A common Lens Dilemma? Canon 17-55 vs 24-70?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by duncanapple, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. duncanapple macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008
    Hi all,

    (sorry this is long - I want to give all the detail I can to help!)

    I have posted a handful of questions up here for the photog experts, and I now have a new one. I have been doing a ton of research and reading reviews on a couple lenses. I know this is a common dilemma but I haven't seen this one answered for someone who owns a Rebel XS (just got it last week).

    I am fine with playing with the kits lens in the short term to learn a little bit on the camera. This is my first DSLR and my first foray into the manual settings on any camera, much less a DSLR. I am not a pro, and while it sounds like it would be an amazingly fun job, i don't see myself doing this professionally anytime soon/ever. My main goal is to get great photos of my family, my vacations, and occasionally get a little "artsy" and grab some shots to blow up and use as frame-able pics in my house. Prob pretty common amateur type use.

    I am confident the Rebel fits the bill for what I want to do with it. I was drooling over the full frame 5D, and who knows, maybe - maybe, I will go that route in the longer run.

    The reason I say all that is it plays into my decision lens wise. I am looking for one upgraded lens to do it all (or at least all that I need). My understanding is there is a lot of unlocked potential via getting new glass than even getting a new body. I don't need super telephoto or anything (obviously anything over 55mm is a bonus however) but I do want a good wide angle. My upcoming honeymoon to Hawaii begs for the widest shots I can get.

    I am between 2 lenses that for the most part have gotten rave reviews. They are;

    Canon EF 24-70 2.8L USM
    Canon EF-S 17-55 2.8 IS USM

    If I could make a hybrid of these two I would be all set! The first lens is obviously the better constructed L series, and would be great IF I ever went full frame (as it wouldn't go obsolete). The only reason I would go full frame would be if they introduced full frame on the mid or entry level cameras. If full frame stays in the top tier, I likely never will. I am not educated enough on the SLR road map to know what they are planning there? The little extra reach on the high end is a plus too. The biggest shortfall here is 24 on the wide end, and a smaller issue is it doesn't have IS. Not sure how much this last bit matters?

    The second lens, while not as rugged construction, does do the same constant 2.8, AND goes to an extra wide 17mm (which I need all I can get due to the 1.6 crop factor on my body). I do loose a little reach and the ability to use this lens should full frame ever make its way down to the masses on the mid or entry level bodies, leaving my with an expensive paper weight. It does have IS which is a nice bonus too.

    Though they are both expensive, price isn't really a factor between them as relatively speaking they are both fairly close ($887 vs $1057 on the L). I don't mind stretching a little as I understand a good lens will last over several cameras and they hold their value pretty well.

    The reviews I have read said the 17-55, given a magnesium casing, would be an L series, as the optics are really great. I am really leaning that way given its optimized for the crop sensors too. But this is a double edge sword, not knowing what the future holds for full frame filtering down to the "lesser" cameras.

    So while I know the L series are the holy grail, what would YOU do if you were me?

    Why oh why Canon, did you just not add and extra 7mm (~11mm on my 1.6x) to what is otherwise a perfect lens?!? Throw in IS and you have my extra ~$200 without question...

    Thanks for enduring my LONG post guys/girls

    - Duncan
  2. Grimace macrumors 68040


    Feb 17, 2003
    with Hamburglar.
    I've owned both, and the lenses are identical in many ways.

    17-55mm on a crop-body Canon camera yields ~27-88mm.
    The 24-70mm on a full frame camera is still 24-70mm.

    Very similar! The optics on both are great. IS doesn't really matter at the wide end, and f/2.8 is usually all that is necessary for stuff that I do.

    The 60D may be full-frame. The 5D, 5D2, 1Ds3, and likely 1D4 are all full frame. It's going that direction; how soon, we don't know. When I had a XT and then a 30D, I loved my 17-55mm IS. But, then I had to sell it. That wasn't the end of the world, but it would have been easier not to.
  3. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    Tough one. These are my two dream lenses. I'll probably get the 17-55 first because I shoot things in low light that don't move for the most part (namely statues in dimly lit museums), in which case the IS is a huge bonus. If I ever go FF, I should be able to offload that lens for a good price. That lens seems to fetch high prices on the used market and sells easily. So if you think you'll be shooting a lot of landscapes without movement in them, then that's probably going to be a good lens for you too. The extra width and stabilization will be very handy, especially if you won't be using a tripod.

    However, if you want to shoot a lot of portraits, then you should probably go with the 24-70. It will give you that extra bit of subject isolation with f/2.8 at the long end.
  4. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    the 24mm is just not that wide. You can always walk up closer but sometime you can't back up. The longer lens might be the better range for people but the 18-55 might be the best one for buildings, landscapes and other large subjects and for working indoors in smaller spaces.
  5. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a


    Apr 6, 2006
    Nassau, Bahamas
    I'm a Nikon shooter, but I'll give my 2cents as us Nikon boys are in a similar boat. Nikon makes a 17-55 2.8 optimized for crop sensors and a 24-70 2.8 for full frame.

    I'm big on future-proofing. While a FF camera is a few years away for me, I will get one eventually, even sooner if FF trickles down to the prosumer line. In that respect I would certainly go for the 24-70 to avoid an "expensive paperweight". Also, Nikon offers a 14-24 2.8 to pick up the slack - does Canon offer something similar?

    If you're looking at portrait shooting (hypothetically), I can't reccommend a 70-200 enough. The proper facial perspective and subject isolation at 200mm is leaps and bounds above the 24-70 or even, IMO, a 50mm 1.4.

    But forgive me, that's not your question. So, to answer, 24-70, hands down.
  6. CrackedButter macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2003
    51st State of America
    Canon have a 16-35 f2.8 L. Though from what I have read, the Nikon 14-28 is amazing for being sharp all over, unlike the 16-35.
  7. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 12, 2005
    OP...not knowing what you tend to shoot makes giving advice difficult.

    That said....*I* like wide angle...so the 24-70 would not be wide enough for me on the APSC sensor. For portraits, the 17-55 just barely enters the ideal FL. On the 17-55, the wide end at 17 (27mm FF equivalent) would be quite useful.

    To each their own...but contrary to an earlier post....the ideal FL for portraits is 80-135 on FF...so around 55-90 on APSC. The Canon 70-200 lenses are great, but 200mm on a APSC (300mm) would be a *very* unusual FL for portraits to say the least.

    Again...depending on what you shoot...FF may not have advantages. FF is the cat's meow for me...but I think APSC will be with us for quite some time to come. Hopefully the pixel wars will end soon and the companies will focus on quality, features, etc.

    Someone mentioned the Nikon 14-24....STELLAR performance...just wow, wow, wow.
  8. PCMacUser macrumors 68000


    Jan 13, 2005
    I can't see Canon releasing a full 35mm frame camera in the mid-range for a very long time, if ever. But then again, I can't see very far into the future.

    If you're not planning on going for the more expensive full frame bodies, then I'd have to recommend the 17-55, despite the fact I use a 24-70mm on my 40D. 24mm just isn't wide enough for a lot of things. On my EOS 1V film camera though, it's great.

    This won't be an easy decision to make, as it's not just about the lenses, but the bodies too.
  9. duncanapple thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008
    Yeah, and the canon 16-35 is a little pricey (imo) at $1250 for the limited range it gives you. I mean, if you are shooting for a living, then I can see where these more "niche" lenses fit in, but hard to swing when its strictly a hobby.

    Thanks for all the input. Grimace - If the 60D goes full frame, I think that, while not the nail in the coffin, may be a harbringer of things to come for the 1.6 crop frames. I guess even if I did go with the 17-55mm I would have to know when to jump from the sinking ship (1.6) and sell the lens (should I too go FF) while its at its peak as Phrasikleia mentioned. But as others have said I really would miss the 17mm (or 27mm in 1.6x). If only money were unlimited, I would have just bought the 5D and the 24-70 from the get go. But atlas its not, and a combined $3700 is hard to justify without knowing how far into this hobby I would go...

    Unfortunately I may have already known the answer to this question before I asked it. There isn't a good answer. I am learning in the world of lenses there is no "ultimate". I think everyones ultimate exists somewhere between 2 or more lenses!

    Thanks for all of the input, if anyone else has something to add please do!
  10. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    It's not going to be like trying to sell a discontinued laptop or some such thing. If Canon comes out with a FF 60D, they will continue to have APSC sensors in other models and will continue to sell the lenses for those cameras, including the 17-55, for years to come. Your window of opportunity to sell a desirable cropped-sensor lens after going FF will be very large--years, even. You'll not have a problem getting a good price for it so long as you take good care of it.
  11. FX120 macrumors 65816


    May 18, 2007
    I know it is the more expensive option, but what I did is the 17-40 f/4 AND THE 24-70 f/2.8.

    The only time I really end up shooting wide is landscapes and outdoors, so for me I don't miss the extra stop of speed.
  12. duncanapple thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008

    I would imagine 70% of my shots are going to be of family and friends, 20% would be wide angle stuff of streetscapes, landscapes, etc. The remaining 10% is would be anything that comes to mind when messing around. This would be what I call "artsy" such as an interesting angle on a familiar object, a close up of someone/something, etc. I can't really define this last 10% segment, b/c as I learn more/new techniques I think this will vary. Thats where the experimentation will come in. And hence my desire to get the most versatile lens I can...

    The more I mull this over, part of me just wants to stick with the kit lens, use the camera for a couple years, then see what developments happen in the DSLR world. If full frame comes down to the masses in a mid level body and I am still deeply interested, then I can make the jump and only be "out" the $460 I paid for the XS, conservatively assuming its worth nil at 3 years (which it wont be as you pointed out Phrasikleia). Or option 2 would be to just buy the 17-55mm (as it seems like the best lens for me right NOW) and enjoy it lol.

    The worst part is I finally bought a great SLR and I am already worried about obsoleting myself! I think I am still leaning towards the 17-55 for my picture expectations, with the assumption there is still going to be a decent market for these crops in the next few years. If I keep it longer than that, I will just assume I got my moneys worth regardless!
  13. bmcgrath macrumors 65816


    Oct 5, 2006
    London, United Kingdom
    Canon are not gonna have a FF 60D. It would cost too much to the consumer and it would cost too much for Canon. The crop camera is going to be around for a while IMHO. It's a good idea, cheap and provides good image quality. Sports photogs also like crop cameras because their 200mm f/2.8 lens becomes a 320mm f/2.8. Great for sports as I know very well myself ;)

    OP If I were you I'd go with the 17-55. Unless of course you have a 10-22 to sidekick the 24-70. Trust me on the fact that YOU WILL miss the 17mm end if you don't have a UWA lens. The 17-55 also is on a par with the 24-70 when it comes to optics. Very good detail, contrast, sharpness etc. It's build quality does tend to let it down a bit. Adding IS to a f/2.8 lens is also makes it very hand holdable in low light.

    And another thing. If you don't like carrying huge amounts of weight in camera kit, don't get the 24-70. It ways a lot!
  14. PCMacUser macrumors 68000


    Jan 13, 2005
    Yep, the 24-70mm sure does weigh a lot. My 70-200mm f/4 is a heck of a lot lighter.

    As for the optics, the 17-55mm does have very good optics, but the 24-70mm clearly outperforms it both wide open (f/2.8) and the sharpness covers more of the frame, with sharpness dropping off 15mm from the centre of the image, whereas the 17-55mm starts dropping sharpness immediately.

    Here's the MTF for the 24-70mm.


    And the 17-55mm.


    So I wouldn't say 'on a par', but both are very very good. Something that is worth noting about the 17-55mm is that is doesn't have the final 'dramatic' sharpness fall-off that the 24-70mm has right at the edge of the frame. I've shot at 24mm on my EOS 1V and it's all fuzz at the extreme corners. Yuck. But you don't see it on a crop sensor, because it's cropped off! :)
  15. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 12, 2005

    So...if I were in your shoes....and judging from this new info, I would strongly suggest the 17-55. I bet you'll live 75% of the time at the FL extremes of that lens. I would at least. Then, at some point, maybe add a *used* 85mm 1.8 prime...not big $$.

    Make notes of the occasions when you say, if only I had.... say 135mm (200mm-ish apsc equiv). If it happens a lot, then get Canon's 70-200 f4. Really great value lens from Canon. (I wish Nikon made a high quality 70-200 f4!)

    Now you have a great little kit. If you do go FF, only one of your lenses won't switch over...and the 17-55 will be an EASY sell. You buy a 24-70 to replace it. You have the (ideal FF FL) 85mm for portraits and the 70-200 medium tele. Voila. Or...you keep the XS as a back up...put the 17-55 on the XS and the 70-200 on the FF.... and you have both barrels blazing. It just works :) and remember, it's only money ;)

    Just my two cents....
  16. jake-g macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2008
    from my limited use and what I have heard, the canon 24-70 is a very weak lens. Go with the 17-55.
  17. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Wow, thanks for the advices (eventhough Im not the OP) cause I am having dilemma in these 2 lenses also. Somehow there is something I dont understand, IS is very good indeed but I wonder, how come till now, a lot of Canon L lenses still come without IS? I use 2 lens both with IS and no IS and unless its super bright or something, and IS lens is very practical in almost all situation, with a no IS lens you will need to get the shutter speed at 1/60-1/100 and above to avoid blurred image (without tripod of course).

    Oh and with constant f/2.8 and more wide angle, I guess you can say kiss good bye to the standard kit lens.
  18. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    Here is a list of most Canon lenses and their prices (Canon has one or two new lenses that aren't included in the list). Click on the link for the lens you want to look at, and you can see photo samples and comments:

    As for the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM being weak, I would not be too sure about that:) Just look at the samples photographers have posted.
  19. esco macrumors 6502


    Sep 13, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I owned a 24-70 and I never found myself using it as a walk around lens. It was too heavy IMO. I've been shooting mostly with a 10-22 and plan on getting the 17-55 next year.
  20. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 12, 2005
    While there are always exceptions....
    IS or Nikon's VR isn't very useful for "normal" to wide angle. 70mm and up...above 200 especially, it can be very helpful, but only for static subjects.
  21. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Very easy question and simple answer: get the 17-55 mm f/2.8. The fact that this lens isn't L for `political reasons' (Canon doesn't want professional lenses for crop sensors) doesn't matter here.

    It's all about focal length. No matter if the (more expensive) 24-70 mm zoom may or may not be better, it's simply the wrong focal length range for a walk-around zoom and crop sensors. Period. 17-55 mm correspond to 27-88 mm on film -- pretty much the same intended focal length range of the 24-70 mm (which corresponds to 38-112 mm on film/full frame). If you really want L glass (that is about as expensive as the 17-55) and don't mind that it is slower, have a look at the 17-40 mm f/4. Although the extra stop increases your creative freedom considerably.

    Even if you plan on switching to full frame in the distant future, you can always sell glass at very small depreciation. (Investing your money in glass is a much better investment than cars.) Crop sensors will still be around in the years to come even if full frame cameras have gotten cheaper by then.

    One more thing: there are other brands than just Canon. You write you have bought an entry-level camera, so why don't you start with a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 instead? It costs less than half and although the Canon is optically obviously better, the Tamron is a very good performer with a very good price-performance. If you want to step up after a year or so, you can still sell it and get the Canon (or another lens) after all.
  22. PCMacUser macrumors 68000


    Jan 13, 2005
    I agree that this is the case for most people, but I use it as a walk-around lens on my 40D, and it's fine for most scenarios.
    I wouldn't recommend paying any attention to what you've heard, then. ;) Have a look here, and here, and here.
  23. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    It misses significantly on the wide end. For people who like portraits (like myself), this may not be an issue at all, but the fact of the matter is that this lens (including focal length range) were planned for full frame bodies and not crop bodies.
    The lens is not universally loved. Most reviews I've read say that (i) there are problems regarding quality control and (ii) that it's not as good as its predecessors. Now this is b*tching on a very high level usually, but the price and the reputation of its predecessor justify that this lens is held to a very high standard.
  24. CATinHAWAII macrumors member


    Aug 21, 2007
    --== Hawaii ! ==--
    i have to agree with this post, i have the 24-70, and 10-22 EF-S, and they are a great combo!!! but the 24-70 does weigh a LOT, i havent shot with the 17-55, and dont have anything with IS,,, maybe you have a friend you could borrow from, for a couple of days???
    that probably would help... as for HAWAII, just dont forget the camera, and hand carry if you can.... the views off DIamond Head are great! a 10-22 gets great shots! and get a lot of scenery in,,, hard decision!
  25. anubis macrumors 6502a

    Feb 7, 2003
    To the OP: I've found myself in the exact same situation as you. I've decided that I would be unhappy with a focal length of 17mm on the short end. I want to be able to take wider pictures than the 17mm is capable of. So, I've decided to get the 10-22 to handle my wide angle needs. With the 10-22, it seems a bit redundant to to get the 17-55. So I'm going to get a used 24-70 on ebay. They're only about $700-$750, which is a pretty good discount off new. Used 10-22's don't offer as much of a discount used on ebay so I'll probably just get a new one of those.

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