We asked four pro photographers what their go to glass is.
Great as a camera can be, it’s often the lens that defines what you can do with your pictures. Also, as you grow and develop, it’s the glass, not the camera bodies, that will stay with you. To help you make your lens choices wisely, we asked working pros from a range of photography fields about the lenses that matter the most to them and why.
CLAUDIO BEIER: Portrait Photographer
A Brazilian native, Beier graduated from the Hallmark Institute’s photography program and moved to Miami, where he specializes in portrait, fashion, and active lifestyle photography. His strengths include sophisticated lighting and large-scale production projects. Whether shooting in the South Beach surf or on the edge of a Brickell Avenue rooftop pool, this Miami portrait and fashion pro looks for three qualities in lenses: They should be built to last a career, with bright maximum apertures, and, whenever possible, offer built-in image stabilization.
Claudio’s Favorite Lenses:
CANON EF 24–70mm f/2.8L USM
“If I were to have only one lens, this would be it,” says Beier. “I like its solid build, exquisite sharpness, and people-friendly focal lengths.” Its long end is absolutely perfect for tight headshots, as you can see here, and its wide end is well-suited to full-lengths. Meanwhile, its midrange settings work for almost everything else. “I don’t think you could ask for anything more in a people lens,” he says.
He especially likes being able to easily bracket his compositions with this standard-range zoom ($1,300, street) by zooming in from full lengths to tight headshots. He also prefers working close to his subjects, so that genuine, interpersonal conversations can take place.
What’s more, he’s enamored of the build. “I’ve shot this lens in chest-deep salt water with the confidence that water splashed on it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s really well weathersealed.”
CANON EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
“This incredibly fast lens gives me the ability to explore shallow depths of field, plus it offers good contrast, minimal vignetting, is extremely sharp and fast-focusing,” says Beier.
For defocusing a cluttered or distracting background, as well as romantically drawing attention to a subject—especially to the face—this lens ($1,460, street) is killer.
“Canon has slower, more affordable variants of a 50mm,” Beier says, “but I wouldn’t spend the money until you can buy this one. It’s worth every cent.”
CANON EF 70–200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Beier suggests this one as a first telephoto zoom lens ($2,270, street) for any serious portrait photographer.
Its image-stabilization system and fast aperture allow for low-light, handheld telephoto shots. And, from the wide to tele ends, the whole focal length range works beautifully for most people pictures.
Ultimately, this may not wind up being your favorite go-to lens. But no doubt it will pay back its cost many times over as a real workhorse, especially for portraitists, wedding and event photographers, and fashion shooters.
Used in this Shot: Canon 24–70mm f/2.8 L USM
One of Canon’s superior L-series lenses, this full-framer is sealed and gasketed against dust and moisture, focuses internally, and sports Canon’s fast and quiet USM AF motor. Fairly compact, with a well-damped zoom ring, it lets you flip very easily between full-length verticals and tight, horizontal headshots. It’s sharp, and very fast. “The next generation of this lens, however, must have image stabilization!” Beier demands.
Nikon 24–70mm f/2.8G ED Zoom-Nikkor ($1,700, street) This fast-aperture, well-built, full-frame, standard-range zoom is on the heavy side and lacks stabilization, but is otherwise a must-have zoom for Nikon portraitists and wedding pros.
Olympus 14–35mm f/2 ED SWD Zuiko Digital ($2,300, street) The industry’s fastest standard zoom, it’s dust- and moisture-resistant, with a silent AF drive. Its petal-shaped lenshood offers a finger portal for positioning filters without having to remove the hood. Obviously, it’s digital-only.
Sigma 24–70mm f/2.8 IF EX DG HSM ($900, street) Sigma’s top-drawer standard, full-frame zoom, this lens is quiet focusing, with 1:3.8 maximum subject magnification, and, at 4 inches long, very compact for transport.
Tokina 16–50mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX ($550, street)This digital-only lens scales up to a 24–75mm on most APS-C bodies, is speedy and fast-focusing, and it has a convenient push-pull AF/MF clutch and a special water-repellent coating on its front element.