lens kit. IMO that kinda supports your zoom+middle prime strategy, making it a slightly more convenient evolution of the traditional three-prime kit.

SUVs are great at being a vehicle you can comfortably drive on the highway for days and then take on roads that require high clearance and 4 wheel drive to get to places your average Miata can only dream of.

Two-lens strategy: Olympus are specifically trying this on the market with the simultaneous release of the 12-100/4 and the 25/1.2, along with the fresh-faced E-M1 Mk2 for a sweet $4,500 for your two-lens camera.

I've always considered zooms and SUV's to be a good choice for anyone interested in extremes. Having a 200-300-400mm focal length option in a single lens is sweet and being able to drive up a "black diamond" trail to use it is hella-sweet. I can't deny that even the best zooms are a complex and costly compromise but at times they can be a bargain too.

Roger Rules
Back when I was considering (AKA, fretting over the price) the new Canon 100-400mm IS L, I read Roger's tear down article and saw where he posed the question, "Best built lens ever?" Well, that pushed me over the edge. Roger has more than earned the "crown" he once wore in his blog photo's.

Two-lens kit
I like your idea of a mid-range, all-purpose zoom and a small fast prime. I've always used primes for everything under 70mm but now that zooms are as good as they are, this two-lens kit makes sense.

Having a reliable zoom lets you carry a brilliant prime outside your normal comfort range, too -the Fuji 18-55 is a good lens, and small enough that it's no real burden along with a 16 or 35 1.4. And wile I might not want a 16mm as my only lens, having backup - even if I find i never swap lenses - lets me worry about one less thing.

I actually have two two-lens kits just as you describe.
The Canon EOS M2, with the 50mme and the 18-55 (27mme-75mme?)
The Fuji X-M1, with the 27 (41mme) and the 16-50 (24mme-75mme).
The zooms are the rather nice kit zooms, but both the primes are very nice.
I should probably work with them more. GRIN

I spent a year as a newspaper photographer using a two lens kit. The wide angle was a 40mm Summicron on a Leica CL, and the telephoto was a 50mm Summicron on a Leicaflex SL. Lots of zooming with feet, but I made it work.

Re the two lens kit: there's now an additional choice of having two bodies, one full frame and the other crop, giving additional reach on existing lenses. Add a film body for three ways of seeing with just one lens (at least four systems permit this - Leica, Nikon, Canon and Ricoh/Pentax. Maybe Sony/Minolta as well?).

Nikon goes farthest: one lens can be used on full frame digital, full frame film, digital 1.5x crop, and digital 2.7x crop (Nikon 1 with an adapter).

If only the UI was the same on all those bodies.

And on car analogies I have a sports car and an SUV - I drive the sports car when I can but the SUV when I have to (family/terrain are no good in a sports car!) No surprise I have zooms and primes as well, it's fun to work with limitations and it's great to learn in a constrained environment as well - race drivers need to learn to drive fast without traction control, automatic gearboxes etc etc etc.

I didn't realize I wanted a two-lens kit until I read this post. I have a four lens kit. They are all used on a Nikon APS-C body. Crop factor is 1.5.

Tokina 11-16 f/4.
Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8
Nikkor 18-55 mm f/5.6 VR
Nikkor 85mm f/1.8

The 18-55mm lens is the one I use the least. It does not fit the mid-range, all-purpose fast zoom requirement because it's not fast at ALL. I tolerate both of these zoom. They are both mush in the corners and are difficult to focus manually.

In retrospect I should have bought a 24mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 prime. I think a 35mm full frame equivalent would better suit my needs for " a small, light, faster prime" for everyday walking around.

Car wise, my wife like small compact SUV. That's the car we take on weekend and vacation trips. I prefer small compact sporty sedans with manual transmission.

Hi Mike. For some reason I didn't read your post about the two-lens kit until this morning. And, quite independently, this is almost exactly the strategy I'm employing with my newest acquisition.

I just picked up a steeply discounted open-box Sony A7 with kit 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom from my local Best Buy. I am adding the 50mm f/1.8 FE prime. Other than the purchase of an extra OEM battery, a proper Sony plug-in battery charger and a Godox TT350S flash unit, that's it.

This kit will allow me to explore full-frame digitial photography for the first time and have some fun with Sony's A7 series, which I never thought I could afford at this point in my life.

Yes, I could go for a faster Zeiss 24-70mm zoom but the size and price of that lens would defeat the purpose of this compact, budget full-frame kit. Besides, f/3.5-5.6 on full frame is something like f/2.8-4.0 on my micro four-thirds gear, no? :)

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