Lens selection survey

2008-11-30

in Geek stuff, Photography

Fellow photographers: if you had the following collection of SLR bodies and lenses, which piece of glass would you aspire to next?

Bodies:

  • Canon Rebel G film SLR
  • Canon Elan 7N film SLR
  • Canon Rebel XS digital SLR

In practice, I expect to be using the Rebel XS far more than the film bodies, from this point on.

Lenses:

  • Canon 50mm f/1.8
  • Canon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM II
  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Ideally, it should be useful for both full-frame and 1.6x factor, APS-C sized cameras. The APS-C equivalent focal lengths for those lenses are 80mm, 44.8-168mm, and 28.8-88mm. In general, I prefer the wide-angle look to the telephoto look, though I would be interested in anything that significantly expands the potential or usefulness of the SLRs above.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 118 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. November 30, 2008 at 10:29 pm

My advice is to forget about new gear for a while.

Instead, try shooting some subjects you normally wouldn’t.

Tristan December 1, 2008 at 3:29 am

If you like wide angle, and you will be shooting primarily the XF, the obvious choice is to get a wide angle zoom.

The best one, I think, is this:

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tokina/11-16mm.htm

Milan December 1, 2008 at 8:57 am

R.K.,

That does make sense. In the end, gear is just the means for making photos. It may also make sense to try renting some exotic gear: long professional telephoto lenses, fish-eye lenses, macro lenses, tilt-shift lenses, etc.

Taking a tilt-shift lens to Toronto or New York could be quite interesting.

Tristan,

I wonder how that compares with Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5 – 4.5 USM.

The Tokina 11mm – 16mm F/2.8 is currently $569.95 on Adorama. The Canon is $660.00.

Tristan December 1, 2008 at 10:49 am

Rockwell says Canon’s lens is better, however, the Tokina has the advantage of being usable on Film bodies as wide as 15mm.

The tokina is no dog, also, it’s better than Nikon’s 12-24mm.

Milan December 1, 2008 at 10:53 am

The non-EF-S status of the Tokina lens is definitely an advantage. I would be surprised if I didn’t have a full-frame dSLR body twenty years from now.

tristan December 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Why is the non EF-S status an advantage?

Milan December 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

EF-S lenses can only be used with 1.6x factor, APS-C sized cameras. They cannot be used on film bodies, or on bodies with full-frame sensors.

I hadn’t previously realized that the sensor in the Digital Rebels has 14.8 times as much area as the sensors in the Powershot A510s and A570s. No wonder the low light performance is so much better. A full frame sensor has almost 35 times as much area.

Anon December 1, 2008 at 4:13 pm

If you like wide angle, consider the Sigma 30mm f/1.4.

It can be used as a wide-angle prime on a 35mm camera, or as a normal lens on an APS-C camera.

They are about $400.

Anon December 1, 2008 at 4:40 pm

EFLens.com
Every Canon EF Lens – See the specifications, read the reviews and check the price!

Milan December 1, 2008 at 4:49 pm

The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM would be a big step up from the kit lens, in terms of image quality. That being said, the $900 price tag is pretty significant. It could also only be used with an APS-C body.

Tristan December 1, 2008 at 8:45 pm

Would the 2.8 zoom really be a big step up in image quality? Can you ever seen the sharpness defects from the lens in your photos?

My new vote is for the 30mm Sigma prime.

Milan December 2, 2008 at 12:25 am

Having taken a closer look at the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens, it seems that it is only actually usable with APS-C bodies. “Vignetting will occur if the lens is used with digital cameras with image sensors larger than APS-C size or 35mm SLR cameras.”

That makes it very significantly less appealing, as a $400 investment. I see APS-C primarily as a stopgap until either I am rich enough to buy a full frame camera at current prices or the prices drop.

Tristan December 2, 2008 at 1:26 am

I suppose it did seem too good to be true.

Nikon makes a 28mm prime that sells for about 200$ used but its F2.8, I don’t know what the canon range is like.

Tristan December 2, 2008 at 1:29 am
Milan December 2, 2008 at 9:04 am

I have had my eye on that 28mm prime ever since I got my Rebel G.

It definitely seems more versatile and better value than the Sigma lens. It may be half a stop slower, but it is compatible with a wider range of bodies.

Amazon.com has it for $412.85.

Milan December 2, 2008 at 9:05 am

It even uses the same lens hood as my 28-105 zoom.

robin December 2, 2008 at 10:04 am

I use Nikon so I can’t name specific Canon lenses. In my opinion you’re missing anything on the long end. Something like a 70-300 would complete your kit. That’s pretty much my favourite walking-around lens. (I realize I like telephoto more than you do.)

Milan December 2, 2008 at 10:14 am

Once in a while, I do wish I had a good telephoto lens. Just yesterday, I had what would probably have been a really nice shot of a squirrel framed, over in the Gatineau Park. Unfortunately, my kit zoom lens couldn’t begin to fill the frame with the creature, and it scampered off when I walked closer.

. December 3, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Canon EF-S 17-55/2.8 IS USM Review

Why this instead of the kit zoom?

Your Canon small-sensor digital SLR probably came with a lightweight plastic zoom lens covering roughly the same range as the EF-S 17-55/2.8 IS. Why spend the money and carry the weight of this lens?

Second is the brighter viewfinder.

Third is image quality. The EF-S 17-55 will have higher contrast and better sharpness, especially in the corners, than the kit lens. If all of your photography is on bright high-contrast sunny days, you might not need this lens. If you like to take natural-looking photos indoors or near sunset, the 17-55/2.8 IS is a great investment.

Milan December 17, 2008 at 11:02 am

There are actually two Canon 28mm prime lenses:

  • EF 28mm f/1.8 USM
  • EF 28mm f/2.8

Obviously, the first lens is significantly faster. The f/1.8 is US$409.00 from Amazon.com, while the f/2.8 is just US$180.00.

That said, I expect the f/1.8 is also a lot better constructed and probably has better optical quality.

Anon December 20, 2008 at 8:11 pm

You should get the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.

Provided you are willing to drop about $1000 on it.

If you are really committed to small-sensor digital, get the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM for about the same price.

Milan December 20, 2008 at 9:25 pm

A 24-105mm f/4L IS USM would be beautiful…

Oh, those L lenses…

Tristan December 21, 2008 at 1:34 am

24mm on a Rebel isn’t that wide.

Isn’t the lens you already have F4 at 105mm?

Milan December 21, 2008 at 11:56 am

I agree that 24mm isn’t really wide enough on an APS-C body. That being said, I don’t see the logic in spending serious money on lenses that can only be used with such bodies.

My current 28-105 is f/4.5 at 105mm. I expect that the advantages of the L lens are more qualitative than numeric: better glass, nicer bokeh, etc.

. December 22, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Canon EF 24-105/4L IS USM Lens Review

by Philip Greenspun

Producing a high quality 4:1 zoom lens is very challenging, but the “L” in “Canon 24-105L” assures you of professional quality images, rugged construction, and substantial weather-proofing. The 24mm wide end is wide enough to be dramatic and the 105mm telephoto end is long enough to provide a significant flattening effect for portraits. With the light weight achieved by designing for an f/4 rather than an f/2.8 aperture, the 24-105/4L is a great travel lens.

. January 6, 2009 at 3:52 pm

“I currently have a cropped sensor DSLR (450D) and have a 17-55mm f/2.8 EF-S Lens which I really like. However, since I expect the FF camera’s will be more affordable in the future I am planning to invest more in EF lenses. To expand my lens collection I wanted to add one wide lens and one zoom lens.

The zoom lens is easy, I think the 70-200 f/2.8 IS will be a really nice one. However, a wide EF lens is a bit difficult, I see that there is a EF-S 10-22 . . . and when I look at the EF line I only see wide primes . . . which cost a lot more. Anyone have a suggestion for a good wide EF zoom lens ?”

Milan January 9, 2009 at 11:47 am

At the moment, my thinking is that the best long-term plan is to widen the range of focal lengths I have available with a couple more zooms. A 70-200mm lens would be useful on both crop sensor and full frame bodies. The wide angle range is trickier. The best choice may be the 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 EF-S lens. It will only work with crop sensor bodies, but it seems to be considered a very good lens and a good match with the crop sensor situation.

The 10-22mm lens is going for about US$650 on Amazon.

There are more options for the 70-200mm zoom. There are two f/2.8 lenses and two f/4 lenses. There is a L-series 2.8 with image stabilization (US$1480), an L-series 2.8 with no IS (US$1020), an L-series 4 with IS (US$950), and an L-series 4 without IS ($570). The 2.8 lenses are both heavy and expensive. The 4 with IS may be the best choice, though $380 is a lot to pay for image stabilization…

. January 14, 2009 at 10:33 am

I hadn’t previously realized that the sensor in the Digital Rebels has 14.8 times as much area as the sensors in the Powershot A510s and A570s. No wonder the low light performance is so much better. A full frame sensor has almost 35 times as much area.

The Half-Frame Fiasco
© 2009 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Canon 1.6x
Crop Factor: 1.622x
Sensor Size: 38% of full frame

Milan April 1, 2009 at 2:30 pm

When I do have the money for a 5D body, I will probably get it in a kit with the 24-105mm f/4L IS lens.

Tristan April 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Watch out – digital might already be over. http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/real-raw.htm

Milan April 1, 2009 at 3:20 pm

These lenses will also work with film, which I expect I will still shoot in my Elan 7N from time to time.

Neal’s recent photos make me think there might just be something to this expensive ‘L’ glass Canon sells – enough to make me willing to eventually pay more thab $1000 for a 24-105mm lens that largely duplicates the focal length of my existing 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5.

He is now using a 5D body and the non-IS version of Canon’s 70-200mm.

Milan April 1, 2009 at 3:22 pm

As for digital being ‘over,’ you should try shooting using off-camera strobes, manual flash power levels, manual aperture, and manual shutter speeds.

With digital, one glance at the RGB histogram lets you evaluate the exposure.

With film, you would need to use flash meters and/or calculations, and you wouldn’t be able to spot any errors until the film was developed.

Milan April 6, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I am more-or-less decided on the 70-200mm with IS.

Just think, with the non-IS lens, you would need shutter speeds faster than 1/320 to avoid camera shake at full telephoto on my (1.6x) Rebel XS body.

Supposedly, the IS in the 70-200 is good for three stops, meaning I would only need a shutter speed of 1/40. If I ever get a full-frame body, that would mean the loss of the 1.6 multiplier, and also a sensor with better high ISO performance.

Henry’s has the lenses for these prices, with taxes:

Non-IS: $932.24
IS: $1,672.39

Lens and Shutter is cheaper (and there is less sales tax in B.C.):

Non-IS: $895.99
IS: $1,567.99

I definitely don’t want to buy it from somewhere in the US, since it is a total mystery how much I would be charged in tax, brokerage fees, and duty. I wonder if I could find somewhere that would give me a discount for paying in cash, or would at least throw in a good filter or two.

Milan April 6, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Online, Black’s lists their after tax prices as $847.49 for the non-IS and $1,502.89 for the IS.

Matt April 6, 2009 at 12:38 pm

The places that give discounts for paying in cash are often doing this so they (illegally) avoid paying tax. I would suspect as well that because a lens sale is well documented on the manufacturer’s side, that you’d have a hard time finding this arrangement for a new lens.

Milan April 6, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I thought it was to avoid merchant fees from credit card companies.

No shop I have spoken to has been willing to give a cash discount, so far.

Tristan April 6, 2009 at 3:57 pm

It is legal for firms to give a cash discount, and it makes sense because they don’t have to pay the up to 3% credit card fee. However, it is frowned on by credit card companies for obvious reasons – so firms are discouraged from giving cash discounts or charging fees for the use of credit cards.

The outcome of this is credit card usage is subsidized indirectly by cash users. If you think that’s unfair, then the law should be changed so that users must pay the 3% themselves directly, i.e. as a fee on their credit card bill. This would of course massively reduce credit card usage, and probably be the end of credit cards’ massive domination as we know it.

It seems to me that the existence of credit cards at all in their current popularity is simply a mistake caused by the externalization of the costs of credit cards onto those who do not use them.

Milan April 6, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I think credit cards are mostly a setup where a firm bets it can make you spend recklessly. They give you credit, then hope to profit from interest and fees when you over-use it. It is the people who cannot make full payments monthly who subsidize those who can.

As a non-reckless user of credit cards, I appreciate the opportunity they provide.

In any case, it would be nice if I could negotiate some sort of perk for spending $1500+ on a lens. Given how retailers must be suffering during the downturn, you would think it possible to negotiate with an employee who has a stake in the overall profitability of the business.

Milan April 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Can anyone think of another big store like Black’s that might have the lens available for even less?

. April 6, 2009 at 4:14 pm

More on credit cards:

Debt and responsibility

Frontline – Secret History of the Credit Card

Matt April 6, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I guess I mispoke (miswrote?) in this case that a discount would be to avoid tax, although in my experience there are places like that: mom n’ pop restaurants and auto wreckers are two I’ve dealt with where I know there’s some shady business going on.

Tristan, that’s an interesting way to think of it: cash users subsidizing CC users. I like it.

Tristan April 6, 2009 at 6:26 pm

“It is the people who cannot make full payments monthly who subsidize those who can.”

You can say this if you want, but you are ignoring the fact that the store needs to include the up to 3% credit card use fee in its normal prices if it doesn’t want to charge a surcharge for credit card users. If half of people use credit cards, that means the cost of credit card transactions are spread evenly over credit card and non credit card users – in other words, prices to cash users are 1.5% higher than they would be, and prices to credit card users are 1.5% lower than they would be.

R.K. April 6, 2009 at 7:07 pm

What about setting up a small business?

Could you then write off lens purchases as business expenses? Perhaps you could also make prints of your photos for people, sell them personally, and claim the original printing costs as business expenses.

It seems like you are at the stage where you could be selling at least a few thousand dollars a year worth of work, if you wanted to put in the time and effort.

Milan April 6, 2009 at 7:22 pm

The business idea is intriguing. I have a show coming up in September that could involve both a fair deal of expenses and a fair amount of revenue. I wonder how long setting up a business would take, how much it would cost, and how much work filing taxes and things would be…

From the perspective of the store, another thing to consider is whether credit cards actually increase total sales. I think there is a chance that they do, given that they encourage the impulse people have to buy. It may be that the extra profits from those sales are greater than 3% of their value.

Milan April 6, 2009 at 7:33 pm

I actually went to the Black’s Photography in the Rideau Centre this evening with the intention of buying the lens. When I got there, the young woman working was seriously lacking in knowledge about lenses and entirely disinterested in making any kind of sale or providing any information.

I would much rather buy from Henry’s, where the staff is knowledgeable and helpful (though aggressive in pushing extended warranties.)

That said, a pre-sale chat definitely isn’t worth $170 (the difference in price between Henry’s and Black’s).

On Thursday, when they are open late, I think I will go to Henry’s, explain the situation, and ask them to match the Black’s price. If they won’t do that, I will ask them to match the price with a combination of a discount and a free UV filter (one of the nice Hoya HD ones). If they won’t do either, I will give up and return to Black’s.

Is there any other negotiating position people would consider? Maybe some free prints? The idea with the filter is that they pay less than the sale price for it, so it is less of a concession for them to give it to me than for them to give me a discount of the same size.

R.K. April 6, 2009 at 9:45 pm

The filter offer seems especially fair: they accept somewhat reduced profits, or you go somewhere cheaper.

Matt April 7, 2009 at 9:31 pm

I think your plan sounds reasonable. On the other hand, I’d be inclined to buy it as cheaply as you can get it. Most of your questions probably already have answers to them that you can find on a little website called http://www.google.com. While rewarding incompetence isn’t fun, maybe you can find a more engaged salesperson at Black’s than the first one.

I just receive a polarizing filter from http://www.uxcell.com in China. It was $8USD, it works great, and in the package there was a coupon for $5USD towards a future purchase with no minimum. If you are looking for certain accessories, I recommend them.

Milan April 7, 2009 at 10:41 pm

It’s not that I need more information about the lens – it’s that I want to buy it from a store that has good staff. I am even willing to pay a bit more, in order to make my preference plain. I am just not willing to pay $170 more.

Milan April 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm

The people at Henry’s say they will match the Black’s price, with no questions asked.

It goes to show how much it is sometimes possible to save just by checking prices at a few different places.

Milan April 9, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I got the lens.

They aren’t kidding when they say the IS is worth three stops. I took several handheld, unbraced, 320mm shots at 1/45 and they are totally sharp.

(320mm = 200mm * 1.6 crop factor for the Rebel XS)

Milan April 9, 2009 at 7:58 pm
Matt April 9, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Maybe you can explain something I don’t understand: Why are full frame sensors considered to be so desirable in a DSLR? Don’t the crop sensors allow you to get better reach through a telescopic lens? Your comment about the *1.6 crop factor made me wonder.

Milan April 9, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Two reasons:

1) Sometimes, you want wide-angle, and EF-S lenses are annoying

2) Crazy low-light performance. The bigger the sensor, the higher and ISO things still look decent at.

That being said, I could see nature and sports photographers pulling out cheap crop-sensor bodies sometimes.

BuddyRich April 10, 2009 at 8:19 am

For future reference I use this site to check the prices for my digital purchases:

http://www.photoprice.ca

Its a great little site that checks online prices and calculates the total price (including shipping, taxes, duties and brokerage to canada if its from a US site). In Cdn$ based on the days exchange rate.

At least until 2010 when the OVAT kicks in (the onatrio-gst harmonized tax just announced) or the dollar rises again (making the US worth it), the best place to shop online is Alberta or BC as you are not required to pay PST as you are out of province. That’s an automatic 7% savings.

The one place in particular I have had good dealings with is the Camera Store (http://www.thecamerastore.com – which doesn’t seem to list their zooms on the above site, I think they reorganized their site so the price sites webcrawler no longer finds it.). The store is out of Alberta and they have a $10 flat rate shipping using Xpresspost so the 40lbs in gear I ordered cost $10 to ship and was here in 3 days… not bad.

The one thing to look out for, mind you I am in the Nikon camp, but I always make sure that the seller is an authorized seller and its not a gray market lens because Nikon is particular about it for their warranty. No idea what Canon’s policy is. Which is another reason why I don’t buy US.

Of course nothing is like having it in hand to test before hand, and if deciding you like it, walking out with it, but I have found Henry’s, Vistek and Galaxy Camera all along Bank St. all willing to pricematch and negotiate.

Anon May 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm

If you want to get serious about nature photography, consider the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens.

Milan July 19, 2009 at 6:33 pm

With my next expensive lens, I will try to cover the wide angle range, with something like the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM.

Then, I will have L glass all the way from 24mm to 200mm.

Milan July 19, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Line-up of lenses:

Canon 50mm f/1.8 EF
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Canon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USMII Lens
Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

BuddyRich July 20, 2009 at 7:25 am

I don’t think you’ll find the 24-70 all that wide at its widest on an APS-C camera. Especially with the crop factor of 1.6 on Canon, it makes it a 39-112 effectively . Still it’s supposed to be a great lens (and a pricey piece of glass!)…

Milan July 20, 2009 at 9:02 am

The sensor in my Rebel XS is only a 1.4 crop, and I intend to eventually get a full frame body.

It seems sensible to buy a quality wide angle zoom suited to full frame bodies, rather than spending almost as much on a good such lens only usable with crop sensor cameras.

BuddyRich July 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Hmmm. I thought all Canon DX cameras were 1.6x crop.

All of my lens purchases have been FF for that same reason, though I may make an exception for the 11-16 Tokina F2.8, as the price on the 14-24 F2.8 FF Nikkor is rather high.

Milan July 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm

You’re right. I was getting my sensor crop factors confused with Canon’s available teleconverters.

The Rebel XS has a CMOS APS-C 22.2 x 14.8 mm (1.6x conversion factor).

Milan July 20, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Canon also has a few APS-H cameras, with a 1.3X crop factor:

Canon EOS-1D Mark III, 1D Mark II (and Mark II N), EOS-1D

Milan July 20, 2009 at 12:57 pm

For wide angle on a 1.6X sensor, the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM seems to be well regarded, though I would hesitate to spend US$729.00 on a lens that can only be used on EF-S bodies.

BuddyRich July 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Look at the 11-16 tokina. There is also a canon mount version available. I know Mr. Rockwell had luck using it on a FF anyway, at least the nikon version.

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tokina/11-16mm.htm

Tristan July 20, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Go with the Canon – it’s the lowest distortion zoom of its kind available. And that is likely more important than all-out sharpness.

Milan July 20, 2009 at 1:26 pm

In the long run, covering the 20-ish to 200mm range with good lenses seems like a good idea. Beyond that, it is worth considering a very wide angle zoom (one that works with FF bodies, ideally), a really long zoom like the 100-400, and perhaps some fast primes.

Milan September 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm

This is another of the government’s three paycheque months, but I don’t quite feel up to dropping $1,499.99 on the Canon EF 24-70MM F2.8L USM lens. While I do eventually plan to buy it, spending more than $1,700 with taxes and a filter just doesn’t seem prudent now – especially after losing nearly $500 on the photo show. Also, I am curious about whether Canon will release an IS version of the L-series 24-70. That would probably add several hundred dollars to the price, but might be worth waiting for, in the long run.

One lens that would be cheaper and useful would be a prime to serve as a normal lens on an APS-C crop sensor body, and a wide angle on a full-frame body.

Options include 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm. I am considering the Canon 28mm f/2.8 most seriously right now. It would be $339.99 plus tax. It lacks a USM motor, and probably has a comparable (not excellent) build quality to their 50mm f/1.8.

. September 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm

For the Canon small sensor DSLRs, e.g., the EOS 30D and Digital Rebel XTi, the Canon 35/2 lens is an economical lightweight choice, but sadly it lacks a USM motor. Canon makes a very fine 35/1.4L USM that lets you work in light only half as bright as the 35/2 (the “L” designation means that it is part of Canon’s expensive lineup of lenses and will have superb optical performance and mechanical construction). This lens costs more than $1000, however, and, at 580 grams, is heavy. Generally speaking, “third party” lenses such as those made by Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina, are not worth considering compared to Canon-brand lenses. The remarkably cheap wide-range third-party zooms deliver terrible image quality. The high quality third-party prime lenses or fast zooms aren’t much less expensive than high quality Canon- or Nikon-brand lenses. Sigma’s 30/1.4 digital-only lens is an exception. Because it does not cast an image large enough to cover a 24x36mm film frame, the lens is much lighter (422g) than the Canon 35/1.4 and less than half the price. It has an ultrasonic motor, denoted “HSM” by Sigma, and has delivered superb optical performance in magazine tests.

Milan September 17, 2009 at 3:48 pm

The Canon 35mm F2.0 AF is $449.99 and would be akin to a 56mm lens on my Rebel XS. By contrast, my 50mm lens is akin to an 80mm prime.

For $500, I would really want a USM motor in there. The AF motors are noisier, slower, and don’t allow easy manual focus corrections.

Tristan September 17, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Have you considered the 17-40 F4 L zoom? It is USM, and L, although not IS. Still, the highest quality of optics, and under $800 US.

http://www.adorama.com/CA1740U.html

Of course, it comes down to how useful you think the focal lengths will be.

If you want to go for a prime, I think the 28mm F1.8 USM is a better deal than the 35mm F2.0 non-USM. Also, 28mm – both on a crop body (approx 40mm) and a FF body, is in my view a superior focal length.

http://www.adorama.com/CA2818AFU.html?searchinfo=CA2818AF&item_no=1?searchinfo=CA2818AF&item_no=1

Milan September 17, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I agree about 28mm being better than 35mm.

I am surprised the 17-40 isn’t an EF-S lens. Still, I think 24-70 is a much more useful range of focal lengths.

Milan September 18, 2009 at 9:47 am

The 28mm options are:

The f/2.8 ($339.99)

And the f/1.8 ($689.99).

Apparently, the build quality is similar. I don’t think it’s worth $300 for the extra stop-and-a-third.

Sigma also makes a 28mm lens with macro capability ($579.99).

Milan September 18, 2009 at 9:53 am

Then again, people really seem to love the 24-70, even without IS. Along with the 70-200, it would give me a very capable range of L-glass, in a set portable enough for travel.

Maybe a better approach is to sock away $500 or so this month, and keep adding to the pile until it is big enough.

Tristan September 18, 2009 at 9:59 am

You are probably right about the 24-70 being more useful. 17-24 is quite a specialty range of focal lengths. I’ve hardly ever used my 19-35 zoom. Although, I’ve been quite happy with the results when I do use it. 20mm allows you to fit an awful lot in the frame, which is sometimes interesting (especially if you have foreground and background).

Milan September 18, 2009 at 10:01 am

That’s often the problem with really wide angle zooms – it is impossible to get unwanted things out of the frame.

When it comes to making attractive photos, simpler is often better. For example, I am pretty happy with this one.

Milan September 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

I recently watched a documentary about Henri Cartier-Bresson. His remarkable talent seems to be getting photos that almost always have people, but where they all fit in. There is never a gawking tourist or awkward head in the frame.

You have to wonder how he managed to find such perfectly populated places.

Milan September 18, 2009 at 10:05 am

Just look at some of his photos and you will see what I mean.

Milan September 18, 2009 at 10:06 am

Look at this one, for instance. It looks completely staged, but apparently that’s not how he worked.

R.K. September 18, 2009 at 11:43 am

Once you have the 24-70, are you likely to use the 28mm much?

Milan September 18, 2009 at 11:59 am

The only real advantage of a 28mm prime would be size and weight, especially if both lenses are f/2.8.

My sense is that the L-series zooms are comparable to most non-L primes.

That bolsters the argument for saving for the 24-70.

Tristan September 18, 2009 at 12:21 pm

This photo is decisive: http://sunwalked.files.wordpress.com/2007/09/cartier-bresson-child-carrying-painting.jpg

In more ways than one – it epitomizes the photograph as taken in “the decisive moment”.

I see such moments often, but rarely can capture then on film. While I’m not familiar with all of Bresson’s work, reading about this photograph and the “decisive moment” was probably more influential on me than any other photographic idea.

Milan September 18, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Candid photography of strangers is a tough thing to get into, especially given how anti-photographer the authorities and general public are nowadays.

Tristan September 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm

A good tool for candid photography would be one of those higher end consumer point and shoots, which have rotatable screens – the better to take photos while you aren’t appearing to take photos with.

Milan September 18, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Of course, that will only get you in more trouble with any uptight police officers and paranoid parents who realize what you’re doing.

Milan September 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm
Milan September 18, 2009 at 2:36 pm

My friend Caity Sackeroff has also written a related blog post.

. September 21, 2009 at 7:51 pm

My Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS is the sharpest zoom I’ve ever used. Not only that, but the ergonomics and operation are flawless, so flawless that I can shoot and zoom with only one hand.

Feel free to read this huge review, but if you’d rather be out shooting and have about a grand to spend on a lens, just go get one of these for yourself. If you’d rather spend less, I cover that at recommendations.

. October 1, 2009 at 4:06 pm
Milan February 15, 2010 at 11:11 am

I did end up getting the 24-70 f/2.8.

Now, I am wondering what should follow it. A 50mm lens is a classic photographic tool, and if I am going for one I will never want to replace, the f/1.2 L version seems the right choice. That said, paying half the cost of a 5D Mark II for a 50mm lens does seem a bit excessive.

Of course, while digital cameras get totally dated in about 5 years, top quality lenses are a multi-decade investment.

Milan February 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Some other lenses to consider:

* Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM, $470, the modern photojournalist’s standard lens
* Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM, $1400, designed for professional photojournalists who need a somewhat wide perspective and who need to work in dim light

* Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM, $999, superb optical quality, ultrasonic motor

* Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, $529 (review), goes to 1:1, probably the best macro lens for the full-frame crowd

Milan March 5, 2010 at 11:54 am

Here are the three lenses I am most strongly considering now:

They are all in the same ballpark of cost. The first two options would give me an excellent prime useful for low-light. The 50mm is a touch faster, but the wider perspective on the 35mm would allow longer shutter speeds. The last would widen the range of L-series zooms I have.

Matt March 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Christ those primes are expensive.

I was just using a Canon 50mm 1.8 (cost $90) on a 1.6crop factor camera. Seemed a bit long. The 35mm might be more suitable for portraits.

Milan March 5, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I also have a 50mm f/1.8.

There is an f/1.4 version that costs about $500 and is reportedly also excellent.

My thinking on the expensive lenses is this: they are lifetime investments, so it is most sensible just to buy the best available lens now, rather than an intermediate lens now and the best one later.

Also, lenses don’t depreciate much. Ten year old L-series lenses sell for a few hundred less than their new equivalents. With discontinued lenses, sometimes they sell for more.

Milan March 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm

The 50mm f/1.8 is a fragile thing, driven by a non-USM motor, containing a two fairly small pieces of glass. The front filter size is 52mm. I know they are fragile because I broke one once, with a not-too-hard knock with it inside a plastic bag.

The 50mm f/1.2 is weather-sealed, far more solidly constructed, contains 8 elements in 6 groups (including ultra low dispersion elements), and has a USM motor. The front filter size is 72mm.

Milan March 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm

All that said, dollar for dollar the 50mm f/1.8 is probably the best lens Canon makes. It produces great images, and costs very little.

R.K. March 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm

You could also spend $1500+ on a trip to somewhere photogenic (and close enough to allow low-carbon travel).

Matt March 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I wasn’t suggesting that you forgo the more expensive lens for the plastic-y f1.8 50mm, and in fact the small number of aperture blades in that lens are really apparent in some situations. I was just pointing out that that particular focal length is a bit long on a 1.6x camera.

Milan March 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm

On second thought, here’s what I should really get.

Milan March 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Focal length is a bit of a tricky issue.

Eventually, I expect to get a full-frame body. Indeed, a 5D Mk II would cost less than two of the lenses above.

I think the 50mm is more useful on a full-frame body, whereas the 35mm would be useful on both (as a normal lens on my Rebel XS and a fast wide-angle lens on a 5D).

That said, I think it makes more sense to invest in lenses than in bodies. While a 5D Mk II will be utterly obselete in ten years, the only real threat to these lenses is probably better image stabilization.

That said, there must be a point at which it makes sense to pause from buying lenses to buy a great body to use them on…

Matt March 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Milan March 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm
On second thought, here’s what I should really get.

I’ve heard the pictures from that lens look really muddy.

It’s hard to predict the future of bodies and whether or not the technology growth in the next 10 years will be as fruitful as the last 10. Processing speed, resolution and the rear display have all improved to the point where they’re now very good. HD video seems to be taking off, maybe touch screens and wifi will also appear. My point though is that it’s probably a better time now to buy an expensive body than it was only a few years ago.

Milan March 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

The most appealing thing about the 5D Mk II is the high ISO performance. Technically, it goes up to 25,600 ISO, and the 6,400 ISO output is probably less grainy than 1,600 ISO on my Rebel XS.

You could do some neat hand-held stuff with that.

Milan March 5, 2010 at 5:17 pm

This shot was taken with the 50 f/1.8, incidentally. Note the sharp image in low light, but the shallow depth of field.

Milan March 8, 2010 at 10:49 am

At Tristan’s suggestion, I have booked the 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 for the Easter Weekend, which I am spending in Montreal.

It is quite a good deal, since Vistek doesn’t charge for days when they are closed. As such, I get it from noon Thursday to noon Tuesday for $43.75 plus tax.

Milan March 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm

For anyone who says the 5D doesn’t have enough resolution, or that zooms provide insufficient quality, look at this photo: El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia.

Remember, the 24-105mm f/4L lens (with which this was taken) is considered inferior to the 24-70 f/2.8L and the 70-200 f/2.8L.

Tristan March 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm

As for lens sharpness, the difference between lousy and fancy lenses is usually nothing by F8, and I think always nothing by F11

Milan March 9, 2010 at 8:05 am

Certainly not true when it comes to chromatic aberration. Minimizing that, whether in a photographic lens or a refracting telescope, is invariably an expensive business.

Matt March 9, 2010 at 1:31 pm

You need this.

Milan March 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm

f/5.6? How can I use that at emo rock concerts?

Matt March 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Also, no IS which would be useful on a 1200mm lens. I suspect that even on a tripod shake could be an issue.

As for the emo concerts, most L series lenses (1200mm or otherwise) only come it white, which don’t fit in at emo concerts anyway.

Milan March 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Something like this, with different fabric, might be a solution to the latter problem.

Matt March 9, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Okay, that’s a surprise, the fact you can order online a cover for a lens of which there are less than 20 of in the world.

Milan March 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Rather than camouflage, I would want my 1200mm lens covered with thousands of Swarovski crystals.

Milan March 16, 2010 at 11:31 am

These may also be worth a try: LensBabies

Milan April 6, 2010 at 10:59 am

There are lots of subtle aspects of lens function beyond aperture, number of blades, etc. Lenses affect contrast, colour rendition, vignetting, etc.

I have been planning to for a while to do some A-B tests between L-series and non-L-series lenses. It is a matter of lugging my tripod and the lenses to be compared to an appropriate test scene.

Eventually, I will test the 24-70 against the 28-105 at 28, 50, and 70mm (100, 200, and 400 ISO perhaps – and f/3.5 f/8). I will also test the 28-105 against the 70-200 at 100mm and the 50mm prime against the 24-70.

Milan April 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I tried renting a Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 EF-S lens. Some of the results are already up.

If I planned to stick with APS-C cameras, this would probably be a lens worth owning.

Milan August 9, 2010 at 11:06 am

Canon lenses, in dollars per gram:

50mm f/1.8: $1.07 / gram
50mm f/1.4: $1.59 / gram
50mm f/1.2L: $3.12 / gram

24-70mm f/2.8L: $2.49 / gram

70-200mm f/4L IS: $1.78 / gram
70-200mm f/2.8L IS: $2.10 / gram

100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L: $2.10 / gram

28-105mm f/3.5-4.5: $1.04 / gram

100mm f/2.8L: $1.52 / gram

Listed L-lenses: $2.16 / gram
Listed non-L lenses: $1.25 / gram

Milan August 9, 2010 at 11:22 am

Not surprisingly, Canon lens cost correlates strongly and in a linear way with lens weight:

. August 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Canon’s Big Week Announcements

NEW: Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM

NEW: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

NEW: EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

NEW: Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM

NEW: Canon Extender EF 1.4x III

NEW: Extender EF 2x III

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