Zooming Out – The Move to an All-Prime Setup

I have been shooting with Canon’s L series zoom lenses (the 17-40, 24-70 and 70-200 IS to be exact) for almost a decade. Everything seemed fine, I made several great images with them. The seduction began on a cold January night in Norway two years ago – I tried a friend’s TS-E 24. I was immediately sold. So much that I didn’t want to put the 24-70 on the camera any more. Bought a TS-E 24 later that year and the 24-70 started to collect dust.


Floors, 100mm f/2 on a 5D Mark II

The final nail in its coffin was a vacation in Sicily last year. To travel light and be able to enjoy the vacation itself besides shooting, I bought three primes. In addition to having image quality that puts the 24-70 into shame, I really loved to work with them.

There was something that inspired my creativity – maybe the discipline of not being able to easily change the shot’s angle of view and forcing me to move around, maybe the freedom from having to think about focal length choices. I don’t know, I just like the process and the results.

Last year I sold both the 17-40 and the 24-70 and just used the two 24s and the 50. And an interesting thing started to materialize: instead of thinking about which focal length should I use I started to see in 24mm and in 50mm. When I realized this I regularly threw the “travel 100” into my bag. And I preferred it to the 70-200.

The final decision to replace the 70-200 was born last weekend. After going through my former images and checking which look do I prefer on the long end I ended up with a conclusion I find shots in the 150-250mm range uninteresting, and that the 70-200 was more in line with my vision on cropped sensor bodies than on full frame. From here the decision was pretty straightforward: get a 135mm f/2L.

I ordered one on Saturday and selling my 70-200. The lens arrived yesterday (isn’t Amazon great?) and I’m waiting for an opportunity to put it through its paces. The cactus and palm house of my favorite botanic garden will open this weekend, and I’m planning a visit next week. I’ll post my experiences.

So my current setup consists of the 24/2.8, 50/1.4 and 100/2 travel trio and the TS-E 24 II, 50/1.4, 100/2, 135/2 quartet for regular use. I plan to add a TS-E 17 and a TS-E 90 instead of the 100/2 when Canon updates the current 90 (I don’t like the fixed placement of tilt/shift axes).

Unfortunately I start to find the 300mm focal length interesting again. And the only option there is the 300/2.8 IS II. Which is heavy and expensive… So I’m hesitant at the moment.

All in all, if you aren’t shooting in a rush, and can move around, I highly recommend to give a try to Canon’s relatively inexpensive and great fixed focal length lenses. They might shake up your vision and photography – just they did with mine.