Lens decision (kit lens replacement)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by dllavaneras, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. dllavaneras macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2005
    Location:
    Caracas, Venezuela
    #1
    Finally, after just over two years using a Canon S1 IS, I have the chance to step up to a DSLR. I have been using my S1 mainly for macro shots, since I attached a Raynox DCR-250 super macro. My main line of work is macro photography; I don't make a living out of it, but since I'm working in an entomology lab it's very useful, and generates some extra income.

    I'm planning on buying a Canon Rebel XTi with the 18-55mm kit lens, a 100mm macro and a Canon ring flash (the MR-14EX macro ring lite). I already have ~4GB in CF cards from my S1, so storage isn't a problem, and that setup fits my budget just right. I was hoping to get the 40D and the 100mm macro, but I prefer getting a good lighting setup.

    While I'm sure I'll be using my 100mm macro for the great majority of my shots, I'd also like to take pictures of landscapes, portraits of my friends, family shots, etc. I was considering replacing the kit lens with the Canon 50mm f1.8. Is this a wise choice? Are there any other lenses that I should look at? (please keep in mind that my budget is pretty much set on the $1500-ish that the current setup costs, so I'm not expecting anything besides the 50mm)

    For me it's a toss-up: I like the versatility of the 18-55mm range, but I'd like to take indoor (ie. low light) pics, the greater DOF control of the 50mm is nice and from what I've seen it's sharper. Although I'm pretty spoiled by my 10X zoom, I could very well adapt to "zooming with my feet" ;)

    Thanks for any advice, and any other tips are well received!
     
  2. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #2
    Get the 40D, it is a nice step up from the XTi -- well worth the price. The 100 macro is a great lens, as is the 50mm f/1.8. Consider the 60mm macro too -- it's super sharp and a good portrait lens too!

    As far as a zoom is concerned, I would start off with those two prime lenses and see what kind of zoom range you really want. From your interests, you will certainly use the 100 macro and the 50mm 1.8 is almost a no-brainer.

    I would strongly urge the 40D + 50mm f/1.8 and the 60mm macro . You can add lighting, zooms, etc. later on. It's a little beyond your price range ($1300 + $75 + $360= $1735) but each of those components are well worth the extra cost. You won't have to sell and upgrade later on.
     
  3. bmat macrumors 6502

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    #3
    Unless you're planning on abandoning the 1.6 format in the near future, I'd get the EF-S 60 macro instead. It's better suited for a 1.6 crop, and still provides 1:1 magnification for macro work. I found it to be sharper than the 100 macro, and Canon says it's compatible with the MR-14EX macro ring light.

    More importantly, it's a very very good portrait focal length as well (the 100 macro is a bit long, imho). That one lens can be very close to a walk around lens, and it's slightly cheaper than the 100 macro to boot. (It's one of those lenses I really miss having abandoned the 1.6 crop.)

    Let's say the ring light is $450.
    the 60 is $360
    the XTi is $570
    Total $1380 (on Amazon, incl. shipping).

    Well, $120 doesn't get you much, I hate to say it. So, I guess you might be better off getting the kit lens. But if you decide to double the $120 to $250, there are few more options. Of you could get the Sigma 50 macro, which is around $250 (and still 1:1) -- but is noisy and slower AF -- and have some more cash. Personally, I'd rather not get the ring light, but you have good reasons for getting it.
     
  4. dllavaneras thread starter macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

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    #4
    I though about it, but that would be a bit over my budget (if I buy it, I'd have to cancel my new iMac, and I definitely don't want that :p). And from my experience, both in the lab and in the field, lighting is invaluable. For scientific photography you need even lighting, which is tricky to achieve if you don't have decent lights in the lab, and the ring flash would help with that.

    As for my preferred zoom range, I rarely use the wide end of my S1 IS (compared to the medium-long range). So more in favor of the 50mm. ;) I was just wondering if the 50mm is, quality-wise, superior enough over the 18-55 to warrant getting it.

    Thanks for the advice!

    Edited to reply to the previous post:
    I considered it, but after trying them both out I leaned towards the 100mm macro based on my subjects. The 100mm gives me a bit more distance to work with :)

    Definitely. Lighting is crucial for me, and I have to work under some pretty challenging conditions sometimes. If my 40.000+ macro shots have taught me anything, is that lighting is not to be taken lightly.
     
  5. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #5
    I'm not a Canon shooter, so I hesitate to recommend a specific lens; but if you really want to shoot landscapes a 50mm lens is simply not going to cut it. I think you'll want something somewhere in the 18-24mm range at a minimum (er, make that "at the maximum" in this context).

    On a crop-sensor camera a 50mm lens is a short telephoto. A "normal" lens would be closer to 35mm.
     
  6. dllavaneras thread starter macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

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    #6
    I agree completely, and I'm aware of that, but I simply don't take as many landscapes as I do portraits, and based on the pics I've taken, I don't use the wide end as much as I do the "middle" part of my 38-380mm (equiv) zoom range. So is the 50mm sharp enough to get it instead of the 18-55mm?
     
  7. bmat macrumors 6502

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    Nov 24, 2004
    Location:
    East Coast, USA
    #7
    Yes, if, as you say, you really can give up the wide side. The kit lens is not known for it's sharpnes unless stopped down. Primes are almost always better from an IQ perspective than zooms, and that's the case even when comparing the plastic fantastic 50 to the kit lens. In addition, you'll gain the extra stops (at the expense of DOF) which can be useful indoors without a flash. You really can't go wrong with a 50 1.8. The only other lens to consider would be a 35 f2, but that's going to cost about $130 more than the 50 1.8.

    If you need to working distance, a Sigma 150 is a good lens. But it runs about $100 more than the 100 f2.8 macro. And I'm not sure about ring light capability.
     
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #8
    If you know what you need for macro work get it. I'm not a fan of ring lights unless you can control the left and right side independently. But if you know what you like get it. Have you thought about "hot" lights or simply using longer exposures if the subjects are static. Macro lighting is where you can use a lot of common household stuff and save a lot of money.

    As for the 18-55 vs. the 50mm lens. I'd say get both. Both are very low cost. The 50mm is just not wide enough most of the time. the 18-55 not fast enough.

    Consider getting the 18-55 used. These are dirt cheap as people try and sell them after they upgrade but there are few buyers because "everyone" already has one. So they sell for nothing
     
  9. Lovesong macrumors 65816

    Lovesong

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    #9
    I think you're definitely heading in the right direction by focusing (no pun intended) on the glass and lightning, and not so much on the camera. One thing you probably looked at, but I still would recommend, is that you think about a Rebel XT, vs the XTi. Yes, I know that it's only 8MP, and doesn't have the so-so dust cleaning system, and that the focusing system on the XTi is improved, given some of the pictures I've seen from you, and your interest in macro shots, most of your work will involve manual focusing anyway. That's about $150 you can spend on upgrading to an MR-24EX, or getting some decent support (though I'd bet you already have the latter covered).

    In term of the 50, Canon makes three (four if you count the $4000 legendary f/1.0) lenses- the 1.8 (best value of any lens in the Canon lineup), the 1.4 (better build, and slightly sharper, better bokeh), and the 1.2 (some $1200 of bomb-proof goodness, excellent bokeh, though some AF issues). Like everyone says, the 1.8 will be as good as some L glass zooms out there. I have the 1.4, and it is just slightly sharper than my 24-70L. Whatever you do, get either of those 50mm lenses.
     
  10. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Redondo Beach, California
    #10
    If you are talking about hand held snapshots one lens is as sharp as the other. When you notice that one lens is better is when your techniue is perfect. When the camera is on a sturdy tripod and you use a self timer or remote control to trip the shutter.

    What made you decide to go with Canon? You could base a system around a Nikon d80. I like the Nikon flash exposure system better and the Nikon RGB met is better too. Sounds like you may not care that Canon's AF is faster and if your main work uses flash noise is a non-issue as you can have as much light on your subject as you want. You might look at some other camera makers
     
  11. dllavaneras thread starter macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

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    #11
    The MR-14EX has two separate lights, and each one can be set from full power to not firing at all in six steps.

    I already have 3 tripods, one of them incredibly sturdy. And I specifically chose the MR-14EX because it works better with a lens I'd like in the future: the Canon 65mm MP 1x-5x macro lens.

    One specific lens, actually (see above). No other lens maker has such an extreme macro lens, and that's my main line of work.

    Thanks for the replies, everyone!
     
  12. hexa-db macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    #12
    Just another vouch for the 50mm f1.8 - I bought this for about £50 and thought it would be handy for low-light situations, like concerts etc. It's now my favourite lens - It's really great for portraits and the sharpness is really good. I do still use the kit lens a fair bit though for the wide end mostly.

    As a disclaimer I should say that I'm using an older 300D and I'm a complete amateur :D
     
  13. ScubaDuc macrumors 6502

    ScubaDuc

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    Europe
    #13
    BAck in my pre-digital days, the best lens to do those macro shots was the Nikkor 200 mm "medical" with build in ring flash

    R the little bugs moving? If not, you can use a bellow and ring flash..

    Go for older manual lenses... They are much cheaper as you can find them in a second hand shop and better performing on a DX sized sensor because they use only the center portion of the lens where you'll have less vignetting and barrel distortion.
     
  14. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #14
    I think that if you're going to have one main lens, the 18-55 mm will simply "do more." No it's not as fast, and it's not as sharp, but its usefulness lies in its focal range. Ever hear of people here recommending a Nikon 17-55 mm f/2.8, Canon 16-35 mm f/2.8L, Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8, or Sigma 18-50 mm f/2.8?? Want to know why? Because these lenses are good, and it covers quite a useful focal range.

    Now, the Canon 18-55 mm is clearly worse than the above lenses, but they're still useful for the same reason the above lenses are useful......because it goes to 18 mm, all the way up to 55 mm.

    If the 50 mm f/1.8 was actually a 30-50 mm f/1.8, and it was as sharp as the 50 mm f/1.8 lens, then yes I'd recommend it. It wouldn't be wide or long, but at least it gives you options. There's a HUGE difference between 30 mm and 50 mm, and I find that my Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 is MUCH more useful indoors than my 50 mm f/1.8, which proves useless in most indoor situations.

    But you said that you shoot with the mid-range of your current camera rather than the wide end, so I guess you can be a better judge of what you need. I probably don't have the same needs as you. ;)
     
  15. miloblithe macrumors 68020

    miloblithe

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    Nov 14, 2003
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #15
    If your budget is $1500, couldnt you get the 50mm, ring light, 100mm macro, and XTI with kit lens?

    Youd then have a lot more versatility.

    Theres no perfect replacement for the 50mm and kit lens that competes with the roughly $160 price of the two of them. For $350-400, you can get into the 18-50 f/2.8 type lenses, but thats $200 extra dollars youd need to find.
     
  16. dllavaneras thread starter macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

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    Feb 12, 2005
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    Caracas, Venezuela
    #16
    They sure are! I don't like taking pics of dead insects (unless it's specific lab work), so most of the time they're running about.

    Very true, and I do use the wide end for group shots and regular snapshots, but my main lens will be the 100mm macro. This camera is specifically for my line of work; the portraits and wide-angle stuff would be secondary, and I could still use my S1 (or my S2) for that until I get a new lens.

    Well, the XTi (body only), ring flash, 100mm macro and the 50mm costs 1540~ish on Amazon, so I don't think so :(
     
  17. ScubaDuc macrumors 6502

    ScubaDuc

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    Europe
    #17
    There are tons of critters and each I suppose requires its own bag of tricks

    I have no experience in the kind of pictures you want to take in the lab but I spent my fare share of time chasing ants (and anything that moved for that matter) and in my experience, lighting is the hardest variable to control in nature if you are getting really close to your subject... That's where the ring flash comes in....

    For the sake of discussion, I am also going to question your basic assumption: why have you decided on the Canon rebel? I know I am a Nikon buff, so you should not think I am being biased if I suggest to take a hard look at the Pentax K10... There is a 100 bucks rebate right now and it's compatible with the old, K mount Pentax SRL lenses which you could probably find in an used shop for fairly cheap.. especially if you are not using auto-focus in your macro shots. Also, the Pentax has build in stabilization...a very useful feature because you can gain about 2 stops

    The donwside is that Pentax does not have a lens portfolio on par with Nikon or Canon although there are some decent sigma and tamron that could do the trick
     
  18. dllavaneras thread starter macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

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    Caracas, Venezuela
    #18
    You got that right! Especially when you consider the wildlife diversity down here. The techniques used to approach and photograph butterflies are very different from the ones used to photograph roaches, and so on with every insect Order.

    Exactly. That's why I'm set on using a ring flash, since using an external flash on a bracket wouldn't let me get certain angles, and it has a bigger chance of scaring the little critters away. Also, the light would always come from one side, and with a ring flash I could control both sides.

    One big reason for choosing Canon is that it's the only camera brand I've seen that has a really extreme macro lens, the MP-E 65mm 1x-5x Macro. It goes from 1:1 to 5:1, and as such it'd be an excellent aid to my lab work. I'm very interested in morphology and anatomy, and this kind of magnification would come in very handy. If you know of any other maker that makes a similar lens, by all means please do tell and I'll give another brand a hard look. :)

    As for the model, I'd love the 40D, but I'd rather spend 700 bucks less on the body and spend it on the 100mm macro lens and ring flash. The XTi with the ring flash would result in much more keepers than the 40D without it (in my case)
     
  19. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

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    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #19
    If you are as into Macro as you say you are and you have the budget that you say you do, then you simply can't do without this lens. It will eat up about half your stated budget and isn't usable for anything but macro, but I'm convinced you won't find a better macro lens out there without using a bellows setup. And this comes from someone who is about as anti-Canon as they come.

    Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Manual Focus Telephoto Lens
    Link: http://www.adorama.com/CA6528AFU.html

    Seriously, check it out.

    Edit: I see you are aware of the lens, but if you've got $1,500 you should own it! I don't think you'll find a better option anywhere, or from any other brand.
     
  20. dllavaneras thread starter macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

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    #20
    I'm definitely aware of it :D The main reason I'm not buying it is because for my line of work I need shots that aren't always macros, so I need a lens that can focus at various distances, unlike the MP-E 65 which only focuses at 15 cm. It's definitely next on my "to buy" list, though ;)
     
  21. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

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    #21
    You can get the lens for less than $900 in the states, that should leave you with some good cash for another more versatile lens.

    SLC
     
  22. dllavaneras thread starter macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

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    #22
    Yes, except $900 is more than half my budget ;) It's definitely on my to-buy list for next year!
     
  23. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #23
  24. dllavaneras thread starter macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

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    #24
    I had considered it, but one big selling point of the Canon 100mm macro for me was the internal focusing, where as the Tokina lens extends. Bugs have a tendency to scurry off when something big comes their way, and this effect would be increased in my case since I'm getting the ring flash. ;)

    Thanks though! :)
     
  25. JFreak macrumors 68040

    JFreak

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    #25
    Does it have to be Canon lens? How about Sigma EX 30mm f/1.4 which used with 1.6 crop sensors is as close as it gets to "50mm on full frame equivalent".
     

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