Does anyone use a 16-35mm as their primary lens?

jbg232

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 15, 2007
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OK, so I'm in a dilemma that almost all crop-body owners are in. I currently do a lot of bird photography as my main subject and have an XSi but plan on moving to a 7D or something else in the future that would still be cropped as the 1.6 crop is a must for my 100-400L to get decent zoom. However, now I've started to do a lot of landscape photography and after carefully learning the ropes of the DSLR world over the last year (and taking over 16,000 photos and 800gb of hard drive space) has really taught me that I'm becoming limited with my current kit lens (18-55 IS).

My main contenders are:

1. 17-55
2. 24-70
3. 24-105
4. 17-40
5. 16-35

After trying out all these lenses at B&H I really enjoy the weight of the heavy L lenses (24-70 and 16-35). I know the most popular (by far) is the 17-55 but I almost always find myself on the wide end of the spectrum and really like "creative" shots (I have a P+S that is portable for vacations and traveling with my wife as I don't like carrying the whole rig around on vacation). Most of my photography is either after work or on weekends when I can really enjoy the hobby and take whatever pictures I want with all the time I want. 24mm (equivalent of 38.4mm) as a baseline seems way too zoomed in for my taste and the 17-55, while very nice optically (according to everyone) just doesn't have that "feel" of a sturdy lens (although it probably is).

Is there anyone who shoots with a 16-35mm on a crop body as their primary walk-around lens who can offer any insight?
 

anubis

macrumors 6502a
Feb 7, 2003
937
50
You really, REALLY need to put the 10-22 EF-S on your list. I had that lens for a long time when I was 100% crop bodies and absolutely loved it (but recently traded it for the 17-40mm f/4L after I got a 5D). L-quality construction without the L price in a nice lightweight package. The extra-wide angle of this lens opens up a ton of possibilities for some very striking architectural and landscape shots. I know a lot of people who use this lens as their primary lens on their crop bodies.

When I was first starting out, I was trying to use the 28-135 as my primary lens on my crop body, but found the wide end way too limiting on a crop. I would not consider the 24-70 or 24-105 for this reason; you'll regularly want to go much wider than 24mm. the 17-40mm and 10-22mm basically have equal construction so you might as well go for the extra wide 10-22... you won't miss the long end at all. The only lens I can't comment on is the 17-55... there are plenty of rabid fans of that lens on this board though and you can't go wrong with that lens, except for its high price tag; the 10-22 can be had for nearly half the price
 

toxic

macrumors 68000
Nov 9, 2008
1,664
1
the 16-35 doesn't make much sense as a "walkaround" on APS-C. it has a short range, a useless hood, weaker optics than true standard zooms, no IS, and costs more than similar EF-S lenses.

if the 17-55 is not wide enough, try the 15-85. if that doesn't go wide enough, you're best off buying an ultra-wide zoom and forgetting the walkaround part. it has a better construction than the 17-55, as a bonus.

I don't understand why you would consider a 24-xx zoom if 17mm is barely wide enough.

I think it should be made clear that shots with wide and ultra-wide lenses aren't any more "creative" than with a telephoto. they both look different from standard.
 

PAC88

macrumors 6502
Apr 23, 2009
457
0
I have owned the canon ef-s 10-22mm for over a year now.. and It currently gets more use than any of my other lenses. I like to do landscape photography also and it's typically my main lens for that. I find that it also makes a good walk around lens in the city. It doesn't happen too often but when I need something longer, I'm the type that doesn't mind switching lenses. I have a 50mm prime and others that I can quickly switch to and I find it's a good combination.

I also bought the canon 24-105 L to use as a walk around lens recently. I used it for a short time and quickly found that it wasn't wide enough for my tastes on the crop sensor. And it wasn't really long enough for anything I wanted to use it for either.. it just seemed way too awkward on an aps-c sensor and would fit much better on full frame.

The 17-55mm is a good lens from everything I've read, it's fairly quick with a useful range. But I wish they made a non-IS version because it doesn't need IS. the IS just makes the lens way overpriced in my opinion. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend it.
 

thomahawk

macrumors 6502a
Sep 3, 2008
663
0
Osaka, Japan
you have a crop body camera, unless your moving to a full frame then no sense by an L wide-angle lenses.

Buy the 10-22mm its built for a crop body and its a very nice lenses, worth the money.

the 16-35 and 17-40 lenses are really nice and sharp but you wont achieve that ultra wide angle with those lenses being used on a crop.

I would get the 17-55mm. the aperture of 2.8 makes covers for the IS and its a great all around lenses. for both wide and medium zoom.
 

Edge100

macrumors 68000
May 14, 2002
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I actually think the 17-40 is the perfect walkaround lens on a crop body; gets you very close to the 24-70 effective focal length, which I think is just right for a walkaround.
 

JFreak

macrumors 68040
Jul 11, 2003
3,145
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Tampere, Finland
I use the 16-35 as my *indoors* walkaround lens all the time, and for that application it is a superb lens. Agreed, it would be somewhat limiting for outdoor use, but I shoot mostly indoors and could not be happier.
 

Check 6

macrumors regular
Nov 12, 2007
198
11
I have the 16-35 F2.8 but my carry around camera/ lens is the original Canon 5D with the 24-70 F 2.8 lens. I keep a 70-200 F 2.8 on my 50 D for sports action (sports car racing and aviation) and switch the 16-35 F 2.8 and my 85mm F1.2 on my 5 D II. Looking back, I'm not sure I really answered your question. I will say that seeing the latest lens prices I'm glad I have had these for awhile.

The 16-35 on a 1.6 sensor camera will give you close to what I have with the 24-70 in a full frame which has proven to be a good "always with me and ready" combo. Additionally a 13 or greater meg camera allows for significant cropping and enlargement of images that might actually be too far for the 70mm.
 

chrono1081

macrumors 604
Jan 26, 2008
7,432
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Isla Nublar
I use my 16-35 2.8LII on my 5D2 everywhere. I love it.

Although I did pick up a 35 1.4 and love it too...and use it a lot lately now.
 

duncanapple

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2008
471
11
I am not sure why the nay sayers up above are steering you away from the 16-35 but towards the 17-40. 17-40 is only 5mm longer but its 1mm narrower FOV on the wide end, and the biggest downside, you loose a full stop of aperture. For an indoor lens, or lower light outdoors, f/4 just wont get it done (unless you are using a tripod and long exposures or not shooting moving objects).

I recently suggested to a friend who bought a T1i to get the 16-35mm. He did and its a great lens. It optics are wonderful, easily deserving of the L moniker, and on his crop frame camera it gives ~ 25-56mm FOV. Thats walk around territory in my book. Heck, my walk around lens is a fixed 35mm (on a full frame body mind you) and it does everything from wide angle landscapes, to full body portraits, to group pictures. Head shots and longer distance shots (ie sports, birds, etc) will require a different lens though.

I think for a crop camera, if you want a lens that does the middle ranges (in my mind, between 24mm and 70mm tops) the 16-35 is the best glass you can get, with one possible exception. From everything I read the 17-55 2.8 EF-S is really great. BUT its still pricey, and you cant use it on full frame. People will say you can sell it if you go full frame, or that full frame will never be the only format, etc. Me personally, I don't like to go through the hassle to buy, sell, rebuy. My advice is go with the 16-35. If you ever go full frame, you have an exceptional UWA lens. If you don't, you have a good range of medium focal lengths for low light or shallow(er) DOF. Either way you will have to buy a second lens if you want more telephoto abilities.

So thats my long winded opinion. FWIW!
 

duncanapple

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2008
471
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The 35 f/1.4L is the next lens on my list, now that I've decided to go with a mainly prime setup.
I really like my 35mm 1.4. It def spoils you. As I am looking towards my next lens, some sort of telephoto, I am having a hard time leaning towards the various flavors of the 70-200mm zoom. Even the $2K 70-200mm 2.8 IS cant do the sharpness, wide aperture, etc that the $1K 135mm f/2 can do. Even picking up the zoom ability that's a tough trade off. As I said above though, for a walkaround lens, if you have a full frame body, there isnt much the 35mm cant do IMO. Anything wider than a head shot it does pretty much perfect.
 

jeremy h

macrumors 6502
Jul 9, 2008
491
265
UK
I've got a Sigma prime 30mm (f1.4) which I use as a walk around lens on a cropped 50D. In the old days (think 35mm SLR OM2 etc) you tended to have a 50mm as a walk around and this sort of lens seems to do the equivalent job. Probably not good for landscape or birds though (You'd probably have to wear camo clothes to get close enough to them!). But I find it excellent for people and general shots. I can shoot indoors without flash and play with the aperture to my hearts content. I originally bought it to take picture of my kids but now just tend to leave it on the camera all the time.
 

OreoCookie

macrumors 68030
Apr 14, 2001
2,680
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Sendai, Japan
Probably I'd have a look at the 17-55 mm f/2.8. The 17-40 mm is slower which IMO is important. The former has excellent optics and marchitecture is the only reason Canon doesn't sell it as L lens.

With regards to UW zooms, I don't think they're good walkaround lenses. Personally, I own a Tokina 12-24 mm zoom and it's excellent. But it's not really a walkaround lens. Unless you're constantly photographing buildings, I wouldn't use it for what you have in mind. Back in the `good old days,' 28 mm (that's what ~17 mm corresponds to on full frame) was considered a decent wide angle focal length.

Like Jeremy, I use a Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 as a walkaround lens.
 

Edge100

macrumors 68000
May 14, 2002
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I really like my 35mm 1.4. It def spoils you. As I am looking towards my next lens, some sort of telephoto, I am having a hard time leaning towards the various flavors of the 70-200mm zoom. Even the $2K 70-200mm 2.8 IS cant do the sharpness, wide aperture, etc that the $1K 135mm f/2 can do. Even picking up the zoom ability that's a tough trade off. As I said above though, for a walkaround lens, if you have a full frame body, there isnt much the 35mm cant do IMO. Anything wider than a head shot it does pretty much perfect.
Having shot with zooms for the last umpteen years, I've finally seen the light and recognized that in most cases, the image quality of primes far outweighs any inconvenience of not being able to zoom. Moreover, as I've become a better photographer, I've learned to put myself in the right places to begin with so that I don't have to zoom as much.

The only zoom I'm keeping is the 70-200 f/2.8L (non-IS). I do event photography, and that lens is sharp enough at f/2.8 to justify keeping on the basis of the massive increase in convenience it affords. Action moves quickly at some of these events, and the 70-200 keeps me from having to run around all night (or at least reduces the amount of running I do).

So I've sold all of the rest of my zooms and I'm going with the following:

- 35 f/1.4L
- 50 f/1.4 (Sigma if I pick up a body with microadjust, Canon otherwise)
- 85 f/1.2L
- 100 f/2.8 Macro
- 135 f/2L
- 70-200 f/2.8L

That, coupled with a 1DmkII (for when I need the best AF performance possible) and a 5DmkII (for when I need the best IQ possible), should be a killer rig. I might also pick up a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 as a walkaround lens for the 5D for vacations and such.

Primes rule.
 

duncanapple

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2008
471
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Oh, one other note to the OP - if you do go with a lens like the 16-35mm, forget about using the built in flash (though I see you have a 580ex, so you will be fine). The wide angle of the physical lens barrel leaves shadows in your pictures from the flash if you aren't aiming the flash up enough.

@ edge100 - I am hoping to check out a 135mm before I buy, and see how much I have to move around to make it usable. Most times I will be able to zoom with my feet. The few times I expect to not be able to (say, as a guest at a wedding, or spectator at an amateur -ie poorly lit - hockey game, etc) I will need that extra stop of f/2 to freeze the action. As you eluded to, I am curious how much I will be able to say, pick my seat ahead of time, such that I can live with just one focal length and get most of the shots I want. If I can do that, it will be well worth it so I can also use this lens to its potential in portrait settings, home studio (a couple off camera strobes), walking around outside, etc. The other plus side is I have a 21mp FF camera. So even if I am not as close as I would like to be, I have a lot of room to crop and get my desired composition, and still keep a decent resolution. That's my thinking anyway...
 

CrackedButter

macrumors 68040
Jan 15, 2003
3,221
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51st State of America
What about the 24mm L prime, on a cropped body it will be good for portraits. I got one second hand dirt cheap.

@OreoCookie, hey did you see the mockup of the new 16-28 f2.8 by Tokina?
 

Edge100

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May 14, 2002
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@ edge100 - I am hoping to check out a 135mm before I buy, and see how much I have to move around to make it usable. Most times I will be able to zoom with my feet. The few times I expect to not be able to (say, as a guest at a wedding, or spectator at an amateur -ie poorly lit - hockey game, etc) I will need that extra stop of f/2 to freeze the action. As you eluded to, I am curious how much I will be able to say, pick my seat ahead of time, such that I can live with just one focal length and get most of the shots I want. If I can do that, it will be well worth it so I can also use this lens to its potential in portrait settings, home studio (a couple off camera strobes), walking around outside, etc. The other plus side is I have a 21mp FF camera. So even if I am not as close as I would like to be, I have a lot of room to crop and get my desired composition, and still keep a decent resolution. That's my thinking anyway...
I just find that as I've become more proficient as a photographer, I'm doing less machine-gunning and thinking more about my shots before I take them. Consequently, I just find I don't need the zoom as much as I once did; my compositions are more "right" to begin with.

Plus, I always shoot events with two bodies; a wide-angle mounted to one and a telephoto to another. This means that "zoom" is just another body away. Obviously, this type of setup gets pricey, and it's not for everyone. But as I said, I'm getting to the point where image quality is the most important thing (and if I need a specific lens, a weekend rental is only $30 or so, so I can have IQ and not blow my budget).
 

jbg232

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 15, 2007
1,141
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Oh, one other note to the OP - if you do go with a lens like the 16-35mm, forget about using the built in flash (though I see you have a 580ex, so you will be fine). The wide angle of the physical lens barrel leaves shadows in your pictures from the flash if you aren't aiming the flash up enough.

Hmm, I didn't consider this fact as I haven't done extensive testing (only tested it a B&H). Where do you primarily see this effect - on the edges or the entire bottom of the picture?
 

duncanapple

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2008
471
11
Hmm, I didn't consider this fact as I haven't done extensive testing (only tested it a B&H). Where do you primarily see this effect - on the edges or the entire bottom of the picture?
It depends on the angle but its pretty significant along the bottom of the photo - With the 580 though you are fine. Its tall enough even angled down to clear the hood on the lens.
 

wheezy

macrumors 65816
Apr 7, 2005
1,280
1
Alpine, UT
@ edge100 - I am hoping to check out a 135mm before I buy, and see how much I have to move around to make it usable. Most times I will be able to zoom with my feet. The few times I expect to not be able to (say, as a guest at a wedding, or spectator at an amateur -ie poorly lit - hockey game, etc) I will need that extra stop of f/2 to freeze the action. As you eluded to, I am curious how much I will be able to say, pick my seat ahead of time, such that I can live with just one focal length and get most of the shots I want. If I can do that, it will be well worth it so I can also use this lens to its potential in portrait settings, home studio (a couple off camera strobes), walking around outside, etc. The other plus side is I have a 21mp FF camera. So even if I am not as close as I would like to be, I have a lot of room to crop and get my desired composition, and still keep a decent resolution. That's my thinking anyway...
The 135F2L is gorgeous on a 5DII, it was my first prime on my 20D and I completely loved it, and now going FF I love it even more as I gained a little more room to work with since it's not a 1.6 factor anymore. And the F2 makes a huge difference when it gets dark, worth the extra 1 stop over 2.8 it grabs on the 70-200. My next tele I plan to just get the base 70-200F4 for when I don't have time to move my feet, but my go-to tele will be the 135.

And for portraits it's amazing. Simply amazing.
 

OreoCookie

macrumors 68030
Apr 14, 2001
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Sendai, Japan
@OreoCookie, hey did you see the mockup of the new 16-28 f2.8 by Tokina?
Looks very interesting. I reckon the built quality is better than that for the DX lenses. I hope they'll eventually release a new 24/28-70 mm f/2.8 for full frame cameras.

Regarding the 24 mm prime, I agree, that's a too wide on a full frame body for available light. I have really gotten to like my 30 mm f/1.4 Sigma. Having a few extra mm would be nice. But it's much nicer that I have another 1,900 € to spend ;)
 

carlgo

macrumors 68000
Dec 29, 2006
1,804
17
Monterey CA
I'm from the old days and everyone I knew had a 50, and often only a 50. It was the point and shoot of that time and used for the usual family shots, vacation slides and all that.

Serious photographers lugged around a really heavy bag filled with primes of various lengths, along with a tripod.

Zooms were pretty darn big and heavy, and expensive. You mostly saw them at the telephoto end of the spectrum.

Be thankful for the terrific new zooms. Even the kit ones are just a revelation that maybe you can't appreciate unless you grew up with the old designs.
 

Jaro65

macrumors 68040
Mar 27, 2009
3,703
563
Seattle, WA
I'm from the old days and everyone I knew had a 50, and often only a 50. It was the point and shoot of that time and used for the usual family shots, vacation slides and all that.

Serious photographers lugged around a really heavy bag filled with primes of various lengths, along with a tripod.

Zooms were pretty darn big and heavy, and expensive. You mostly saw them at the telephoto end of the spectrum.

Be thankful for the terrific new zooms. Even the kit ones are just a revelation that maybe you can't appreciate unless you grew up with the old designs.
I do remember the days. :) A 50mm lens was all I had on my first couple of SLRs.