Why You Only Need To Carry One Lens

Firstly I want to say – this is not a post about the one lens I think all shooters should carry. You will decide what that lens is and when you decide it will be the exact right one for you.

The Lens Dilemma

In 2008, the Canon 5D mk2 had just hit the filmmaking scene and I was getting really excited by the idea that I didn’t have to shoot on my fixed-lens tape camera any longer. I could start experimenting with actual focal lengths in my filmmaking the same way I did with my photography.

This lead to a ton of experimenting, $1000s spent, and a lot of hours on Craigslist looking for the best deal. This quickly grew into an obsession and I became the type of guy who would walk on set with a dozen different lenses to cover anything. Whilst this was fun for a bit it quickly led to really frustrating dilemma.

I spent more time thinking about the right lens, than I did about the shots, or scenes or really anything else.

Lenses are so exciting because they change the feeling of your image immensely. But I quickly realized how obsessing over them was a real hindrance to actually creating anything. Something had to be done.

One Lens to Rule Them All

Choosing just one lens to carry with you can be tough. The moment you pack for a trip – thoughts about what cool shots might be missed if you forget a lens flood your brain. But this is the point of the exercise. What I learned when I started carrying only one lens, one prime focal length. Is that capturing in much more about the scene, the moment, the experience – than it is about the tools that captured it.

As famous photographer Chase Jarvis famously stated:

The best camera is the one you have with you.

Carrying one lens with you is about training your mind to see the scene rather than the camera. Focus on the moment. Within a few months of initiating this practice, my image taking skills had improved immensely. I no longer worried about the lenses I didn’t have with me. Instead I always had the right lens to capture a scene.

Which One?

Of course I will tell you my choice. But first I have to say this again – experiment. Find the lens that you feel best fits your natural eye. Your natural eye is the focal length that you find in your imagination when you think about capturing a scene.

For me, this was a 50mm lens on a Full Frame Sensor, or a 40mm lens on an APS-C/Super 35mm sensor. And my lens of choice for walking around, is the Zhongyi Mitakon 50mm f/0.95. Which gets me shots like these:

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