These 4 Lenses Make My Perfect Arsenal


I can tell you which ones I use and why I think they work well for what they are in terms of the various types of photography that I shoot.

These lenses make up a great range for me: 20mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4L, 50mm f1.2L, and the 70-200mm f2.8L IS II. Since I’m never shooting any sporting events or wildlife, I never need to go more than 200mm. These lenses provide the range I need without using zoom lenses in the wider angles. I prefer the prime lenses when working in the closer ranges with talent because they get me to move in and out physically to compose the frame. I also feel the prime lenses are much sharper in the closer ranges than say the 24-70mm f2.8L (which is still a great lens).

So here is a deeper description of each lens, the thought process, and what I use them for:

The 20mm f2.8
2014 Nick Onken Shoptalk Post

This is not an L series lens, but still has a great feeling and quality. I use this lens for travel, landscapes, and dynamic action lifestyle where I can get super close. The lens has an interesting vortex feeling that works great with landscapes. Dynamic action or journalistic image are great where the subject is close to the lens. This is a fantastic lens for sports shots.

2013 John Peel Alternative Training LA

Conde Nast Traveler: Active CarribbeanBarbados

The 35mm f1.4L
2014 Nick Onken Shoptalk Post

This lens is great for lifestyle groups and tighter spaces that need to capture more environment. It works great for indoors when you are working withing a confined space. One thing to be aware of is shooting one person vertically full body, it tends to distort a little. I prefer the 50mm when it comes to this type of shot. The 35mm is great for movement and action with 2-5 people.

2013 Generosity Water Launch shoot

2013 Zach & Kelly: Montauk Love

The 50mm f1.2L
2014 Nick Onken Shoptalk Post

I love this lens for lifestyle imagery with one person. I call this lens the “real life” lens. It feels very real to what the normal eye sees. This lens is great for portraits and one on one interaction with a subject. Lifestyle and fashion images with one subject are great for this lens.

Old Navy Brand Book Fashion Shoot Los Angles, CA - Feb 14, 2012

The 70-200mm f2.8L IS II
2014 Nick Onken Shoptalk Post

This is the only zoom lens that I use, and it serves it’s purpose. I use it a lot when I’m shooting travel photography. I can shoot moments that happen further away without being intrusive or even the subject knowing. This lens also works great for tighter portrait as it compresses the image. I also love shooting subjects in a bigger environment with it because it gives the scene a dreamy feeling. I’ll also shoot some fashion images with it to compress the background and really put the focus on the subject and clothes.

2014 Pencils of Promise Ghana 200th

2013 Zach & Kelly: Montauk Love

Overall, I experiment and use these lenses interchangeably. I try each of them out in different situations to see what makes the most sense.

What lenses are in your arsenal?

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