Lens thoughts

Lenses make all the difference to your picture. Talking about lenses in the four presentations I wrote for the Digital Photo and Imaging Show at the International Centre makes me realize this more acutely than ever.

And the most important thing, of course, is aperture. A lens needs a large aperture, meaning, as I am sure you all know, a low minimum “f-number”.Like f/2.8 for a quality zoom.

Many people today tried out the various lenses money can buy:

One reason you need fast lenses is the low-light ability of these lenses.

Let me say here now: there is (almost) never enough light.

Let me illustrate what I mean.

With an f/2.8 lens I can get a picture like this at 800 ISO and 1/100th second:

If I had had an f/5.6 lens, that would have been either 3200 ISO, or 1/30th second – both of which would have spoiled the image.

f/1.8, on the other hand, in this type of light today gave me as fast a shutter speed as 1/320th second for some shots, which is enough to show dancers blur-free as they lift off the floor:

And there really is little alternative. If I have to shoot faraway moving objects in low light, therefore (like animals at dusk), I can only do three things other than go to a lower “F-number”:

  1. Add light.
  2. Tell the subject not to move.
  3. Shoot at very high ISO values.

So if I feel wealthy, I might want to buy this, a Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 lens.

Beautiful. Here it is one more time:

(Of course I also shot those images with a fast lens: a 50mm f/1.2 lens set to f/1.8).

One last picture – again, f/2.8 at 1/100th and 800 ISO.

I could not have done this any other way without getting too much grain, or too much motion blur.

More about this tomorrow at the show: I present Portrait Lenses at 11:45 and unless I am mistaken, 1:45 is Travel Lenses.



4 thoughts on “Lens thoughts

  1. Hello Mr. Willems,

    Just reading your blog above and you mention you were doing a presentation on travel lenses. My family and I are going to do 2 trips this year, one to NY and the other a cruise. I am planning on bringing my nifty fifty, but what other lens do you recommend for such a trip or any trip. I have a 24-105 f4 that I think would be a great glass for trips, but am not confident. And now that I spent the money on that lens, not sure I want to spend more on the 24-70 f2.8. I wish I had found your blog over a year ago. I don’t want to take a big kit, max maybe 3 lenses, flash and then the clothes, bags, etc that you recommend throughout your site.

    Thanks for the help!


    • Hi Cam,

      To complement what you have, I recommend a wide angle lens. Like something in the range of roughly 10-20mm on a crop camera, or 16-35 on a full-frame camera.

      Search here on “wide angle” and see why I recommend those. Depth, perspective, on the one hand, and easy focus, easy depth of field and easy slow shutter speeds on the other hand.


      • Hi Michael,

        Thanks for the response. I was thinking a wide angle would be really nice to have on these trips.

        Thanks for the advice and for all the useful comments on you blog. I have found it very helpful. I wish I was in Ontario, rather than Alberta, then I would have a chance at attending one of your courses.

        Thanks again!


  2. Thank you again Michael
    And some more.
    I stopped you at the show, on Sunday, to thank you for inspiring my novice friend to get his first SLR. He was at the show Saturday. Well, we opened your blog Sunday evening and there we are in the background of the Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 lens shot.
    He studied art in school and just loves the effect, he bought his first camera Wednesday.
    THANK YOU blair

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