How I Stopped Obsessing Over Canon L, Sony G Master, and Nikon G Lenses; and Just Continued to Shoot

There’s an obsession with Canon L, Sony G Master and Nikon G lenses that isn’t necessarily justified.

Before I go on, you should know that I’m not at all saying that lenses from these manufacturers are bad at all. Just go to DXOMark and take a look at their scores: Sony is very high up there and Canon is highly rated with their zoom lenses. But amongst those photographers who seriously started picking up the camera within the past four years, I’d like to relate to you a tale of how my obsession was similar to yours and perhaps even worse years ago. It started with Olympus, then went to Canon, and then I finally learned my lesson. Before you drop absurd amounts of money that you don’t really need to spend, you should probably consider how the bliss from ignorance will one day only make you realize that you’re not going to be any better of a photographer just because you own these lenses.

When I first got into photography seriously, I was working at PCMag.com. Because my mother owned an Olympus camera, I followed in her footsteps and bought an Olympus E-510. This was before Micro Four Thirds, instead it was a Four Thirds DSLR. Their advantage: they were smaller than everyone else; until they weren’t. Like much of Four Thirds today, the sensor suffered from some issues that you can either embrace or become angry at. Olympus had their standard lenses, their high grade lenses, and then their Super High Grade lenses. It was simple to understand. But they were very expensive and I couldn’t justify the purchase to myself. When I finally got enough money, I jumped ship to Canon with the 5D Mk II because it incorporated video into it. I started with a 50mm f1.8 II and a 24-105mm F4 L IS USM. As more and more gigs came in, I eliminated all the non-L lenses I had accumulated and only went for Canon L glass. At one time I owned the 70-200mm f2.8 L, 24-105mm F4 L, and 35mm f1.4 L.

I got so much out of these lenses. They were great. Until one day, the third party lens manufacturers started to do something different: they started to produce much better lenses at more affordable prices. To be blunt, they didn’t suck. For many years, no one ever considered picking up a Sigma or Tamron lens. Zeiss? Sure. Rokinon? Maybe. But these days, the third parties are the kings for the most part.

This is where I started to really think to myself, did I want to get rid of my L lenses? And if I did, what lenses would I go with? Did it really matter that I had L lenses? The moment, it did for Canon CPS. But I never signed up. After long debates with myself and reasoning, I realized that I didn’t need L lenses, I just needed the lenses that helped me communicate my vision more. Those lenses were the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, 50mm f1.4 II, and the Sigma 85mm f1.4 model 1. They were great and everything I needed. Indeed, I didn’t miss my L glass. When I’d show up to gigs around other photographers, they’d laugh at the lenses until I showed them what I could do with the optics. Then they were shocked. It started to change heads. I’d blog about it, and over the years I’ve probably convinced lots of you readers of the same benefits.

You folks right now obsessing over Canon L lenses, Nikon G lenses and Sony G Master lenses are the ones that I see myself in a few years ago. You want it, you crave it. But in truth, you can’t say that the third parties aren’t producing great lenses either. You don’t need a Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L II if Sigma’s is also very great. You also don’t need Sony’s 24-70mm f2.8 G Master if Tamron’s is fantastic though not totally the same range. Instead, you need something that will do the job. So here’s what I started to ask myself:

  • Who are the clients that I’m going after?
  • Can I personally get over the fact that I’m using third party optics?
  • If something goes wrong, how easily can it be fixed and serviced?
  • Is there really that much of a trade off of image quality after editing the images?
  • Can I get across my creative vision with these optics?
  • Do I have a creative vision or am I just someone who likes obsessing over tangible objects?

And this is how I stopped obsessing. These days, I instead look for something that can do the job. With the Sony a7r III, I tend to go for smaller, weather sealed primes. Their 35mm f2.8, 55mm f1.8 and the 85mm f1.8 are all well built and weather sealed. I only wish that they had a wider angle, fast, small, weather sealed lens. With Fujifilm the 16mm f1.4 R WR is the only weather sealed lens I’ve got. But the 23mm f1.4 and 35mm f1.4 are still amongst my favorites. I really wish Fujifilm had a prime lens that was fast, had image stabilization and weather sealing. Their 80mm is nice, but not fast enough for me. From what I hear though, that’s coming soon.

In the end, just use the lenses that won’t break the bank and that will do the job. Stop giving into lust of gear, and start chasing after your lust for creating better photos.