To Zoom or Not to Zoom: Choosing Lenses

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How many lenses do you really need? If you’re Henri Cartier-Bresson, one might be enough. But if you’re shooting a complex event like a wedding, you’re going to need a more generously stocked camera bag. The most important tools for any photographer are cameras and lenses. Deciding which ones are necessary requires some serious thought.

Optics come in two varieties: zoom and fixed focal length. The “ideal” lens arsenal is a matter of personal taste. Zoom lenses are convenient—they save a lot of legwork by enabling you to frame tight shots from a fixed position, which at a crowded wedding can be a big plus. The downside is that with rare exceptions, the widest aperture you’ll find is f/2.8, which is fine for outdoor shooting but less than optimal for indoor shooting. How can you get around this lens-speed issue?

The saving grace for shooting with zooms indoors and in low light is that many of them are available with image stabilization (IS). Image stabilization, depending on the make and model, enables you to shoot handheld at shutter speeds three to four stops slower than one would be able to handhold a comparable lens without stabilization. That’s quite an advancement of technology. Combining this three- to four-stop advantage with the ability of most DSLRs to expand the ISO range to ISO 6400 and beyond, it’s suddenly possible to capture sharp, relatively noise-free image files in very dim lighting without having to rely on a flash. 

Wide-angle zooms such as the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR, Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC USD, and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM are standard lenses for many wedding photographers. Long and relatively fast zoom lenses including the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM are also popular. Keep in mind that while image stabilization enables sharp handheld photographs of static, non-moving subjects at low shutter speeds, moving subjects will still appear blurred, especially if you’re not tracking your subject.

Fixed focal length optics require you to move around a bit more in order to frame tight shots, but with maximum apertures as wide as f/1.8, f/1.4—and wider—zooms pale in comparison. Besides a brighter image in the viewfinder, wider aperture fixed focal length lenses focus more quickly; establish light readings faster and more accurately, and in many cases, can focus closer to your subject than comparable zoom lenses.

Wider-aperture fixed focal length lenses also allow you to employ selective focus techniques, in which the foreground and background can be knocked out of focus, which makes the subject pop out as the center of attention. Fast wide-angle primes worth considering for wedding photography include the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM, EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM, EF 28mm f/1.8, EF 35mm/f2.0 and EF 35mm f/1.4L USM. Fast wide-angle offerings from Nikon include the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED and AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G.

Fast, short telephotos, which are ideal for portraits and tight low-light detail imagery, include the  Canon super-fast EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, EF 100mm f/2.0 USM and EF 135mm f/2.0L. Nikon’s fast telephoto lineup includes the AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D, and Bower also makes an 85mm f/1.4 Manual Focus Lens. Regardless of whether you’re shooting with a full-frame or APS-C format DSLR, you’ll have little trouble finding uses for a fast 50mm lens, which from Canon include the EF 50mm f 1.8 II, EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and super-fast EF 50mm f/1.2L USM. From Nikon, we have the Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, and for shooting in the lowest of light levels—albeit in manual focus only—the Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AIS.

The Nikon DC series lenses (the AF DC Nikkor 105mm f/2.0D and AF DC Nikkor 135mm f/2.0D) go one step further by offering a fast (f/2.0) maximum aperture as well as the ability to adjust the angle of focus by shifting the alignment of the front lens element. Depending on the degree of the shift and the positioning of the front element, you can further alter the degree of focus fore, aft or to the sides of your subject(s), which makes for interesting picture possibilities.

DC optics aside, no wedding photographer worth his or her salt should head off to a wedding without a fast, mid-range telephoto lens in their camera bag. For full-frame DSLRs this means a fast (f/2, 1.8, 1.4, or 1.2) lens in the 85mm to 105mm range, or in the case of compact DSLRs, an equally fast 50mm and 85mm lens.

With the exception of the formal portraits, many wedding shots are taken in tight quarters, in which you often have to squeeze many people into the image frame. As such, you’re going to find yourself depending on wide-angle lenses during the course of the day, and don’t be surprised if your 28mm (or equivalent) lens doesn’t quite cut it for many photo ops. If anything, you’re going to find a lens in the 20- to 21mm range to be far more useful at a wedding, which is why many wedding photographers swear by 16- to 35mm zooms for full-frame 35mm DSLRs, and zooms in the 10- to 24mm range when shooting with compact (APS-C format) DSLRs.

Fisheye lenses, specifically the full-frame variety, can also be used effectively for wedding photography; they should be used judiciously, though (don’t get too close to people). Most full-frame fisheye lenses can capture anywhere from 160° to 180° of a given scene. Even though fisheyes inherently curve straight lines other than the center horizon line, they can be extremely effective at capturing the entirety of the ceremony, dancing and other broad tableaux that would normally require you to back up, when that space isn’t available.

What’s particularly nice about shooting with full-frame fisheyes is that it’s possible to “straighten out” these images through the use of de-barrelizing software, which narrows the angle of view to a still respectably wide 110° to 120°, minus the distortion factors common to fisheye pictures. Canon has two fisheye offerings: the Canon Fisheye EF 15mm f/2.8, a fixed focal length lens with a full-frame (rectangular) 180° field of view, and a new Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye Ultra-Wide, which zooms from a circular 180° field of view to an ultra-wide (approx 110°) field of view.

Nikon manufactures two non-circular fisheye lenses—the Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED DX Fisheye for Nikon APS-C format DSLRs and the Nikon 16mm f/2.8D AF Fisheye for Nikon's full-frame DSLRs—both of which can be straightened using Nikon NX 2 software (RAW-NEF files only). There are also a number of third party de-barrelizing applications designed to correct fisheye distortions using full-frame fisheye lenses from almost all manufacturers.

One last group of optics worth looking into is macro lenses, which enable you to focus as close as life size to your subject. Macro lenses can be used to capture close details of table settings, flowers, table cards, the couple’s rings and other details that bring out the special atmosphere of the day. Macros are available in a range of focal lengths for APS-C, full-frame “35mm,” and medium-format cameras.

Do you have a particular lens or set of lenses that you like to use for photographing weddings? Regardless of whether you are a professional who shoots two weddings per week, or if you only photograph the occasional wedding, most of us have very subjective preferences when it comes to the gear we use. Please feel free to share your opinions here in the Comments section and tell us about some of your experiences, preferences and handy workarounds.

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This article on wedding photography is excellent. I just wanted to add that I shoot weddings and most of my work comes from word of mouth advertising. I get great images with cheap Nikon lenses. My rig consists of a D80 camera with the 18-135 ED zoom that came with the camera. A 50mm 1.8D lens, and a SB 800 flash. I also have a SD 8A battery pack for quick flash recycles so not to miss a moment due to slow flash recycling. Anyway my 18-135 sees the majority of the workload. This lens makes some of the most sharpest, colorful pictures I've ever seen. And when It's time for outdoor portraits there's nothing out there that can touch this $100.00 50mm 1.8D lens. It's super light, has great bokeh. All I do is take my D80 off of matrix metering set it to center-weighted metering, move in to frame it tight and presto photos that look like a $1200.00 lens made the shot. A wedding photographer dosen't need a big heavy bag of gadgets. I've been using my set-up for five years now and counting. My D80, 18-135 zoom, 50mm 1.8D, SB 800 flash. And every now and then a tripod. I just wanted to inform those who may be thinking that It cost a fortune to get started in this kind of photography that it dosen't have to be. By the way the D80 can only take a 4GB SD card as a maximum capacity. This is still plenty of memory for the pictures that I take which are always in JPEG FINE mode. That setting gives me 530 pictures with dead on color accuracy where any kind of RAW photo retouching is simply unnecessary. I've found with my D80's white balance set to cloudy, wedding images come out perfect even with flash. No need to go RAW!!! Hope my two cents helps those who might've thought they couldn't do this. You can.

Kevin Shanks wrote:

By the way the D80 can only take a 4GB SD card as a maximum capacity. This is still plenty of memory for the pictures that I take which are always in JPEG FINE mode. That setting gives me 530 pictures with dead on color accuracy where any kind of RAW photo retouching is simply unnecessary. I've found with my D80's white balance set to cloudy, wedding images come out perfect even with flash. No need to go RAW!!! Hope my two cents helps those who might've thought they couldn't do this. You can.

I use an 8GB card in my D80 with no problem.  I do shoot in RAW so I have more flexibility as far as WB and Dynamic Range.  With 8GB card in RAW I get around 600 shots per card.

Glad to see you are doing so well with minimal setup, that is reassuring to many no doubt.

When I shoot weddings I typically use my D80 + 50 f/1.8 and I also rent a D90 or D7000 along with 14-24mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 (cost me about $110).

Jason Minton wrote:

Kevin Shanks wrote:

By the way the D80 can only take a 4GB SD card as a maximum capacity. This is still plenty of memory for the pictures that I take which are always in JPEG FINE mode. That setting gives me 530 pictures with dead on color accuracy where any kind of RAW photo retouching is simply unnecessary. I've found with my D80's white balance set to cloudy, wedding images come out perfect even with flash. No need to go RAW!!! Hope my two cents helps those who might've thought they couldn't do this. You can.

I use an 8GB card in my D80 with no problem.  I do shoot in RAW so I have more flexibility as far as WB and Dynamic Range.  With 8GB card in RAW I get around 600 shots per card.

Glad to see you are doing so well with minimal setup, that is reassuring to many no doubt.

When I shoot weddings I typically use my D80 + 50 f/1.8 and I also rent a D90 or D7000 along with 14-24mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 (cost me about $110).

Thanks Jason for info on the 8gig card for the D80 and renting equipment that I didn't know you could do.

Hello All
I just wanted some advice on what lens to buy next.
I currently have:
- Canon 350D with standard lens.
- EX580 flash gun.

The main reason why I want to buy another lens is to get a good bohek, however, I don't realy want to be changing lens all the time.

I am not a professional but mainly use the camera to take pictures of children, family, birthdays, weddings, which is mainly indoors, hence me buying the speedlite to eliminate the darkness and shadow in the pictures. I also use it on family holidays or outings.

The options I am looking at are, however, feel free to suggest an alternative:
- Canon 50mm f1.8
- Canon 50mm f1.4
- Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8

Also do you think it is advsiable to sell the 350D and get an upgrade?

Please advice as I defintely wanted a lens with a low aperture value for bokeh but did not want to have 2 lens for normal landscape/holiday pictures.

Best Regards
Has

Its always been my recommendation to upgrade your lenses before upgrading a camera if you want an improvement in your images and image quality. If your happy with the image quality you get currently (as well as the other technical features) from your 350D, then upgrading your lens would have you appreciating it even more. If the technical features of the camera are not suiting your current shooting needs then yes, maybe consider an upgrade to a camera that has features you feel you may be lacking in.

The lenses you have listed are all excellent choices for your 350D. If your planning on shooting mostly/only portraiture either of the two 50mm lenses would be the way to go. For the price the 50mm f1.8 lens is a no brainer to have in your kit bag honestly. You mentioned wanting however to shoot both landscapes and holiday pictures, and with that said the 17-55mm f2.8 lens would be the best zoom of the lot to go with, it would offer you the width you want for a nice landscape shot, but would still afford you the ability to shoot portraits with a nice shallow depth of field (blurred background).

Thanks for the 411.  I agree with both of you on everything BUT the renting of camera equipment.  When I've attempted same, they wanted to "hold" the value of the equipment e.g., D7000 $1100.00 on the card  until eq is returned.  I don't have a line of credit card that high.  Any suggestions?

Where I rent they charge a 3% insurance surcharge, which is usually under $5 total...  If I break it, I'm not liable. 

That being the case I have to ask.....are you renting from someone local or by chance is it a national chain.  I live in Cleveland, Ohio and I'd assume you don't.  Thanks for the feedback and reply but again I ask......any suggestions?

Thanks.

Kevin Shanks wrote:
"..This article on wedding photography is excellent. I just wanted to add ....

Kevin, you post is full of nonsense. (a) I've been shooting on D-80 with 8GB card for four years –it works just fine, (b) 50mm 1.8 will NEVER produce the same kind of photos as a "$1200.00 lens" as you state. I have both 50mm 1.4 and a 24-70mm 2.8. My 50mm has its own charm and low light use, but to say that it could produce the same quality as far as sharpness, contrast, color, bokeh is ...well... an overstatement.(c) RAW files are crucial when doing weddings. That is your last chance to slightly adjust exposure, white balance etc without killing pixels. With a couple of 8GBs in your pocket why would you NOT set to Large+Raw?? I would never reply to posts like yours. The only reason I do now is that I don't want someone inexperienced  read your post, set ISO to cloudy and shoot the wedding even when the bride is inside under fluorescent lighting?!. Go ahead, set you D80 at cloudy and shoot a few photos under fluorescent light. How do they look? Could use that RAW file now, huh? :)

You are so right, a real pro would not take photos without using top of the line lenses.

A real pro can get excellent results using a Mamiya C330 twin lens reflex and film. Millions of weddings with satisified brides (and satisfied bride's mothers) have been taken with these and lesser lenses.

I forgot to mention: if you are using slower lenses, it is absolutely essential to have a professional flash - by which I mean a flash that will give you over 500 flashes with less than 2 sec recycle that will be properly exposed at 15 feet using f/8 and whatever sensitivity you are using. I have never seen anyone shoot a wedding well without a real professional flash.  Maybe times have changed; but I would dream of doing a wedding without a really heavy duty flash.  Halls and churches are almost always quite dark.

RAW  is important no matter what. If you need an image to been done correctly and have more choices, yes RAW. And no way you are getting away with 4GB you should update since you are getting so much business.

Yes, RAW is a must for weddings. No question.

They are lossless files so you'll always have your originals even after edits, and you can adjust anything you need.

Also, if you have been shooting several weddings (paid) I'm assuming, you should have at least a D7000 or D700. The D80 get grainy around iso 600. What if you have to shoot in a church and aren't allowed to use flash? Also,you should def have a backup body in case one fails.

But, I'm sure you're decent if people keep hiring you. Good luck and most of all , if it works or you, that's all that matters.

Not all photographers use Canon or Nikon cameras, including wedding photographers.  The complete exclusion of any reference to other makes and how they also have lenses and stabilization systems well-suited to wedding photography is unfortunate, to say the least.  In fact, some of these other systems, with their in-camera stabilization systems, which are able to work with any lens, including fixed focal length and wide-angle lenses for which their are no IS or VR counterparts from Canon or Nikon, might arguably make them even better suited to wedding photography.  For example, Sony's 16-35/2.8 Zeiss, 24-70/2.8 Zeiss, 50/1.4, 85/1.4 Zeiss and 135/1.8 Zeiss lens are all stabilized on an A900 FF body and provide outstanding optical performance.  Sony's 70-200/2.8 G also is an excellent lens and is the only one for which there is a comparable IS or VR lens from Canon or Nikon.  Olympus, which also features in-camera stabilization, has some high quality faster-than-normal zooms of similar effective ranges, though the 4/3 format does have more compromises for high ISO shooting.

The continual emphasis, focus, orientation, or whatever other descriptive word you want to use, on Canon or Nikon to the exclusion of their competitors, only serves to misinform the reader/consumer and perpetuate an oligopolistic system that makes it even harder for worthwhile competitors.

Mr. Weitz does a disservice to his readers and to B&H customers in limiting his discussion of lenses appropriate for weddings to only Canon or Nikon.  While he certainly is not the only industry writer to do this, that doesn't make it right.  It is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence in the industry and trade press.

Mark VB wrote:

Not all photographers use Canon or Nikon cameras, including wedding photographers.  The complete exclusion of any reference to other makes and how they also have lenses and stabilization systems well-suited to wedding photography is unfortunate, to say the least.  In fact, some of these other systems, with their in-camera stabilization systems, which are able to work with any lens, including fixed focal length and wide-angle lenses for which their are no IS or VR counterparts from Canon or Nikon, might arguably make them even better suited to wedding photography.  For example, Sony's 16-35/2.8 Zeiss, 24-70/2.8 Zeiss, 50/1.4, 85/1.4 Zeiss and 135/1.8 Zeiss lens are all stabilized on an A900 FF body and provide outstanding optical performance.  Sony's 70-200/2.8 G also is an excellent lens and is the only one for which there is a comparable IS or VR lens from Canon or Nikon.  Olympus, which also features in-camera stabilization, has some high quality faster-than-normal zooms of similar effective ranges, though the 4/3 format does have more compromises for high ISO shooting.

The continual emphasis, focus, orientation, or whatever other descriptive word you want to use, on Canon or Nikon to the exclusion of their competitors, only serves to misinform the reader/consumer and perpetuate an oligopolistic system that makes it even harder for worthwhile competitors.

Mr. Weitz does a disservice to his readers and to B&H customers in limiting his discussion of lenses appropriate for weddings to only Canon or Nikon.  While he certainly is not the only industry writer to do this, that doesn't make it right.  It is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence in the industry and trade press.

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the feedback. As for your comments about our negating camera manufacturers other than Nikon and Canon, I must acknowledge your point, and the reason is because although other manufacturers do in fact produce excellent cameras and lenses, a majority of wedding photographers use Nikon and Canon products compared to others in the industry. Regardless, we will make a concerted effort to broaden our product range in the future when writing on topics such as these.

Allan Weitz wrote:

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the feedback. As for your comments about our negating camera manufacturers other than Nikon and Canon, I must acknowledge your point, and the reason is because although other manufacturers do in fact produce excellent cameras and lenses, a majority of wedding photographers use Nikon and Canon products compared to others in the industry. Regardless, we will make a concerted effort to broaden our product range in the future when writing on topics such as these.

Allan,

Thanks for your follow-up comment.  While it is undeniable that most wedding photographers use Canon and Nikon products, not all do (including me, and there are many others of us, even if we are a minority).  But, your article is not necessarily aimed at the established wedding photographer who presumably has most or all of what they need, and is knowledgeable, at least to some extent, about what he or she needs and what is available from their system manufacturer.  Given the relatively basic information conveyed in your article, one has to assume it is targeted more towards the aspiring pro or part-time wedding photographer, perhaps someone who is not yet well-established with a particular brand or system.

It also is not unheard of for established part-time or pro shooters to switch brands (which actually is good for B&H as such photographers are looking to buy new equipment - you don't sell as much product to a photographer who already has what he or she needs).  Many established system shooters don't pay as much attention to what a competing brand might offer them.  I would imagine there are more than a few photographers that might be interested in having a stabilized 24-70/2.8, 50/1.4, or 135/1.8 lens, to mention just a few.  Combined with higher ISOs, these can be fabulous low light combinations.  How will photographers learn about these other excellent products if they are not discussed in articles such as yours?

There also are some noteworthy lenses from independent lens makers well suited to wedding use, such as Sigma's 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 HSM lenses, in addition to their zoom lens offerings.  Tokina and Tamron also offer lenses similar to some of those you discuss.

An article that seeks to inform the novice, intermediate, and even the advanced photographer would be far more beneficial if it covered all of the options, or provided a fair sampling of all the options, rather than focusing on just two brands.  It also would be more beneficial to B&H.  It's not like B&H doesn't sell these other brands.  Rather, it's a matter of not falling into the Canon/Nikon trap when writing about various categories of products.  I appreciate the effort to try to broaden the product discussion in future articles.

Mark VB wrote:

Allan Weitz wrote:

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the feedback. As for your comments about our negating camera manufacturers other than Nikon and Canon, I must acknowledge your point, and the reason is because although other manufacturers do in fact produce excellent cameras and lenses, a majority of wedding photographers use Nikon and Canon products compared to others in the industry. Regardless, we will make a concerted effort to broaden our product range in the future when writing on topics such as these.

Allan,

Thanks for your follow-up comment.  While it is undeniable that most wedding photographers use Canon and Nikon products, not all do (including me, and there are many others of us, even if we are a minority).  But, your article is not necessarily aimed at the established wedding photographer who presumably has most or all of what they need, and is knowledgeable, at least to some extent, about what he or she needs and what is available from their system manufacturer.  Given the relatively basic information conveyed in your article, one has to assume it is targeted more towards the aspiring pro or part-time wedding photographer, perhaps someone who is not yet well-established with a particular brand or system.

It also is not unheard of for established part-time or pro shooters to switch brands (which actually is good for B&H as such photographers are looking to buy new equipment - you don't sell as much product to a photographer who already has what he or she needs).  Many established system shooters don't pay as much attention to what a competing brand might offer them.  I would imagine there are more than a few photographers that might be interested in having a stabilized 24-70/2.8, 50/1.4, or 135/1.8 lens, to mention just a few.  Combined with higher ISOs, these can be fabulous low light combinations.  How will photographers learn about these other excellent products if they are not discussed in articles such as yours?

There also are some noteworthy lenses from independent lens makers well suited to wedding use, such as Sigma's 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 HSM lenses, in addition to their zoom lens offerings.  Tokina and Tamron also offer lenses similar to some of those you discuss.

An article that seeks to inform the novice, intermediate, and even the advanced photographer would be far more beneficial if it covered all of the options, or provided a fair sampling of all the options, rather than focusing on just two brands.  It also would be more beneficial to B&H.  It's not like B&H doesn't sell these other brands.  Rather, it's a matter of not falling into the Canon/Nikon trap when writing about various categories of products.  I appreciate the effort to try to broaden the product discussion in future articles.

And on our part we appreciate informed, real-world feedback such as yours, as it certainly rounds out our efforts in producing broad range topics such as wedding photography.

I am a long-time photographer, but have only done two weddings, both for friends. This past weekend I went to a friend's wedding in Detroit. I took my Leica M9 and 50 mm and 35 mm lenses. I was shocked when I was asked to be the "wedding photographer" for the big event. I agreed because it was me or no one. I was fortunate because the wedding was outside and the reception and pre wedding dinner were in well lit interiors.

When I down loaded my 400+ images this morning I was pleased at the quality of the images, and I'm sure the newly weds will also be pleased. There were very few inferior images, and the ones that I worked with in PS will be easy to make into large, beautiful images with little fiddling.

This is not a kit that I would recommend, but if I had to do a wedding with one body and two lenses, I would feel good using the Leica body and lenses. I know the equipment very well and feel comfortable using it. I would have been glad to have had a reflector and helper, but I didn't and managed with a beautiful day with plenty of clouds bouncing light into deep shade in people's faces. Altogether it was a fun day. I was able to do a job that I was pleased with, and one that I'm sure the bride and groom will like. I would not dream of charging these young grad students for my work, but will consider it a part of the gift that I was able to give them. But I sure wish that I had known that I was being counted on for the wedding photos.

Joe

Sony Alpha 850. Thinking about buying a really good lens, so far have been making do with vintage minolta which are great, mostly. Still miss my film Konica T-3, can't use the lenses, sadly. Agree with poster about RAW. I now use Capture one 6.3 for most of my importing/editing, start with RAW its amazing what the software can do. For fine adjustments in B and W I go to photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. like I said amazing.

As I have said in another post I am still going on courses and learning.

But if you speak to most of the professionals here they will say one of two things, Canon / Nikon.

Not to make other brands feel bad, just that these are great camera's and most people know them or trust them. Customer service is also easier on them as there are more stores readily available to help, some of the other makes like Pentax and Olympus you would have to shop around for them.

I am one who has shot several sibling/niece weddings because they couldn't afford a photographer (despite what some people seem to think, not everyone can). However, if you decide to help them out, tell them upfront that you'll do your best but it will NOT be the same quality as a pro would provide. I had pretty good equipment ( and I'm not knocking yours, but there are two parts to a good photo, both important. The composition comes form the photographer and the best camera in the world won't help there. However, the color saturation, sharpness, ability to catch fleeting moments, etc. depend HEAVILY on the camera.) You're between a rock and a hard place. I would suggest renting better equipment for a few days, but you won't know how to run it without having to spend all your time thinking about it, a bad thing during wedding chaos.
Go ahead and shoot the wedding if they insist despite your warnings. I'd recommend your own camera PLUS practicing with flash ahead of time so you know when it will help and when it won't. USE A TRIPOD wherever you can (that is, posed shots).
Photoshop can help improve some results, but it's a slow way and it won't cure major problems.
I've very uncomfortable as the photographer each time I've done it (3 times), but I just did my best and no one has been terribly unhappy with the results (except me). A basic reality is that if they can't afford a pro photographer, they will end up with better photos with you trying than if they have to depend on the snapshots of those attending. If you know of another family member/friend who you think is a better photographer, try to talk them into shooting as well.
Last advice. Have the bride & groom make up a list of the posed family/friend shots they want. They may end up wanting a zillion of them, so you'll have to force them to pick the most important, since people will get tired of posing and disappear. SHOOT THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES FIRST. Regardless of what they tell you they want, make sure and shoot the couple, the couple with each of their parents separately, one with each entire family, one with the wedding party, and perhaps a joint one with both families (or at least both parents.) Yes, parental divorces will cause a headache on this, causing more combinations. In 20 or 30 years, these are the ones that will count. Shoot several shots of each grouping. Eyes WILL be closed or mouths twisted or something. Warn them when you are shooting (though this will CAUSE some of them to blink, especially if you are using flash)
All the rest of the shots are gravy. Good luck!
On a separate note regarding the comments about the articles focus on only Nikon and Canon. Nikon, yes, an excellent range of cameras. However, there are many companies as good or better than Canon (at the same price range), but Canon has great marketing and convinces people they are close competitors with Nikon. They really aren't except in the very cheapest lines, where all the companies tend to be closer together in quality. It isn't by accident, I suspect, that they tend to look a lot like the Nikons. I'm with one of the earlier speakers, Olympus has/had a great line of 4/3 digital SLR cameras with some of the best lenses around (at any single price point). Their financial woes (not, I'll note the result of sales problems but in-house fraud) has shrunk the number of models. The in-camera stabilizing is a great cost saver, but I admit that it would be good to see the effect of the stabilization through the viewfinder, which one can with the lens stabilization but not with the in-body stabilization. I don't find this a big deal, but it is still a benefit if your wallet can afford the cost of separate stabilization in each lens that is required if one uses Nikon, Canon, or some of the others.

Pros recommend what they know, which tends to be what they shoot, or colleagues or professional acquaintances have told them about. It's a very narrow perception that frequently does not include something they have not used and don't know much about. A vicious circle. There are some wedding pros who don't shoot Canon or Nikon, and occasionally there even are some articles comparing the benefits of one system vs. another for this type of photography (I wish I had the link to a former Canon/Nikon shooter who wrote about why he now shoots Sony - Zeiss glass that is stabilized due to in-camera stabilization was a big part of it). The equipment needs of a wedding shooter are not that exotic, and can be filled quite readily by some brands that don't start with a C or an N. But how many Canon or Nikon shooting pros would know about that equipment and thus recommend it? Not many. Plus, we all tend to recommend what we use ourselves (otherwise, why would we be using it?). It's a vicious circle.

Don't get me wrong, Canon and Nikon both have high quality systems. And all systems have their weaknesses (including "C" and "N" as well as Sony, Pentax, Olympus and the others). Just because most pros use something doesn't mean there are not equally valid alternatives that they may not know much about.

Mark VB wrote:

Not all photographers use Canon or Nikon cameras, including wedding photographers.  The complete exclusion of any reference to other makes and how they also have lenses and stabilization systems well-suited to wedding photography is unfortunate, to say the least.  In fact, some of these other systems, with their in-camera stabilization systems, which are able to work with any lens, including fixed focal length and wide-angle lenses for which their are no IS or VR counterparts from Canon or Nikon, might arguably make them even better suited to wedding photography.  For example, Sony's 16-35/2.8 Zeiss, 24-70/2.8 Zeiss, 50/1.4, 85/1.4 Zeiss and 135/1.8 Zeiss lens are all stabilized on an A900 FF body and provide outstanding optical performance.  Sony's 70-200/2.8 G also is an excellent lens and is the only one for which there is a comparable IS or VR lens from Canon or Nikon.  Olympus, which also features in-camera stabilization, has some high quality faster-than-normal zooms of similar effective ranges, though the 4/3 format does have more compromises for high ISO shooting.

The continual emphasis, focus, orientation, or whatever other descriptive word you want to use, on Canon or Nikon to the exclusion of their competitors, only serves to misinform the reader/consumer and perpetuate an oligopolistic system that makes it even harder for worthwhile competitors.

Mr. Weitz does a disservice to his readers and to B&H customers in limiting his discussion of lenses appropriate for weddings to only Canon or Nikon.  While he certainly is not the only industry writer to do this, that doesn't make it right.  It is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence in the industry and trade press.

The truth you're right, I use sony for weddings, because all the lenses I use, will have stabilization, since Sony has a stabilizer in the body, Sony have speeds of 10fps (A65) to 12fps (A77) and multi-frame noise reduction.Just wait for the Sony A99 Full frame for better wedding photos with up to 6400 iso without noise.

Just to share my experience, from analog to digital photography.

I've always used two sets: two Leica M6, for low light and no flash pictures (Summilux 35/f1.4 Aspherical and Summicron 90/f2.0 Apo) and a Nikon F6 (several original Nikkors in more than 30 years, always fixed lens, but mainly 24/f2.8, 50/f1.4, 105/f2.0 DC, 180/f2.8), I do like Nikon "flash performances" with both Nikon and Metz  flashes. Kodak Portra for colour or Ilford HP5 for B&W....

Now, even if I still have one M6 and the F6, I use a Leica M8 (waiting for a M9...) and a D700; same lenses plus a Zeiss Distagon T 18/4.0 for the M8 and a Zeiss Distagon T 18/3.5 ZF2 for the D700 (here, sometimes, I miss the autofocus).

Besides, as cleverly stated in the article, the main thing is not the stuff but the photographer's eye and sensibility.

Aldo wrote:

Just to share my experience, from analog to digital photography.

I've always used two sets: two Leica M6, for low light and no flash pictures (Summilux 35/f1.4 Aspherical and Summicron 90/f2.0 Apo) and a Nikon F6 (several original Nikkors in more than 30 years, always fixed lens, but mainly 24/f2.8, 50/f1.4, 105/f2.0 DC, 180/f2.8), I do like Nikon "flash performances" with both Nikon and Metz  flashes. Kodak Portra for colour or Ilford HP5 for B&W....

Now, even if I still have one M6 and the F6, I use a Leica M8 (waiting for a M9...) and a D700; same lenses plus a Zeiss Distagon T 18/4.0 for the M8 and a Zeiss Distagon T 18/3.5 ZF2 for the D700 (here, sometimes, I miss the autofocus).

Besides, as cleverly stated in the article, the main thing is not the stuff but the photographer's eye and sensibility.

The photographer's eye always has been mightier than the sword... or in this case, the camera, lens, and flash system!

Ok, this is going to be a very basic comment. I've been asked to photograph a friends wedding, with little money for a camera upgrade. So I am going to be using my Pentax K100D. 

Could anybody give me advice an what lenses would be most suitable for the job? 

Thanks in advance

Do yourself and your friend a real favor and tell them to step up and hire a real pro to do the job. This is a once in a lifetime and its not a time for them to be your learning curve. If you are lucky everything will be fine and you'll have some decent shots and they will thank you. If something goes wrong and your camera or lens or flash doesn't work, you'll probably be screwed and your friend will be totally screwed. You'll probably won't have the back up gear or the experience to improvise. Your friend may not get upset because you're doing it for free or for cheap but the guilt you'll have will be well deserved. Even worst, your friend may forget that you're just an amerteur and complains about how you screwed upon his wedding!

I totally agree with Charlie on this one. Wedding photography is a high stress task that requires a lot of practice and gear to get right.

For your own sake don't do it, because if you miss a key shot the bride will kill you (no joke here).

I agree with the reply before mine. I think it would be ok if you are a back up photographer for your friend's wedding. With a Pentax K100D, I do not expect you can get high quality images, especially in low light condition. Moreover, you would loose many good pics due to its slow focus. To be a wedding photographer, not only good equipments are needed, but you also have good enough skills. In a case that you shoot as a second or back up guy, you may consider using prime lens such as 31mm f/1.8, 50mm or 55mm f/1.4, 77mm f/1.8, if you have one of those.

If you disregard the excellent reposnes to your enquiry (and I strongly concur in their views), a wedding is the absolute worst possible time to be breaking in a new camera system.

If you try to focus manually, will you slip and turn the lens in the wrong direction (Manual focus Canon and Nikon lenses turn in opposite directions for focusing? Are you going to have difficulty remembering what each setting for the exposure system stands for so when you are trying to shoot a backlit shot, you will get a burned in image?

If you use a camera that is as familiar as your right hand, you are still going to miss some shots during a wedding - they are that hectic. How familiar are you with techniques for getting 10 people to simultaneously line up, hold a good pose and give you their best smile without blinking?

Doing a wedding is a lot of work. Just go and enjoy the party. Besides you can't drink if you're shooting and you probably won't have time to eat.

Sorry, forgot to say that the part about practicing with the flash was NOT about just using a flash mounted on the camera. Shooting the posed shots will benefit hugely if you can add at least one additional light source places at a good angle, even if it's the sun. However, you need to have some idea what the pictures will look like ahead of time, hence the practice. Even with a single flash you can help things by not having a wall close behind them to show the shadows so clearly.
Try posed flash pictures ahead of time!

I really have difficulty taking the following seriously:

"Fast wide-angle primes worth considering for wedding photography include the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM, EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM"

Most brides, and even more importantly - their mothers, are interested in straight representational photography that show them and their guests in flattering light and poses. It is hard to imagine how many scenes would be suitable for a 14mm as these lenses need to be held absolutely horizontal to avoid the perception that everything is falling over. I have a 14 Canon and can't imagine circumstances where it would be worth taking to a wedding. To a lesser degree, the same comments apply to 24mm lenses as well.

To me, the bread and butter lenses for a wedding are 28mm through 100mm fast lenses with even longer lenses being useful in those denominations that restrict the photographer to the choir loft or back of the church during the ceremony. Macro lenses are useful to a lesser extent for ring shots, bouquets and the like. But with just had a fast 35 and fast 85, most photographers could handle any wedding adequately. And, since most photographers would always carry two bodies anyway - you don't have to change lenses!

I am still only starting on photography courses and learning, but everyone I have spoken to uses 1 lens for a wedding on their Canon, the 24 - 105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens, saying they get all the shots they want from that little beauty. They might add in a 50mm here and there, but most of the time only the 24 - 105mm is used

The reason for being Canon, in South Africa, Nikon is a lot more expensive on their products here, most of the people I have spoken too like or love Nikon, but price wise Canon is King here.

Jaques, I use just a 24-105 and a sigma 10mm F2.8 fisheye lens on my EOS50D and EOS400D for wedding photography and I get superb shots. Iam going to buy a EOS5D MK3, a 70 - 200mm F2.8 MK2 lens and a 16 - 35mm F2.8 MK2 lens and then I think I will be properly kitted out for weddings. I really think that this combo of lenses is exactly what you need to do weddings.

Yes, I must agree to you. If you are a standalone photographer (I mean, not having an assistant), the Canon 24-105mm f/4 can offer almost everything you want. Are you using a full-frame camera to really have 24mm in a 24mm lens? First of all, the f/4 apperture in the entire range from 24 to 105mm (altough stops darker than a f/2.8) has a great depth-of-field, for people faces and body (like you see in movie theater), getting an excellent blur background but showing some stuff and also showing some body details in case of closer portraits (I mean, not blurring the "rear body limit, as can do a f/2.8 in very close use). Also, as the "lens testers" says, f/4 has one of the most beautiful sharpen resolution in almost all lenses (from f/4 to f/5.6). You can use the 50mm range of your 25-105mm and, instead of buyng a 50mm, try to make an investment in a 100mm macro (expensive), to get good details on small objects, like rings, flowers or anything you want. As you progress, try to buy more lenses, like 16-35 f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8 and so on. Either by using a T3i/600D or a 5D Mark II, the lens quality is very important to your delivery. Yes, the Canon's cameras and lenses are very good and cheaper than Nikon in the entire word. I prefer Canon's lenses also due to their faster autofocus processing than Nikon. Regards from Rio de Janeiro - Brasil.

Being fast on your feet, as well as optically, and able to focus on the bride's circle are the most important aspects of photographing any wedding, and the last thing you want to do is to be caught up in the changing of lenses, or with just one camera.

The solution that has always worked for me on my Nikons (now the D700, one with grip) is the AF85f/1.8D on one body and the AFS17-35f/2.8D on the other.

Control of depth of field is often less critical with wide shots, so the Nikon 17-35 is a great choice (FX) for covering every need in the wide field and isn't too heavy.

While I prefer the 105mm as a portrait lens for head-waist to head-and-shoulders shots (and alter shots during the ceremony from back in the audience), it is often too cramped in wedding venues to use it, so the 85mm is what I use just for weddings in the portrait and distance length.

I also keep a Pentax 645 medium format with 150mm lens (they're excellent, and dirt cheap now), which I use for individual and group portraits before and after the ceremony if the bride tells me she will want very large prints in 16 x 20-inch or larger for framed wall hanging.

I am relatively new to shooting weddings, with just 30 or so under my belt to date, and I can say with confidence, it has taken approximately 10 weddings to settle on a selection of lenses I can honestly say I will cover most the images I am likely to take on any given wedding day. Lens selection is such a personal thing, dependent on your style and the types of shots that you have before known for.
I shot my first few weddings with a 28-135 and a 70-200L, although wasn't long before I saw the shortcomings of the 28-135, and swapped out for a 24-70L.....which now hardly gets used at all. The only zoom I use now is the 70-200L, having added 3 sub 2.8 primes to the kit.
The advantages for me were sharper out of camera files for starters, and much less post editing after the fact, not to mention the creative possibilities with each primes lens. The primes have transformed my offerings to clients, which I'm really happy about, and they are a hoot to shoot with, they are that good. Each to their own, everyone is different.