Best Lenses for Event Photography

Photography is one of those high-investment hobbies where a great deal of anxiety and indecision might reign before you plunge your savings into the right lens to maximise your camera’s potential.

In a changing economy and social landscape, where celebrations could be limited in attendance numbers, some photographers will want to enhance their current camera’s performance with lenses that deliver the best event photography.

They might find themselves delegated as conference photographer at work, or perhaps the urge to get out and capture the beauty of emptier streets might drive their enthusiasm for the best multi-purpose lens for the money.

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If you’re looking to refine or expand the capabilities of your existing equipment, there is a huge range of lenses out there.

For every one of the lenses, there’s also a vast array of opinions on the quality and value for money they represent, and a significant number of outlets through which you can compare prices.

Your next lens purchase should be an enthusiastic, confident affair, so you can get your hands on the kit you need for your particular needs, at the right price.

Whether you’re building family albums with an emphasis on artistry, or whether you’ve been tasked with recording the suspicious movements of the best man at an upcoming wedding, here’s a quick canter through five of the strongest sellers with some of the most enthusiastic ratings – the best lenses for event photography available today.

In a hurry?

Our rating:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard and Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, Fixed
4,400 Reviews
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard and Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, Fixed
  • Standard focal length 50 millimeter lens is effective in a multitude of shooting situations and ideal for day-to-day shooting
  • Elements/Groups: 7/6, Diaphragm: Blades 8, Filter Thread: Font 58 millimeter. Minimum focusing distance: 17.8 inch
  • An f/1.4 maximum aperture provides clear imaging in low light situations and shallow depth of field
  • Ultrasonic autofocus motor (USM) operation is fast, smooth and virtually silent
  • 2 high-refraction lens elements and new Gaussian optics eliminate astigmatism and suppress astigmatic difference

Best Lenses for Event Photography – Comparison Table

Best Lenses for Event Photography – Reviews

Our Pick
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard and Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, Fixed
Our rating:

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is a lens with many, many screaming fans. It’s relatively cheap, compact, and reliable.

As one might expect from a broad maximum aperture, one of its stellar qualities is its performance in low light. The quality of pictures with a sharper focus (anything over f/2) can give you a professional result, and the ultrasonic motor is a dream for capturing those moments which unfold right in front of you.

Among its unexpectedly generous array of features for the price is the introduction of two high-refraction Gaussian elements to eliminate astigmatism and suppress astigmatic difference.

The addition of a USM (ultrasonic autofocus motor) gives the lens the power of silence, which is perfect for the photographer expected to mingle discreetly for those candid shots without breaking up the conversation.

Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is broadly touted by professionals as one of the best 50mm lenses, out-performing equipment that costs a lot more. As with the 85mm f/1.8, also recommended in this list, the lightweight build comes from the largely plastic construction.

The design is functional rather than elegant, but it is also nicely robust—which is what you need when you’re developing the skills that come with steady handholding.

One factor to be aware of is that although very quiet, as promised, the autofocus can be a little slow. This is not a problem if you’re capturing the beauty of an inert baby, but it’s not quite so good if you’re documenting a speedy toddler’s trail of destruction.

  • Exceptional performance in low light
  • Special coatings to minimise ghosting and flare
  • Easy use and excellent performance for its prices
  • The f/1.4 setting has a very shallow depth of field.
  • This produces fabulously artistic shots, but you will need to practice your distancing until you have it down to a fine art.
  • The ultrasonic motor is somewhat on the fragile side.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 Contemporary DC DN Lens for Sony E
Our rating:

This is one of the most popular wide-angle lenses on the market. It comes with a lens hood, and rear and front caps for protection. It’s lightweight at just over nine ounces, and highly compact.

The lens is equipped with a stepping motor, which provides fast and accurate autofocus.

 One of the Sigma’s strong selling points is its highly responsive focusing ring, which makes it a good option for wide shots in sporting events, or to snap off a number of family shots at a wedding before the restless congregation comes apart.

The ring itself is broad and rubberized, giving you a firm, controlled grip.

 The optics are super-sharp, making it a fantastic choice for artistic photography, and the skin tones remain true to life. The nine rounded diaphragm blades create beautiful, creamy soft bokeh effects.

Although this is not sold as one of Sigma’s stronger contrast lenses, the image resolution is still spectacular for the price.

 If there’s one recurrent issue with this lens, it’s that it does have a slight tendency towards corner fall-off and purple fringing.

However, the simplicity of the design and the quality of the point-and-shoot images it can give you make this a favourite lens for those more panoramic shots.

  • Small, lightweight and yet robust with strong image quality
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Easy handling with crisp results
  • There is no lens case included, and the lens is not equipped with weather seals.
  • There is no image stabilization.

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras, 2183, Black
Our rating:

The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens is a prime lens designed for use with DX-format cameras and will provide the “normal” 52.5mm focal length of an FX camera. It also works as a fantastic aid to videography.

 As you’d expect from Nikon’s sterling quality lenses, the Super Integrated coating helps to minimize flare and ghosting, and the fast f/1.8 maximum aperture is superb for night-time shooting.

The colours are crisp and the contrast clear, and the rounded seven-blade diaphragm opening creates a mellow appearance for the details which are out of shot.

 Its build is aesthetically pleasing, despite its very light weight, with a hard polycarbonate construction in the barrel, and a metal lens mount.

 What really stands out with this model is the sleek operation. An added bonus (which is not typical of Nikon Nikkor models) is the opportunity to manually adjust focus while in autofocus mode.

There are no switches to engage, so there’s less danger of missing your moment. The ‘Silent Wave Motor' is as quiet as its name declares, which cannot always be said for the engineering behind a sophisticated autofocus mechanism.

It is also rear-focusing, the front elements unmoving while it works.

  • Silent operation
  • Exceptional results in low light
  • Exceptional results for the price
  • Can have a slight barrel distortion effect

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens
Our rating:

This serious piece of equipment (weighing in at over 3 pounds) is a telephoto zoom lens designed for Sony’s full-frame E-mount compact cameras.

To combat the weight, the design features built-in 5-axis optical SteadyShot image stabilization, and it balances nicely on the mount.

 The weight accommodates sophisticated mechanics. The robust lens exterior houses 23 elements in all, powered by a supersonic wave motor at the front, and a dual linear motor at the rear.

The newly developed extreme aspherical (XA) element has been tooled to 0.01 micron surface precision to banish chromatic aberrations and deliver crisp detail from edge to edge. The 11-blade diaphragm provides a pleasing bokeh effect to the areas out of focus.

One of the unique selling points of this lens is the minimum focal distance of 37.8 inches.

 This lens has been described by professionals as the cropper’s dream because of the crispness of the image from corner to corner. The focus control is exceptionally fast, making it a fantastic choice for sports photography.

Although the powerful zoom will enable you to keep at a safe distance from errant balls or flying objects, it’s just as well that the lens is of rigid, robust design.

 This lens is also an excellent choice for events where the set-up of the room doesn’t let you get close to your subject – for example, where you’re asked to capture images of speakers at a conference.

 While exceptionally multi-functional (excellent portraits, wide and action shots), the high-end price tag might force you to sing your wallet to sleep at night. It’s a solid investment if you’re working towards a career in photography, or perhaps a paying hobby, but if you pay out for this lens, you’d be wise to invest even further in some equally solid insurance.

  • Exceptionally fast focus
  • Ultra-sharp pictures with crisp detail and excellent flare suppression
  • Solid construction with well thought-out controls for fluent use
  • Easy and rapid switch from autofocus to manual focus.
  • Price – it’s among the more expensive lenses on our list
  • It’s not the subtlest of devices; you will have to off-set the intimidating appearance of this lens with excellent people skills to get the best posed shots at social events

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras - Fixed
Our rating:

This exceptionally popular telephoto lens, widely regarded as one of the best of the 85mm lenses, weighs in at just fifteen ounces. Its closest focusing distance is 2.8 feet, and it’s equipped with an ultra-sonic motor to swiftly bring the subject of your shot into focus.

The lens is robust but not cumbersome at three inches in diameter and 2.8 inches long.

 Although the optical quality on this lens is outstanding, a good deal of practice is needed to make the best of the very shallow depth of field at the full focal stop.

It’s not a zoomable lens, so you’ll need to be light on your feet and allow yourself to develop a little muscle memory for the best distance from your subject before you take several shots.

That said, the portrait quality of the photos from the 85mm f/1.8 is outstanding, making it a top choice for corporate headshots, close-ups of band members, and candid family shots.

 The design of the Canon’s casing might put off some photographers hoping for the cool elegance of metal. It’s plastic, which may make it feel cheap for the price. That said, the lens construction itself, inelegant plastic or not, has survived busy gigs, concerts, and bar events.

There is a one-year warranty on this lens but many users have kept it in their camera bag for years, which says a lot for its staying power as a prominent choice, even as more modern options are released onto the market.

 One note, though – this is not your best lens choice for sports photography because of the slight blur seen when capturing subjects moving at speed.

However, if sharp-shooting the quarterback of the high school team is not your aim, then this might well be the best event photography lens for you.

  • Lightweight and inexpensive
  • A good entry level lens
  • Exceptional optical performance
  • Super-fast autofocus
  • Super-slick and easy switch from autofocus to manual mode—just turn the focus ring.
  • Not zoomable
  • Lens cap not particularly robust.

Best Lenses for Event Photography – Buyers Guide

Manufacturer’s sites can feature unexpected bonuses

A quick look at Canon’s site, for example, showed that they were open for online business and direct deliveries, that they offer extra accessories with the product, and that you can pay through instalments with PayPal credit.

Have your camera model number to hand

Amazon’s parts engine for compatible accessories is comprehensive and highly specific. It also lists adaptive equipment which you might not have been aware of, and which might provide options which are more wallet-friendly.

When you have selected the lens model you’re interested in, it’s worth taking a moment to scroll down to the comparison charts of similar products. The tables highlight surprises, such as the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens ‘for Canon’ only fitting the Canon EF-S model.

Prime Or Zoom?

Committing yourself to a lens type can be intimidating. Should you be spending more on the prime lenses that give you that crystal result, even when you just point-and-shoot? Or should you be investing in those powerful zoom lenses that allow you to spot a smudge on the sleeve from across the room?

Spend some time listing the events you’ve done, and any events you’ve been booked to do. Think specifically about how many times you’ve really craved that intense close-up. If it’s a running theme in your desire for a new lens, then it is probably worth investing in the zoom.

If you’re largely happy with the focal range you’ve achieved and you’re after a more professional resolution, then perhaps a solid all-rounder prime lens is the next best step.

Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for in an event photography lens?

That depends on the kind of events you’re most likely to cover. Are they evening galas, or based in locations which love their ‘mood’ lighting?

If so, look for lenses which perform best in low-light environments. If you’re weaving your way through crowds, then investment in image stabilization is worth its weight in gold. If your focus is capturing those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shots, then look for the models which boast rapid focus options.

Knowing exactly what you’re aiming to capture should tell you where to look for the lens that’s best for you.

Is image stabilization really necessary for event photography?

If you’re expected to travel with the camera a lot, mingle, or work your way through a list of requested group shots, then it will make your life considerably easier on the day and it will improve the quality of the shots that you take. Event photography is about motion and moments.

There are not many situations which allow you to remain static or use a stand. Likewise, you won’t want to carry a stand around as well as your camera. It’s also worth looking at vibration-reduction features.

Why do I need autofocus for event photography?

If you are an absolute monarch in the art of manual focus, then perhaps you don’t. As an experienced photographer, you’ll have developed an amazing peripheral awareness of what’s going on and how to anticipate the scene of imminent action.

However, the nature of event photography is that the events themselves rarely go precisely to plan. The bride’s niece makes a run for it halfway through a wedding. Confetti is flung into the air prematurely.

A bassist does a rather spectacular stage dive. What you need in those moments is to aim, to click and to trust that your lens had understood what you wanted of it, capturing the moment of glorious spontaneity into a crisp, beautifully framed shot.

Autofocus has your back in those moments. That’s why it’s invaluable in an event photography lens.

Last Updated on 2021-03-20 //Source: Affiliate Affiliates

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