Do we really need so many quick targets these days?


The war between manufacturers to create and sell fast lenses is as brutal and bloody as the megapixel wars that still rage today; however, the truth is that we do not need fast lenses, it’s just that a lot of photographers want them, and there’s a big difference between need and want.

I can already smell the smoke coming from the keyboards of angry creators who want to leave comments telling me I’m crazy to even think we don’t need lenses with super fast apertures. However, it is a subject that needs to be discussed. So, let’s all take a minute to collect ourselves before we dive into the quick goals and how they went from a necessity to a luxury item that might be sought after but not necessarily needed these days.

A walk in the past

The Pentax Asahi Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 eight elements on Panasonic Lumix S5.

In the early 20th century, fast lenses helped photographers overcome the limitations of the media they used. It’s that simple. Fast lenses weren’t used to create a particular look or for photographers (let’s face it, only us creators drool over bokeh) to ooh and ahh over extremely narrow depth of field. No, the fast lenses of this period had only one goal: to overcome the limitations of slow films. And the lenses did the job well.

Over the 20th and 21st centuries, the roles of large aperture lenses began to change thanks to films with higher ISO values ​​and easier-to-use flash technologies. These technologies allowed photographers to use their fast lenses with a bit more creative license. Fast forward to now, and quick goals are reimagined in the digital age.

Cold, Hard Truth: Speed ​​Lenses Are Nothing More Than Status Symbols

The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 is a nice lens, but it’ll make your wallet cry

I have nothing against quick goals at all, so don’t take this post as an article where I disparage them. I own several quick lenses myself. In the right hands and when used in the right situations, lenses with incredibly wide apertures can be used to create beautiful images.

The problem now is that creative snobs and influencers will tell you that you’re not a pro unless you shoot with the latest f/0.95, f/1.0, f/1.2 or f/1.4 lenses. This is bullshit. This hyperbole creates a problem, and so people go out and buy these lenses that cost an absolute fortune because someone they don’t even know told them they needed them.

The result is that I, and many others, see many photographers walking around with fast lenses shooting everything wide open when there’s just no need to. If that’s what they like, more power for them, but shooting wide open all the time is overrated. More often than not, the intended shot will be missed due to the shallow depth of field.

But what about low-light photography?

Panssonic Lumis S5 at ISO 12800, lens at f/5.6. Complaints? I did not mean it.

When it comes to low-light shooting, modern cameras with built-in image stabilization (IBIS) and advanced sensors have become low-light monsters. IBIS can help you keep your ISO low, and when you need to increase the ISO, I can tell you that there is no sensor on the market today that produces bad images at ISO 6400 Even the APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors perform well.

I tested cameras (Nikon Z50 and the Pentax K-3III; read our review here) which can produce sharp images at ISO 12,800. So it’s safe to say that the original need for fast lenses is gone. However, it would be remiss of me to say that in very low light situations where your client wants you to keep your ISO low, fast lenses can help. Yet those moments are probably rare for most photographers.

It’s all about dreamy bokeh

I captured this image at f/1.2 while reviewing a lens. The end result is glorious; however, I still don’t recommend shooting portraits with such a narrow depth of field.

Today, quick targets are mainly used for one thing. Bokeh. In recent years, almost every portrait posted on a social site has one eye in focus and everything else is blurred. It’s a bit strange for me because I prefer to shoot my portraits from f/2.8-3.5 to ensure critical focus on the eyes (yes, plural). However, that’s just me; I know everyone is different. However, when a wide-aperture image is done well, it can be stunning.

Thus, we could say that fast lenses are necessary to create a particular style of image. However, each lens is capable of producing bokeh to some degree. Creating bokeh is easy if you know how to place your subject in relation to your lens and the background. Again, Quick Objectives aren’t really necessary; they are surely wanted, however.

Creative license

fast lenses
The Sony 50mm f/1.2 on the Sony a1.

Gone are the days of needing fast lenses to get a usable image. Now, as we discussed above, we want them to create a visual effect that only creatives care about. I’ve never seen a client start a conversation with me about bokeh, specular highlights, and bokehballs. It just doesn’t happen. Photographers are the only people who pay attention to the area that we don’t want others to pay attention to. It’s absurd.

Quick lenses stopped being a necessary tool for a critical function, and they became a tool used to be more creative, and that’s OK. Being creative is good. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to sell a body part to own a quick lens when a cheaper alternative can help you be just as creative.

Quick goals are great for hype

fast lenses
Created with the ultra-affordable Pentax 28-105 f/3.5-5.6 at f/5 on the Pentax K-1 II. The variable aperture didn’t stop me from being creative.

To me, modern fast lenses are more of a marketing showpiece than anything else. I get why companies keep pumping out these lenses, though. Oh, look what we can do! Our new premier f/0.95 will ensure that an eye (or an eyelash if you’re not paying close attention) is perfectly sharp! You need it! This nonsense makes for great marketing copy. Unfortunately, many succumb to it.

Personally, I’d rather spend thousands of dollars on several cheaper lenses than one lens that’s a one-trick pony. I trust my abilities and I trust modern cameras when it comes to low-light performance. Now super-fast lenses – for me at least – are no longer necessary. Still, those are just my two cents. We are all different, and I appreciate and respect that.

By all means, do what you need to do for yourself and your creative style. However, know that just because someone says you need something doesn’t mean it’s true. Beware of these wolves in sheep’s clothing; they could end up costing you a lot of money. What do you think of Quick Goals? Do you think there must be so many on the market? Is it worth the money? Let us know in the comment section below.


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