A colleague asked me recently: when would you/do you use a 24-70mm lens?
Here’s when: always.
That is to say: the 24-70 range is the most versatile range. Any type of portrait can be made in that lens range. Other lenses are great too, but none offer the versatility of a 24-70 on a full frame camera.
Here’s a recent simple portrait setup in a small room. This was intended for family pictures (the occasion was a Bat Mitzvah celebration):
You can see:
- A backdrop with a narrow white background paper roll
- Two 400 Ws Bowens studio lights with umbrellas
- A speedlight with a Honl speed strap and a Honl Photo 1/4″ Grid fitted to it
- All lights are fired via Pocketwizards
I used a Canon 1Ds Mark 3 camera with the 24-70 f/2.8 lens set to f/8.
This gives me 50mm portraits:
And another one – where I ran out of space:
This lens also gives me the ability to take 65mm portraits like this:
Can you see these are closer up?
Photographers often say “you need 85mm or longer”. As a blanket statement this is nonsense. Plus, for much longer lenses I would have needed a larger room.
Now a few notes.
- In all my numbers, I am taking about “real” lens length. If a lens is marked “50mm” or “24-70mm” this means “this lens is a 50mm lens or a 24-70 mm lens on a full frame camera”, i.e. on a camera whose sensor is the same size as a negative.
- On a crop camera, a lens “behaves longer” proportional to the crop. So on a small Nikon camera (1.5 cop), a 50mm lens behaves like a 75mm lens, and a 24-70 like a 36-105. On Canon, the crop factor is 1.6. Still in the range!
- You can use a 50mm fixed lens (or a 35mm fixed lens on a crop camera) to get this same 50mm effect. Affordable, small, and great quality.
I hope note 3 in particular inspires you to go get a prime lens or two.
For me, I also have a Canon 1D, with a 1.3 crop, and guess what? The 50mm is like a 65mm on that camera.
So I can put the 50 on the 1Ds to get 50, or on the 1D to get 65. Who needs zooms? Yes, the 24-70 is my lens of choice for these portraits, but sometimes it is nice to not zoom, and to work with one length instead.