For the first few years I shot theater performances, the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 was my go-to lens. Lately, I’ve been craving more speed, so I use my prime lenses whenever possible. All else being equal, an f/1.8 lens lets me shoot at less than half the ISO setting I would use with the f/2.8 lens. Lower ISOs prevent noise and loss of dynamic range. Last week I photographed a dress rehearsal for the Ojai Art Center Theater’s production of Never Too Late. With a test audience in attendance, I decided to settle into the front row with my three fastest lenses: 35mm f/2.0, 50mm f/1.8, and 85mm f/1.8.
It was a Goldilocks experience. The 35 was too wide, the 85 was a little too tight, and the 50 was just right. I got some good shots with the 85, but due to age or electronics or gremlins, it just doesn’t focus reliably. The 50, however, focuses quickly and crisply. I still marvel at the quality of this, the cheapest lens in Nikon’s lineup.