Banner Image: Galway shot on the Lumix GX8 with the Lumix 12-35 f/2.8 at 35mm, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/1000th

What’s your favourite lens?

This is something that I often see in online forums but a quick, off-the-cuff response is not that simple. To answer the question with another question: doesn’t that depends on what you are photographing? Well, of course it does but, actually, I do get what people mean when they say they have a favourite. There is just something about certain lenses that keeps drawing us back to them - but whether to use this one or that is always going to be dependent on the subject you’re shooting. A better question to kick off the discussion might be this: given that I have four lenses in my kit bag to cover the 50mm focal length, which would I choose? If I can work through that one, it might get me a bit closer to addressing the original question. So here we go.

The 50mm f/1.4 prime, at 2 stops brighter than the 24-70 f/2.8 is not only going to be better at recording in low light conditions, but it will also allow more light on the auto focussing system, improving focus accuracy. I could instead select the 24-105 f/4, but I would be losing a further stop of light. And then there’s the 18-200 lens, great as an all-round catch-all solution, but limited by a variable aperture. In lenses, as in life, nothing’s perfect.

'why the simple ‘favourite lens’ question is problematic'

When you start comparing like for like, it adds a further dimension. For example, I much preferred the old Nikon 85mm f/1.8 D lens over the newer G lens because the former had more petals on the diaphragm; this gives a slightly creamier look to the out-of-focus areas. And then there’s edge-to-edge sharpness and colour to consider. This is bringing us back to why the simple ‘favourite lens’ question is problematic.Isn’t it more a case of which lens do you prefer for which task? For that, I think you need to start with a range of lenses which will equip you for most situations.

'in Nikon speak, the Holy Trinity of zooms'

At the centre of many a photographer’s standard kit is, in Nikon speak, the Holy Trinity of zooms. On full frame, this would be a wide zoom, standard zoom and a medium zoom. For Nikon users it’s the 14-24 f/2.8, the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 70-200 f/2.8. They are all incredibly sharp but remember that only the 70-200 f/2.8 has image stabilisation. After almost 10 years, I’ve recently made the change from Nikon full frame and crop sensor cameras to LUMIX micro four thirds. Performance is almost identical and the LUMIX has some distinct advantages, including the obvious saving on weight. Swapping systems has made me stop and re-evaluate my lens line-up. So what’s in the bag over on the MFT camp?

'up to 6.5 stops of stabilisation'

Well, we have a choice of wide zooms in the Panasonic line-up (remember to double the focal length to get a full frame equivalent). Either the new Leica 8-14mm f/2.8-f/4.0 or the LUMIX 7-14 f/4. Personally, I’m going with the LUMIX; there’s a substantial price saving and the quality difference is, in my opinion, negligible. For the standard zoom, I will stick with my LUMIX Vario G 12-35 f/2.8. At just under £1000, it’s not a cheap lens but it is super sharp, very fast to focus, doesn’t suffer from much chromatic aberration and has built-in Power IS which ‘talks’ to the in-body stabilisation on the newer LUMIX bodies, giving up to 6.5 stops of stabilisation. Next up, the medium zoom. I flirted with the idea of the Olympus 40-150 f/2.8 but it’s a massive piece of glass and it doesn’t have image stabilisation. Instead, I have gone for the new LUMIX Vario G 35-100 f/2.8 MkII. I owned the MkI last year and loved it, the newer lens has slightly faster focussing and improved IS.

That’s the three core lenses sorted; they are all weather-sealed and the bonus for me is that they are fully interchangeable with any of my Lumix bodies. From the pocket-sized GX80 to the DSLR-styled G90, they are all equally at home shooting stills and video. So, what’s next? A good prime for low light.

I have a Sigma Art 30mm f/2.8 which is an amazing value lens but it tends to cross over with the 12-35 f/2.8 so I’m going to buy a Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4. It’s the MFT equivalent of the nifty fifty. A great low light lens.

'hire them when needed from our trade partner' Lenspimp

Next, something with a bit more reach. If I was shooting sport or wildlife as my main thing, I would love the Leica 200mm f/2.8 or the 100-400 f/4 - f/6.3 but they are a massive investment for occasional use. Much more practical is to hire them when needed from our trade partner Lenspimp. For £59 you can get the 100-400 for 3 days and, if you are a member of our Silver or Gold scheme, you can save 10%. So, instead of investing over a thousand pounds in the Leica, I will go with the Lumix 100-300 f/4.0 to f/5.6 Power OIS MkII. I owned the MkI for a while and, whilst not the sharpest lens on the block, it did a pretty good job. Check out the hang glider shot from last year’s road trip. The MkII is meant to be much better - and remember, this is the equivalent of a 200-600 on full frame but smaller and lighter than the average 70-200!

Hang Gliders at Mont Blanc. Lumix GX8, Lumix 100-300 (200-600 eq) ISO 200, 240mm, f/8, 1/320th

Think we’re almost there now but there’s something missing. Now, I’m not a regular macro shooter but, if I was, would I use a 50mm, 100mm or 150mm? I do rather fancy trying some macro work, especially as the G9 does 80MP stills and focus-stacking. The Leica 45mm f/2.8 macro looks good but so does the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro. Decisions, decisions. Maybe I’ll get onto Lenspimp again. I think hire-and-try would be the way to go for this one.

Well that’s it, or it would be if it wasn’t for a couple of lenses I haven’t mentioned. I’ve got the small 12-32 pancake zoom mainly for use on the GX80; it really does fit in your pocket and is great for social stuff and street - and then there’s my 45-175 Power Zoom, again quite small and with a long reach.

'The beauty of MFT is that the lenses are so light'

The beauty of MFT is that the lenses are so light, I don’t have a problem carrying all of them, plus two bodies, in one shoulder bag. I do wonder, if I had only taken a full frame camera with me, whether I would have bothered to lug it all the way up to the top of the Quantock Hills in the wind and rain?

Well, we’ve come full circle so… what is my favourite lens? If I had to choose one, then it would be the 24-70 f/2.8 (or 12-35 f/2.8 in MFT). It’s just a great all rounder for everything from people to landscape, product to social photography and street. Having said that, it can't handle everything you point it at. Where genres like wildlife and sport are concerned, there is no substitute for focal length!

Shot with the Lumix GX8, Lumix 12-35 (24-70 eq) 17mm, f/4.0, ISO 1600, 1/80 on the Quantock Hills

Low light with the Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4. Lumix GX8, ISO 800, f/2.0, 1/60th

 

The Louvre, Lumix GX8, 12-35 f/2.8, ISO400, 12mm, f/5.6, 1/5000.

 

Lumix GX8, Lumix 35-100 f/2.8 ( 70-200 eq) 89mm (180 eq) f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/125

 

Nikon D750 Full Frame, Nikon 80-400 f/4.5 - f/4.6. 230mm f/5.6, ISO 100. 1/250

 

Lumix GX8, Lumix 42.5 f/1.7 ( 85mm eq ) f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/250th

 

Hasselblad H5d, 80mm, f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/350th