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Thread: Lenses -Where do I start?

  1. #1
    Jimm's Avatar
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    Lenses -Where do I start?

    Iím just in the process of buying my first DSLR (going for a Canon 40D) and as its body only Iím left with the decision as to the best lens to get.

    Iím a novice to photography, in the sense of SLRs so I have little knowledge of which ranges are the most useful. Iíve heard the phase of Ďwalk aboutí lens used but not sure what range that covers. Also would it be advisable to get a telephoto and a wide angle?

    Iíd like to get two lensesí to Ďgrow intoí i.e not bottom of the range oneís. It would be great to hear peopleís suggestion or preferences.

    Cheers
    James

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    The first lens to start with is the kit lens, usually an 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 aperture. A lot of people think these are inferior but I like the quality of mine and it provides me with good photos in almost all lighting conditions. All other lenses are all suited to particular needs, a walkabout lens is one that works well in all lighting conditions, usually having an aperture of at least 2.8 for low light conditions and also will provide you with a longer focal length when needed. Again, this depends on your particular needs, most photographers can capture almost any subject (including portraiture, some wildlife, landscapes, etc.) with a focal length of 200mm. Anything longer and then you start talking tripods, weight, and expense.

  3. #3
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    This would also be an answer to Jimm's post regadring two lenses. For some reason, I cannot access that post.

    I always recommend beginning your lens system by purchasing a mid range zoom lens with a focal range of from 17-18mm to 50-55mm. Which lens you decide on depends on your wallet but, since you will probably be doing the majority of your shooting in this focal range, I would get the best lens you can or are willing to afford.

    If your wallet is thick enough; the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens is arguably the best mid-range zoom lens for a crop camera. The focal range is useable for everything from landscapes to portraits and the image quality is awesome and the auto focus is great. Because of its constant f/2.8 aperture and efficient Image Stabilization, this is a viable low light glass also. The downside of this lens the high cost.

    For a more affordable lens, the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (either VC or non-VC versions) would be a valid consideration.

    In the budget range, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is a nice glass for the money but, is not, IMO, a lens to purchase with plans of "growing into".

    The next lens that I would purchase is a telephoto zoom. I use the 70-200mm f/4L IS lens which has a combination of awesome image quality, a very decent reach, fast auto focus plus image stabilization and relatively light weight which allows hand holding in rather dim conditions. However, as with the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; the drawback of the 70-200mm f/4L IS lens is its high cost.

    A match for the less expensive but very adequate Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens would be the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC lens while a match for the budget 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens would be the 55-250mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens.

    The focal lengths of 17-200mm provide me with sufficient range to shoot probably 90% of my images (I don't miss the 55-70mm gap) the exceptions to this are macro, long range wildlife and UWA shots . I shot an entire two week trip to China using the 17-55mm and 70-200mm lenses and was very satisfied with both the focal range I had at my disposal and the images that I created: http://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/

    A walk around lens is one which you would carry while traveling or just "walking around" a city or countryside. IMO, a single lens doesn't meet my needs for this use but, the 17-55mm + 70-200mm combination is great!
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 14th September 2011 at 03:40 PM.

  4. #4
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    First, biggest limiting factor is going to be "what's your budget?"

    Second advice I'd have is get one lens at a time. Hard enough to learn how to use your first dSLR, without throwing more variables into the mix. When you begin to grow mightily annoyed with your current lens, and you actually know what you want with your second is the time to go looking for another lens.

    A "walkaround" zoom is typically a lens with an adjustable focal length that goes from wide angle to normal/telephoto distances. On a crop body like your 40D, ultrawide starts around 10mm-20mm. Wide angle is from about 15mm-30mm. Normal is 30mm-50mm. And telephoto is anything above 50mm. Walkaround zooms are typically used for what I'd call typical vacation shots: landscapes, architecture, people in front of same, etc. General all-rounder lenses with great framing versatility in the most-used ranges.

    Which lens you want is going to depend a lot on what you plan on shooting with it, and what you can afford.

    An f/2.8 zoom is likely to be the most expensive choice, but the most versatile in terms of lighting conditions. A larger maximum aperture (smaller f-number) allows you to gather more light more quickly, so you can use a faster shutter speed or lower iso setting to get a good exposure. If the lens's max. aperture is much smaller than this, chances are good that you may not be able to use it indoors without a flash--particularly on moving subjects.

    The focal length range is another consideration. Some folks prefer a larger range, like 18-200 or 18-135, but this will come at the cost of strict image quality, as the very large zoom range will have required some compromises in the optical design. Splitting the range across two lenses can e more inconvenient, but could also be less expensive with better image quality. Up to you what's the priority. An 18-200 can be a terrific travel companion, cutting down considerably on the number of lenses you're hauling around all day.

    Stabilization (IS) and an ultrasonic motor (USM) are probably the last two features to consider. Stabilization helps you use slower shutter speeds handheld without introducing camera shake blur. It is not as good as a tripod, and still depends a bit on you having good handholding technique, but can be invaluable for longer lenses and non-moving subjects. An ultrasonic motor makes autofocusing silent, as well as quick, and can be valuable in event situations or for fast-moving action with telephoto lenses.

    Walkaround is the category of lens that has the most options, varying pretty widely in all four of these features (max. aperture, focal length range, stabilization, focus motor), so it can take you a while to go through all the options and pricepoints to figure out which one's going to be the best fit for you. Just take your time, and take a break when you're drowning in specs. You'll get there.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    James

    What I'd recommend is that you thoroughly digest the above two posts. You are not going to get better advice and guidance ... anywhere. And it's free!

    Richard and Kathy have really covered all the bases and given you what you need to make an informed choice.

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    Jimm's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    Yes, I totally agree the info above is superb, thank you very much. Kathy you really broke it down in to understandable components now I know what I'm looking for in each lens. Richard and John thanks for the suggestions its gives me a good start point.
    Thanks guys, hope to be involved more in the near future.

  7. #7
    Jimm's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    On the note of aperture I understand a f/2.8 is better for all light conditions but this is also reflected in the cost. Would a f/3.5 be significantly different?
    Richard mentioned the Tamron as a good alternative, would this be considered the best of the non Canon lenses?

    I can either get a Canon lens but its f/3.5 (EF-S 18-55mm f3.5/5.6 IS) or go for a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 and get the ideal f/2.8. What's more important, quality build or aperture?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    I was half way through a long response and then lost it. So the edited version is:

    • Is f3.5. significantly different? It depends. If you want to specialise in low-light photography of indoor events etc - 'Yes'. If you are going to shoot what 99.9999% of photographers shoot in their everyday activities - 'No'.
    • Tamron, Sigma, Tokina = probably the biggest 3 '3rd party' manufacturers. Most folks would, I think, think about Sigma before Tamron. Do these three make good lenses? They wouldn't be in business of they didn't. In some cases they make very, very good lenses. But the general view is that their lenses are not of the quality of the high end Canon and Nikon lenses, but then neither is the price. And also, one could argue, they're aimed at different markets.
    • Only you can decide whether you want a f2.8 lens. I would love to have a Canon 24-70 f2.8L. I never will ... and I don't need it. The 17-85 f4-f5.6 kit lens more than meets my needs. Remember - Needs and Wants are two different things.

    You really need to get onto the Lens Review sites, I think. There you can assess information and make comparisons. People here can, of course, help with detailed information if they happen to own the lenses you are asking about. But if they don't teh advise can only be general.

    Some of the sites you could look at are:
    Photozone
    Fred Miranda
    The Digital Picture
    SLR Lens & Camera Reviews


    That's probably enough to get started with.
    Last edited by Donald; 15th September 2011 at 01:07 PM.

  9. #9
    Jimm's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    Been finding the Digital Picture site very helpful and will check out your other suggestions.

    What i'm finding is that photography is something you learn by doing, so I think I'll take all the advise I've got so far and just get involved! I'll then be able to work out what's best for me and what I shoot.

    thanks for big the help.

  10. #10
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimm View Post
    On the note of aperture I understand a f/2.8 is better for all light conditions but this is also reflected in the cost. Would a f/3.5 be significantly different?

    I can either get a Canon lens but its f/3.5 (EF-S 18-55mm f3.5/5.6 IS) or go for a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 and get the ideal f/2.8.
    Hi Jimm,

    The other thing to be aware of is that the 18-55mm is only f/3.5 at 18mm, at 55mm it is f/5.6 (that's why there are two numbers).
    At 55mm, it is two whole stops less than the "f/2.8" (only) lenses, which have a "constant aperture" (throughout zoom range). This last feature is probably what contributes to its higher price (and size and weight).

    Just like Donald, I'd desire something like that, but have gone the alternative way and have a couple of primes to satisfy my 'wider aperture' needs. That said, by the time you have three, you're better off to have got the zoom

    Cheers,

  11. #11
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimm View Post
    On the note of aperture I understand a f/2.8 is better for all light conditions but this is also reflected in the cost. Would a f/3.5 be significantly different?
    f/3.5 is only 1/2 stop less light than an f/2.8 aperture but, if you hope to shoot available light imagery, hand held, f/2.8 is almost a minimum aperture. An aperture of f/2.8 is the fastest that any present zoom lens achieves. If you desire a faster lens (wider aperture or smaller f/number) you woul need to goto a prime lens and lose the versatility of zooming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimm View Post
    Richard mentioned the Tamron as a good alternative, would this be considered the best of the non Canon lenses?
    Many photographers swear by Sigma lenses and I must admit that Sigma has a couple of offerings whose specifications are quite interesting. However, I have been burned once by Sigma and that brand still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Sigma reverse engineers its Canon mount lenses. That is, they have never purchased the rights to produce canon lenses. Instead, they will purchase any new body that Canon offers and retro engineer (if needed) their lenses to work with the new body. My problem was that I bought a Sigma 28mm f/1.8 lens to work with my Canon 10D camera and it did that pretty well. However, when I tried to use this lens on my next Canon camera, a 30D, I found that it did not work. Sigma would normally have rechipped the lens free of charge but since they replaced this lens in their lineup with a newer model; they would not or could not rechip the lens to work with my newer camera. So, I now have a lens which is obsolete and cannot be updated to interface with a Canon camera later than the 10D.

    I have an older Tamron 90mm f/2.8 AF SP Macro Lens which I can use on all of my Canon cameras from the very old D60 to the newest 7D...
    Last edited by Donald; 15th September 2011 at 08:02 PM.

  12. #12
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses -Where do I start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimm View Post
    On the note of aperture I understand a f/2.8 is better for all light conditions but this is also reflected in the cost. Would a f/3.5 be significantly different?
    Everybody else has pretty much answered this for you, but to understand "how much difference" max. aperture numbers can mean, you have to understand the concept of a "stop" (or EV), which is pretty simple. It's a scale used to talk about light in an exposure, and all three of the main settings, iso, aperture, and shutter speed can be adjusted by "stops", so we can trade off between the three.

    A "stop" in photography terms is a halving/doubling of the light.

    With ISO and shutter speed, you do stops by halving/doubling the setting.

    So, bumping from iso 100 to iso 400 is adding two stops of light (you doubled twice).
    That's the same as going from 1/500s to 1/125s (you doubled twice).

    Aperture f-numbers, though, aren't linear, which is the big confusing thing. You don't just double/halve the numbers. It's a square root of 2 scale (sounds scary, but it isn't), because the aperture is a ratio that describes how wide the aperture opening is (diameter), but the light the opening lets in is actually proportional to the area of the opening, and circles do that whole pi-r-squared thing.

    Just use the Wikipedia page for f-numbers to look up the stops, and realize that bumping up/down a full stop on the f-number scale is the same as doubling/halving the light.

    So going from f/2.8 -> f/3.5 (two-thirds of a stop) would mean you'd need to compensate for that lost 2/3 of a stop by bumping the iso from 100 to 160, or your shutter speed from 1/100s to 1/60s to get the same exposure.

    The 1/100s to 1/60s is the critical one, really, and why we call lenses with maximum apertures "slow": because they force us to use slower shutter speeds, which can then register motion blur from subject movement.

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