How Much of a Gap Between Key Lengths Is Too Much?

Whenever you’re assembling a set of lens, it can be tempting to try to cover up all the important focal measures without any gaps between them. A kit of 14-24mm, 24-70mm, and 70-200mm lenses is a superb one. So are sets along with overlap, like a 16-35mm, 24-105mm, and 70-200mm.

These are great lenses most of the time, and it’s easy to add other lenses like a 50mm f/1. 4 prime or a supertelephoto to make them a lot more versatile. But just because all those particular kits don’t have any kind of gaps between focal measures doesn’t mean that’s an essential feature of a good zoom lens set.

In practice, there’s no great need to avoid empty spaces among focal lengths so long as they’re not too far aside. Take another popular three-lens set, for example: a 16-35mm zoom, 50mm prime, plus 70-200mm zoom. Although that will kit misses focal measures between 35mm and 50mm, as well as 50mm and 70mm, these gaps are so little that plenty of photographers will not miss them.

It’s hardly uncommon to visit more extreme than that, either. A two-lens package comprised of a 35mm f/1. 4 and 85mm f/1. 4 (or their f/1. 8 alternatives for those on the budget) is fairly popular among portrait photographers, photojournalists, and others requiring maximum light-gathering capabilities. Some photographers add a 50mm perfect to round out the particular set, but many don’t. Just 35mm and 85mm could be enough.

Siena Street at Night 35mm f1.8
NIKON D800E + 35mm f/1. 8 @ 35mm, INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 2500, 1/50, f/1. almost 8

Photographers have plenty of valid good pick a kit with some key length gaps. The omnipresent concerns of weight and price are two from the biggest – and you can save both if you aren’t fixated on a gapless set. Yet another reason is simplicity.   There is a certain charm in order to carrying a two-lens package where you immediately know whether you need the wider or even tighter angle for a particular shot, and to some professional photographers that means better photos consequently.

Personally, on one point, my just two lenses were a 24mm and a 105mm. My camera was the crop-sensor Nikon D7000, which meant the equivalent focal lengths were about 35mm and 150mm. I’d have added some other lenses if my budget allowed, and of course there were occasions when I grew annoyed by the large focal length distance. But those times were fewer than you may think. For plenty of digital photography outings, I’d keep the 24mm lens on my camera and the 105mm in my tote in case a telephoto opportunity presented itself, and I hardly ever felt short-changed.

Amiens Cathedral
NIKON D7000 + 24mm f/1. 4 @ 24mm, ISO 200, 1/80, f/2. 5
Telephoto Abstract Architectural Shot Paris
NIKON D7000 + 105mm f/2. 8 @ 105mm, ISO 1600, 1/20, f/2. 8
Fox Graffiti in Amiens
NIKON D7000 + 24mm f/1. 4 @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/1600, f/1. 4
Pangea
NIKON D7000 + 105mm f/2. 8 @ 105mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/5. 0

It’s possible to complete the blanks, even very large ones, by taking walks forward or backward (yes, even though it changes perspective ) and cropping or making panoramas in post-production. But there is also a point at which none of that is enough. Although I enjoyed shooting with the 24mm + 105mm combo, there wasn’t any reasonable amount of moving around or cropping that could bridge the gap in between those focal lengths. We added a 50mm zoom lens a year later. I didn’t use the 50mm as much as the other two lenses, but it did help on occasion.

So , how much of a difference between focal lengths is usually reasonable, and how much is actually much?

Part of it naturally depends on the professional photographer in question. Some photographers get antsy if they’re missing even a small amount of coverage. Various other photographers are content with just a few lenses for most of their body of work – maybe a wide and telephoto zoom lens, or maybe just a single 50mm prime like Henri Cartier-Bresson famously used for most of his life.

It’s also important to remember that differences in angle of view are more substantial at wide perspectives than telephotos. For example , the between a 14mm zoom lens and an 18mm lens is greater than that in between a 400mm lens and 500mm lens. (The former is about a 1 . 29× zoom and the latter is really a 1 . 25× zoom. ) When figuring out how much of a gap you have between 2 lenses, go by the multiplication factor between them rather than the simple millimeter difference.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f4 S Sample Photo 6
NIKON Z7 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 18mm, ISO sixty four, 4 seconds, f/16. 0

Individually, my answer is that I’m totally comfortable with a focal length gap of 1. 5× between lenses, and I just start considering if I should add something else if the distance is greater than 2×. I am sure some other photographers choose different standards, but that’s what has worked for me in almost every situation over the years.

In other words, a smart prime lens kit I’d be happy with is 24mm, 50mm, 100mm. A fuller kit (but still reasonable) will be 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 100mm. On the other hand, I’d mention you’re stressing over the space too much if your kit will be something like 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, 58mm, 70mm, 85mm, 100mm. That listing averages about 1 . 2× of difference from zoom lens to lens; you are not likely to need such restricted coverage most of the time.

Still, your own preferences might push you in one path or the other, and who is to say you’re wrong? While most photographers would be comfortable with the 24mm and 35mm kit to cover the 24-35mm variety, others won’t feel perfect unless they add a 28mm lens in their bag as well (or just use a zoom capability in the first place). When that’s your preferred way of shooting, don’t let me stop you.

In the opposite direction, the greater-than-2× difference I try to avoid is hardly an exact cutoff. Remember the portrait photographers who shoot with a 35mm and 85mm kit? That’s about a 2 . 4× gap, but many photographers fall in love with such a kit and discover that its simplicity outweighs other concerns.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be happy with the lenses you’re making use of. But the second most important issue is to stop stressing about small areas of missed coverage between two lenses! I actually once saw a photographer who was worried his 14-24mm, 24-70mm, and 80-400mm package missed out on the focal lengths between 70mm and 80mm. There’s just no need designed for such concern.

Sample Landscape Photo at Sunset with Canon RF 50mm f1.8
Canon EOS R5 + RF 50mm F1. 8 STM @ 50mm, INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 100, 1/6, f/11. 0

The inspiration for this article emerged as I tested a few lens for upcoming reviews at Photography Life – the particular Canon 35mm f/1. seven, 50mm f/1. 8, and 24-240mm f/4-6. 3 RF mirrorless lenses. (I’m nevertheless a Nikon shooter, yet reviews are reviews! ) I left the 24-240mm at home to save weight for any hike… and rather than feeling like I missed away, I actually returned thinking I really could have left one of either the 35mm or 50mm in your own home as well and not missed any kind of shots. Granted, in this case, I’m still glad that I brought both lenses because it was a pretty easy hike and am got some samples for every review. But in the future, on the multi-day trek with excess weight as a big concern, I’d leave one of the two at home without worrying about any ensuing focal length gaps.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s still nice to minimize the empty spaces in between focal lengths to about 1 . 5× or 2× when possible. But the second that you have other concerns such as price, weight, or simpleness, prioritize those factors instead. Even with a huge focal size gap, you can walk around, make panoramas, crop slightly, and compose thoughtfully to capture good photos of almost any subject. And that’s because the most important tool in photography isn’t the lens, but rather your own creative thinking.

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