Are Wedding Photographers Falling Back In Love With Zoom Lenses? A Canon 28-70mm F2 Review

A Canon 28-70mm F2 Review

As wedding photographers, our gear is our toolkit for capturing just about anything that weddings might throw at us. Yes, we know that there will be key pictures, like a bride getting out of a wedding car or a couple cutting a cake but all the time, there might also be something else happening within our view that also deserves to be recorded. 

In this pursuit of visual storytelling, our choice of lenses becomes pivotal. When I began photographing weddings over two decades ago, everyone seemed to have the golden duo of 24-70mm plus 70-200mm. Enter the fine art look with wide open apertures and many wedding photographers ditched the zooms in favour of prime lenses that could open up into the magical F1.8-1.2 range guaranteeing a dreamy bokeh and light-filled frame.

an image of a model being photographed against a brick wall to illustrate the article A Canon 28-70mm F2 Review

However, working on primes means a lot of swapping between camera bodies or lens swapping. This means some moments were missed and our cameras get pretty battered. Oh and if you have mirrorless then your sensor is a dust magnet, every time you swap a lens.

But there is a stealth revolution going on with a new contender in the ring – Canon’s 28-70mm F2 lens. With the distinction of being the world’s first zoom lens that opens up to a remarkable F2 aperture, it has been igniting conversations in photography communities. Could this lens signal a return to zooms, and mean that we will be ditching the bag full of prime lenses?

I first encountered this new kid on the block at our annual conference, Thrive. On the second day, our speakers all lead small group sessions with model couples and at one point the brilliant Lake Como based destination wedding photographer, Lilly Red handed me her camera to hold. Now if you ever encounter Lilly you will immediately understand that she is tiny. There’s no denying that the 28-70 is a beast in terms of size so it struck me as an odd choice for her. But she pointed out that she didn’t need a bag full of other lenses so she was actually traveling light. Having all of their gear stolen was a chance for Lilly and her partner Vic to reassess their kit and they took the opportunity to condense. Yes, it was a different style of working for them but walking around with one body and one lens allowed them the freedom to ”be super in the moment, candid and present.”

an image of a model being photographed against a brick wall to illustrate the article A Canon 28-70mm F2 Review

A Singular Experiment: A Canon 28-70mm F2 Review

Feeling inspired by Lilly, I borrowed the lens along with a Canon R6mkII. I wanted to see for myself if it could really make me want to replace my beloved holy trinity of 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. In a bold experiment, I embarked on both an editorial studio shoot and a real wedding, with just the one camera body and one Lens-Of-All-Trades.

However, it’s essential to note a few caveats. The wedding was in a relatively confined venue, and the reception was less than five minutes from my home. The safety net of accessing additional gear if needed was within easy reach plus I had assistants with their own full range of kit if needed. As lovely as it was to skip out of the house without a a heavy bag, I would never advocate not having backup equipment to hand for either a wedding or a paid job.

Intention and Adaptation

Using the Canon 28-70mm F2 felt liberating – Yes handling zoom does feel different but once I settled into it, I found that the key to unlocking its true potential is to consciously make focal length choices that were intentional with the result that I was seeking. So same as I might be choosing a lens from the bag, I was simply choosing where to dial the lens to.

Lisa Devlin poses with her Canon camera to illustrate the article A Canon 28-70mm F2 Review

Weighing the Trade-offs: A Canon 28-70mm F2 Review

As with any gear choice, the Canon 28-70mm F2 has both benefits and considerations. Bidding adieu to constant lens swapping was a welcome relief, as was the need for two bodies on a dual harness – always just the right height to bash into tables or a passing child in my experience, ouch! However, there’s no glossing over this lens’s heft, particularly when you add a flash to the body as well. Its size is attention-grabbing, which can be an asset or a liability depending on your style. For those who thrive on unobtrusive street-style photography, it might draw unwanted attention.

Nevertheless, this combo boasts discreet operation, with smooth zooming and focusing. The Canon R6II’s shutter release further contributes to a discreet shooting experience.

Dylan Kitchener from acclaimed Scottish Elopement photographers and videographers, The Kitcheners shared his perspective with me after using predominately this lens since April 2022. “It’s game-changing because I can instantly switch between 4 prime lenses with a mere twist of the wrist. I’ve documented moments better because of this.”

A Lens of the Future

Are we on the brink of a zoom renaissance? This lens does marry versatility with artistic depth, delivering enough beautiful bokeh to be reminiscent of prime lenses while simultaneously offering the adaptability of a zoom. It strikes a delicate equilibrium between the freedom to explore multiple focal lengths and the art of crafting evocative images.

If you asked me what my favourite F-Stop is, then it would be F2. It’s incredible how much difference there is between there and F2.8. For the sake of the experiment though, I tried to challenge it with as many tricky situations as I could over these few days of trialling it and I can see that it performed very well, especially in situations where I know my current 24-70mm F2.8 would have served up some chromatic aberration.

I do think it’s an exceptional wedding photographer’s lens and if I was just starting out, I can see that I would get quite far with just this one lens and one body. Of course, it is an expensive lens and if you want to add filters, bear in mind that you’ll be investing in a huge thread size of 95mm. However, if you compare the cost to buying a 24, 35, 50 and 85 then this lens starts to look like an utter bargain. Canon have a free 48 hour Try The Kit service if you want to do your own test drive.

Whilst I will be keeping my prime lenses for now, I was sad to wave this one off. Canon have created an exciting lens that dares us to reimagine the boundaries of our gear choices.