My Lens Choices and How I Use Them
With such a wide range of lenses available for camera systems these days, it can be difficult to choose the ones that work best for you. Too frequently I see questions by new photographers asking which lens is the best choice for landscapes or wildlife, for example. Just as frequently, I see answers to those questions that suggest using a wide angle lens for landscape and a super telephoto lens for wildlife.
When asked to critique photographs, I often find that the photographers had a great vision of what story they wanted their photo to tell. However, the incorrect lens was often chosen and unfortunately reduced the impact of the final image. For many of the images the photographer used a lens wider than necessary and there was no obvious subject of interest, causing the eye to just wander around the image. It’s worth noting that the wider a lens is, the more difficult it can be to create a strong composition.
Depending on the diversity of your photographic subjects, you may be able to use only one lens. Being a fine art photographer who shoots landscape, wildlife, abandoned places and abstract types of images, I regularly use a wide range of lenses. I am shooting with the Panasonic Lumix camera system and my widest angle lens is 14mm and my longest 800mm (both 35mm equivalent).
Below is a list of lenses I use and a brief description of how I generally use them. These lenses are very sharp autofocus (except the manual focus Venus 60mm macro) very quickly. I hope that after reading these you may perhaps be inspired to try some of your lenses for other subjects:
Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 (14-28mm equivalent on 35mm)
This lens is very wide. It can be difficult making strong compositions with such a wide-angle lens. It is very important to pay attention to foreground, mid and background in your scene. I use this lens almost exclusively for night photography and when I really need to exaggerate foreground objects. This makes a scene seem vast and can create a very impressive dynamic scene.
Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 (24-70mm equivalent on 35mm)
For many people this lens is their go-to lens. For me personally it is more of my general purpose lens. It’s not wide enough or long enough for a lot of my subject matter. Especially now since the m43 equipment is so light, I’ll usually bring it along with all of my other lenses because it is incredibly sharp and is useful in many situations.
Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 (70-200mm equivalent on 35mm)
This is definitely one of my go-to lenses. I often use it to exclude elements from a scene to create more of an intimate landscape. It’s a great focal range and the lens focuses as close as 1ft????? Which is great for close-up work. The addition of extension tubes can make this lens great for insects and smaller subjects as well. Along with the 100-400mm lens, this is used a lot for my abstract photography. The dual image stabilization support for this lens makes it great for great deal of subjects and lower light shooting.
Lumix / Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 (30mm equivalent on 35mm)
I use this lens for night photography and for macro with extension tubes. The lens is fairly wide-angle with a large aperture so it works well for shots of the night sky. If paired with extension tubes (I use the Kenko brand), it works as a very capable macro setup. Depending on the amount of extension tubes used, you can get more than 1:1 macro. If you add too many tubes you won’t be able to focus on your subject as it will literally be touching the front of your lens.
Lumix / Leica DG Elmarit 45mm f2.8 macro (90mm equivalent on 35mm)
This is my Panasonic macro lens of choice. It offers greater working distance than the 30mm macro lens and is also a Leica lens. Although this lens also works very well for subjects focused at a distance (not all macro lenses do), I pretty much dedicate it to macro. Fantastic dual image stabilization allows me to shoot macro handheld in a pinch which I would never really have done. However, I will still use a tripod 99% of the time unless photographing moving insects.
Lumix / Leica DG Vario Elmar 100-400mm f/4 – 6.3 (200-800mm equivalent on 35mm)
I absolutely love this lens. I not only use it for wildlife but also for situations where I want extremely shallow depth of field or where I can’t get close enough to the subject. This lens can focus as close as five feet across the whole zoom range, which is incredible and allows for a lot of close-up opportunities. Since there is also hardly any depth of field at 400mm (800mm equivalent), sometimes I’ll focus stack to obtain a bit more depth of field. It is critical to use a good tripod or have the lens slightly weight dampened as a mild breeze is enough to cause camera / lens shake at this magnification. Slower shutter speeds will be more affected by this. Consider using a small beanbag or your hand to help control any vibration. Aside from using it for wildlife, I use it a lot to create abstract images since I can isolate subjects extremely well.
Venus 60mm f/2.8 (120mm equivalent on 35mm)
This is a vey sharp specialty macro lens that provides 2:1 magnification without the need for extension tubes. It also focuses to infinity. Unlike my Leica 45mm macro, I only use this lens for macro. It is a completely manual lens with no image stabilization or auto focus and it doesn’t relay any information to the camera. This is also the only lens I use a (high quality) UV protective filter on as at macro ranges the lens elements retract into the lens barrel at various magnification levels.