Lens selection is a highly personal choice for most photographers. Client base, shooting style and cost all factor in directly when you're deciding how to build a kit intelligently. Wedding photographers need a diverse assortment, given the expectation that they must cover such a broad range of subject matter in one day’s work. As a working professional, the natural progression is to begin investing in high quality, timelessly valuable lenses of superior durability and construction: for Canon users, this is the L-series.
Marked by the tell-tale red band around the barrel of each lens, Canon’s professional L-series is renowned for its exceptional mastery over mechanical and optical design. These lenses are tough, many with rubber seals in place to eliminate interior contamination from dust, dirt, or moisture. They each contain a combination of ultra or super low-dispersion glass, as well as fluorite and aspheric elements. In addition to effectively reducing unintentional distortions such as blur, haze and chromatic aberration, these high-quality elements expertly render accurate color detail and contrast. Non-rotating front elements make it easier to adjust and use circular polarizer filters for optimal results. Most implement a ring-type ultrasonic motor, which makes autofocus smooth and lightning fast. It also gives you the option of full-time manual focusing, which means you can still adjust manually without needing to switch out of AF mode. Superior optics make for an overall faster, sharper lens that simply outperforms many outside of the L-series.
While these lenses can be used with all of Canon’s current digital and film SLRs, they do lend themselves especially well to cameras with full-frame sensors. Many professionals do shoot with full-frame DSLRs, and the exceptional sharpness at the edges of the image frame is notable, compared to lower-quality glass. A smaller sensor, such as an APS-C, will result in the apparent narrowing of your field of view. While this shouldn’t dissuade you from upgrading altogether, it is an important factor to bear in mind if you’re purchasing for a camera with a smaller than full-frame sensor.
Fulfilling the role as the all-purpose workhorse, a standard zoom is versatile enough to handle nearly the entire job. Its variance in some of the most commonly used focal lengths make it the perfect walk-around lens for a ceremony or reception venue, able to cover broad vistas and intimate portraiture. If you’ve yet to upgrade to any L-series lens, consider making the ever-useful standard zoom your first investment.
The 24-70mm is often hailed as the most popular choice for a variety of photography professionals, including wedding shooters. Canon offers two L-series interpretations of this lens, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and newer EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM. While appearing similar in title, the two share little apart from focal length, angle of view (84° – 34°), and minimum focusing distance of 1.25’. They also both offer a zoom lock mechanism that prevents your lens from creeping when it’s at its most compact, as well as 9 circular aperture blades. The EF 24-70mm f/4L boasts a Macro Mode, which can be switched on at the end of the 70mm zoom range. While this doesn’t equate to full 1:1, it comes incredibly close at 0.70x magnification. Here, Canon also implements its Hybrid Image Stabilization system, which provides up to 4 stops of shutter speed compensation when shooting up close. The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II is a faster lens, given its maximum aperture of f/2.8. It does not offer any Image Stabilization, but still produces a razor-sharp final image. While the EF 24-70mm f/4L utilizes two super UD elements, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II has one. The latter is also a slightly larger lens, heavier and almost an inch longer. It also requires an 82mm filter, whereas the f/4L’s filter thread is 77mm.
If you need an option with a longer focal length range, the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM covers wide angle through medium telephoto. A great lens for professionals and amateurs alike, it lends itself well to handheld shooting. Image Stabilization works to reduce increased image blur at shutter speeds up to 3 stops slower. It’s also a lightweight body, weighing 1.47 lb and measuring a bit more than 4” long, which makes it easy to carry and balance. A constant maximum aperture lets you set your exposure at the widest f-stop and zoom through to 105mm without ever needing to slow the shutter speed. Its minimum focusing distance is 1.48', and like the EF 24-70mm f/4L, it accepts a 77mm filter.
A fast, dedicated macro is the obvious go-to lens for capturing the details in flowers, decorations, the cake and the rings. With a life-size magnification ratio of 1:1, the mid-telephoto Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is a sophisticated update from Canon’s previously comparable macro. Now an esteemed member of the L-series lineup, the EF 100mm f/2.8L offers a super-fluid Utrasonic Motor and Optical Image Stabilization Technology for up to 4 stops of shake control. It’s also the first lens on the market to feature Canon’s Hybrid IS system, which effectively targets camera shake while shooting at close range. The comfortable amount of space allowed between the camera and subject gives you the freedom to compose with less instance of shadow interference, and minimum focusing distance is as close as 1'. This lens is tack sharp, and with a maximum aperture of f/2.8, holds its own in low light. Its favorable focal length gives you the added option of doubling its use, as a portrait lens.
The EF 100mm f/2.8L can be fitted with a 67mm filter of your choice or optional tripod collar. It's also compatible with a number of Canon extension tubes, which increase magnification for some extraordinary close-up shots.
One of the most obvious requirements for a wedding photographer is shooting portraiture, both formal and casual in nature. A prime medium telephoto, such as the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, is the go-to lens for portraits. One of the fastest lenses in its class, with a maximum aperture of f/1.2, it gives you the freedom to tackle low-light shooting without noise overpowering your images. The wide, 8-bladed circular aperture also creates a super-shallow depth of field. Selective focus can be used to create dynamic, professional portraits with smoothly blurred backgrounds. A focal length of 85mm is slightly longer in perspective than the human eye sees naturally, flattening and complimenting the subject’s features without distortion. Like most primes, the 85mm f/1.2L II does not offer Image Stabilization, but its speed and lightweight frame make camera shake less of an issue. Its minimum focusing distance is 3.12', and encompasses a 28-degree angle of view. It also takes a 72mm filter.
The telephoto zoom is another valuable addition to the wedding professional’s kit. The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is a popular choice that offers multiple areas of coverage, including portraiture.
A longer focal length creates the perception of a narrowed field of view, which results in very shallow depth of field, especially at wider apertures. This can be an effective way to shoot portraits with cluttered backgrounds. By controlling blur to your advantage, you can eliminate distracting surroundings. The telephoto lens also captures subjects from farther away, which is a necessity at a larger venue. Additionally, it allows you to keep a respectful distance so as not to intrude on intimate moments. If you have access to balconies or ladders, you can achieve some creative results by taking advantage of different shooting angles.
Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is a fast lens in its class, and the image stabilization system offers up to 4 stops of shutter-speed compensation. Two-stage Image Stabilization works hard to suppress shake and keeps even moving targets sharp, a crucial element when shooting telephoto. Its minimum focusing distance of 3.94' is impressive for its length, letting you get fairly close to your subject, even in a compact space. For added control, a focus limiter switch restricts the range of distances at which your camera will attempt to focus. This makes autofocus faster and more efficient. The 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM accepts 77mm filters.
There is a benefit to owning several prime lenses. Primes have fixed focal lengths, which simplifies and maximizes their optical design. Their incredible speed makes them perfect for handling difficult lighting at an acceptable ISO. In a dim reception venue, these can be ideal for walking around and shooting candid portraits of the bridal party and guests. A super-shallow depth of field can soften a chaotic background, making your subjects the central focus of the photo.
The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a standard-length lens with a 46-degree angle of view. For something slightly wider, the EF 35mm f/1.4L USM offers a 63-degree angle of view and features a large maximum aperture for its class. It will focus as close as 1’, while the 50mm f/1.2L needs an extra six inches. Both lenses are similar in weight and dimension (the 35mm f/1.4L being almost an inch longer), and both accept 72mm filters.
In order to encompass a broader field of view, you will need a wide-angle lens. Super wides are a necessity in tackling group portraits, and offer a great perspective of guests dancing. They’re also invaluable for documenting the architectural elements of venues. Short focal lengths offer an immersive point of view that puts the observer in the midst of the action, a key element in visual storytelling.
Canon offers several L-series choices for wide angle. The EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM is a dedicated prime with the shortest available focal length in the professional lineup. It offers a 114-degree angle of view, which is just shy of being a fisheye. A fixed petal-shaped hood protects the protruding glass, and a gelatin filter holder is accessible in the rear of the lens. The EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is an ultra-wide zoom option, with optical elements to ensure edge-to-edge image quality. Its angle of view ranges from 108° to 63°, and it can focus as close as 11.2”. The slightly longer EF 17-40mm f/4L USM encompasses a 104- to 57-degree angle of view, and also focuses at around 11” from its subject. While it accepts a 77mm filter, you have the option of using a rear gelatin filter holder as well. The 16-35mm f/2.8L II requires an 82mm filter. All three lenses have elements in place to reduce many of the chromatic aberrations that plague an image at a wider angle, such as vignetting and color bleed.
Able to capture 180° of view, the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM offers an alternative “big picture” perspective for an element of fun. On a full-frame camera body, it delivers both circular and full-frame fisheye images depending on what range of zoom you use. Keep in mind if you shoot with a cropped-sensor camera, some field of view will be lost. However, a zoom lock mechanism limits focal-length range to the best possible full-frame view to avoid unwanted vignetting for APS-C or APS-H. A holder in the rear of lens will hold up to three pre-cut gelatin filters, and a sub-wavelength coating on its glass works to reduce image ghosting.
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