The Lenses We Would Have If We Could Have No Other Lenses [POLL RESULTS]

The Lenses We Would Have If We Could Have No Other Lenses [POLL RESULTS]

Nikon 18-200mm A few weeks back I asked a loaded question: If You Could Only Have One Lens, What Would It Be? I knew from the start that it’d be tough question for most, as it was for me. Picking one lens when many of us shoot varied subject matter would present special problems.

I was, however, encouraged by the responses, especially the explanations. It was evident that a lot of DSLR owners would keep their current lens, especially those with the Nikon 18-200mm VR. And while a zoom seemed like the obvious choice for all around use, nearly one third of those responding chose a fixed focal length lens (and half of those were a 50mm of one type or another). After scouring through the results I especially appreciated Chris’ answer, “My contact lenses; without them I can’t see anything…”

Here now are the numbers from a purely human count of the responses. If someone picked two lenses, I threw out the answer. If the answer was unclear, I threw it out. All in all there were 334 tallies for 82 different lenses. This is not a scientific poll, if that wasn’t stated clearly before.

Brand Lens Tallies Price
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II 43 $800
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G SIC SW 30 $450
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM 24 $1200
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 21 $1700
Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM 16 $2400
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM 15 $1175
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM 14 $375
Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD 11 $1200
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S 11 $1800
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S 10 $2400
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX 8 $210
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM 8 $1600
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM 7 $1400
Sony Alpha DT 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 6 $580
Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM 5 1600
Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC AF OS 4 $400
Leica 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux 4 $7000
Pentax SMC DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 ED AL IF SDM 3 $1000
Tamron AF 18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD 3 $450
Pentax 31mm F/1.8 FA Limited 3 $1200
Zuiko 18-180mm f/3.5-6.3 3 $380
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM 3 $700
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM 3 $1300
Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM 3 $2200
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS 3 $580

The other 57 lenses with two or less votes are not shown here. All in all they garnered less than 22% of the total mentions and they covered most of the 35m DLSR lenses available. If you care to peruse the rest of the mentions, the original post is here. And before someone calls me on it, I grouped the Leica 50mm Noctiluxes for easy of posting. That’s one hefty price for a nice lens!

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Mark May 9, 2012 05:53 am

    I cannot believe no one would stick with a tilt/shift lens for all its possibilities. For years my Canon A1 usually had the excellent Canon FD 35mm T/S as my prime lens and even now my full frame Nikons often sport an old PC Nikkor or newer pc-e. It's like large format in small packages.

  • Antony Pratap August 5, 2010 04:09 pm

    Great idea to generate this list. And yes, Chris answered absolutely right =P

    50mm f 1.4 is a MUST HAVE!

  • Kate Burton June 17, 2010 02:29 pm

    I am just about to walk out of the house to buy the Nikon 35m. 1.8 so am very happy to see it made it onto the list! Thanks for the informative post.

  • Kenneth Hyam November 24, 2009 05:09 am

    I was happy to see the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX nestling about half way down with 8 votes. This is a great very affordable 35 m lens. On an aps sensor like the Nikon D40 it tranforms the excellent little entry level DSLR into a class act. It is of course the equivalent of roughly 50m on a full sized sensor or film SLR.
    Very creative thinking on Nikon's part!

  • Doug McKay November 23, 2009 12:18 am

    OK, I was going to just read, but there have been more than a few comments that price might have been a factor. I have lets say a number of lenses. It does not seem to matter if it is and hour or and adventure, I bring more than a few thousand dollars worth of photo equipment counting body and lens , tripod not included. The question was what was the ONE lens. I had a feeling, but also did a few searches of my thousands of images and the truth was 18-200, not my most expensive lens nor my least expensive lens just the one that records what my mind is seeing 77.6% of the time. So by scientific method I proved my "feeling"- IF I had one it would have to be my Nikon 18-20.

  • James Reinier Lino November 21, 2009 09:37 pm

    Thanks as a newbie now I know what lenses to pursue

  • steadyfromoz November 21, 2009 07:35 pm

    WOW! The 2 top lenses just happens to be the first 2 lenses I ever bought for my Nikon D300 and I can only add to the other posters here and say just how versatile and effective they really are.

  • Ed in Philly November 21, 2009 07:15 pm

    I threw my Nikkor 18-200 in my bag at the last minute when we went to Italy a couple weeks ago. I must admit that most of the time I did use the Nikkor 17-55/2.8, but I was really glad to have it during 2 days of rain in Venice and I didn't have to do the lens change dance!

  • kem November 21, 2009 12:31 pm

    the 18-250 Sony good range Lens

  • greggn November 21, 2009 10:12 am

    The Canon 35/1.4L is my most used, go-to lens. If I had to, I could use it exclusively for the rest of my life.

  • Snarfel T. Garthug November 21, 2009 07:06 am

    I find it funny that there were only 3 people who chose and 85mm fixed (my personal favorite) and nobody mentioned a 105mm fixed, as they are touted as the most popular portrait focal lengths. I also didn't expect the 50mm fixed to be so popular. As a follow up survey, I wonder how many people are getting the approx. 100mm from a crop sensor. It may explain the popularity of the 50mm over the 85 and 105mm.

  • Raoul Isidro November 21, 2009 06:32 am

    It's amazing how an 18-200mm lens are BOTH the first and last here.

  • Christoph November 21, 2009 01:47 am

    @Gerard, I made the same mistake, didn't see the Olympus lens (no idea why it's called Zuiko here). And I wonder why 18-180mm, it seems not so many people own it or use it. I'd opt for the 14-54mm or 12-60mm too. 12-60mm if we could have no other lenses and someone would donate money to me ;)

  • Helder Mendes November 21, 2009 12:14 am

    i have one lens that is not on the list, and i think it should be... for one simple reason, price-quality

    canon ef 50mm 1.8 II.. ok it's made of plastic, with low light it's hard to get a good focus, and if you use it a lot, problably you will have problems within 2 years, etc... but this little thing only cost about 110€ (in portugal...) 110€! and it have a superb quality for something that costs 110€... i have a canon 400D, and i only have experience that lens on my 400D, but when i get a perfect focus, the detail (sharpen detail) it's amazing, i have some prints with 120x80cm and the quality if detail it's very good... if you don't have money to spend on a expensive lens, try this one... and you will not regret.

    (i think i "spoke" well, my english can be quite bad sometimes)

  • margaretha toerien November 20, 2009 10:18 pm

    If I may add my twopence worth?..... Nikon just has a better "click"!

  • Gerard November 20, 2009 06:39 pm


    My mistake, I did not see it...but somehow it doesn't feel right...18-180mm sure is versatile, but it's quite old (one of the first ZD kit lenses) and very slow. I would find much better choice the 14-42mm + 40-150mm combo if one wants to stay on a tight budget. Far better optical quality, newer design, lightweight...

    Going a little more "pro"...I would choose my 12-60mm...sure it's a little heavy, but still...

  • hudef November 20, 2009 02:23 pm

    I would be interested in a similar survey where cost IS an object. I.E. Your favorite bargain lens.

  • Ignas November 20, 2009 12:38 pm

    Great surveys, the camera manufacturers should be informed of this as it reflects the wishes of the majority of the (armature) photographers in the world. The manufacturers should come out with one lens that covers at least the wide angle and zoom and if they can give one that is better (or the best) than what we have, they would have captured the market. Serious armatures and professional have the best in Prime lenses.

  • Jeff Plum November 20, 2009 09:40 am

    Egads, will everyone stop with the Canon/Nikon debate already? No-one cares. I have a Canon, or am I lying? Maybe I've got a Nikon. Hmmm. I also have a Mac. No, wait, I have a PC. I like Burger King. Or is it McDonalds? Actually, neither, junk food is disgusting. Oh, what a world! My lifestyle is in RUINS. :D

  • ej November 20, 2009 08:54 am

    phil burdine, I think you may have missread my comment. I never said DPS weighed the poll on ANY brand. I said, "There is no other blog/photo info site that I know of that has such a heavy weight on Canon USERS. It is obvious on several polls that the readers of DPS are more Canon than any other brand. There is no problem with this. I was making a simple observation. Furthermore, I was making a joke as to how long the pic of the canon is in the "camera of the moment" (my mistake i said "pic" in error) What I meant to say ( I almost corrected myself but didn't want to double post ) is "the photographers I spend time with mostly are Nikon shooters." If they were Canon shooters then I would have gone with Canon. The ability to borrow lenses etc from the people you shoot with is great.
    ....someone seems a little touchy.... wow

  • Mark November 20, 2009 07:49 am

    @Gerard: Look again. Zuiko is used on Olympus cameras. I have that lens mentioned and can't say I am happy with the kit lens. My Zuiko 14-54 F2.8-3.5 is a much better lens

  • Phil Burdine November 20, 2009 07:20 am

    EJ says, @winsor It’s funny u say that. It’s weird for me to see this on a consistent basis here on DPS. I say that because most of the photographers I surround myself with here in Toronto are Nikon shooters as myself. It;s actually the reason I chose Nikon over Canon. There is no other blog/photo info site that I know of that has such a heavy weight on Canon users. …Strange…. Maybe it’s because of the pic of the ‘Picture Of The Moment’ is a Canon XTi and it has been up on there for EVER!!! LOL

    EJ, the Lens on display at the top of this poll is a Nikon, the top two lenses are Nikon's and now you suggest that DPS weighted the poll in favor of Canon? Your statement that you surround yourself with Nikon users speaks volumes. Most of us here on DPS surrounds ourselves with PHOTOGRAPHERS!

  • ej November 20, 2009 07:03 am

    @winsor It's funny u say that. It's weird for me to see this on a consistent basis here on DPS. I say that because most of the photographers I surround myself with here in Toronto are Nikon shooters as myself. It;s actually the reason I chose Nikon over Canon. There is no other blog/photo info site that I know of that has such a heavy weight on Canon users. ...Strange.... Maybe it's because of the pic of the 'Picture Of The Moment' is a Canon XTi and it has been up on there for EVER!!! LOL

  • winsor November 20, 2009 06:32 am

    I guess by the number of Canon lens [12]] Canon is still the camera or choice.

  • Kiran November 20, 2009 05:44 am

    Interesting facts! Though I must admit, I am very happy with my current Nikkor 18-55mm VR lens :D Amateur right? I would recommend it to anyone new in the DSLR world! Like myself :D

  • Tommy November 20, 2009 05:33 am

    I like LEICA 28mm- M, 1.2,8 Asph., Lens. It is small, no distortion, works well on both: 1/34 frame as well as FFrame sensor. As a moderate wide: it covers almost all the photo application,... not to mention the lens resolution and sharpness.
    Cheerz, Tomilsav.

  • Mattia November 20, 2009 04:59 am

    @dcclark and molardaddy: and cost a billion!!

  • dcclark November 20, 2009 04:35 am

    @molardaddy: that would be awesome! It would also be 2 yards long and weigh half a ton. :P

  • Phil Burdine November 20, 2009 04:34 am

    Thank you for the poll Peter. It is obvious you took a lot of time gathering these statistics and links. It is informative and much appreciated.

  • irene jones November 20, 2009 03:53 am

    I want a lens that doesn't exist! Give me tremendous zoom with the ability to open as wide as a fixed focal length, focuses with the stealth of a ninja/jedi and can make me breakfast! Until then I'll happily lug around my assortment of lenses. Thanks for the poll, very informative.

  • Jason Collin Photography November 20, 2009 03:48 am

    I had the original Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens (sold it) and can certainly testify if you could have only one lens the rest of your life, it might as well be that one due to the range it can cover and its relatively modest size and weight as well.

  • Gerard November 20, 2009 02:53 am

    Not even one single Olympus lens in the list?

    Son...I am dissapoint....

  • Molardaddy November 20, 2009 02:35 am

    Now only if they made the 18-200 VR in f/2.8 -- that would be the best lens ever!

  • Brian November 20, 2009 01:31 am

    I think the prices for a quality lens are absolutely rediculous! What are you going to do? Unless you're a successful professional, they are out of reach for most.

  • new media photographer November 20, 2009 12:17 am

    My secret weapon is my 135 2.8. (few more thoughts But, I don't think I could use it as my only lens. I think I would have to agree with the 50 1.4.

    Interesting results