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10-16-2013, 12:43 PM   #1
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Four Best Lenses & the Self Survey

Out of curiosity, I did a self survey of photos taken during my last trip to Italy to find out what lenses gave me the best results. I took six of my favorite lenses with me and ranked them based on how many "keepers", and how many "top 40" images I got with each.
Keepers are the ones I flag in Lightroom, spend some time touching up, and will either print or make into videos to share, or both, garnering high praise and amazement from the general public.
Within that group of keepers, the Top 40 were photos that were good enough to include in a portfolio. I wanted to see what lenses were giving me the most reliable results, and if the same lenses were producing the most striking images.

Results are below, along with some notes about the lenses. Keep in mind I'm just a tiny step above amateur. This survey highlights the lenses that gave me, personally, the best result, either by being small enough to use inconspicuously, in focus and sharp (with my limited skills), or providing a focal range and perspective that gave me a striking image (again, with my limited experience). Or, in some cases, all of the above. I tried to give them all equal play time. The Italy trip was perfect testing grounds because there was a huge range of opportunity, mixed weather, all kinds of light, and 13 days of shooting!

Total shots taken: 1067
Total keepers: 255 (about 25%)

In order of success:

Pentax FA 43mm f/1.9 (29% of the keepers, 25% of the Top 40)

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 (25% of the keepers, 34% of the Top 40)

Pentax 70mm f/2.4 (13% of the keepers, 32% of the Top 40)

Pentax 15mm Limited f/4 (19% of the keepers, 7% of the Top 40)

Other lenses included in the survey but didn't make the top 4: Pentax 18-55 WR, and Pentax 50-200 WR

Two thirds of my top 40 best images came from just two lenses: the super wide zoom by Sigma (f/3.5 version) and the 70mm Limited. Previously I hadn't used either one much at all, preferring instead a standard zoom 18-55 for 90% of my shooting. I learned a lot of things on this trip, mostly the need to get in closer, and fill the frame with my subject. The 70mm, once I learned how to use it, quickly got me the best candids and street shots. The 70mm Limited worked so well and surprised me so often that I consider it essential kit! The images look pro. It's small enough to use in tight quarters and not intimidate the subject, or not even be noticed.

The super wide zoom by Sigma is simply a fantastic tool, despite the weight and bulk. In SO many situations, the 10mm focal length makes something out of nothing. Ordinary objects become dramatic. It's so fun to use, and easily produces shots that make people go, "Wow."

The FA 43mm Limited was the workhorse. It contributed the most keepers, and many of them made it to my top 40, some of them simply stunning images. No surprises there. If you've been on this forum then there's nothing more I can say about this one.

Results could change on any given excursion, but it's nice to get the insight on what lenses are working for me. I'm curious if others have done something like this for themselves and what your results are?

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10-16-2013, 01:33 PM   #2
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That's one interesting way!
10-16-2013, 02:20 PM   #3
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There is missing information such as the keeper/dud percentage by lens, the subject type/lens, and other bits that might make this highly subjective survey more interesting, if not more conclusive :-)

Keeping 5 of 6 shots with one lens sounds good, but might produce only a so-so result. A burst of 30 to keep one does not sound so good, but it might be the best image.

If we always used the "right" lens for every shot, and got the dramatic composition and exposure right, all lenses would rank equally - but who can do that?

And, an image you like or don't like might have the opposite reaction from someone else.

This is the same as "determining" the best focal length with Exposure plot - sounds good and is a bit of fun, but perhaps not as useful as we would like.

Just saying...

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