6. The Lens Trinity
Many photographers who have been at it a while develop an affinity to 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 1.12). 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 1.12 My own personal lens trinity: an EF 17–35mm f/2.8L, an EF 24–70 f/2.8L, and an EF 70–200mm f/2.8L. The majority of images I make are shot with these three.
Traditionally, the lens trinity is composed of a lens capable of going extremely wide, such as the EF 16–35mm f/2.8L, a standard zoom lens that moves from wide to just over normal (50mm), like the EF 24–70mm f/2.8L, and one that continues moving toward a longer focal length capable of handling portraiture, sports, and wildlife, such as the EF 70–200mm f/2.8L. These lenses—and really the focal lengths covered—are considered to be the trinity for full-frame cameras, such as the Canon 6D, 5D series, 1DX, and the 1DS models. These focal lengths are also what many of the EF-S lenses—made for the APS-C crop-sensor camera bodies like the Rebel series—are designed around when taking into consideration the cameras’ crop factors.
A lens trinity for a Canon APS-C camera may look more like the EF-S 10–18mm f/4.5–5.6 IS for the ultra-wide zoom, an EF-S 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS for the standard zoom, and the EF-S 55–250mm f/4–5.6 IS for the telephoto zoom (Figure 1.13). 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 EF-S lenses offer—which when factoring in the crop factor of APS-C bodies equates to trinity-esque focal lengths for a full-frame system.
Figure 1.13 A lens trinity built for the APS-C crop-sensor camera: an EF-S 10–18mm f/4.5–5.6 IS, an EF-S 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS, and an EF-S 55–250mm f/4–5.6 IS
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 EF-S 18–55mm if you purchased an APS-C camera, or an EF 24–105mm f/4L if you purchased an entry-level full-frame 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 an APS-C 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.