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Thread: Best Prime Lens

  1. #1

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    Best Prime Lens

    Hi,

    I've been in search for the best wide prime lens that isnt from the L series.

    I'm currently using a Canon 1000D and my interests are low light/night time photography. I've also been really interested in street photography, so size does play a part.

    Since I have a crop body, I understand I need 35mm or less. My problem now is I'm not sure which lens has the best IQ for the price. Since I'm going to be using MF for the most part, I'd also want something with a distance scale for "hip shots".
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 9th February 2011 at 03:34 AM.

  2. #2
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    I'd say the upcoming Zeiss ZE Distagon 35mm f/1.4, but I'm weird. And it's probably too big and too expensive.

    If you want cheap-cheap ($50), discreet, and normal-on-a-crop wide (manual focus), I'd say the Olympus OM-mount 28mm f/3.5 might be the ticket. For a higher budget ($300?), maybe the Contax/Yashica Zeiss Distagon 28mm f/2.8. Just remember to budget for an adapter ring, too, and possibly a CLA. The Zeiss 28/2.8 definitely displays all the microcontrast hallmarks of its more expensive brethren. It's a little soft wide open, and does display slight distortion, but stopped down to f/8, it gets very sharp.

    Best Prime Lens
    Canon XT/350D, C/Y Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm f/2.8 + adapter ring w/AF confirm chip.
    iso 400, f/8-ish, 1/40s. handheld.

    Not only is the Distagon 28/2.8 relatively inexpensive, it's designed for manual focus, has a beautifully damped silky-smooth MF ring and a really long focus throw (so the distance scale is hecka accurate, compared to those on AF lenses). The only problem is the DoF scale isn't accurate on a crop.

    Best Prime Lens
    Last edited by inkista; 15th February 2011 at 09:25 PM. Reason: typo

  3. #3

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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    What about a Canon EF 24mm f2.8. With a crop body would be about 35mm. Weighs 9.5 oz (270g) 2.7 x 1.9" (68 x 49mm) 58mm Made 1988 onwards, so second hand may be avaialable. 9.5" close focus. Not the most modern but still gets reasonable reviews when used above maximum aperture

  4. #4

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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    thanks for the input guys.

    inksta- yes ive actually looked at non EF/non AF lenses as well but i havent really ventured off to reading reviews on those lenses just yet. i was also thinking of getting in to rangefinder territory in the future so i would think its a good investment to get in to rangefinder glass as well.


    ken mt- i was actually just looking at that lens in a buy and sell website. apparently, its one of the sharpest glass that can compete with an L...or maybe it was just a gimmick for a quick sell
    as for the price range, i was thinking upwards of maybe around 600$ canadian
    the fastest i could find (that is also Canon) is the 28mm f1.8 USM for 659.99$
    makes me wish i didnt have a crop body so the 50mm 1.4 wasnt so long and not nearly as expensive as the 28mm
    i still want a 50 in the future, although a wider fast prime is what im really after.


    speaking of non EF/AF lenses, ive thought of going the nikon route since i hear they have a better build on their bodies (especially comparing to the canon primes which feel like plastic toys) how do they compete in the optics?

  5. #5
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    They compete very well, and build-quality-wise, it kind of depends on the vintage. The only Nikkor I messed about with was the old '60s/'70s vintage pre-AI 55/1.2 (it was just a hair under $200 four years ago, but probably goes for more now), which had a very specific look to it and was built like a tank. With a scalloped edge . Had some coma issues, but I liked it.

    Best Prime Lens
    Canon XT/350D. Adapted pre-AI Nikkor 55mm S f/1.2. iso 100, f/1.2?, 1/4000s.

    I ended up worrying about the thorium in it, though (I can get OCD about health stuff) enough that it ruined my enjoyment of the lens, so I ended up returning it and going with the Olympus OM-mount 50/1.2 instead.

  6. #6
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Noice View Post
    I've been in search for the best wide prime lens that isnt from the L series. I'm currently using a Canon 1000D and my interests are low light/night time photography. I've also been really interested in street photography, so size does play a part. Since I have a crop body, I understand I need 35mm or less. My problem now is I'm not sure which lens has the best IQ for the price. Since I'm going to be using MF for the most part, I'd also want something with a distance scale for "hip shots".
    I'd be looking at something 24mm to 28mm for the street work and the Hip Shooting.

    For Hip Shooting, if you are manually focussing and using the distance scale, then a large compass of the focus turret is important, as Kathy has indicated.

    And, on another thread, Kathy and I are discussing the impact of reading the DoF from the lens's scale and how that impacts on the practical application of using an APS-C camera with lenses which have DoF Scales for 135 Format Cameras: How to use the depth of focus markings

    For the Shooting Distances you will address in most street shooting scenarios and hip shooting scenarios, as a rule of thumb:

    Halve the DoF as seen on the Lens’s Scale and that will be a very close indicative for the DoF for APS-C.

    I do believe that you are making assuptions about what you need for what you want to do (Street work and Hip Shooting). I think the EF24/2.8 would be worth a look.

    Another option, for Hip Shots, is to use AF and AF lock. Using this method you need to know the DoF for The Aperture and The Shot Combination. This is what I do. I hasten to add this is not diffucult to learn as we really only need to know two or three Apertures.

    I use a 24/1.4, 35/1.4, and 35/2 for most hip-shooting. On my APS-C cameras, I mainly use the 24L as 35mm is too long, IMO.

    I understand you are not seeking an L lens: but I will mention that I don’t find the size of the gear (the two L lenses) impairs the hip shot / street shooting, usually.

    The photographer’s attitude; communication both verbal and non verbal; and demeanour; and confidence has much more effect, I have found.

    For example . . . Hip-shot at close range to the Subject using a 24L on a 5D with a Battery Grip

    Best Prime Lens

    06939v01 “My Favourite Barista”
    Tech: 5D 24L
    Shooting: F2.8 @ 1/125s @ ISO800 (Hip Shot)



    WW


    PS: Also there is one particular part of Kathy’s commentary with which I disagree totally.
    That is where she makes claim to be weird.
    I think rather very knowledgeable, insightful and experienced and also quite generous.
    Last edited by William W; 12th February 2011 at 03:19 AM.

  7. #7
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    ... PS: Also there is one particular part of Kathy’s commentary with which I disagree totally.
    That is where she makes claim to be weird.
    I think rather very knowledgeable, insightful and experienced and also quite generous.
    Thank you! But you are mistaking my knowledge for that of the fredmiranda alt.gear board, whose insight, wisdom, and generosity I try (much less successfully) to imitate in admiration. Those guys are da bomb when it comes to the old MF glass.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Interesting . . . now add "honourable" . . . But I was also referencing other contributions you make - not just this thread about old lenses.

    WW

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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    Best Prime Lens
    Canon XT/350D, C/Y Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm f/2.8 + adapter ring w/AF confirm chip.
    iso 400, f/8-ish, 1/40s. handheld....
    Fantastic quality !
    Excellent, really excellent I wonder if such a quality can be obtained with a Canon or a Nikon lens But I don't think so...
    And of course, here again, the most important is the lens not the camera.

    Was this shot in Cambodia ?

  10. #10
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    Interesting . . . now add "honourable" . . . But I was also referencing other contributions you make - not just this thread about old lenses.
    Hey, I give what I get. CiC is one of the best and most generous boards around.

    Quote Originally Posted by Antonio Correia View Post
    ...I wonder if such a quality can be obtained with a Canon or a Nikon lens
    With enough sharpening, absolutely. I'm just a lazy post-processor and prefer the lens to do more of the work.

    Was this shot in Cambodia ?
    Nope. San Diego, California, in Balboa Park.

  11. #11
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    Hey, I give what I get. CiC is one of the best and most generous boards around.
    Agree 100%

    WW

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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    thanks a lot guys!
    very informative board, no doubt.

    regarding the DOF, im really not that concerned about them just yet... i will be shooting mostly wide open (cause i do a lot of low light as well), and that brings me to revise my question; what is an affordable prime that has good IQ wide open?
    i understand most lens need to be stopped down to get the best out of them, although id like to think there are the odd gems that can perform at their extreme range.

    im also forgot to add, ive looked in to the Voigtlander 40mm f/2 EF mount and im really intrigued. anyone on this board have any experiences?
    Best Prime Lens
    Voigtlander Ultron SL II 40mm f2
    Last edited by Noice; 19th February 2011 at 02:41 AM.

  13. #13

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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Noice View Post
    i understand most lens need to be stopped down to get the best out of them
    Technically yes, stopping down isn't necessarily going to produce a difference in sharpness that will be apparent in a real-world image that's presented at a real-world size (ie the difference between examining an image at 100% magnification on a monitor -v- looking at a 6 x 4 print or an image down-sampled to 900 x 600 for online display).

    Correct sharpening is likely to have a far bigger impact on the final image quality.

  14. #14
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Noice View Post
    . . . that brings me to revise my question; what is an affordable prime that has good IQ wide open? im also forgot to add, ive looked in to the Voigtlander 40mm f/2 EF mount and im really intrigued.
    I am a little confused. Are we still wanting a wide angle lens or not?
    Because if so, with your APS-C camera you are looking at around FL = 20mm.

    The 24/2.8 would qualify to be sharp used wide open according to comments from those I trust – I have not used this lens

    I use the 35/2 at F/2 very often, on both APS-C and 135 format

    The 28/1.8 is acceptable wide open on APS-C but losses it on 135 format IMO. I have used, but I did not buy this lens - because it was inadequate, wide open, on 135 format cameras.

    The 24/1.4 I use wide open, often. I understand it does not fit your budget criterion - just mentioning that I use it wide open without hesitation.

    I agree with Colin about the real world of adequate sharpening.

    WW

  15. #15
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    A very cost effective non-prime (zoom) wide lens for a 1.6x camera is the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 ATX lens, either the first version ($4000 USA price) or the second version (MK-II) which is supposed to have better flare resistance (although I have had no problems with flare using my MK-I version). The MK-II run $500 USA price.

    There are several advantages of the Tokina 12-24mm. First is that is is a darned good lens at a reasonable price which even comes supplied with a lens hood. Second is that although it is designed for a 1.6x crop camera, it is NOT and EFS lens and can be used on non-EFS 1,6x cameras (D30, D60 and 10D) and can even be used on 1.3x crop and full-frame cameras, although these cameras might vignette at wider focal lengths. I have an older Canon D60 camera which is converted to full-time IR photography. I frequently use my 12-24mm f/4 lens on this camera.

    Additionally, the 24mm side is long enough that it could (in an emergency) be used as a replacement for the mid-range zoom if that lens goes down.

    I am a fan of zoom lenses because I like to crop in the camera. I do virtually no serious cropping in post production since I frame the shots the way I like them.

  16. #16
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    @Raf: the Ultron 40 has a great reputation, and I've seen very sharp samples on the fredmiranda board. Faster than the C/Y Tessar 45/2.8, and cheaper than the (now astronomically priced) Oly OM 40/2. Worth it if you feel you must have a pancake lens. And Colin is completely right: it all depends on your definition of "good IQ". Personally, I think if you just want a cheap, normal-ish fast prime, just grab the $100 EF 50mm f/1.8 II. While its sweet spot is at f/4, it's still good wide open, and it's hecka faster than a kit lens.

    @Bill: I don't think he was ever looking for a wide prime, but one that's normal-on-a-crop (hence the 35mm request at the top).

    @Richard: Think you got an extra 0 in that price. The Tokina 11-16/2.8 also does the kinda/sorta works on a full frame with vignetting thing. But obviously, if you want that wide on a full frame, the Sigma 12-24 is the way to go. Or, if you're a manual focus fiend, the $400 Samyang 14/2.8 (so long as you have software that can correct the mustache distortion).

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    I don't think he was ever looking for a wide prime, but one that's normal-on-a-crop (hence the 35mm request at the top).
    Got it, thanks.

    WW

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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    sorry to confuse everyone.
    Since i have a crop body, yes i do want something of a normal focal length (or wider)
    i threw voightlander 40mm in the mix (even though it would have been longer than normal) because yes, i want a compact lens... something unobtrusive as with most primes. it just so happens to be such a bonus being a pancake.
    i also liked that it is full manual only, which naturally gives me a smoother easier manual focusing experience.
    It also has a CPU that can work with an EOS camera....and of course the all metal barrel that makes it a bit more substancial. (something most Canon primes dont have unfortunately)
    this is mostly towards Kathy i think... i just read everything before i gave a general response.

    i guess, now ill be giving more specific responses
    @Colin: did you mean post processing when you said Correct sharpening? if so, im only 1 year old new to the photography world and im even newer to the post processing aspect of the medium so id much prefer sharper glass (that isnt pro grade/pro $) so i can disregard post sharpening until i really feel i start to want it in my photos

    @Bill: (i guess the 1st part of my response was really geared towards you) i do want the wide lens, mainly because yes, i do own an APS-C camera. anything as wide or wider than 50mm equivalent helps. sorry to confuse you with the 40mm Ultron.
    thank you for sharing me your experiences with primes i would potentially get. im wondering why the 28/1.8 was inadequate?

    @Richard: thanks for your zoom suggestion. i have always looked in to ultra wide zooms as well, but for a fast walk around, i wanted something that doesnt look too "pro" and that means a huge barrel, a hood and huge front element for walking around the streets. its also ideal for me to have faster aperture than f4 (although a constant aperture is awesome cause i most times lock my sigma 17-70 f2.8-4 to 17mm cause of the speed) mainly because im nocturnal :P
    the 35mm is actually the 1st glass i considered besides the sigma 30...although i wasnt as impressed with the lot of reviews ive read on the canon...and the sigma seems pretty huge. care to post a few shots with the 35? thanks
    Last edited by Noice; 25th February 2011 at 05:01 AM.

  19. #19
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Noice View Post
    Since i have a crop body, yes i do want something of a normal focal length (or wider) . . . anything as wide or wider than 50mm equivalent helps. . .thank you for sharing me your experiences with primes i would potentially get. im wondering why the 28/1.8 was inadequate?
    The 28/1.8 is inadequate for my uses – it might not be inadequate for your uses.

    Background:
    When I cut over both my studio and personal kits to digital, from film, I also changed camera systems (manufacturers) and went with Canon.
    With digital I noticed three major advantages:
    1. ISO control at the turn of a dial.
    2. Leverage of the (practical) uses of the FL of lenses by having different format cameras in the kit – digital SLRs emerged as a system with two formats – sharing the same lenses.
    3. Easy B&W and COLOUR from one “film”

    With Film, at an event, we were used to carrying three 135 format SLR cameras and / or two Medium Format SLRs – each loaded with different film.
    So if we wanted a FL range from (for example) 24mm to 200mm and 35mm to 210mm in Medium Format, that could mean carrying a kit of five cameras and usually 12 lenses.
    Although an initially large capital investment, with the advent of Digital SLR and later the shedding of MF film gear, the same events now can be covered with a kit of two cameras and five lenses AND there is a greater effective FL compass, by using a dual format DSLR kit.

    One main criterion for our lenses was that they mount on both APS-C and also 135 format bodies: – which meant EF series lenses only.
    Another criterion was that any lens we purchased be near the best at the FL for BOTH camera formats.

    Why I didn’t buy the EF 28/1.8:

    I wanted the 28/1.8 to satisfy two criteria: firstly to be a lightweight, fast, inconspicuous normal lens for APS-C; secondly to use as a wide Prime for 135 format cameras and in both situation to be used in low light sans flash.

    I am quite happy with the 28/1.8 on APS-C cameras. It is a very useful FL to have for 135 format cameras also, but when I tested the 28/1.8 on my 5D I was disappointed at the edge sharpness and also with the vignette, when the lens was used wide open and also at F/2.

    I use lenses wide open and close to wide open, routinely.

    My other option was the EF35/2 and IMO it performs better on my 5D that the 28, so we bought the 35/2 and not the 28. Also the 35/2 is less conspicuous than the 28/1.8, so that is good. The other contender fpr me was the 24/2.8, but it did not get to the starting blocks to be tested, as I decided that F/2.8 was too slow.

    I would have liked a fast 28mm FL available to me for my 135 format cameras – but I get around that by using the 24 and cropping a bit.

    I think the 28/1.8 will be good for your purpose on an APS-C body.
    I suggest you understand how Canon’s AF works on CONTRAST DIFFERENCES, as the 28/1.8 is quite OK in regard to AF – I have found that many “issues” folk have with AF is actually them not understanding how it works and how to get the best out of the tools at their disposal
    Whatever lens you buy – as you intend you use the lens in low light at night - then I suggest you also buy a lens hood and use the lens without a filter.

    WW

  20. #20
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    Re: Best Prime Lens

    If I really wanted an unobtrusive camera with a reasonably fast lens; I would very likely opt for the Panasonic G2 with either the 14mm f/2.5 (28mm equivalent) or 20mm f/1.7 (40mm equivalent) lenses.

    The articulating viewing screen of the G2 would also provide a way to shoot in inconspicuously. You could be facing in one direction and shooting in another, but still have the advantage of being able to frame your shots.

    By the way, here is an unobtrusive shot done with a 17-55mm f/2.8 IS on a Canon 30D camera. These young People's Liberation Army (they were actually military police) recruits were lining up in front of a prison in Xi'an, China, with their belongings, including wash basins, on their backs, as I exited a restaurant. Their officer was screaming to our tour group, "NO PICTURES!" I simply zoomed to my widest angle and shot from the chest using my thumb to press the shutter button as I looked off in another direction. This was kind of silly since I might have been in trouble if caught but, I just couldn't resist it...

    Best Prime Lens

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