Body or glass, what's more important?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by bob5820, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. bob5820 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 23, 2006
    35°0′36″N 80°40′45″W (35.0
    One of the general recommendations I've seen on this forum is to base your choice on the lens system rather then the camera body, and then to put your money into the best glass you can afford. While this makes sense I'm a little confused. Because of the way things are marketed its quite easy to compare bodies, glass however seems to be more difficult to get a good reading on (at least from a newbe perspective). Also how does third party glass such as Sigma/Tokina/Tameron fit into the equation. Can some of these lenses be cost effective alternates to OEM glass without sacrificing quality. How does one search out the gems among all of the available glass?
  2. islandman macrumors 6502

    Sep 13, 2006
    This all depends on a lot of things.

    1. Are you planning to be a professional?
    2. How much do you plan to spend?
    3. How long have you been doing photography on any level?

    There are more questions, but let's start there. Once you determine these, here are some things to consider:
    1. Glass will outlast camera bodies, so that's why people say to invest in the glass. In addition, don't spend $300 on a lens just because you think it's a bargain; think about the long run. I have lenses that cost more than $1,600 EACH, and I know that they will consistently produce superb images even when I move on to new bodies in the future. I made a huge mistake when I bought two cheap lenses early on. Those lenses ended up collecting dust before I finally sold them on eBay for next-to-nothing.

    2. Some gems can be found with Sigma/Tamron. I don't believe in Tokina at all. With that said, keep in mind that some 3rd-party lenses are made obsolete by camera manufacturers in future bodies and have to be re-chipped by Sigma/Tamron/Tokina in order for them to work. WIth that said, I have a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 that I simply love on my Canon 20D. For the money, it's the best lens I own. It's the ONLY 3rd-party lens I have, however.

    3. To compare lenses, I usually surf and ask questions there. A great review site for lenses is Don't let the high cost of lenses deter you from buying a good lens. If you plan to keep doing photography for a long time, it will pay for itself (especially if you become a pro and start making money).

    Hope this helps :).
  3. beavo451 macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2006
    Don't be fooled by costs at times. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is ~$100 and is one of the best lenses you can get optically wise. There is much debate about how much "better" the f/1.4 version (for $300) is optically.

    The 18-70mm DX lens is another "cheap" lens at $300, but optically it is close to the $1200 17-55mm lens. The only down sides are the build quality and lack of the 2.8 constant aperture.

    Read the suggested sites and forums and you will eventually get a feel for what lenses are good and what are not.
  4. Zeke macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2002
    Greenville, SC
    Sigma is the only 3rd party (to my knowledge) that has rechipping problems. Tamron has a great track record of compatibility. I have almost all Tamron lenses because they're price/performance ratio is very good. While not Canon L lenses, they can be very good if you get the right lens. Obviously, there are some cheap ones but if you do your research you can get some great glass for a much lower price than the comparably performing Canon.
  5. islandman macrumors 6502

    Sep 13, 2006
    I agree with you about costs. Canon has some truly inexpensive gems (50 f/1.8 and 85 f/1.8). I was generalizing in my post, but yes you are absolutely right. To find the best gems (expensive or otherwise), I highly recommend the review sites.
  6. cube macrumors Pentium

    May 10, 2004
    Lenses dominate, but body issues also determine the choice.
    There are many factors to consider, and the prioritization depends on what subjects interest you most:

    - Range of Ultrasonic, Super Sonic, or Silent Wave lenses with manual retouch
    - Range of image stabilized lenses or in-body antishake.
    - Range of wide lenses
    - Range of telephoto lenses
    - Diffractive Optics telephoto lenses
    - Big aperture primes
    - Defocus Control or Soft Focus lenses
    - Tilt/shift lenses

    - Flash system
    - Availability of bodies with full frame, Super CCD SR, or Foveon sensor
    - Availability of weather sealing at your budget level
  7. bob5820 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 23, 2006
    35°0′36″N 80°40′45″W (35.0
    Thanks for the sites. Which do you find more valuable, tha actual reviews or the lens discusion forums?
  8. cube macrumors Pentium

    May 10, 2004
  9. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    The lens is more important than the camera. With that said, this was probably more true when people were shooting with film....

    A camera with a bad, noisy sensor that simply cannot take highly sharp, crisp photos under rather ideal conditions is probably not a good choice for a camera. However, I believe that almost all DSLRs today are fantastic, so you're not a loser no matter which camera you purchase.
  10. beavo451 macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2006

    I'm glad you did not take offense. :)
  11. failsafe1 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 21, 2003
    Glass or body

    Glass is the most important of the two. A nice sharp fast 2.8 lens is much better than scrimping on glass to get a nice new model camera. You might be able to get by with last year's model camera body and get more glass for your buck. Always check used stock when buying and that gives you more for your money. The best place I know is they are an awesome company for good used glass. An easy example is buying a Canon 20D over the new 30D and then get better glass. Just an example.
  12. islandman macrumors 6502

    Sep 13, 2006
    Both, actually. At Fred Miranda, I prefer the reviews by far. At Dpreview, I find the discussions to be very valuable (once you filter out the Nikon vs Canon bashing that goes on in the respective forums).
  13. islandman macrumors 6502

    Sep 13, 2006
    Not at all! All of us in the forums are on the same team (I hope) :). I'm always happy to have a good discussion/debate with others.
  14. cgratti macrumors 6502a


    Dec 28, 2004
    Central Pennsylvania, USA
    Glass is most important:

    You will have numerous bodies in your life but your glass will outlast the bodies. Spend the money on good glass.
  15. Foucault macrumors 6502


    Dec 30, 2002
    Pasadena, CA
    Glass it is

    I agree wit h cgratti. Your lens has very little moving parts, and most of them will have at least a five year warranty or more. Invest in a good lens, and you will have something that you will be able to use for years. While you'll probably upgrade your camera equipment every 3-5 years just to catch up with technology.
  16. milozauckerman macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2005
    In the old days, glass over body was an easy decision, 'cuz you could stick Tri-X behind anything you pleased. These days it gets to be a little more complicated - the jump from a D50 to a D80 is a pretty good one in terms of image quality and the body's usability.

    As a general guideline, the best lenses for any system will be primes - a single focal length, with a large aperture (making your viewfinder image brighter, a real bonus). The cheapest Nikon or Canon prime is as 'good' as a professional zoom lens.

    The next-best level of lenses are constant-aperture zooms. Primarily, these are marketed as professional equipment and priced as such (ie Canon f/2.8 'L' zooms selling for $1000+, similar models from other manufacturers). Third-party (Tamron, etc.) constant-aperture zooms can be excellent, but quality varies and they don't always interact well with the body's autofocus system - I recommend doing a search on for the lens and reading what you can.

    From there you have the various grades of consumer-level zooms. They make compromises for cost and size and generally of a lower level of quality than the other two groups. BUT, in this day and age, excluding the dirt-cheapest of the dirt-cheap zooms, image quality should be very usable on most offerings.
  17. maxi macrumors regular

    May 23, 2006
    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Actually, lenses have moving parts: the glass itself!!!! and any misalignment (be it by wrong tolerances, quality control or mishandling) will seriously screw them up ;).

    Research, each brand has a handfull of "jewels" that stand above the rest either because of their exceptional value (the ~$100 nikon 50mm f/1.8 is incredible) or their sheer quality (the 105mm f/2DC is simply stunning, but will set you back ~$800). I don't have any experience with canon, but you can find manual focus nikons that are very cheap and incredible quality wise (the 105 f/2.5, 180 2.8, etc) and used AF lenses too.

    If you want to research nikons, this guy tested almost every nikon lens you can think of:

    As for the 18-70mm, it is a nice lens, but I think the 17-55 is a step ahead optically.
  18. Buschmaster macrumors 65816


    Feb 12, 2006
    Just to shake things up I'm going to say the camera body. Yeah, I said it.

    But I didn't mean it.;)

    My experience in this field stems as far as Film SLRs. I had both the body and the lenses that were great. And I also had the lenses that were bad. You can really tell which lens I shot with when you see the pictures developed. I'm sure the same holds true for digital, but probably to a lesser extent. There seems to be a greater divide in digital bodies than in film bodies. So, while I do say the lens is more important and ultimately more responsible for the final product, the body is also very important. I look at some camera bodies where a couple hundred dollars can make the biggest difference in the world. For example, a Pentax K110D is basically their baseline DSLR at this point. You step up to the (soon to be released) K10D and you get shake reduction (i.e. image stabilization) faster burst capability, a lithium ion battery vs. AA's, and 4 megapixels to boot. Granted this is a little bigger gap than some others in price but I simply used it as an example. And by the same grain of salt others are arguing the differences in hundreds of dollars in lenses. So it's probably important to get a nice set, rather than just a nice lens.
  19. Mike Teezie macrumors 68020

    Mike Teezie

    Nov 20, 2002
    Both are equally important. I can't make a photo with just my 5D, and I can't make a photo with just a lens.

    It's all about the combo to me. My 5D and 50mm f/1.4 is THE dream team for me. I rarely use my 70-200 f/2.8L IS, but when I do, it's dreamy too.

    The lenses are still really great on a 1.6 body, but those combos just don't do it for me like their full frame counterparts.

    Kind of a non-answer, I know.
  20. ziwi macrumors 65816


    Jan 6, 2004
    Right back where I started...
    Glass is more important, but that being said the Digital body comes into play as one can not take a picture with the lens alone. The advances in the body for af, sesor cleaning, resolution, etc. help to resolve the picture the lens sees better all the time. As someone said before the glass you will always have and the body will be the replacable component...

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