Full Frame on a Budget

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by RedDragon870503, Oct 13, 2009.

  1. RedDragon870503 macrumors 6502


    Sep 6, 2006
    I am working with a budget of $2000. I currently have a 40D with an UWA lens (bought for a trip) and a 28-70 f/2.8 lens on it.

    Recently I have been working on doing candid street portraits and posed street portraits with limited lighting (one or two off camera flashes). I am really excited about this project and am working on composing a way to display all of this work. This is mostly a hobby and the only time I sell is per request.


    I have been looking at web galleries of this sort of work and I see that most pros use a full frame camera and a prime 50 or 85 for this sort of thing. The biggest thing I have trouble with is controlling the depth of field. I usually zoom out to 75 and shoot close to wide open. However, I'm not getting the bokeh effect or depth of field I am looking for. My goal in shooting is to capture what intrigues me about each subject... Could be face, full body, partial face... There are some zany people out there that are so incredibly interesting to photograph it is impossible not to... I usually only get one or two shots per composition is to focus on an interesting aspect of my subject

    Two part question:

    Should I keep my 40D invest in a 30 f1.4 prime, which would be similar to the focal field of a 50 f1.4 on a full frame and call it good? I rarely ever use the 6.5fps the camera is capable of (as a side note)...

    I think I will be shooting street portraits and candid scenes for quite awhile so I am strongly considering my other option:

    Sell the 40D, UWA, 28-75 and start over with a full frame and a prime 50 1.4 and 85 1.8?

    If I go that route, for what I am doing, what are some good suggestions for hardware:

    1ds mark I
    5d mark I
    Nikons, or other?

    Again, $2000 budget, high quality lens older full frame camera?

    Or... Not to muddy the water too much... Bite the bullet and buy the 50mm 1.2...

    Hope my convoluted questions can be answered on this forum! One of the best communities on the net! ;)
  2. peskaa macrumors 68020


    Mar 13, 2008
    London, UK
    Out of the options you present, I'd look at keeping your 40D and buying a 35mm f/1.4, or getting an original 5D and a 50mm f/1.4. I wouldn't touch a used 1Ds due to the age of the camera and the likely abuse it would have taken.
  3. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    The Canon 35mm f1.4 L should be well within budget. I've got the Mk I version of the lens and it is stunning. The new Mk II should be even better. If you then move up to full frame at a later date this is still a lens you will use so it's not a waste
  4. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502


    Sep 6, 2006
    So the 35 1.4L on my 40 would be better than a 50 1.4 (I was eying the Sigma not Canon as I've heard it is much sharper) on a 5d or 1ds... or even a 1.3x like a 1d mark II... as a full frame in my price bracket might be quite aged...

    What about on the Nikon side of things?
  5. kenned macrumors member

    May 16, 2008
    I have the sigma 30mm f1.4. It's a very sharp lens, probably just as sharp as the 35L. But there are some bad things about it, first of all it's APS-C only, so if you move to full-frame in the future you won't be able to use it. Also, the focus is pretty much a hit and miss, mine is front-focusing slightly too.

    Hope that helped
  6. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502


    Sep 6, 2006
    Yes, so the good options would be 40D + 35L or Sigma 30 1.4... or 5D + 50mm 1.4 (probably sigma)...

    What about 1.3x and a 50mm for what I am doing?
  7. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    If DOF is your main concern, then you should definitely consult this calculator:


    That will answer your question about different sensor sizes with different lenses.

    From what I've heard from you so far, I would have to agree that it makes the most sense for you to keep the 40D and upgrade the lens, especially if you're working with flash and getting clean ISO 1600 isn't a necessity.
  8. akdj macrumors 65816


    Mar 10, 2008
    I guess I look at it a bit differently.

    If you were to buy a nice condition used 5D and the Sigma 50/1.4 or one of the L primes, used...(85L/1.2 V1, around $1k...a bit spendy, but you can get a 200L for $500. There are deals if you scour local Cragislist...), you'll find the bokeh you're looking for.

    I'm a big fan of the 40d, just sold mine last weekend, replaced by the 7d. I also shoot with the 5d2. It's tough to compare bokeh from crop to FF. Don't know all the science or reasons why, but my 5d is the king of DOF cameras, from those that I've invested in....10, 20, 30, and 40d...skipped 50 for the 5d2. Happy I did, as I do a lot of the same shooting as you. No need for speed shots doing candids...just that creamy bokeh to make the subject POP!

    Good Luck

  9. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    few things:
    - there is no such thing as a "bokeh effect." bokeh is the quality of background blur. selective focus is what makes subjects stand out.

    - a 35mm sensor has about 1 1/3 less DoF as APS-C for the same framing. if you can figure out what focal lengths at what f-stops on your camera will give the amount of subject separation you want (or if it's even possible), you will know which lenses to buy and if you need to switch to a larger format.

    - the cheapest option is a 5D. there are no other old, inexpensive 35mm digital bodies besides the 1Ds, which is slightly more expensive.

    - keep in mind longer focal lengths lead to more background diffusion, so even if you don't have extremely fast lenses, using a longer one may be another way to achieve subject separation. you just have to keep in mind that your working distance will be much farther and the perspective changes as well.
  10. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2008
    If i were you, I would sell the 40D and use that money towards a FF body, either the 1DS or the 5D1. If you are doing a lot of night photography, the bigger, brighter VF will obviously be an advantage.

    Now on the 1DS vs the 5D comparison, there has been many a threads on that over at fredmiranda.com in the past. They are both in the same neighborhood of MP count, but the 5D will be faster, in almost every aspect. The 1DS will be faster in AF, as well as have a much better build, as it is a 1 series. Remember, the 1DS was released in like 2002 or something, the 5D about this time in 2005. If weight is an issue, the 5D would be a good choice.

    I am going to go FF in the next year, and I really don't know what i will go with. If the 1DS2 goes down to the $1700 range (they are about $2200-$2600 right now), I would be very tempted to go that route...
  11. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    When I was in middle school in the early 1970's I shot mostly candids with a full frame SLR and a 50mm lens. I was able to shoot quite a bit even on a typical 13 year old's budget.

    I know what you are thinking "I can't afford the cost of film." But read again "I was able to shoot quite a bit even on a typical 13 year old's budget." I used to buy film on 100 foot long bulk rolls. You can buy a setup like I had for about $200.

    That said if I were to shoot people pictures on film again I'd go for medium format. Likely a Hassblad with 80mm. I have many digital images on file and scans from my 35mm film and from medium format film. Looking at the images, I think "full frame" is to close to "crop frame" to warrant the large cost of moving up to full frame. (a 50% larger frame is not much) If you are going to spend $2K, move up to 6cm square where there is a dramatic difference that even non-photographers can see.

    If you were shooting sports or wildlife then it's different. For that 35mm "full frame" is about as large as practical but for people shots 6x6 is the best and anything else is a compromise to cost or convenience.
  12. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    I don't think going to FF is going to offer you anything meaningful here. The pros are using FF bodies probably because they have the money/justification to do so, and because they might need the speed/capability of the high end body for their work, not necessarily because it is FF.

    Especially if you're constrained to old technology bodies for budget reasons, it is likely that your crop sensor 40D will outshoot an old FF body in terms of high ISO/noise, or at least be comparable- due to advances in sensor design and A/D electronic processing.

    The typical portrait shooter is using ~85mm on FF, so actually you'd want the 50mm 1.4 on the crop body which gives 80mm on FF. Using a 30 or 35mm prime is going to give a view closer to 50mm but this might be too wide for many shots. As you said in your post, you usually rack it out to 75mm, so what makes you think retreating to 30mm is going to work out? You may even want an 85mm+ prime to get that working distance if you're shooting candid.

    If you're shooting "near wide open" then you need to open up more until you're all the way wide open, then if that's not enough try a prime lens with bigger aperture. This is much more effective (both optically and financially) than trying to solve DOF problems with a FF sensor.

    You could buy the 50mm 1.2 in your budget but unless you can justify for yourself the cost of the purchase for what you describe as a hobby (i.e. non-paying work), the 4-5x increase in cost is not worth the marginal increase (decrease rather) in DOF you'll achieve with the 1/3 stop wider aperture vs a 1.4 lens.
  13. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    ^^^I completely agree with Ruahrc. My favorite portrait lens on a cropped sensor is my 100mm f/2. It gives me just the right amount of distance and separation. Keep in mind that longer focal lengths give you greater magnification of the background, which gives the illusion of even shallower depth of field. See this page for examples:

  14. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502


    Sep 6, 2006
    Thanks for all the help.

    Lots of great stuff to chew through.

    In terms of image quality is the 5D on par with the 40D as low ISO? High ISO?

    I've seen conflicting results.
  15. luminosity macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2006
    The cheapest way to get a full frame camera is to get a 35mm film SLR. My N80 is what led me to get a D700.

    In terms of image quality is the 5D on par with the 40D as low ISO? High ISO?

    The 5D is considerably better in terms of IQ than the 40D. The 5D is a tremendous camera and is available used at around $1,000 and up if you know where to look.
  16. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502


    Sep 6, 2006
    Where do I look? :)

    Adorama used dept is where I've been looking... craigslist too...
  17. FX120 macrumors 65816


    May 18, 2007
    The 5D destroys the 40D for high ISO noise, and what noise is there, is much more pleasing to look at.

    The 5D is one of my favorite cameras of all time. If you can put up with the smaller and poor-quality rear LCD, and lack of some of the more modern features found on your 40D, get it and don't look back.
  18. pdxflint macrumors 68020


    Aug 25, 2006
    Oregon coast
    I'd keep the 40D.

    I've found on crop-sensor bodies, the plain, cheap 50mm f/1.8 produces really good bokeh, although a bit long for general shots. Bracket that lens with an 85mm f/1.8 (cheapest option, great lens) 100 or 135mm f/2 - f/2.8 and a wide-angle (28 or 35mm, f/2 - f/2.8,) depending on whether you want a normal-type lens, or a semi-wide angle as your wide end) and you should be able to cover a lot of street situations with three fairly smaller, light lenses, and get your depth of field isolation (bokeh) shots, too. The good thing is, you could really get some decent used glass without breaking the bank. Plus, you've already got the ultra-wide for those unique perspectives, which are also great for urban-style photography.

    Of course, the 50mm f/1.4 is a bit faster, but probably 3x the cost of the 50mm f/1.8 for not a lot of practical difference, in my opinion, especially on crop-sensor bodies, so spend your available money wisely... :)

    All the lens types I'm suggesting above will work for FF later, also.

    Have fun. I like you're goals, and it should be interesting work.
  19. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Nov 19, 2007
    Portland, OR
    I think you're going about this in the right way, but I will say that if you don't know if you should buy into a full frame system you probably don't need it.

    That being said, full frame cameras can give awesome results.

    You asked about Nikon, I don't think you'll find a way to get into a Nikon full frame system for $2,000.00 their cheapest full frame camera has been out for about a year now, and it's still going for more than 2K without a lens (used).

    Anyway, mull it over for a while, you've got a good camera body, and a f/1.4 prime can give you all the background separation you need. Buy FF for the wide angle aspect or the high ISO performance, not the slightly increased ability to separate subject from background.

    Good luck with the decision.

  20. John.B macrumors 601


    Jan 15, 2008
    Holocene Epoch
    Probably best to stay away from the 50mm f/1.2 L. A lot of money for a lens that isn't as sharp as it ought to be due to an inherent backfocus issue. At minimum, do your own research on it before you drop big money on one.
  21. dvdhsu macrumors 6502a


    Mar 28, 2008
    Palo Alto, CA
    A break from the pack, but would you be interested in perhaps Film?
    They offer amazing prices nowadays. F4 and such.
  22. VegasPhoto macrumors newbie

    Dec 30, 2008
    Las Vegas
    Looking for background blur? Full frame will give about 1-1/3 stops narrower DoF and more background blur at any focal length with similar framing.

    5D can turn an otherwise unimpressive standard zoom into a more capable lens as far as background blur and narrow DoF are concerned. 50 f/1.4 does acceptably well. 35L makes for some interesting photos. 85 f/1.8 is a bit sharper wide open than 50 f/1.4 and gives slightly better background blurring. Your miles may vary, but primes or telephoto focal lengths are the way to get background blur.

    Don't even consider original 1D series; the 5D gives better image quality and better high ISO noise.
  23. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    Not to start "that" discussion again, but WHAAAAT!???!?!? The bokeh produced by the 50/1.8 is in no way "really good"; do you really like those sharp-edged pentagons?

    By contrast, the 50/1.4 produces much more pleasing near-circles, owing to its 8-bladed aperture; not as good as the 50/1.2L or the 85/1.2L, but miles better than the 50/1.8.

    Buy right, buy once. The 50/1.4 is 2/3 of a stop faster than the 1.8; not inconsequential if you're moving from 1/50s at f/1.4 to 1/30s at f/1.8 (difference between sharp and blurry); or from ISO2000 at f/1.4 to ISO3200 at f/1.8 (difference between completely useable and fairly noisy, esp. on the 40D).

    The 50/1.8 is a good lens for the money, don't get me wrong. But the 50/1.4 is in a whole different league (with the Sigma 50/1.4 in a different league again).

    To the OP; go with FF. Sell the 40D for $600ish and the UWA and 28-70 for whatever you can, and use the money (likely >$3000, including your original $2000) to buy:

    - 5DmkI (there's on for $1200 with grip on fredmiranda.com right now)
    - 50/1.4 (used copy @ $325-350 MAX)
    - 85/1.8 (used copy @ $350)
    - 24-70 f/2.8L (used copy @ $1000)

    Use the rest of the money for flashes and lighting equipment, if you don't already have it.

    50/1.4 >> 50/1.8
    5D >> 40D
  24. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Why would he sell the 28-70 in exchange for a 24-70 when the 28-70 serves him okay now? The net effect is only to lose money in this exchange. They're both f2.8 (OP claims this is insufficient for his needs), maybe the 24-70 has a little better IQ but this was not the OP's concern.

    Sell the UWA lens too? Then he has no UWA capability. Maybe he doesn't use it that much anymore but he didn't say anything about wanting to drop that lens either.

    Going to FF is the most expensive and probably worst way to attack the problem described by the OP. The most sensibile option would be to get a 50mm f1.4, use it for a while, and if the DoF is still lacking (which I really doubt would be the case), then consider a move to FF.

    There is such a thing as too little DoF you know... it's not computer RAM

  25. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    This is kind of the point I tried to make above. Digital FF is only 50% larger then a digital crop frame and that is very little difference. Not enough for most people to notice

    If you are going to change format because you want a different "look" then you need to at least double the frame size, maybe even larger than that. I've shot Nikon DX format, 35mm (full frame) and 6x7cm with a Mamiya. I'll tell you the 35mm and DX looks so much the same but 6x7 looks very different. If all you want is smaller DOF then get a 50mm f/1.4 lens. With a fast prime on my Nikon DX SLR I have to think about focusing on the eyes and not the nose, hard to get the entire head in focus. There is no need for less DOF. And if I do want more I use Photoshop's Gaussian blur and a mask.

    But the larger format is more then just reduced DOF. With the larger frame you tend to shoot at a different camera to subject distance and perspective depends on distance

    Rent some camera in different formats and see.

    It would be easy to more than double the frame size and stay within your budget.

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