In February, IR journalist Zoë asked me at Ísafjörður airport: “Why did you bring those big photo bags with you? You never changed lenses during the whole trip.”
I hadn’t realized that, but it made me think: yes, during the whole trip I only used 35mm and 135mm lenses.
After 35 years as a photographer, my photography has become simpler and with the 35mm lens I can do almost everything, as I did in early spring when I went to Syria and Lebanon to photograph refugees for the Red Cross. The only lens I took with me was my 35mm Zeiss Sonnar F2.0. Never in the week-long trip, did I think that I needed a longer or shorter lens. Never.
Today I own six 35mm lenses (OK, one is 38mm). My favorite, the Sonnar F2.0, is glued on the Sony RX1R, then I have a Leica Summilux-M 1.4/35 ASPH Titanium, a Sony Zeiss Sonnar FE 35mm F2.8, and a Canon EF 35mm F1,4L—all for FF sensors. For medium format I have a Hasselblad HC 35mm F3.5 and a Carl Zeiss Biogon Cfi 38mm 4.5 glued on my Hasselblad SWC 905.
For probably half of all the images I take today, I use the 35mm lenses, and 20 percent of the time I use the two 135mm lenses I have, the Canon EF 135mm F2.0L and the Sony Zeiss Sonnar 135mm F1.8 ZA.
My third most used lenses are the normal 50/55mm lenses.
My favorite lenses have not changed that much in the 35 years I have been working as a photographer, but the cameras have. Or shall I say, the cameras I favor.
From 1979, when I started, until 1984, I only used Canon F1 and FD lenses. When I sold my Canon, that year, I had 14 lenses, and bought four Leica lenses to start with. For the next 16 years, I only used M and R Leicas.
Then I went over to Hasselblad, and used mainly the V system, for the next ten years until the Fuji GX680 III became my main camera, until I switched over to digital, a year and a half ago, and went full circle going with Canon and 1DX.
And now, Sony is my absolute favorite; small bodies with fantastic FF sensors.
But one thing has changed lot: when I started, the film I used was only ISO 25. Eleven years later the ISO became one hundred percent higher, up to 50.
Twelve years ago, Velvia 100 arrived with ISO 100. And I am still there, all my new digital cameras are on ISO 100. Always.
When in trouble, when the light is too low, I just put the cameras on a tripod. Perfect.
Often with a 35mm lens mounted on, and never with a zoom lens—I have never owned one and think I never will.
I think it’s too late now for me to learn how to use a zoom lens.
Páll Stefánsson - email@example.com