We need to keep our overhead in check while being able to have a decent range of focal lengths in our kit and so professional f2.8 zoom lenses are an essential for working photographers. In addition to that, we want lenses that gather a lot of light and are sharp. Professional photographers are dealing with so many moving parts on a shoot: the last thing we need to be thinking about is if our gear is going to crap out. Build quality is a top priority.
When I think of professional zoom lenses, the 24-70mm, 70-200mm is a must for a “bread and butter” kit. If these two are the only lenses you have in your kit, you’ll be covered in 95% of photographic situations. Get one of each first, then add a bright prime lens later that’s a good fit for your specialty and you’ll have a kit that will last several years.
A 24-70mm f2.8 should be the first lens you collect when you’re getting serious about photography. Put your 24-70mm f2.8 on your camera and don’t take it off for a while. Using a good 24-70mm f2.8 lens frequently will help you discover what your favorite focal length (within the 24-70mm of course) is when you look at the metadata over time. Also, the f2.8 aperture lets in a lot of light so for a zoom you’ll have a decent lens for low light photography. Any respectable pro either owns one or has owned one in the past. A good 24-70mm f2.8 will last a lifetime.
Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG HSM Art
More than a lens for Instagram hipsters, the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OS HSM is a true workhorse of professionals.
“The Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Art earns very high marks in our book. It’s got beautiful image quality, pretty good focusing abilities, weather sealing, keeps the overall size to a fairly compact package, and works reliably. For professional photographers, the question isn’t about whether or not the lens can perform, but more about Sigma’s professional service options. I mean, if your lens breaks after a wedding and you’ve got another wedding in a few days, knowing that you can get it swapped out is very nice.” – Read Our Full Review
Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master
If you shoot Sony FE mount and want their best zoom, the Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master is it. From our review,
“In all rights, this is a fantastic lens. It delivers wonderful image quality, performs well, has fast autofocus, and will make lots of professional photographers very happy. For the photographers who love zoom lenses, this is another reason to move to the Sony E mount system if you haven’t already. It can tackle any sort of work thrown at it and, combined with just the right Sony a7 camera body, you’ll get the results you really want.” – Read Our Full Review
Fujifilm 16-55mm f2.8 LM WR
“The Fujifilm 16-55mm f2.8 LM WR is a lens that excels in every single way you can possibly think of when it comes to image quality. Fujifilm is right up there with Zeiss, Sigma and Olympus as being premiere lens manufacturers for the mirrorless camera world–and there is very little to complain about when it comes to the image quality here.
Want great bokeh? Sure, no problem.
Want superb sharpness? Yeah, you’ve got it–and even more so when you add in flashes to bring out more specular highlights.” – Read Our Full Review
Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 (Micro Four Thirds)
“Indeed, this lens doesn’t only boast some excellent sharpness, it also has some extremely healthy color rendering (especially with skin tones), great bokeh when you can get it, and an overall quality that will make you want to never take this lens off of your camera.” – Read Our Full Review
The second lens you must get when building your photography business is a professional 70-200mm f2.8 lens. When paired with the 24-70mm f2.8, a 70-200mm f2.8 will give you coverage for pretty much any type of photography you need; important when running a business. Even if you have a very distinct specialty, clients will ask you to shoot everything under the sun. If you want to be a valued service provider, get a 70-200mm f2.8. I had a regular client once asked me to photograph a cup of yogurt while wrapping up a portrait shoot for their publication (hey, it was lunch time and I could use the extra $500). So keeping my 70-200mm f2.8 on, I shot the yogurt in five minutes and had lunch.
Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2
Those who have shot with the Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 are crazy about it. Check out what we had to say the review,
“The Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 has absolutely fantastic image quality to it. It isn’t as saturated as the 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why I love it. Portrait and landscape photographers alike are simply going to love it. When it comes to the image quality there isn’t really a major reason to complain about any parameter, though I suspect that some folks may not like the lens flare. Personally speaking, I think it delivers a bit of extra character that is missing from so many lenses.” – Read Our Full Review
Sony 70-200mm f2.8 OSS G Master (Full Frame E Mount)
It’s big, heavy, and expensive, but for newer Sony Alpha bodies the Sony 70-200mm f2.8 OSS G Master (Full Frame E Mount) is awesome.
“Want great image quality? You’ll get it with any camera from Sony. Want better autofocus? You’ll need their newer bodies, and that’s understandable. Want solid build quality? You’ve got it. Additionally, Sony made efforts to make the overall size smaller than most 70-200mm lenses. This is again where I really need to give them credit.” – Read Our Full Review
Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO (Micro Four Thirds)
Would you like a 80-300 f2.8 for your full frame? You can’t have it but Micro Four Thirds shooters can thanks to the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO (Micro Four Thirds).
“We spent five days with this aggressively designed piece of glass. Among any of the Olympus zoom lens offerings that we’ve tested, the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO is the one that I loved the absolute most and almost didn’t want to send back. It’s lightweight, fairly small for what it is, fast to focus, offers crisp image quality, is weather sealed, and won’t fail you when working. For the wedding, sports, portrait, or journalism photographer who needs to work with zooms, you should know that Olympus now has the best zoom lens lineup of any manufacturer in the mirrorless camera world. When coupled with the company’s very good 12-40mm f2.8 lens, you won’t encounter a single moment that you can’t capture.” – Read Our Full Review
Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f2.8 (Fujifilm X Mount)
Stellar image quality is what we’ve come to expect with Fuji and with the Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f2.8 (Fujifilm X Mount) they deliver in spades.
“An X-series telephoto zoom with a constant aperture? What a dream! The lens consistently produced stellar image quality that made me wish I didn’t have to send it back. Image quality was consistent throughout the entire zoom range. Whether it was portraiture, architectural, or street photo, the 50-140mm performed better than I could have hoped for. Think of it as a souped-up version of its variable aperture sibling. Granted, it comes in 60mm shorter, but that’s no great trouble. The lens would have been longer and heavier had Fujifilm made it 50-200mm.” – Read Our Full Review