When working as a wedding photographer, I use two lenses on two bodies. One is the Nikon 35mm f1.4 and the other is the 85mm f1.4. Lately I’ve been thinking of the need for something longer than 85mm for portraits, tight first dance shots, tight ceremony shots, plus maybe experimenting with tight shots for getting ready. As much as I love the 85mm f1.4 lens and how clean it makes the backgrounds when shot wide open, I don’t like to walk right up to the bride/groom during the ceremony to fill the frame with an emotional face.
The problem arises when I think of the other main type of photography I do: landscape photography. Nikon and the other manufacturers have followed the lead of mountain biking in creating different rigs for different purposes. A landscape kit would include the amazing 14-24mm f2.8 zoom, a Nikon D810, and something in the middle and long range for lenses. A wedding kit would include what I use: a Nikon D3/D4 and the two lenses I use. Other people prefer the zooms, but I have lots of problems with every zoom except the 14-24mm, but it’s only a landscape lens. Sometime I’ll do a post on why fixed and not zoom, but not now. I would love, love, love to have just one longer lens for everything. The Zeiss 135mm f2 lens comes very close because it’s tough, sharp, and fast. The problem, however is it’s manual focus only. I can live with manual focus for landscape photography and portraits, but the first dance would yield low probability of sharp photos. Another sticking point: is 135mm enough reach? It’s perfect for landscape photography.
One answer is the Nikon 200mm f2 lens. It would work really well for weddings and portraits, but not at all for landscape because of it’s weight. The problem, and this is no small problem, is the price tag of $5,800. Ouch! Does the quality and function outweigh the price? I would still need something longer yet super sharp for landscape photography. And eventually I’ll need Nikon D5 to replace and upgrade the D3, which I’m sure won’t be cheap either. Will the D5 be able to take the place of a D810? Or will I be wanting one of those, too? We’re talking serious money here and lots of thought are going into these ideas.
In the meantime I absolutely love my current setup. It does the job really well and my work has been improving at a steady rate since leaving the newspaper in 2012. How did I lug around the heavy, and now ancient, 80-200mm f2.8 lens at weddings? The 85mm lens rocks the house.
When using only fixed focal length lenses a person needs to stay in practice. So for the last couple weeks of hanging out with the family I’ve had only the 85mm f1.4 lens on the D4. To really get in some tough practice, like climbing the Helicopter Pad every day on the mountain bike, I limited the f-stop to about f1.4. Doing this takes some balls, because lots of shots will be missed. The plane of focus is about a quarter of an inch, and missing a shot becomes much easier than making the shot. The key is having killer autofocus and taking time to make sure it’s in focus. The lens won’t work for sports. Even with autofocus it goes too slowly. The sequence of Mary running towards the camera at the end of her half marathon last Sunday didn’t focus at all when she came in close. It actually sometimes can’t focus fast enough for the first dance in low light.
The lens is tough to use and practicing becomes very important. If you skip going to the gym for awhile and then try to do your normal weights, you’ll be very sore for about a week. Same thing for these fixed lenses.
That said, here’s a few photos from the last couple weekends.