Lenses in wedding photography
Numbers, data, facts - 2016-2021
80% with only two focal lengths
Already in 2016, the 42.5mm as a classic portrait focal length (85mm equiv.) was responsible for about half of all photos. In second place was the 17mm (34mm equiv.) with almost a third.
In fact, that has hardly changed over the years. No wonder, because other focal lengths are not necessarily "necessary" at weddings. For a well-rounded story, these two focal lengths are completely sufficient.
For the reportage, I replaced the 17mm with a 15mm in late 2017 - just to have a little more room in my images. In the turmoil of a wedding, 17mm were often a tiny bit too narrow for me. 2mm doesn't sound like a lot, but it's priceless when shooting candids. That switch practically hasn't changed anything in terms of distribution though.
The situation is similar with the wide-angle range. The 7-14mm has been a solid 10% over the years without much change.
More party with the fisheye
For a long time fisheye only had one job for me - group photos of large wedding parties. In 2019 it finally had its breakthrough on the dance floor. Since then I've been even closer and with the small, robust lens in the middle of the fray. The distortion of the fisheye does not interfere there and provides even more dynamics.
2020/2021 What influence did Corona have?
From 2020 onwards, the statistics shift a little. Here Corona has struck and not only massively reduced the number of weddings, but also changed the type of weddings. Often the big weddings were cancelled and postponed until 2021 or 2022, in the hope of being able to celebrate big again then. The weddings in 2020 were almost all smaller than usual - only a few had many guests and a big party, while most were tiny weddings. Often it was "only" the civil ceremony and the big wedding was saved for later. It is only in 2021 that things normalise a bit, but you can still see the impact of Covid measures.
- In 2020 and 2021, only half as many photos were taken as in the years before.
- In the ultra-wide-angle area everything stays the same - overview shots, location, interiors, all of this is also available at the small wedding. In 2021 it's share even grows (more party again and a defective fisheye).
- The use of the fisheye has practically halved in 2020. It is used exclusively for party photos and group photos of very large parties. Both have largely disappeared in 2020. In 2021, the parties are slowly coming back. But the fisheye has fall damage and therefore drops out in the middle of the season - in favour of the 7-14mm.
- The medium wide-angle loses out in 2020 - fewer reportage situations and more distance to subjects. In 2021 it is back again.
- The classic portrait focal length had hijacked most of the share in 2020. This has returned to normal in 2021.
- Also lost had been the 75mm - my secret weapon for unnoticed headshots at large societies. There were fewer large societies in 2020. That also improved again in 2021.
2022 looks quite promising again. In addition, there are more weddings waiting in the summer than ever before. And the last Corona postponements will also be made up for this year.
Wait a minute, 2018 is missing from the statistics above, isn't it!?
Right. In 2018 a Sony A7iii was allowed to join me for my weddings from June to October. Therefore, the year doesn't quite fit into the statistics and would only have caused confusion in the graph above.
As far as the used focal length ranges are concerned, the little Sony excursion made practically no difference:
Almost a third of all photos were taken with the medium wide-angles (Mft 15mm and Sony 35mm) and about half in the slight telephoto range (Sony 85mm + Mft 42.5mm). The 75 came a little short that year, but otherwise the distribution has hardly changed.
#1 Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2
From the angle of view a classic portrait lens (corresponds to 85mm on the 35mm sensor), fast AF, tack-sharp even with open aperture and creamy bokeh - by far my number 1 and the "always on" lens on my first camera.
#2 Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f1.7
A big name for this small and powerful lens. At 15mm, the Summilux is slightly wider than the typical reportage focal length (30mm equiv. vs. 35mm). So there is always a little more "life" in the pictures. The small lens also has a nice bokeh - provided you get close enough.
#3 Olympus Zuiko 7-14mm f2.8
It is not the fastest of its kind, but it is sharp and does beautifully straight lines. This is great for architecture, but it also takes a bit of getting used to. Like all well-corrected wide-angle lenses, forms are somewhat distorted, depending on the composition of the image. People at the edge of the image are usually not very grateful. This is why you should be careful to keep heads and other body parts away from the edges of your phots. Less perfectly corrected wide angles (e.g. the 9-18mm) are more forgiving here. The extreme opposite would be the fisheye. Forms will have realistic sizes, but lines (and people) will be bent/curved.
#4 Olympus M.ZUIKO 75mm f1.8 ED
The well-made lens is incredibly compact for its focal length. So it hardly takes up any space in the photo bag and, on the camera, it does not look like a 150mm telephoto (equiv.). That makes it perfect for inconspicuous headshots, among other things. Especially at large weddings, great moments can be picked out at the reception or at the tables without anyone noticing. In addition, the lens has good sharpness, fast AF and nice bokeh - you can't give it away anymore.
#5 Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye
The little no-name lens weighs nothing, costs nothing, is sharp and goes very well with backlighting. For years it was my first choice, especially for large group photos from above in the evening light. This is a pretty limited use case and it spent most of the time in the photo bag.
In 2018 I rediscovered it for party photos on the dance floor and used it there massively, especially in the 2019 season. In 2020 the quota will go down again - not because my preferences on the dance floor have changed, but because thanks to Corona there was much less dancing.
And where are the rest of the supposedly 19 lenses from the LR statistics?
Some of them have been sold - for example everything related to the Sony. A few others don't belong to me and were just here vor testing - not long enough to make their way into the stats. Among them e.g. the Nikkor AF 85mm f1.8 - an excellent "reasonable" lens for Nikon - or the Nikkor Z 35mm f1.8 S - an awesome reportage lens for the mirrorless Nikon Z mount. Saja uses this combination for her business and wedding photography. The rest is probably slumbering in a drawer.
- For example the Olympus M.ZUIKO 12-40mm f2.8 and its big brother the Olympus M.ZUIKO 40-150 f2.8 with the associated 1.4x Teleconverter MC14. This set serves a range of 24-420mm (equiv.) and is still quite compact. But that doesn't matter to me in everyday wedding life - too heavy and not bright enough with f2.8. Occasionally one of them can go on a road trip in a camper though.
- For vacation and travel purposes or alway when I'm looking for a lighter luggage, the Olympus M.ZUIKO 45mm f1.8 and the Olympus M.ZUIKO 9-18mm f4.0-5.6 ED may do the job. This couple is extremely light and compact. Therefore, the 45mm then replaces the heavy Nocticron and the 9-18mm the even heavier 7-14mm - most recently on a report at the Oktoberfest in Munich (before Corona).
- The Olympus M.ZUIKO ED 60mm f2.8 Macro is a specialist - a crazy lens with which you can do pretty much anything with extension rings for macro shots.
- The Olympus M.ZUIKO 25mm f1.8 and the Olympus M.ZUIKO 12mm f2.0 can be found in the "Not fish, not meat" category. Both are great lenses, but they don't inspire me. The 12mm is not specific enough to fit between the 7-14mm and 15mm. Same with the 25mm (50mm equiv.). I just can't find arguments why to use them instead of the 15mm or 42.5mm
- For video and experiments, the Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f0.95 is really fun. Easy to handle manually in video, very bright, beautiful aperture stars even at a large apertures and the lens flares are something like unicorns on LSD.
- Last but not least, the tank in the drawer - the Sigma 50-500mm f4.0-6.3 APO, affectionately called "Bigma". Actually made for the old Olympus DSLRs, this thing works surprisingly well on the current mirrorless cameras with phase autofocus. However, I'm still looking for a suitable use case for me.
There me be even more in the drawer. But that doesn't really matter - especially not for wedding photography.
The cameras at the weddings
Basically, I actively use two cameras at weddings (and a third one in my bag for backup). It goes so far that in key situations I also take photos with both of them simultaneously. It looks a bit silly though, but it gives me pictures from two perspectives with different focal lengths at the same time - an advantage for wedding photography that I wouldn't want to miss.
Of course, a ranking makes little sense here. In contrast to lenses, cameras are replaced by successors much more quickly. Nevertheless, it is very exciting to see what has been part of my weddings in the last 5 years.
Main cameras are currently two E-M5 MkIII and a PEN-F for backup.
Olympus E-M5 MkIII
Olympus E-M5 MkII
Mavic 2 Pro
#1 Die PEN-F - The sexy workhorse
From 2016 to 2019, two of them were at practically all weddings. Four wedding seasons and a corresponding number of photos secure her top spot on the list over the last 5 years. By the way, a camera couldn't be much nicer
#2 Die E-M5 MkIII - The smart successor
Not quite as pretty as the PEN, but with the autofocus and computing power of its big (and bulky) sister, it's currently the ideal camera for me. A great mix of quality and compactness. In the team since the end of 2019, she has almost only seen corona weddings.
#3 Die A7iii - The unloved guest
Sony and I never had a good relationship. But she was at many weddings in 2018 - including some in Ireland with hundreds of guests and many, many photos. That currently secures her 3rd place. You can read here why Sony and I didn't become friends.
#4 Die E-M5 MkII - The logical continuation
Unspectacular but reliable. That's how I would have described the update of the E-M5 that came into the team in 2015. Since the PEN-F, however, she has led a quiet life as a third camera for occasional live composites at weddings and as a backup camera.
#5 Die E-M5 - My jump to the system cameras
In the statistics she is only in the photo booth because of occasional jobs. The E-M5 has long since stopped playing a role at weddings. She (a total of 3 pieces) was present at all weddings from mid-2012 to the end of 2015. The E-M5 in 2012 was also the reason for me to finally say goodbye to DSLRs and switch to mirrorless.
Wedding photography with MicroFourThirds?
Yep, that works!
It even works very well. And really now, I'm not an Olympus fanboy. However, I have been traveling with Olympus since 2012 without a mirror. You get used to some things - in the positive as well as in the negative - and you will certainly have a different view of other systems. Cameras are just tools. And now it doesn't really matter which system you use to photograph weddings - all cameras are now at a high technical level. The decision is more a matter of taste. The Olys and I are a good fit.