My go-to setup is a Canon 1Ds Mark III body with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

The 1Ds Mark III is a magnificent camera. Highlights include a full frame sensor, tons of megapixels, good high-ISO performance, lots of dynamic range, and beautiful, natural-looking images. Plus it’s weather sealed and built like a tank.

Although most of the 1Ds III’s specs and features have been met or exceeded by the newer, smaller, lighter, and much less expensive 5D Mark II, the 1Ds III is still my choice hands down. The rock-solid build, the weight, the way the shutter release feels, the giant batteries that last for days, and a million other tiny things make me feel so much more comfortable shooting with the 1Ds.

I do have a 5D II primarily for shooting video, and while it does take gorgeous photos, I can’t help but feel like they’re somehow more “plasticy” than the 1Ds’ images. I haven’t done any kind of side-by-side comparisons or anything like that (although I guess I probably should); it’s more of a gut feeling that the 1Ds’ images are more pleasing to my eye; more organic maybe. I’m sure if I used the 5D to shoot photos more often I’d get used to it, but for now, I’m loving my 1Ds.

And regarding the 24-70, I’d say 75% of my photos are shot with that lens.* It has a lot of pros – sharp, relatively fast, etc., but I’d say it’s greatest virtue is its versatility. I find that the 24-70mm range seems to encompass the vast majority of focal lengths I want to shoot at; I rarely find myself wanting to go wider than 24mm or longer than 70mm.

Of course sometimes I do need something wider or longer, or faster than f/2.8, so I do lug a few other lenses around. My other favorite is definitely the 85mm f/1.2. It’s by far the sharpest lens I own, and I’ve shot a lot of my personal favorite photos with it. It’s just not nearly as versatile as the 24-70, so it doesn’t get used as frequently. I also have a 16-35mm f/2.8 and 15mm fisheye that don’t come out of my bag very often but can be quite indispensable in the right situations.

It would be wonderful to have an assortment of fast prime lenses – a 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm – but I just can’t justify the added cost, added hassle of constantly switching lenses, and perhaps most importantly, the added space and weight that would be taken up in my bag when the 24-70 does such a fine job on its own.

* Indeed, according to the stats in my Lightroom catalog, 76% of the photos I’ve shot over the past two years were with the 24-70. Interestingly, the 24-70 accounts for only 62% of photos I’ve shot that I’ve rated with five stars – the 85mm f/1.2 comes in heavy in that category.

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