Is my thinking correct... 50mm 1.4 provides no advantage vs. 17-55 f2.8 IS?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by VirtualRain, Feb 17, 2010.

  1. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #1
    I've recently picked up the 17-55 f2.8 IS which is a great lens. (Thanks to all that encouraged this choice).

    One of the things I've been shooting a lot lately, is portraits and getting ready to go out shots, of my girlfriend. (She loves to review them and calls it self-appreciation! LOL). They are shot indoors, without flash, and she will be still while I'm shooting, sometimes even striking a pose. I guess this is not dissimilar to the kinds of photos a wedding photographer would take prior to the ceremony.

    I usually shoot on auto ISO, hand held, and the shots are good but there can be a lot of noise depending on the lighting at the time (T1i body).

    I was thinking, perhaps I should get a 50mm f1.4 for the wider aperture, but then I thought... I'm already getting two stops of advantage from the IS on my f2.8 lens, so what is the 50mm really going to buy me? Is my logic sound or would I actually see some benefit from a 50mm prime?
     
  2. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #2
    IS only gives you photographer movement advantages, 2 stops of light give you subject movement advantages as well as the ability to choose a shallower DoF. Only you can decide how important those two things are. In general though, if you want better portraits, spend your money on lighting- control the light, control the image.

    Paul
     
  3. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #3
    I don't think the 50mm f/1.4 would help you much in this situation. You said you're working in an indoor space; if it's large enough for you to get full-body shots at 50mm, then perhaps you might benefit from the faster lens, but otherwise, you probably won't. The wider aperture can give you a more shallow depth of field for subject separation, but with f/2.8, you're already probably too shallow to get both her nose and ears in focus with a bust-length portrait.

    I think your real problem is using auto-ISO. Select your settings yourself in order to get the lowest noise possible. Shooting in M mode should be especially easy in the situation you've described, since the lighting, distance, and subject won't be changing (much if at all) during the shoot.
     
  4. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #4
    I should definitely look back at the EXIF data to see what focal length I'm using most often... I suspect you are correct about 50mm not being ideal.

    As for noise, yes... I should try some different fixed ISO settings to see what yields decent hand-held shots.

    Thanks!
     
  5. djbahdow01 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2004
    Location:
    Northeast, CT
    #5
    I'd say instead of getting the 50 1.4 go for a flash, it will have a lot more uses then just the lens. Let alone you will get a better quality light.
     
  6. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    Where am I???
    #6
    A wide max aperture is useful for two things; first is low light performance. f/1.4 is two-stops faster than f/2.8, and if you're shooting in conditions where camera shake is not the major source of blur (i.e. moving subjects), IS can't make up for faster glass.

    The other thing a wide max aperture is useful for is shallow DoF. Now, f/2.8 will provide you with a fairly shallow DoF, so you may not need the super small DoF that f/1.4 will provide.

    That said, I think the 50 f/1.4 is still a good lens to get, because the performance of this lens at f/2.8 (ie. 2 stops down) is much better than the 17-55 f/2.8 at f/2.8 (ie. wide-open). Add to this the ability to stop motion in low light AND to get super shallow DoF if you need/want it, and I think the 50/1.4 is still a great addition.
     
  7. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #7
    It's better, but not as much as you might think. The 17-55 is really an amazing lens:

    (clickable)

    [​IMG]

    I think the best suggestion here is to invest in some lighting. Get a flash and a transmitter so you can use it off-camera, and you'll take your indoor portrait shots to a whole new level.
     
  8. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    Where am I???
    #8
    Looks a whole lot better to my eyes (though it should be noted that the 17-55 is still doing very well at f/2.8):

    http://the-digital-picture.com/Revi...p=398&CameraComp=474&SampleComp=0&FLI=0&API=4
     
  9. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #9
    Strange comparison as you linked it: a 1Ds Mark III versus a 50D. Change the camera to the Mark II instead (and make sure the 17-55 is set at 55). Then the 17-55 actually looks sharper than the prime lens.
     
  10. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    Where am I???
    #10
    Switching to the mkII does affect the results a bit in favour of the 17-55. The 50 still looks sharper (esp. in the middle and mid-frame), but it's probably splitting hairs at that point. The 50 does appear to sharpen up a bit better at higher f/stops, but again the 17-55 is a very good lens.

    Unless the OP needs the two stops of light to stop motion OR needs the shallow DoF, I agree with you that an investment in lighting would be a much better use of the money over buying a 50/1.4
     
  11. jbg232 macrumors 65816

    jbg232

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2007
    #11
    I agree that the first thing you need to get better shots is a tripod and lights. At f/2.8 the DOF is plenty shallow and (IMO) will not be better served with the extra stops you will be getting from a f/1.4. An umbrella with mount will serve you very well for this purpose and can be had for about $30 at BH not including the cost of the actual light (I would wager you have probably never met a portrait photographer that doesn't use one of some sort).

    Be careful to understand that the extra 2 stops of light gained by IS only stops YOUR hand motions effects on sharpness but doesn't actually allow any more actual light into the camera so will not stop action by freezing the frame with more light (and thus a faster shutter speed to get a sharp picture).

    Happy shooting.
     
  12. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #12
    Hmm... a flash... I hadn't really considered that because when I have used the on-camera flash, the lighting is always so harsh... but obviously I have no idea how to utilize an off-camera flash. More research ahead! :eek: Can you use an off camera flash effectively when you're going from the bathroom to the bedroom, to the foyer, etc?

    @jbg232... a tripod just isn't an option for this adhoc kind of shooting I'm talking about.
     
  13. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    Where am I???
    #13
    strobist.blogspot.com That should keep you occupied for a while...
     
  14. funkboy macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2008
    Location:
    elsewhere
    #14
    Just drop $100 on the 50mm f/1.8 and see how you like using the prime (try shooting at f/2 or so).

    If you like it and want to go further, the 85mm f/1.8 is a really fantastic lens for more-or-less 50mm f/1.4 money. Then you'd have two lenses to play with, and the 85 f/1.8 is better than the 50 f/1.4 in pretty much every way I can think of. It's a little long for "portrait american" on aps-c bodies in smaller rooms but for full-face portraits in most conditions it's perfect.

    And as others have said, go get yourself a nice speedlight & an off-camera cord & read the Strobist a lot.
     
  15. toxic macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2008
    #15
    the 50 f/1.4 gets you less DoF and/or a 4x faster shutter at 50mm. the 17-55 gets you hand-holdability and infinitely better image quality from 17 to 49mm.
     
  16. Stratification macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
    Location:
    Spokane, WA
    #16
    You'll probably enjoy the prime if you get it, but I'm going to have to suggest you try going the flash route. Even a bounce flash off a wall or ceiling is going to be light years better than the puny pop-up built on to a camera. You'll get way more benefit from that.
     
  17. /"\/oo\/"\ macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    #17
    This.

     
  18. JeepGuy macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2008
    Location:
    Barrie
    #18
    if your running around the house then you want it on camera and bounce the flash, and add a diffuser, it will disperse the light better.
     
  19. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #19
    Try turning down the flash power?

    Paul
     
  20. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Location:
    Holocene Epoch
    #20
    There are two schools of thought.

    One approach is based on controlling the light. The other is to try to capture the image with available light. It's not a right vs. wrong proposition, you have to evaluate which is important to you for the situation at hand.

    If you are shooting portraits, then shooting with flashes is almost a given; usually at least a couple of flashes plus umbrellas, reflectors, diffusers, snoots, etc.

    If you are shooting an intimate gathering, shooting with flashes can be a major distraction; a series of bright flashes can destroy the mood of an event.

    IMO, the best results are when the flash is moved off the camera shoe (and that Strobist link is very good, though I admit I haven't really committed to drinking the Kool-Aide). If you are stuck using an on-camera flash, diffusers can help but overall I get better results with bounced light. And if your flash units are powerful enough, don't be afraid to aim the flash above and behind you for a softer, more even effect.
     

Share This Page