If You Buy One Lens, Make It This One…
One Lens To Rule Them All

At this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, it struck me just how much of a strain Speedhunting puts on you, physically.

Over the three days I was at Goodwood, I covered 60,400 steps over 46 kilometres (28.5 miles) and traversed 163 floors – similar numbers to the 69,000 steps, 51 kilometers (31.6 miles) and 127 floors achieved at Gatebil the week before. Challenge me on Fitbit, I dare you.

Doing so whilst carrying weighty camera kit slows you down. Typically I’ll carry a big 300mm f/2.8 prime on one camera and a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom on the other if I’m heading trackside, or swap the 300mm for a 24-70mm f/2.8 if I’m walking the paddocks. These combos give me the ultimate in flexibility when it comes to framing things up how I like and with ease.

However, it’s a lot to carry around with you, so for this year’s Festival of Speed I decided to strip things back and challenge myself briefly. I would take an hour or so to wander around Goodwood on Friday afternoon equipped with just one camera, a 50mm f/1.4 lens and a polarising filter and see what I could capture. Not a novel idea – Paddy did similar at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon – but an enjoyable exercise and a break from the norm.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-1119

While we are, first and foremost, dedicated to bringing you probably the most diverse and widespread automotive news you’ll find anywhere on the big wide interweb, unlike many other outlets our footings are in getting out there and capturing unique content ourselves. Through good photography stories are told, and with the modern world being so heavily biased towards visual content, it’s a cornerstone of Speedhunters that will never change. Photography is important to Speedhunting.

We also know that many of you enjoy getting our there and shooting cars and the culture surrounding them yourselves– it’s the very basis of IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER – so hopefully the occasional photo-related story will help and inspire those who do so.

Goodwood FOS 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-9994

The best thing about this single camera, 50mm setup is that, in comparison to the other kit and lenses, it’s relatively cheap. My 50mm is my cheapest lens, and I don’t even have an adaptor ring for the polarising filter – it’s jammed into the end of the lens hood. Not ideal, but it works the same. This is the only image in this story not shot on a 50mm, for obvious reasons.

While we’re here, if you buy one filter, make it a circular polariser. It can be rotated to remove reflections on painted surfaces, glass, tarmac and foliage, deepening colours and saturation. Buy the biggest size you’ll need and then get step-up rings to make it fit your other lenses (or just jam it in the lens hood if you’re feeling ghetto).

Goodwood Festival of Speed 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-1288

Not only is moving so lightly liberating in a busy event such as this, but the added challenge of having to zoom with my feet meant that compositions have to be more carefully considered. Want something bigger and more prominent in the frame? You’ve got to get close. Can’t get enough in? Start walking backwards my friend.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-1196

Images start to become more intentional when the very spot you stand on has such a strong bearing on the final composition.

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Working with a fast 50mm prime also has its own, unique, benefits. Depth-of-field for one; opened up to f/1.4 or f/1.8 the plane of focus is wafer thin. Image quality drops slightly at these wide apertures, so stopping down to f/2-f/2.5 is my go-to setting. At these apertures messy and possibly distracting backgrounds are rendered nicely out of focus, and you can use the thin depth-of-field to selectively focus on specific details.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-1182

Stop right down to f/4 or f/8 and things are pin sharp. Most prime lenses really are better than their equivalent zooms for image quality.

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Goodwood Festival of Speed 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-1240

A 50mm lens is also small and subtle – you can get in places and shoot things without being noticed far more easily than with a bigger and heavier zoom too. This makes capturing candid portraits easier, and even for posed portraits people tend to be less intimidated by a smaller camera and lens combo. It’s perfect for capturing those quick moments.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-1168

I tend to work in aperture-priority mode when walking the paddock, switching to shutter-priority when I want to introduce some motion blur. On occasion the camera needs some help in getting the right exposure, which is easily done by dialling in exposure compensation: + for brighter, – for darker. Simple.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-1244

With practice comes an understanding of how your camera will meter for what’s in front of it before you press the shutter. For example, if I’m photographing a dark car that occupies the majority of the frame then before I shoot I know that the camera is going to wrongly over-expose the car. It sees the expanse of dark and thinks it needs to be lighter – your camera doesn’t know the car should be dark. By adding between -0.7 and -1.3 of exposure compensation I’m telling the camera that what it’s seeing should be darker than what it expects. The opposite is true of scenes with large bright areas, such as brightly-coloured cars, or images where the sky is prominent.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 50mm 2018 by Jordan Butters Speedhunters-1335

Hopefully those of you that enjoy shooting found this useful. Feel free to use the comments section below to let us know if you want to see more photo-focused (boom-tish) stories here, and what you’d like us to cover.

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters

Cutting Room Floor
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I must say I found this very very interesting.

I do have one question though... I plan on going for the first time to Goodwood next year and (obviously) I will bring my camera. I have a 50mm f1.8 that I will bring and I was going to buy a bigger lens for trackside photos. Since I will be shooting from the public areas, should I get a 70-200mm or something bigger like an 100-400mm? I will be shooting on a crop sensor camera...

As for stories keep doing what you're doing! Great job and great photos!

Jordan Butters

At Goodwood a 70-200mm (more like 105-300 on your body) is plenty as you’re right at the edge of the track. In all honesty, press access only gets you a metre or two closer!


IS or non IS? If you're using fast shutter speeds you don't really need IS, but what about slow shutter speed for panning? The IS would come in handy, right?


I find IS useful for doing tracking (rolling) shots, but have never really seen a great difference in switching it on or off for panning. If you're having trouble keeping steady when panning a monopod is a good investment.


Since you're on a crop the 70-200 is more like 112-320mm, assuming your crop factor is x1.6. I would stay away from the 100-400mm since you might find it difficult to get far enough away and also the more zoomed in you are the more susceptible you will be to camera shake.

Dimitry Mochkin

Having started to shoot cars late May, this article is giving me a fresh point of view to improve my own skills. Thank you for that.

Martin Barratt

Wait, I'm supposed to own ONE 50mm

Well this is embarrassing.

It's always my starting choice though, I default to 50, then adjust whichever way feels necessary


The equation for the number of lenses you should own is - Number of lenses you own + 1


I own a few lenses and the nifty fifty is still my favorite go too lens!!! Also one of the best bang for the buck lens!
Great article !!!!


Admittedly the Nikon glass I’ve used here is more expensive, but the Canon 50 f1.8 is around £100 I think - it’s a bargain.


There is a 1.8 which is about $100 with a light plastic housing and a f/1.2 which is about $1200 and has a full metal housing from canon.


I don't rate that f/1.2 – I've used it before and it's big and slow to focus. Plus you can hardly shoot anything at f/1.2 – a millimetre or two off point and it all falls out of focus.


Are we just not going to discuss that gold GTR?


My wife’s a photographer, more of a hobbyist at this point, but once she got her 50mm for her camera, she used nothing else. All the other lenses were just not being used, that she ended selling a majority of her lenses.

Other than that, great shots. I love the header shot, the martini livery lancia shot, as well as the Ford mondeo touring car.


It’s the first lens I’d recommend anyone buy. I remember when I started out, using a 50mm for a while really helped me to understand composition.


Nice of you guys to choose to share and build the automotive photo community. It's refreshing.

Good point about a 50. I had one on a 5D for almost a year without taking it off. Then I started buying more lenses and overcomplicating my life. I need to return to the 50 life. Some of the best photos I've ever taken were on that nifty fifty.

Also want to say that cameras and lenses are one thing, but you guys really have nice editing and a consistent contrast and tone that I love. Do you all edit your own photos? Or does one person edit before uploading? Whatever it is, it makes for a very nice and consistent visual language on the site.


We all edit our own images so you can see differences from each photographer, but non of us really push or pull the sliders too much so there’s a consistency that it should all look pretty natural.

Personally, I add contrast and vibrancy, lift the black point and shadows slightly and then some subtle colour grading and that’s it. I mostly mute greens and yellows and then boost reds whilst adding a touch of cold tone to the shadows.


Yeah, I guess what I mean to say is that there is an editing style to everything that breaks from traditional journalistic or sports journalistic photography. Between the lensing and the subtle editing you guys all have great style.


I'd say that Speedhunters is definitely more editorial than press in its style of imagery, that's for sure.


I love the photography-oriented stories! Very impressive array of photos with such a limited setup!


Thanks Sean.


Awesome article. Very interesting. Thank you!


Glad it was useful!


Nice! The 50mm 1.4 is my favorite as well. I used to have the 1.8 but the 1.4 is definitely worth the extra money.


The best thing about the one-lens approach is that it puts emphasis on composition. Not that a gazillion-or-so throwaway pics haven’t been created with a “normal” lens, but if you’re making an effort to simplify and focus (so to speak), this makes the process more about paying attention to what you see rather than getting caught up in gear choices and effects.


Exactly – you're removing the option to second-guess your framing by turning that little ring on the lens. You walk, you look, and if you don't like it you have to make a very conscious effort to move more precisely to find your framing.


Would be fun to see one of you using a beginner DSLR and a kit lens just to show that you don't need 3000$ of equipment, just like this post.


I quite like this idea. Although I'd imagine the results would be pretty much the same. Bar the one or two images shot at f/1.4 here, you could do exactly the same on a beginner DSLR and a £80 lens.


If you look at the gear-shot you see that it's a Nikon-lens and not one of Canon's L-lenses (which are, like, the holy grail).
So in a way he's 50% there.
The reason there's no beginner-dslr is because he shoots full-frame at higher resolution, which is obviously superior to a low-res crop like a Canon EOS 1xxxD


The myth than the 'red ring' of Canon L glass makes it superior is just that – a myth. It's marketing fluff. I switched from Canon to Nikon for a number of reasons, but glass quality WAS one of them.


Arguably though, unless you pixel peep or blow up images, you'd be hard to tell any difference in image quality between an L series and equivalent Nikon pro lens on these photos online. I get what you're saying though.

either way, awesome pictures. I love the Lancia 037!


What I meant was that one of the guys at Speedhunters would pick up a beginners camera and go to an event and shoot with it.

Of course, if photography is your job you don't walk around with cameras mid-range cameras or below.

Should have been more clear with my comment.


I should probably buy a D750 sometime soon i used a D3300 at my last two events with an 18-55 kit lense and did most of my post in photoshop in my instagram. it didnt come out the best but thats mostly my screen and alot of other things. but i have a 50 1.8 DX upstairs in my house its a decent lense i just have trouble framing and skill and stuff. o well practice practice. pointers help, send me pointers :'D i looove pointers.


It's all practice – shoot lots and don't be afraid to experiment with composition and framing


I'm currently mainly running a 24mm prime on a Canon EOS 700D, which is a crop-sensor so the image is more similar to a 38mm.
The big advantage of the 24 is being a "Pancake", so it is EXTREMELY compact.
I also just picked up a 50mm prime (for f/1.8 over the 24mm's 2.8), which will become my main lens once I upgrade to a full-frame body.
For now, at a crop-result of about 80mm, it's a nice in-between between the 24mm and a big zoom, and the low f-stop is great in darker conditions.
Also, I got it for 90 bucks new, so...nothing to complain.


Good point – on a crop sensor the 50mm is between 75-80mm, so to get a similar look to these images you'd need a 35mm on a crop sensor.

Med Amine Rahmani

What camera are you using?


Nikon D750 and D800 – for this story just the D750.


First of all on the walking challenge I was there at Goodwood in and around the track from Wednesday to Sunday and covered 94,950 steps which ive only just bothered to calculate seeing this which is actually less that what I covered last year but the event is a killer haha

I started taking photos myself this past year and a half and wanted to say what you covered here along with the photos is some quality information and a few things i'll definitely be looking into. This year I went a little lighter and brought with me my Nikon 70-300 and my Sigma 18-35 for some of the paddock photos, the sigma weighs an absolute tonne haha though I did leave behind the 150-500 Sigma as i'm not lugging that thing all that distance but again you've now got me looking at another lens option which I have been considering for a while which is a 70-200 so with Nikon in mind do you have any options or preferences you would recommend?


Nice steppin’!

I wouldn’t recommend anything over the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 for that focal length - I can’t fault it. Sigma do some excellent third party alternatives though for slightly less.

Goh Teik Chuan

Thanks for this article. Its really informative and inspiring.
The thing is i am using a camera with an APSC sensor ( 1.5 crop factor ) .
So a 35mm f1.8 will be more or less a 50mm or should i get the 50mm f1.8? Thanks !
Btw im using a Sony a6000


Correct - a 35mm will give you a similar field of view to 50mm on a full frame camera.


Well written article and some great shots Jordan, you've been putting the hours in of late with all your global event coverage and the effort is paying off, well done sir.


Thanks Chris!


Awesome snaps mate, great work as always. I too was running around with my 50mm for a while, great for the pits and everything around the track. Nowhere near the quality of your shots but I thought my best one of the day was decent!


Love the light rays!


That's a beautiful shot mate - lovely work!


50 mm is exactly what I have next on my shopping list!


This was quite refreshing and reassuring. I haven't been able to forget the damn article from Paddy on using a 50mm. I have one...I've used it literally once. I have been tempted literally every time I go to a car show to leave my zoom at home and grab the 50 but then I'm always afraid that I will be trapped with it, and what if my pictures suck. I should give it a try for a more common meet and then maybe I wont feel so bad if they're shit. Seeing your shots and knowing they are all on the 50 makes me feel better about it. Thanks Jordan!


Just give it a go – you'll have fun trying and guaranteed will come away with something different to what you usually do.


More pics, more words from interviewees.

Paulo Rebordao

I'm assuming you use a 50mm because you have a full size sensor. For those with smaller sensors, the 50 turns into a 24 or 28, right ?


35mm is probably your closest equivalent on a crop sensor, and it's a readily available focal length in fast apertures. Sigma's 35mm Art is VERY good.


A 24 on a croped canon sensor will be a 40mm equivalent and a 28 will be a 45 witch is very close to 50mm
I say a canon sensor because is a 1.6 crop and on nikon is a 1.5 so if you have a nikon do your maths


I've been doing this more and more. I picked up Yongnuo f1.8 a while back, and have been taking that one lens to car shows. I might try it at the drag races next weekend.


I'm yet to try that particular lens yet. Is it any good? It seems VERY cheap.


For the money, it's hard to beat. It's pretty sharp, but the AF can be a little slow at times. The depth of field is good. If you're on a tight budget, like me, it's a must have.


Do you have more pics of that stunning Zerouno Duerta?