When starting out in photography, you might want to purchase as much gear as possible. However, professional photographers who have been doing this for decades seem to have every lens in the world. It is natural to strive to buy as much gear to be as professional as possible, but the devil is in the details, as it takes decades to amass gear, and even then, the pros still have some things they want to purchase.
For example, I have been toying with the idea of owning a medium format camera for a while now. I’m not saying I will purchase it, but I just might. It all depends on how well work goes in the summer. I digress. While the natural instinct for many beginners would be to simply buy gear, there is an alternative few consider: renting. Renting costs way less, and you can rent any piece of gear you want. For example, if I want to try out something particular before buying, I can just rent it and do the testing. In this article, I will suggest some high-end pro lenses that you should rent and test out as a beginner photographer. These mainly apply to portrait and fashion photographers, however, any image creator will find these lenses useful to some degree in their line of work.
Starting with the king of 50mm lenses, this goes directly against the first piece of advice every photographer gets: get a 50mm f/1.8. While it is a great lens, it is nothing compared to the pro version, which is sharper and more accurate. When I tried that lens out, I noticed that it was quite heavy, which made me realize that I would probably not invest in it.
The second lens that always caught my attention when I was a beginner was the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. It just seemed like a perfect piece of gear that I am simply missing out on. In fact, when I saved up, it was the first piece of real pro gear that I bought back in the day. I still have that lens. It’s a beast. Nowadays, though, I rarely use it as, once again, it is a heavy piece of gear. Another reason is that it forces me to be naturally distant from the subject, which is not desirable if I want to make a connection and really work with the model in front of my camera. The only reason for not selling the lens is that if a client requests to have a shallow depth of field, I end up using the f/2.8 at 100+mm to get it.
The most boring lens, which I coincidentally reviewed as well. The reason it is boring is that it has none of the cool features that other lenses do. The zoom range is average, the narrow depth of field is almost nonexistent, and the excitement is mild. At the same time, this is the lens I use 95% of the time. While the zoom range does not offer super wide or super-telephoto images, it offers enough to produce fashion, beauty, and other work. I can get full-body, half-body, and close-up images with the 24-70mm. I strongly believe that this is a lens every photographer should try and use.
Going to wider apertures and focal lengths, this is a lens that many photographers enjoy using for full-body portraits. No wonder, as it offers both a relatively wide field of view, as well as a wide aperture which can help create shallow depth of field. Such a lens can be great in an event, wedding, portrait, or fashion photography bag. The high-end versions of this lens offer extremely good sharpness and accuracy, as well as fast and responsive autofocus.
This list would not be complete without this lens. I mean, can we honestly skip this marvelous piece of gear that so many portrait photographers use to capture their images? It offers everything needed to make interesting images: long focal length, wide aperture, and, what’s more, sharpness. At the same time, if you try out this lens, you will quickly find out that it is not all sunshine and rainbows, and it, in fact, has a few downsides, such as weight and focusing. If you shoot a close-up portrait at f/1.2, you will quickly realize that the subject’s nose disappears, as well as the ears. The 85mm is better used for half-body images as then you get the subject more or less in focus. Then again, sharpness and focusing are big problems with this particular lens. The elements are huge, and if you get your hands on the older versions of this lens, you might quickly be disappointed with the results. For Canon 5D Mark II owners: forget it. I have never seen anything focus worse than a 5D Mark II with an EF 85mm f/1.2. This is where I have to admit that having a mirrorless camera is much better than a DSLR. Due to the focusing technology that modern cameras and lenses have, you can easily get incredible shots with f/1.2 at 85mm. It really helps you focus on shooting and not the tech.
In conclusion, as a beginner photographer, it is a must to test out lenses before making any big purchases. Renting gear is an affordable and effective way to determine which lenses work best for your style of photography. I strongly recommend doing this. I think that selecting the right lenses can make a significant difference in your photography. It is important to consider your style and the type of photographs you want to create before making any purchases. Remember that it takes years for pros to amass gear, so take the time to test and experiment before buying gear. With time, practice, and the right gear, you can take your photography to the next level.
What lenses have you tested out throughout the years? Did you end up buying them? What were the best and worst lenses that you tried? We would love to know in the comments.