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What Focal Lengths Are Best for YOUR  35 RF Outfit ?

Let me begin by making it clear there are NO right answers to the above question, except those YOU choose for yourself.    I wrote this page not for the experienced shooter, but for the beginner trying to make a half way informed choice.  Keep in mind that for every opinion stated here, there is someone, somewhere, who will categorically disagree. OK, whatever.   So, you are warned.

Your lens focal length and f/stop choices should be dictated by what you like to shoot, and your shooting conditions. For instance, if you like to shoot Jazz musicians at night clubs without flash, fast lenses like a 50/1.4 or a 85/2 (or even faster lenses) would be a good idea.     Those same lenses would not be the best choice if you prefer outdoor scenics where you will be shooting at f/11 or smaller apertures most of the time.    Why ?  Because the fast lenses are heavier and more expensive, and often not as sharp as slower lenses.  Spending the extra money for  fast lenses but never shooting  wide open is much like buying a 160 MPH sports car that you never drive faster than 75.  OK, some people do it, but it's a waste of money and of machinery.    On the other hand, if you want the best in that Jazz club, better have the fast lens.   In other words, choose your lenses intelligently based upon your needs.  Don't email me about what YOU need, only the person you see in mirror each day can help you on that one.

I think the ideal first lens is the "normal"   50.   It can be quite versatile if you are a good photog.    Don't underestimate the 50,  some photogs became quite famous and commercially successful with it as their only lens. 

Next I suggest a portrait lens in the 85 to105 range, depending upon what is available for your camera.

Next I suggest a wide angle in the 28 to 35 range, depending upon what is available for your camera.

Next I suggest a super wide, anything from 12 to 25, depending upon what is available for your camera.

Last I would buy the long lens, the 135, if it's available for your camera.

IF you are aiming for a 3 lens outfit, I like a 24/25, 50, and 100/105 combination.   The wide is wide enough to definitely be a wide without being hard to handle, the 50 is the starting point for many photogs, and I prefer the 105 for portraits.    If you are shooting manual focus Nikon, that works out to be a 24/2.8, 50/1.4 or the 55/3.5 or 2.8 macro, and the 105/2.5.

Which Lenses to buy ? The best you can reasonably afford, but don't waste the rent or tuition money on lenses when you haven't sold your first photo.     A great shot takes on a life of its own, and people don't care what kind of lens you took it with.   But if you never progress to the point where you can take great shots from time to time, it doesn't matter what kind of lens or camera you are shooting with.

Sometimes lens choices are already made for you, because only a few lenses will fit your camera.   On the other hand, if you camera uses the Leica screw mount or Leica M bayonet mount, you will have the luxury of the largest lens choices by far in the entire 35mm Rangefinder realm.  Leica screw mount lenses are especially versatile, since almost all of them will work perfectly on Leica M mount cameras as well, just by adding a screw mount to bayonet mount adapter.

What are the absolutely best Rangefinder Lenses? That's easy, modern Leica M Lenses.  Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive.  If you can afford it, do it.    As a group, modern Leica lenses (M and R) are the best ever made for 35mm photography in my opinion.    How big that difference will be in your work is another question, though you can probably more easily see the difference in B/W rather than color.     Zeiss lenses  comes a very close second, some say a bit ahead, it just depends upon your own preferences.

What are the best new rangefinder lenses for the money ?   The Cosina made Voigtlander lenses in Leica screw mount and the Konica made lenses in Leica M mount for the Hexar RF.

Please don't email me on how your lens choices are different than mine.   If you are experienced enough to have developed your own RF lens choices, this page is not for you anyway.  This page is written for beginners. 


Once again, I hope this page helps you find your own choices,  not mine. 

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Revised: November 26, 2003 Copyright � 1998- 2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.