This is a silly exercise but fun nonetheless – what if you could only have two lenses? Which would you choose?

The answer depends of course on what kind of photography you do. But I’ve been studying the publicly-posted EXIF data from thousands of photographs posted online last year and I came up with an interesting observation.

90% of the images were shot between 24 and 200 mm in focal length.

This is NOT a scientific test. It doesn’t take into account a large sample of specialty shooters such as wildlife or sports shooters who would need to work longer than 200 much of the time. But still, if you’re talking generically here – then the two lenses you would need to cover 90% of your shots are a 24-70 Zoom and a 70-200 Zoom. Yes I prefer primes. But for the sake of argument remember, we’re talking about just being limited to two lenses.

A fast 24-70 (f/2.9) and a fast 70-200 (f/2.8) would work almost all the time. If you cheat and throw in a 1.4 teleconverter you can get that 200 all the way out to 280 which might get you close enough for some sports and wildlife. And on crop sensor cameras you can go out and get pictures that appear to be made with longer focal lengths – but you lose the wide-angle side.

Both Nikon and Canon make spectacular 24-70 and 70-200mm lenses and each performs at a level that typically exceeds the photographer’s skill. They are usually a bit heavy because they are so fast (f/2.8) but they are sharp, reasonably artifact free and offer the focal lengths that most photographers need every day.

So if you’re one of the 100 people who e-mail each month and ask “Other than my kit lens, what lenses should I buy?” – I just gave you the answer. Good luck.

Lenses discussed in this post:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Standard Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens For Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

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