The Importance Of Knowing Your Gear: One Camera, One Lens

The Importance of Knowing Your Gear: Shooting One Camera, One Lens

As you may already be well aware, but new cameras with new features and specs come out all the time. They used to say every year there’s a new camera. With how fast technology is advancing, it seems like there’s something new announced every month, maybe even every couple weeks. I find it absolutely incredible how far cameras have come since purchasing my first DSLR (the Canon Rebel T2i). There are many of us who have lived our life seeing such a rapid growth in camera technology from the film days to the transition to digital in which film became dead - even deemed obsolete by many. Now, we find ourselves circling back with analog photography growing in popularity again, making a vast comeback. It’s a wild occurrence to see Kodak, a company that practically went bankrupt, reproducing old film and introducing new films revamped for modern day shooting and scanning.

Get Rid of Your GAS

GAS. Gear. Acquisition. Syndrome. It’s the constant desire to always get new gear, new or old, which you think will make you a better creative. I too, have been a sucker for GAS but I’ve also been financially limited which has definitely helped prevent me from actually buying a lot of gear - a blessing and a curse. Although it’s tempting to pick up that new camera or lens you’ve been eying up, first ask yourself these questions:

- How will this piece of gear benefit me?

- Will it make regular shooting significantly better/easier?

- How will it increase my ability to expand my creativity?

- How often will I use it in relation to how often I shoot?

What I think the most important question to ask yourself is:

- Will the people that view my work be able to tell a difference?

The last question is usually what I find to be the most important question I ask myself when looking at new camera equipment. I’d say about 90% of the time it eliminates any justification when wanting to buy a new camera body or lens. Sharpness? I can never really tell a difference from any lens, because I don’t look at photos for how sharp it is. I’m looking at the photograph for the visual aesthetic or emotional connection. Chromatic aberration? Most people who aren’t into cameras don’t even know what this is. Resolution or megapickles? Unless you’re printing billboard sized images, chances are you’re fine with 16MP. Chances are if you’re not printing at all, you’re probably only posting on Instagram (or online).

I’m a firm believer that gear is not always a limitation and before you upgrade camera equipment, you should be a master of that piece of gear. This means that you fully understand how to use it and have fully grown into and out of it. Personally, I shot the Fuji X-Pro1 for about 5-6 years before upgrading to the XT-2. The only reason I upgraded was to have a camera that also shot video. Aside from that fact, the images I shoot do not have any significant improvements that would have me or my viewers saying, “wow he must have upgraded cameras looking at these new photos!” Comparing two photos, it’s near impossible to tell the difference unless compared side by side, at 200%+  crop.

So my question for you is, do you suffer from GAS? If you do, you’re not alone.

One Camera, One Lens

After careful consideration, I decided to switch camera systems from Canon to Fujifilm. I sold practically all of my Canon gear, and ended up purchasing the Fuji X-Pro1 which was on sale and included the 18mm F/2 lens. Not much later, I picked up the 35mm F/1.4 lens as well for a decent sale and that has pretty much been my camera set up since then. 

35mm F/1.4

Below are some photos with the 35mm F/1.4 lens dating back to some of my earliest work with it, to much more recent work.


For the entire first year of owning the camera, I shot everything with the 35mm lens. The 18mm was set to the side and was left untouched. Since the Fuji system is a 1.5 crop sensor, the 35mm essentially has a 50mm full frame equivalent field of view. It’s considered a ‘normal’ lens and a classic focal length suitable to shoot a broad range of subjects. I shot all sorts of things during this time from street photography, urban/abandoned scenery, landscapes and portraits. Despite being a fantastic focal length for all sorts of photography, I often found it to be to narrow for my liking. To this day, I find shooting with the 35mm lens a bit too long, forcing me to back up a few extra steps (space sometimes doesn’t always allow me to).

18mm F/2

Below are some photos with the 18mm F/2 lens dating back to some of my earliest work with it, to much more recent work.

The following year, I reversed it and shot everything solely on the 18mm and set the 35mm aside. The 18mm focal length has a 28mm full frame equivalent field of view. This lens felt much more natural for me to use since my style of photography is to try to allow my viewers to be put in perspective of actually being there themselves. I’d argue a wide angle is perfect for this putting a portion of your peripherals into consideration. As my photography grew and developed, I enjoyed shooting landscapes, portraits and adventure photos that included people in frame. Wide angle lenses are perfect for for landscapes, and through my experience, I enjoy shooting portraits being closer to my subject. Maybe because it’s easier to include them in frame or maybe it’s because I’m naturally a quiet person and I don’t have to shout as loud to direct them. Either way, the 18mm easily became my go to lens and I ended up using it much more over the next few years leading to today.

The Drawbacks and Benefits

I found shooting just one camera and one lens to be both challenging and liberating at the same time. Having to shoot everything with just one fixed focal length was and continues to be difficult at times. Sometimes I’ll be shooting with the 18mm and wanting either more background blur, or just to be able to shoot something a further distance away. Other times I’ll be shooting the 35mm and wanting a wider perspective to fit more in frame or sometimes I’ll want less background blur, but need the aperture wide open in lower lighting conditions. What I really realized by shooting this way is that limitations forced my creativity. If I couldn’t get what I wanted with those limitations, I’d either have to find a creative way to work around it, or find another way to shoot something different. It sparked new ideas or made me go home and research different techniques to try. It made me work harder to achieve results.

As I gained more experience with each lens, I was able to pre-visualize my shot much faster and much easier. I know precisely what my frame will look like with either lens before I even shoot. It makes it much more enjoyable for me to shoot this way because I have the confidence in my photography. It’s the confidence that I can shoot without spraying and praying, which allows me to live more in the moment and enjoy the beautiful scenery in front of me instead of immediately looking back down at the screen to see if I got the shot. One of the sole reasons why I enjoy photography so much is because I can capture a beautiful moment that can be used as a reminder of that specific memory or emotion. But I also think about the fact that no matter how good a photo is, that moment can never be recreated exactly the same. It’s important to me to balance capturing these moments and embracing life in front of me.

Before shooting one camera and one lens, I used to take ALL my camera gear with me wherever I would go when I went to shoot. I simply couldn’t decide what I wanted to shoot because I MIGHT need this, or I MIGHT need that for this specific scenario. Shooting one camera, one lens made it a mindless decision. I only had one choice and it significantly reduced the stresses I encountered when preparing to go photograph. Having experienced that, I now see the greater benefit of some amount of a minimalistic lifestyle.

Upgrading Gear

I’ve been shooting the two lenses for the past 5 or 6 years now. Clearly, I feel that I’m comfortable with my gear and would consider myself and expert at using them (for my style of shooting at least). Now that I find myself switching between the two lenses more often, I have been considering purchasing either a zoom lens that can go between the two focal lengths to make everyday shooting easier/more efficient, or a more telephoto lens to challenge myself to shoot completely different.

Challenge Yourself

With all that being said, I hope I didn’t blab too much or bore you to death. I realize I’m not the greatest writer, and I typically just sit down and start typing when I write a blog. There’s just no real method to the madness :) Either way, I hope you found some useful insight. If you’ve made it this far, I challenge you to spend a full year, or a significant time shooting one camera and one lens (preferably a prime/fixed focal length).  

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