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Upgrade lenses?


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24 replies to this topic

#1 of 25 Anthony F.

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Posted August 04 2004 - 08:33 AM

I'm starting to get the itch to upgrade the lenses for my Canon Rebel 2K. Currently I have the stock Canon 28-80 and 80-200 set--no USM or L series etc, just the basics--and a Sigma 105 (2.8) macro EX that I use for portraits and macro work. The Sigma's a keeper, but I also want to extend the range to a long zoom and maybe pick up a slightly wider max aperture. I'm considering a combination of the Sigma 24-135 (2.8-4.5) and 135-400 (4.5-5.6). These are not EX series, but are aspherical. Would this be a wise move or is this more of a "side-grade" than an upgrade? I'd like not to have to add a third lens (e.g. 200-400), but am concerned about the extra weight and expense of the Sigma set relative to any improvement in picture quality and convenience. Any thoughts? Has anyone else done this?

Thanks.

#2 of 25 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted August 04 2004 - 08:58 AM

Don't have any real experience w/ this, but you might find these links helpful as starting points at the very least:

http://www.photozone.de/bindex2.html

http://www.photodo.c.../prodindex.html

If nobody else can offer more help here, you might also want to check the Canon SLR Lens forum over in dpreview.com. You might find some helpful opinions and additional links over there although I suspect most folks there are too steeped in digital (w/ 1.6x crop factor) and/or too obsessed w/ L lenses to be too much help. Posted Image With Sigma lenses, they'll most likely steer you only to the EX series w/ maybe the non-EX 70-300 teles as inexpensive options -- on a D-Rebel/10D, 70-300 translates to ~110-480mm in 35mm equiv terms. For non-L Canon's, they might also steer you to the various IS lenses.

One more thing. Don't know what your future plans are, but if you intend to go digital in the forseeable future, you might want to plan these upgrades w/ that in mind. In particular, the lower end Canon bodies are using 1.6x crop factor, which effectively multiplies the focal length by 1.6x in practice. The high end ones (that cost >$4K right now) are using 1.3x and full frame, ie. 1.3x factor and no factor respectively. Nobody knows when/if Canon will change their scheme for these varying crop factors, but it's probably safe to say that it probably won't happen quite that soon although that could certainly change w/ whatever they announce for the expected 10D replacement later this year.

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#3 of 25 John Kilroy

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Posted August 05 2004 - 02:27 AM

Have you considered upgrading to Canon glass? You probably don't see much difference between your 28-80 and the Sigma lenses, but once you move into Canon's mid-range lenses from the so-called "kit" lenses (like the 28-80 that they sell with the body) you really start to see a difference in auto-focus speed. Plus the quality of the glass is much better, although you need to enlarge beyond 4x6 to see it in your images for the most part. Corner sharpness is the first place you'll see an improvement (at the edges of your image).

I use all Canon glass, and when I put a Sigma on my body, I can tell a difference in performance, mostly in auto-focus speed (the Sigmas hunt more, and are generally slower to focus, especially in AI servo). Of course if you're not photographing fast action, like sports or kids, and are not enlarging past 4x6, then the Sigmas are good cheap alternatives. I see a lot of them hanging off SLRs, so they must be doing something right!

JK
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#4 of 25 Scott Kimball

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Posted August 05 2004 - 05:53 AM

As someone mentioned, if you might possibly upgrade to a Canon DSLR, look into some wide angle glass to add to your collection. While the 1.6 crop factor of this range of DSLRs doesn't actually offer more magnification, it does necessitate the use of wider angle lenses due to cropping.

I highly recommend the Canon 17-40mm f4 "L" series lens. It's my workhorse lens, and is on the camera (a Canon 10D) 80% of the time (of course, I generally do landscape photography).

If you want extreme telephoto, you really need to read up on reviews for specific lenses. Third party super-teles are a hit or miss experience. I have good luck just typing in the lens name in Google, which then points me to many reviews of that particular lens. Sigma, for instance, has made many lenses which are highly regarded. Some of their models, however, are a disappointment.

Consider what you need a super-telephoto lens for, and if f5.6 will be fast enough for you at the extremes. Next on my shopping list is a Canon 300mm prime "L" series f4... but, at over $1000, it's on next year's purchase list.

Lenses are an investment... they last longer than the camera bodies, and are transferrable to newer models by the same manufacturer. Don't skimp. Also, if you purchase a premium "L" series and decide later that it's not the lens for you, there is a strong secondary market for these lenses, so you could sell them easily with little loss (compared to "kit" lenses).

-Scott

#5 of 25 Anthony F.

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Posted August 05 2004 - 10:58 AM

Thanks for the advice above. It's always difficult to figure out the price point for lenses--I'm not a professional, so I feel like I need to spend enough time in the hobby to "earn" the upgrade (suppose that's like HT also).

I've considered Canon lenses, but they're always much more expensive than equivalent (length) 3rd party lenses. At the same time I have to admit that my sigma lens can be darned slow at auto focus. I know cheaping out means buying twice, but I'm just searching still for the right price/performance/usage balance.

New question, also related to Sigma lenses. Looking at some of the links above there was mention of a 18-125mm "digital" lens that was pretty popular. Is there anything particularly "digital" about this lens? Would this work for a film SLR at those focal lengths?

Maybe next I'll try shopping for magic beans or play some three-card monty. Posted Image

#6 of 25 Scott Kimball

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Posted August 05 2004 - 03:20 PM

Not sure, but I think some manufacturers are coming out with zoom lenses with a shorter-than-usual low end focal length and slapping the word "digital" on them - to indicate that they somewhat compensate for the usual 1.6 digital crop by being a bit wider.

For wide zooms, Sigma does have a respected 17-35mm f2.8, a fast lens that is supposedly nice and sharp, and quite a bit cheaper than Canon's 17-40mm f4 L.

Personally, I'd be careful with the lenses that offer an extreme range (-18-125+), from very wide to moderate telephoto. They tend to make compromises in image quality - less sharpness, vignetting, etc. While it's nice to have one lens that can do it all, you have to decide what compromises you're willing to make to get the extreme zoom range.

Most moderate sized cities have great camera shops with very knowledgeable people... I'm not talking about your local Ritz franchise... a locally owned store that sells darkroom equipment usually has serious photographers there who looovve to talk lenses.

Also, like I mentioned, Google is your friend. I often go to B&H's website and check a lens selection, and Google anything that looks interesting in order to read reviews. There are some good third party lenses out there, but check them out first.

-Scott

#7 of 25 Cameron Yee

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Posted February 28 2006 - 08:14 AM

So I'm dragging up this thread since I see names of a few people I definitely want input from.

I'm looking to upgrade my general purpose lens and have casually zeroed in on the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L. My subject matter is pretty diverse, but generally I need to respond quickly (lately I've been shooting alot of kids and concerts). I am sort of considering going the prime route, mainly for the combination of pricing, optical quality and greater max. apertures, but I can think of a number of times when I won't have the luxury of moving back/forward or switching lenses to get a shot. So I guess I just need feedback on the Canon and some other options I may have missed. Not really interested in the "digital" lenses because I'd like to think I'll someday have a full frame DSLR. I also kind of looked at the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 but at about twice the price as the other I didn't find anything to sway me over.
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#8 of 25 Scott Kimball

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Posted February 28 2006 - 09:31 AM

As much as I love the 17-40 f/4L, if you're looking for a general purpose lens and will be shooting kids and concerts, I think you'll want something with more reach.

What lens are you upgrading from? Are you replacing or complementing?

The 17-40L is great for landscapes, but isn't the best choice for portraits and is a poor choice for much that you may encounter. If your existing lens is still serviceable, gives good results - and gives a focal length out to 85-105mm or so, then the 17-40 would be a good second lens to complement it.

My general purpose medium zoom is a EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM. It was my first Canon lens, and I got a deal on it with a camera (a 10D). It's decently sharp, but I think I'd choose a 28-105 if I were buying now, to complement the 17-40.

For my use:
When I can only bring one lens (difficult hikes and climbs), I bring only the 17-40 - but that's because I shoot more landscapes than anything.

When I can carry the gear, I bring the 17-40, 24-85 and 300mm f/4L, plus a 1.4x extender. That way, I'm set for landscapes, portraits and wildlife with equipment that will fit in my backpack and weigh in at under 10 lbs.

-Scott

#9 of 25 Cameron Yee

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Posted February 28 2006 - 09:48 AM

I've been using the kit lens that came with the Rebel, so it would be a replacement. My other lenses are a Canon 50mm f/1.8 (which is currently my favorite for the speed and shallow DOF) and a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6. My ultimate goal is to replace the latter with a Canon zoom telephoto, probably IS. The 17-40 is right within the range I work most often (forgot to mention I also do a fair amount of event stuff), but wish it were faster (hence my considertion of the primes). But I guess I shouldn't forget the proper use of a good flash...
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#10 of 25 Scott Kimball

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Posted February 28 2006 - 10:58 AM

I like the fact that the 17-40 f/4L is a constant aperture (f/4 through the range). The front element racks in and out a small amount, but the filter threads remain static (they don't rack or rotate - good for polarizer use). The filter size is 77mm - common for most of the sub-supertelephoto "L" series lenses.

The lens has a gasket on the mounting ring, giving an improved seal for damp or dirty conditions. When a filter is used, it seals the front element as well.

The barrel is metal, as is the mount. The zoom and focus rings are solid and smooth. It is a very sturdy and well constructed lens. My only minor complaint is that the numbers on the zoom ring are so close to the body that they can be difficult to read.

The included hood is rather large and ungainly. It would be necessary when using the lens with 35mm film or a full-frame sensor. There are substitute hoods you can purchase (made for other Canon lenses, but I'm not sure which models at present) that are more compact and safe for use with a 1.6 crop sensor.

The lens only has a 1 year warranty - less than some other manufacturers. I found this out the hard way when mine became mis-calibrated at about 14 months. recalibration cost me about $100 and the loss of the lens for about 10 days for the round trip to factory service.

Still, a highly recommended lens. Sharp. Good contrast. Good flare tolerance.

-Scott

#11 of 25 AjayM

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Posted March 01 2006 - 01:29 AM

F4 is a bit slow considering all the 2.8 lenses out there, and at the wide end will be slower than many cheap lenses out there (but by less than a full stop). I only mention it because you said you're shooting concerts, which tend to be dark.

A lot of people have good luck with the Sigma/Tamron 28-75 (the sigma is a little different on the focal lengths)/2.8 lenses, nice and sharp when stopped down a little but a little soft wide open, but it's nice to have the option. I still have one of the Tamron models, compared to more spendy glass it autofocuses a little slower, tends to hunt a little more often in low light, wide open is semi-soft and it's not quite as contrasty, but it's also 1/3 the price and it's miles ahead of the "kit" level lenses.

How about the EF-S 17-85 IS lens? It won't be quite as sharp as the 17-40L (but it's real close), but you gain quite a bit of zoom range and IS.

Andrew

#12 of 25 Thomas Newton

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Posted March 01 2006 - 01:31 AM

Quote:
Is there anything particularly "digital" about this lens?

Some "digital" lenses produce an image circle that is just adequate for an APS-sized sensor. On a Canon system, the back element of these lenses often goes further into the camera body than the back element of a regular lens would. Try to install this type of "digital" lens on a full-frame SLR, and you might damage the camera, the lens, or both.

In other cases, "digital" just means that the designers have tried to improve suitability for use on DSLRs. If I am not mistaken, digital sensors frequently are not as good as film at registering light that strikes them along a diagonal. A lens that is redesigned to make more of the available light strike "head-on" may thus be touted as a "digital" lens, even though it is perfectly usable on film SLRs.

#13 of 25 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 01 2006 - 07:20 AM

Okay, I think I've run through all the possible combinations and the qualifier is I won't be able drop the coin until the summer or so. But here are the tentative options:

1) Canon 17-40 f/4 L: I keep coming back to this one for its price (~700US) and being in my preferred focal range. The tradeoff is of course the aperture but compared to an f/2.8 that's a mere .7 stop. If I need to get around that I could shoot in RAW (which I know I should be doing anyway) and exposure compensate a stop.

2) Combination of a ~24-70 f/2.8 with a 15mm f/2.8: Just a different approach to the problem. I'm not really sold on the idea because of the lens swapping and having owned a 24mm prime at one point.

3) Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS: Available this Spring. No word on its actualy quality, but it fits the bill with the exception of being EF-S. I think I COULD compromise on that point if it's compelling enough. Only currently comparable product comes from Sigma, though Tamron is releasing something similar in the spring as well.
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#14 of 25 Sam Posten

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Posted March 01 2006 - 04:27 PM

The 17-55 should be a pretty decent lens IQ wise, but I just dont dig the 'plasticy' feel the EF-s lenses all seem to exhibit. Right now I have the 17-40 L and the Tamron 28-75 2.8 and I think its a killer combination. I also have the 85 1.8 but havent really had a chance to use it as much as I would like.

Dont forget that each of these lenses has very different DOF characteristics too, some of which are based on the max aperture of course but a lot of it is dictated by the other lens qualities. I hadnt really considered it when I was picking out my lenses, but it really is something I will pay more attention to in the future, as each handles quite differently in that respect.

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#15 of 25 AjayM

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Posted March 02 2006 - 02:16 AM

Quote:
The 17-55 should be a pretty decent lens IQ wise, but I just dont dig the 'plasticy' feel the EF-s lenses all seem to exhibit.

Here's my problem with the 17-55 EFS, it's going to cost $1200. If it follows "normal" EF-S lenses it will have mid-range quality, so it will be "ok" in regards to sharpness wide open but it will get quite good stopped down. It will have a bit of distortion at the wide end, and it will show some CA issues. Considering it's a 'fixed' 2.8 lens with IS I doubt it's going to have top end glass in it so I think the above should be fairly accurate.

With a $1200'ish budget the 24-70/2.8L lens is a benchmark as far as zoom lenses go, you give up IS and that 17-24 range but the other gains I'll bet are very much worth it for most people.

Now if I absolutely had to have that wide end of the range I'd grab a Tamron/Sigma 28-75/24-70 lens and something like the Sigma 10-20 or maybe 15-30 or even the EF-S 10-20 and with the leftover change I could probably get a decent prime to play with as well, hell find one of the wide's used or on clearance and you'd have enough to pick up a 70-200/4 lens and you'd have a very nice kit to play with.

I don't have much experience with the 17-40, I very rarely need to go that wide, so the the 24-70 made more sense (and the Tamron before it), plenty of people like it and rave about it. Looking for the outside though it's a 'slow' lens (even most consumer grade stuff goes below F4 at the very wide range, granted not by much). It was mentioned a need to shoot concerts, which are typically pretty dark, shooting F4 is going to push the ISO up, maybe to a point where noise becomes an issue.

To give an example a month ago I was shooting a "light parade" at night, so it was very dark and even the floats while being well lit were not exactly very bright. So I set the camera ISO to 800, go into AP mode and opened the lens up, but I had to push exposure by a stop since the lighting fooled the light meter, out of about 600'ish photo's I'd say I missed about 10% or so because the action was too fast or lens shake (or some combo of both), I still had 2 stops of ISO to go though if I were inclined to use it.

Quote:
The tradeoff is of course the aperture but compared to an f/2.8 that's a mere .7 stop. If I need to get around that I could shoot in RAW (which I know I should be doing anyway) and exposure compensate a stop.

F4 vs F2.8 is a full stop, and adding a full stop in post processing will usually work, but not always. And you don't need to shoot RAW for that, it just makes things easier Posted Image

#16 of 25 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted March 09 2006 - 08:29 PM

Don't forget the larger max aperture helps the AF in low light situations also.

I don't have Canon gear, but if I were choosing, I'd seriously consider the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 EX DC given your needs -- I heard that IQ is better than the 17-40L. Yeah, it's a "digital" lens, but so what? You should buy what you need for the forseeable future, not for something that's still very far off (and might not necessarily live upto the hype). If you get the 17-40L (or some other non-digital lens not made by Zeiss, etc.), you might find the corners and edges disappointing if and when you some day get a FF Canon body. The APS crop is probably never gonna go away, so there shouldn't be a real worry that a "digital" lens might become obsolete.

Also, as Thomas hinted, you might want to do some homework on a good "digital" lens to see if it won't still be useable on a FF body. I don't know about 3rd party lenses on Canon bodies, but there are some Nikon DX lenses that are quite useable on FF bodies though they will vignette at the wide end. For instance, the Nikon 12-24DX is very useable from 18-24mm on FF bodies. OTOH, the 17-80DX vignettes throughout its entire range when used on a FF body. Of course, you can't expect to use Canon EF-S lenses on FF bodies, but you might want to verify whether the Sigma 18-50 EX DC (or some other choice) would be useable on a FF Canon body.

If you're considering adding a prime lens, maybe the relatively new Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC would be a good choice. I'd probably get one for my Nikon bodies if I didn't already own a 35mm f/2 -- I still might at some point. Meanwhile, I'm hoping Sigma will soon follow up w/ an affordable f/1.4 or f/1.8 EX DC prime in the 15-17mm range.

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#17 of 25 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 10 2006 - 04:03 AM

Quote:
Yeah, it's a "digital" lens, but so what? You should buy what you need for the forseeable future, not for something that's still very far off (and might not necessarily live upto the hype).
Good point. I'm still in the decision process since I have time before the funds become available.
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#18 of 25 Jeff Ulmer

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Posted June 12 2006 - 01:36 PM

Kinda late here, but my wishlist includes the 10-22 EF-S, the 70-200 L f/4 and a Sigma 50-500 DG. My subjects will be primarily landscapes or architecture and wildlife. I've been using the kit 18-55 EF-S with decent results, but find it's often not wide enough, and of course reach is limited. I'd require a tripod if the Sigma came into play, it's not really a point and shoot lens AFAIK.

#19 of 25 Scott Merryfield

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Posted June 13 2006 - 02:40 AM

Jeff, I just bought the Canon 10-22 EF-S a week ago. I've only had time to take some test shots around the house, but I've been very pleased with the results. I'm still getting used to the peculiarities of using an ultra-wide angle lens, though. You have to be very careful to keep the camera level, since it's very easy to distort the image at such a wide angle.

My kit now includes the Rebel XT, Canon 10-22mm EF-S, Sigma 17-70mm, Canon 70-300mm IS and Canon 50mm f/1.8 lenses, along with a Canon 430EX Speedlite.

#20 of 25 Jeff Ulmer

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Posted June 13 2006 - 04:35 AM

Thanks Scott. So far I haven't heard anything bad about the 10-22, although like all EF-S lenses, they are limited to the current/older bodies and can't be used on FF cameras.

How do you like the 70-300 IS? I had contemplated that one, but am not too sure about how important the IS would be at that length, although I can see the advantages for handheld. Is this as soft at the extremes as I've seen reported, or are those reports being too hard on the lens?


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