Last Updated on 08/25/2018 by Mark Beckenbach
Event photography is a mixed bag, more so than any other genre of photography. The lenses you choose will be vital to your success in this field. This is where the beauty of telephoto lenses come into play.
Telephoto lenses are, in a word, amazing. They allow us to get closer to our subjects, and they often come with fast apertures, which means they are perfect for low light photography. What is a telephoto lens? Telephoto refers to lenses that offer a focal range of greater then 85mm. Telephoto lenses should not be confused with zoom lenses. A zoom lens can be any lens that goes from a wide angle to normal angle like the 24-70mm, or ultra-wide to wide such as a 16-35mm. A telephoto can be a zoom lens if the focal range exceeds 85mm, like the 70-200mm, but they can also be prime lenses too such as a 135mm f2. With that said, let’s jump right in and take a look at the absolute must-have telephoto lenses for event photography.
Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2
The 70-200 f2.8 is an absolute must for all event photographers. While there are many versions of this medium telephoto zoom lens available, the Tamron 70-200 f2.8 G2 offers the best bang for your buck. You could buy the Canon or Nikon version of this lens, but you will be paying a heck of a lot more for it, and image quality is only marginally better. The Tamron 70-200 G2 is built like a tank. The lens is weather sealed and is made of high quality materials. The body of the lens is a mixture of metal, and high-end plastics. Even the rubber on the focus and zoom rings feels premium grade.
In our review we said:
“The Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 is an entry point into one of the most popular telephoto zoom lens options out ther, and it’s actually a damned fantastic one. Tamron has always created lenses that are high quality, affordable, and built pretty well. But with the Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2, they’re seriously taking the cake here.”
During events, the 70mm end of things will help you get a slightly wider perspective, while the 200mm end will get you nice and close to your subject, perfect for capturing a bride and groom from the back of a church for example. Autofocus is snappy, and the focus motor is whisper quiet. The aperture of f2.8 will ensure that you will be able to nail the shot no matter how dark the venue is. This lens is perfect for concert photography as well, thanks to its ability to peer into the night and its fast focusing speeds. This beast of a lens from Tamron is available in both Canon and Nikon mounts.
Buy it now for $1,299. Amazon
Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD Image Samples
Pro Tip: You can use any Canon mount lens on Sony bodies with full autofocus and aperture control with this awesome Canon EF to Sony E mount adapter.
Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 Contemporary
You’ve heard the saying ‘go big or go home’ well you will definitely be going big with the 150-600mm telephoto lens from Sigma. The Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary lens falls right into the super telephoto range, and there is no doubt it packs a punch. With an aperture rating of f5-6.3 it’s by no means the fastest glass on this list, but don’t let that fool you. When coupled with today’s cameras that are excellent in high ISO situations, the 150-600mm can capture super sharp, highly detailed images.
In our review we said:
“In terms of performance, you can’t really hate on this lens. It offers sharp image quality (though not the sharpest), has super saturated color rendition, great autofocus speed performance, and an excellent build quality.”
This Sigma 150-600mm is not a small lens at all, and while some may consider it overkill, its performance and versatility cannot be ignored. At a press event, if you’re at the back of a press room, it’s got you covered. Shooting a large event outside and you simply cannot cover large areas of ground? At 600mm this lens has you covered. Standing at the back of a chapel during a wedding and you want a tight shot of the groom placing the ring on his brides finger, no problem. The Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary finds focus incredibly fast even in low light. It’s not really much heavier than a 70-200mm, and the image stabilization will help you get those shots in low light scenarios. Image quality is fantastic, and for portraits the bokeh and image compression is hard to beat. It’s available in Canon and Nikon mounts.
Buy it now for $989. Amazon
Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 Contemporary Image Samples
Pro Tip: Be sure to protect your cameras and lenses that are not weather sealed with quality rain covers.
Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art
The Sigma 135mm f1.8 DG HSM Art is a truly beautiful lens. By now you have come to expect incredible optics and sturdy build quality from Sigma’s Art line of lenses, and the 135 f1.8 is no exception. This lens is a concert photographer’s dream. This medium telephoto lens has the perfect focal length for capturing everything happening up on stage, and the aperture of f1.8 means you can keep your ISO nice and low.
In our review we said:
“The Sigma 135mm f1.8 DG HSM Art lens is really incredible when it comes to image quality. Like many of the other art lenses, there isn’t a whole lot to complain about. Bokeh? Oh man, do you have it.”
There is no doubt that this lens can be used in more places than just a concert venue. The Sigma 135mm f1.8 is perfect for wedding day portraits, especially with the creamy bokeh it produces. The lens is small and relatively lightweight which can play a big part in the photographer’s comfort at an all day event. Image sharpness is virtually unmatched, focus speeds are insanely fast thanks to the hypersonic motor, and the weather sealing means you can be outside and not have to worry about rain, wind, or dust. Overall the 135mm f1.8 from Sigma is a great lens that can be used in many different scenarios. It most definitely is just a portrait lens and is available in Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts.
Buy it now for $1,149. Amazon
Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art Image Samples
Pro Tip: SD cards have become so cheap, it’s almost a crime not to stock up on them. Make sure you have enough memory cards for your next event.
Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG Art
This Sigma 24-105 f4 DG Art series lens will quickly become a workhorse for you. While only the very end of the focal range is considered telephoto, there is no way I could leave this lens out because of its overall versatility. If you need to keep your weight down, and know you will need both wide angle, and telephoto capability, this focal range is impossible to beat. This is one of Sigma’s Art lenses so you know that build quality is second to none, and the images it produces are far sharper than both Canon’s and Nikon’s offerings.
In our review we said:
“Overall the image quality of this lens is fantastic. I was extremely comfortable showing images unedited. This is important for event photography and/or photojournalism when you sometimes have to give up images right away.”
With the Sigma 24-105 f4 you can go from shooting a wide image of the event to a portrait in five seconds flat. This is what makes this lens invaluable. When you are in situations where you have to be fast on your feet, the Sigma 24-105mm DG Art will not let you down. At f4 it certainly isn’t the fastest lens on the planet, but thanks to its image stabilization, and as we stated earlier, ISO performance on cameras these days, shooting at f4 in low light situations is not a big deal. As an event photographer myself, if I could only have one focal range, this would be it. Sigmas version of this lens is hard to beat. It’s available in Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts.
Buy it now for just $849. Amazon
Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG Art Image Samples
Pro Tip: Make sure all of your cameras and lenses are well protected and are easy to move about with a great rolling storage bag
Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD
Tamron has been making some quite outstanding lenses for the last few years, so it has become easy to recommend their offerings over first party options. The 85mm focal range is a very popular telephoto option, and Tamron’s take on this lens is hard to beat. While many see it as the perfect focal range for portraits, event photographers see it as a killer focal length for all aspects of low light event photography, from birthday parties, to weddings, and concerts, to corporate events; a 85mm telephoto lens is a must.
In our review we said:
“The Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD is very, very great. It’s under $1,000 and you get a load of awesome things in this small package. This lens has sharp image quality, fast autofocusing, great bokeh, a unique look to its contrast and saturation, and best of all you’ll get weather sealing. It’s lightweight and can do well in the hands of amateurs, enthusiasts, semi-professionals, and professionals alike.”
The Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD lens features an all metal body, a nicely dampened focus ring, weather sealing, and nine aperture blades that create beautiful bokeh when shot wide open at f1.8. The 85mm f1.8 focuses incredibly quickly, and produces sharp, contrasty images that your clients are going to love. This is one prime lens that absolutely must be in the hands of event photographers.
Buy it now for $749. Amazon
Tamron 85mm F1.8 Di VC USD Image Samples
What lenses do you use for event photography? Lets us know in the comment section below.