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7. The Lens Trinity

Many photographers who have been at it a while develop an affinity for three lenses: a wide, a standard, and a medium telephoto. In an effort to accomplish as much range with as few lenses as possible, photographers are attracted to this “holy trinity” of glass (Figure 1.14). In all practicality, three lenses capable of covering focal lengths from the ultra-wide (less than 24mm) to the medium telephoto (approximately 200mm to 300mm) can make a lifetime of images.

Figure 1.14

Figure 1.14 The standard lens trinity used by professional photographers: the AF-S Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.8G ED, the AF-S Nikkor 24–70mm f/2.8G ED, and the AF-S Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. These three lenses give you a huge range of focal lengths, from 14mm to 200mm, all at a wide f/2.8.

Traditionally, the lens trinity is composed of a lens capable of going extremely wide, such as the AF-S Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.8G ED, a standard zoom lens that moves from wide to just over normal (50mm), like the AF-S Nikkor 24–70mm f/2.8G ED, and one that continues moving toward a longer focal length capable of handling portraiture, sports, and wildlife, such as the AF-S Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. These lenses—and really the focal lengths covered—are considered to be the trinity for full-frame cameras, such as the Nikon D4S, D810, D750, and D610 models. These focal lengths are also what many of the DX lenses—made for the DX crop-sensor camera bodies—are designed around when taking into consideration the cameras’ crop factors.

A lens trinity for a Nikon DX camera may look more like the AF-S DX Nikkor 10–24mm f/3.5–4.5G ED for the ultra-wide zoom, an AF-S DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6G VR for the standard zoom, and the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55–200mm f/4–5.6G IF-ED for the telephoto zoom (Figure 1.15). This doesn’t mean the so-called full-frame trinity does not work on your crop-sensor camera bodies; you just wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the visual perspective the wider lenses offer—which when factoring in the crop factor of DX bodies equates to trinity-esque focal lengths for a full-frame system.

Figure 1.15

Figure 1.15 A lens trinity for a Nikon DX camera may look like this: the AF-S DX Nikkor 10–24mm f/3.5–4.5G ED, the AF-S DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6G VR, and the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55–200mm f/4–5.6G IF-ED.

The lens trinity is arguably the most popular set of lenses for those starting out in photography as well. Read online gear forums anywhere (using caution about some of the information on them) and you’ll see many experienced folks encourage new photographers to seek out focal lengths resembling what the trinity offers.

I suggest starting with a standard zoom, which many of you just starting out probably have in an AF-S DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6G VR if you purchased an Nikon DX camera. From there, I advise getting the medium telephoto zoom before the wide zoom, simply because it offers a bit more versatility to your shooting and comes in handy when you need the reach—which in my case happens more often than needing to go more wide.

Round out your trinity with an ultra-wide zoom lens. These lenses are usually operated at their maximum widths. There is something really special about shooting at 16mm on a full-frame sensor camera, or 10mm on a DX sensor. However, as visually interesting and attractive that focal length is, these types of lenses usually offer the least amount of range and focal lengths. I would lean toward the standard zoom and medium telephoto zoom before plunking down cash for an ultra-wide zoom, based on the sheer amount of images that can be produced with the former two.

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