One, Two, Three – Picking the Right Lens Kit

If you’ve ever had a serious conversation with me about cameras, gears, and how to choose what camera and lens to run with, you’ve probably heard me speak on the Three Lens kit, but recently I got to thinking, what about other lens kits? Could I go on a trip with maybe a two lens, or even a one lens kit? I’ve spent many years with a fantastic set of prime lenses which have always formed the core of any lens kit I bring with me, but what about going with some more zooms, reducing the number of lenses to bring along. So today, I’m going to talk about the three different lens kits I bring with me when I go out with a camera.

The One Lens Kit
A one lens kit, well it doesn’t need to have a single dedicated camera body, for me that means one decent lens that can work with the cameras I take out the most, and that would be my Nikon system. For this blog post, it would be pairing the Nikon F90 with the AF Nikkor 28-105mm 1:3.3-4.5D lens. Now the lens itself isn’t too good for indoor work, but for outdoor work it’s spectacular! Not to mention being a D-Type lens I can pair it with either the F90 or F5. I could, in theory, attach this to my FA, but the lens has one drawback and that’s the manual focus ring, it’s short. The zoom length of the lens allows it to match the standard three prime lens kit wide, normal, short telephoto. So in cases where space is at a premium or on a photo walk, I can use a single lens to do all the heavy lifting for me.

The Nikon F90 equipped with the AF-D 28-105mm. While not the fastest lens it does everything you need in a single kit.

The Two Lens Kit
Having worked so long with just prime lenses and putting together a prime only kit for multiple systems can wear on the pocketbook, so why not put together a two lens kit to make a camera still useful and do it on a budget. And that’s exactly what I did with my Minolta Maxxum system. Having a completely manual focus system for Minolta, and having a Maxxum 7000 follow me home and began to enjoy its company. Rather than spend money on the prime lenses I would keep the kit 35mm-70mm f/4 lens and add on the equally iconic beercan lens, that is the 70-210mm f/4. The plus side is that both offer a decent f/4 aperture but one that’s constant. And again the two lenses give me that wide, normal, and telephoto range with the trade-off being the widest is 35mm but you get more reach with the 210mm at the top end.

While the AF on the Maxxum 7000 is leisurely at best, the extra reach with the beer can is an added touch.

The Three Lens Kit
And then we have the favourite, the three lens kit. If I’m doing any sort of professional work and need to move around quickly or if I’m travelling the three lens kit is my go to! And the best part is that I have it in both manual and auto-focus versions. So since I’ve done AF twice now I’ve going to switch to MF for this one and go back again to Nikon. And that would be the Nikon FA. Sure, the camera is from the 1980s but when it saw release it changed the metering game, introducing the first version of the matrix metering system something we all take for granted even today. So what lenses do I take when I’m out working with a three lens kit, well now I can finally talk about my prime lenses. The first lens is a wide-angle and that’s either a 28mm or a 35mm something along the same lines, going to wide to a wide-normal. Next is the normal lens, in this case, a 50mm f/1.4, used for speed and get those low light shots. And finally a short telephoto, now I have a choice of two, a 135mm f/2.8, but more often than not, I stick to a Nikon classic, the 105mm f/2.5. I honestly feel that the three lens kit offers me the best bang for the buck. Now I can also pair this with a lighter Nikon FE or the robust Nikon F2. I also can use this same basic kit in Autofocus using the Nikon F5, the 35mm f/2D, 50mm f/1.4D, and 105mm f/2D.

A fully fleshed out Prime Kit, with several iconic Nikkor Prime Lenses including the 105mm f/2.5.

A Final Word
As with anything to do with photography, having the kit is only part of the equation, the other part is knowing when, where, and how to use the gear. If I’m simply out for a day in the city with just family, then a single lens kit is a strong choice. Outdoor events like a game, a two lens kit is probably worthwhile. Especially with the extra reach afforded by a long telephoto lens. But for travel, the three lens, the prime kit is where it’s at. It gives you the speed in the fast primes, especially that 50mm f/1.4, as well as a good wide angle lens and a short telephoto. But as always these are just my views, what are your choices for lens kits?

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