Holy Trinity of Lenses: 3 Lenses Every Photographer Needs

Today I will cover the concept of the “holy trinity of lenses.” The concept simplifies the selection of lenses that can cover most photographers’ needs.

Holy Trinity of Lenses: The Three Lenses Every Photographer Needs

Do you struggle to choose the right lenses? Do you feel like you’re always in need of another lens? Do you get tired of hauling around prime lenses in the field?

You’ve come to the right place.

Because in this article, I’m going to tell you about a way to cover every key focal length with just three lenses:

The holy trinity of lenses.

Now, the holy trinity is designed so that you cover a huge focal length range–from ultra-wide to telephoto–using just three lenses.

And if you choose your holy trinity carefully, you’ll get professional quality glass, combined with the convenience to shoot pretty much any subject.

Sound good?

Let’s take a look at the holy trinity of lenses in more detail:

What is the Holy Trinity of Lenses?

The holy trinity of lenses refers to a three-lens set of fast models that covers a huge focal length range. With a holy trinity, you can go from an ultra-wide focal length (starting at 10-16mm) all the way to a long telephoto focal length (200mm).

Note that the holy trinity is also designed to cover almost every genre of photography.

And the best thing about the holy trinity:

1. Ultra Wide 16-35mm f/2.8 Zoom Lens

You can also use a lens like this for wider street photography (and the f/2.8 aperture will allow you to shoot even as the light gets low).

2. Mid-Range 24-70mm f/2.8 Zoom Lens

The next lens in the holy trinity is a midrange zoom, spanning from around 24mm to 70mm. This lens is great for tighter, more intimate landscape and travel photography; it’s also a great walk-around street photography option.

Plus, the f/2.8 aperture will give you a lovely background bokeh, making this a great portrait lens, and the corresponding low-light capabilities turn this lens into a great choice for event photography.

3. Telephoto 70-200mm f/2.8 Zoom Lens

A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens completes the holy trinity, allowing you to shoot tighter portraits, headshots, compressed landscapes, and abstract architecture.

A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is also a fantastic option for sports photography, because the f/2.8 aperture allows you to shoot at fast shutter speeds, while the 70-200mm zoom ensures you can isolate your subjects while working from the sidelines.

Plus, slap on a 1.4x teleconverter, and you’ve got a decent lens for wildlife shooting.

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Advantages of the Holy Lens Trinity

If you’re still on the fence about getting a holy trinity of lenses, then you’ll want to know all about the key benefits that come from such a kit:

1. Impressive Reach

First, the three holy trinity lenses cover a lot of ground. You get ultra-wide angle focal lengths, all the way out to telephoto- while spanning every focal length in between. You’ll rarely run into situations where you wish you had a different lens.

2. Easy to Extend

And, for situations that require greater reach, you can extend your 70-200mm f/2.8 using a teleconverter (either a 1.4x or a 2x option). That way, you can shoot wildlife and birds without purchasing an additional lens.

3. Versatility

Note that the holy trinity uses f/2.8 maximum apertures. This is because the wide aperture allows you to easily shoot in low light, and it’ll give you a creamy background bokeh for portraits.

Also, because each holy trinity lens goes to f/2.8, you can use the kit for pretty much any type of photography – from landscape to portrait to wildlife to sports.

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Disadvantages of the Holy Lens Trinity

While the holy lens trinity is great for most applications, it has some drawbacks.

1. High Cost

2. Large Size

Second, the holy trinity is big. Lenses with an f/2.8 maximum aperture tend to be on the large side, which means that you will need a lot of space in your bag. On the other hand, if you want to go from 16mm to 200mm using primes, you’ll need about ten lenses–so you’re saving on size, in a way.

See also: Sigma Art Lenses

Note that the large size of f/2.8 lenses can also be an issue when doing certain types of photography; street photographers, for instance, may feel uncomfortable working with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens because the size makes their setup far from inconspicuous.

3. Heavy Weight

Third, the holy trinity is heavy. Each f/2.8 lens will be pretty hefty (though note that the combined holy trinity is lighter than a similarly-versatile prime kit!).

Finally, the holy trinity uses a “just in case” approach to lens selection. It allows you to cover all focal lengths and most apertures, but you don’t always need this much flexibility, especially because flexibility costs in terms of money and size. So you’ll sometimes be better off working with primes or smaller zooms rather than the big, expensive holy trinity.

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Variation of Holy Trinity of Lens

If you think the holy lens trinity is too expensive, too big, or too heavy, then you have a very viable alternative:

An f/4 lens trinity.

In other words, you can create your trinity with a 16-35mm f/4 lens, a 24-70mm f/4 lens, and a 70-200mm f/4 lens.

These are lighter, they’re much cheaper, and they can still offer the stellar optics you can get from an f/2.8 lens.

See also: Fujifilm Lens Trinity

You’ll sacrifice, however, when it comes to low light capabilities and bokeh quality. While an f/4 lens is fine for many applications, it won’t get you the shutter speeds you need for low-light sports photography or low-light event photography, nor will it offer the same creamy bokeh as an f/2.8 portrait lens.

Hence, if you go for the f/4 lenses, you get a trinity–but not a “holy” one!

Fujifilm Holy Trinity of Lenses

Fujifilm is the only brand that offers the holy trinity of lenses in APS-C format.

Fujinon XF8-16mmF2.8

ULTRA WIDE ZOOM LENS

Filter: none, Min Focus Distance: 10″/25cm, Weight: 1.8lb / 805g, Dim: 3.5 x 4.8″ / 88 x 122 mm

Fujinon 16-55mmF2.8

MID RANGE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 77mm, Min Focus Distance: 12″/30cm, Weight: 1.4lb / 650g, Dim: 3.3 x 4.2″ / 83 x 105 mm

Fujinon 50-140mmF2.8

MID RANGE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 72mm, Min Focus Distance: 3.3’/1m, Weight: 2.2lb / 995g, Dim: 3.3 x 7″ / 83 x 176 mm

Fujifilm “Unholy” f/4 Lens Trinity:

Fujinon 10-24mm f/4

ULTRA WIDE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 72mm, Min Focus Distance: 9.5″/24cm, Weight: 15oz / 410g, Dim: 3 x 3.4″ / 78 x 87 mm

Fujinon 16-80mm f/4

MID RANGE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 72mm, Min Focus Distance: 1.2″/35m, Weight: 16oz / 440g, Dim: 3.1 x 3.5″ / 78 x 89 mm

Fujinon 50-200mm f/3.5-4.8

MID RANGE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 69mm, Min Focus Distance: 3.6’/1m, Weight: 20oz / 580g, Dim: 3 x 4.7″ / 75 x 118 mm

Canon Holy Trinity of Lenses

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Canon “Unholy” f/4 Lens Trinity:

Canon 16–35mm f/4L

ULTRA WIDE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 77mm, Min Focus Distance: 11″/28cm, Weight: 1.3lb / 615g, Dim: 3.3 x 4.4″ / 83 x 112mm

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Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS

MID RANGE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 72mm, Min Focus Distance: 2.3’/1m, Weight: 1.8lb / 780g, Dim: 3.2 x 6.9″ / 80 x 176mm

Nikon Holy Trinity of Lenses

Nikon 14–24mm f/2.8

ULTRA WIDE ZOOM LENS

Filter: none, Min Focus Distance: 11″/28cm, Weight: 2.2lb / 999g, Dim: 3.9 x 5.2″ / 98 x 132mm

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

MID RANGE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 82mm, Min Focus Distance: 1.6’/38cm, Weight: 2.4lb / 1070g, Dim: 3.5 x 6.1″ / 88 x 155mm

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Nikon “Unholy” f/4 Lens Trinity:

Nikon 16–35mm f/4L

ULTRA WIDE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 77mm, Min Focus Distance: 11″/29cm, Weight: 1.5lb / 680g, Dim: 3.2 x 4.9″ / 82 x 126mm

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Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR

MID RANGE ZOOM LENS

Filter: 67mm, Min Focus Distance: 3.3’/1m, Weight: 1.9lb / 880g, Dim: 3.1 x 7″ / 78 x 179mm

Sony Holy Trinity of Lenses

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Sony “Unholy” f/4 Lens Trinity:

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Holy Trinity of Lenses | Conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should know all about the holy trinity of lenses–and whether it makes sense for your shooting style.

The holy trinity of lenses is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a great way to cover lots of ground. But if you need smaller or cheaper lenses, the f/4 trinity is a viable choice.

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by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.