Tuesday, 2016-08-02

Age of Ultron, or, One Year, One Lens, One Camera


Since August 2015, I’ve been shooting almost exclusively with one lens, the Cosina Voigtländer 40mm ƒ/2 Ultron.

The idea of “one camera, one lens, one year” has been kicking around the photography memesphere since Mike Johnson of “The Online Photographer” fame posted an article about it a few years back. Of course at the time it was also one film but that part has now been silently dropped because be serious.

(It’s also an idea that’s popular in Leica circles because most Leica shooters can only afford one lens anyway.)


Another key part of the post is daily regular printing of your work, but I skipped that as to be honest I only relied on my memory of the post rather than actually reading it before starting this project.

All the images are in this Flickr set. There are 57 images which means I managed to average about one keeper a week. I’m frankly positively surprised at this.

Here are some lessons I’ve drawn from this exercise.

Choose the right lens

Hedda & Anna

Well duh. Johnston recommends a 50mm fov-e. Whatever works for you, although realistically anything outside the 28-55 range is a bit too specialized. I chose the 40mm for its field-of-view but mostly for its compactness. I’d probably have been able to get away with a ƒ/2.8 lens but that extra stop felt like a good thing to have.

Give yourself an out

Plaza de España

What if that trip of a lifetime comes up? What if you have to cover a family or work event? What if you finally inherit a 500mm ƒ/4 and have to use it exclusively or the rest of the millions of $$$ are forfeit?

Relax, this isn’t a test. No-one’s going to fail you for using another lens. The idea is to use the lens most of the time, but don’t let it hinder your life in general.

Start off slow


No need to shout from the rooftops you’re going to run a marathon, then limp home after 2K with a bad blister. Instead quietly shoot for a couple of weeks or a month. If the project feels doable, then you can start dropping coy hints of your ascetic awesomeness.

I’d also recommend not starting on New Year’s Day. Better to hit the ground running when there’s good light and you can really get going taking pictures. This goes for other projects such as “365 day” or “a picture a week” too!

A cure for GAS


Having only one camera and lens to shoot for a year sure makes it easier to avoid looking at other cameras and lenses. It might help you find what you really need, gear-wise, and avoid running yourself ragged trying to satisfy some imaginary itch.

Lessons learned


It’s a fun project. I recommend it.

I’ll probably keep using the 40mm (or its Nikon analog, the 45mm ƒ/2.8 P) as my main full-frame lens, if nothing else because it makes a compact package. But I’m also excited to finally try some other focal lengths!