Prime Lens choice for Wedding Photography

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by andrew050703, Dec 6, 2008.

  1. andrew050703 macrumors regular


    Feb 27, 2006
    Portsmouth, U.K
    Before I start I should say "I'm not a pro" - I have little intention of becoming a full-time wedding photographer; having said that, I enjoy taking pictures at weddings & want to avoid using 1600ISO.

    My question is: What prime lens should I get for church interior wedding shots for the ceremony etc. I have limited budget so it'd have to be either

    Canon 50mm f/1.4, or
    Canon 85mm f/1.8 (no I can't afford the 1.2 versions)

    (having said that, I haven't ruled out third parties - just haven't looked)

    I have a 40D (XTi?) so get the 1.6x crop; but don't know which holds up better for low light/focusing/sharpness etc. My local shop didn't have either instore so I can't compare. I'd welcome any experiences with either.

    The main thing I want to avoid is having to be in someone's face to get the shot, or using a flash during the ceremony
  2. BCains macrumors regular

    Feb 2, 2007
    Gold Coast, Australia
    IMO an ideal lens would be the Canon 24-70 2.8 L

    Another option is the Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
  3. peskaa macrumors 68020


    Mar 13, 2008
    London, UK
    I'd head for the 50/1.4 personally. I used to have one until I upgraded to the /1.2L, and it was lovely.
  4. Scarlet Fever macrumors 68040

    Scarlet Fever

    Jul 22, 2005
    the 85mm will give you more reach (being a ~130mm equivalent), and I've heard its a bit sharper wide open. You'll have to stand quite far back if you want to do group photos, though.

    I took some pics for my cousins wedding, and the 50mm was a brilliant portrait lens for the couple when I was standing a couple of metres back, but it was fairly useless when groups of 5 or 6 got together. The 85mm can only make this situation worse.

    Also, the xxD series have always been known by their number; a 40D is a 40D, no matter where in the world you are. The xxxD series, however, have different names in America to the rest of the world. An XTi in the States is a 400D in Europe and Australia (I'm not sure about the other continents).

    XT - 350D
    XTi - 400D
    XSi - 450D

    See Post #1;

    A lens retailing for about USD$1300 isn't for someone with a limited budget. It's an awesome lens, but not cheap.
  5. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2004
    Huntsville, AL
    On a crop body, I'd go with the 50/1.4, myself.

    For what it's worth, the guy who shot my wedding used an 85/1.2 on a 1D ... The 50/1.4 on a crop body roughly approximates that.

    If money were no object, I'd shoot matching 5DII bodies with a 24-70/2.8 on one, a 70-200/2.8 on the other, and a few L primes in the bag. :cool:
  6. BCains macrumors regular

    Feb 2, 2007
    Gold Coast, Australia
    Yeah i realize that, hence the Tamron 17-50mm recommendation. :)

    The 85mm is a great lens, but wouldn't ideal as your only lens
    especially for group shots/ scenery etc.

    What is your budget?
  7. neutrino23 macrumors 68000

    Feb 14, 2003
    SF Bay area
    Why do you ask for a prime lens? If you use a single prime lens you will always be missing out on something. Either you need to carry a couple of primes or an expensive zoom.

    If you are shooting indoors it is almost always too dark for the usual f/4 zoom lenses. You can use a tripod and longer exposures (which works great) but people tend to move leading to blurred images.

    I think you'll need to get either a couple of fast primes or maybe one fast prime and a slower zoom and a good tripod.

    One other prime to consider:
    Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens.
  8. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    That's a question of focal length, not IQ. I'd just look at the pictures you've taken in the past and see which focal length you prefer. To get the same shot with 50 mm, you have to be very close to `the action.'
  9. andrew050703 thread starter macrumors regular


    Feb 27, 2006
    Portsmouth, U.K
    Well a zoom lens would be useful but I'm not sure if the 24-70L/70-200L f/2.8s will cope with the light (I'll be shooting in quite an old cathedral) - that's why I wanted the maximum aperture possible to buy. I'd have to hire the zoom lenses if they would cope as I haven't got £1000+ to spend.
  10. lazydog macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2005
    Cramlington, UK
    I was asked to do a friends wedding a couple of months back. They didn't want a pro and were happy for me to give it my best shot. Some time ago I went for a Canon 350D and the best lens I could afford at the time - a 135L f2. For the wedding I knew I needed something a bit wider so went for the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. My experience was that the two lenses covered what I wanted but the big downer was having to work with one body - switching lenses was a real pain and tricky under pressure! Having a friend help will make a big difference but I guess if you've only got 1 body a zoom might be better.

    The Sigma handled the indoor lighting of the church very well without a flash, but the problem I had was focus which was tricky to get right. I would probably put it down to my inexperience and in better hands I'm sure it would produce better results. When comparing the two lenses, the Canon 135L outperforms the Sigma and is my favorite lens. It really came into it's own outside the church for the general shots as I could snap away from a distance without getting in anyones way. For group shots etc the Sigma was great. Together I think they make a good combination.

    hope this helps

    b e n
  11. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    Churches usually frown on flashes so the investment in the 50mm 1.2 is probably quite crucial. The 1.8 is completely out of the question. Understand the 50mm is not a lens you'd use for group shots. You'll want something wider to be able to shoot close enough to see the faces but far enough to allow room for all bodies. There is no room for screw ups here.

    With a 50mm you won't need to be in their faces, again flashes aren't really an option anyway.

    I wouldn't sacrifice not getting the shot at someone's wedding for price. You'll make that money up in the long run (or with one wedding if you're actually any good).
  12. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    Renting lenses is pretty cheap. About $20 per $1000 of lenses per day. If it is just a one time thing, rent. This way you can see what works for you if you decide to invest in the future.
  13. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2004
    Huntsville, AL
    The razor-thin DOF @ f/1.2 is almost useless for portraits and f/1.2 itself is usually overkill in any reasonable lighting.
  14. rouxeny macrumors 6502

    Jan 22, 2008
    Agree with the above comment on DOF. I have a 50/1.4 and often find myself shooting at 1.4 because of inadequate lighting. I get the exposure right, but the DOF is so narrow that unless I've focussed perfectly, invariably something that I don't want out of focus, is. For portraints, 1.4 is pretty narrow, at close ranges, you'll get eyes, but not nose in focus.
  15. Caliber26, May 20, 2013
    Last edited: May 20, 2013

    Caliber26 macrumors 68000


    Sep 25, 2009
    Orlando, FL
    I agree 100%. Renting is relatively inexpensive and gives you the time and opportunity to test a lens at its full capacity and also decide if it's something you want to invest in later on. I recommend that you rent a couple of days prior to the event so that you can have a feel for how it performs and not find yourself stumbling on the day of the wedding.

    My lens recommendation: 17-55 f/2.8 or 24-70 f/2.8
  16. nburwell macrumors 601


    May 6, 2008
    I agree here. For a prime set up, you're probably looking at the following:

    35mm f/1.4
    50mm f/1.4
    85mm f/1.8

    With the exception of the 35mm, both the 50 and 85 can be had for under $350, especially if you're okay with purchasing them used.

    I would also seriously consider renting equipment. It's much cheaper than simply buying, especially since you mentioned you're not looking to do this full-time.
  17. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    Check with the church/temple office staff about shooting during a service. Many churches will not want photography or video during a religious ceremony. Most will have no problem with folks shooting inside the church/temple before or afterwards.
  18. schataut macrumors member

    Jan 13, 2010
    Let me share my experience. I do occasional wedding/event photography and own Nikon 24-70 and 70-200 2.8 lenses. Both lens are AWESOME - focus is FAST and images are SHARP.

    Recently I shot an event and decided to use 2 primes - New Sigma 35 1.4 ART lens and Nikon 85 1.4 lens. I was not the primary photographer for this event and thank god for that :) Few observation -
    * In terms of focusing these lens do not match up with 24-70/70-200 combo.
    * Sure I can foot-zoom however either I left too much room for cropping or shot was too tightly cropped.
    * At 1.4 DOF was so shallow (also depends on how far/close I was) I had issues with 2 or more people in the shot (few were not in focus)
    * Not able to quickly snap candid shots that were little too far.

    The GOOD - the look of the photos is certainly very nice when you are shooting wide open at 1.4 when focus is achieved well. However if this was a paid gig I would be afraid to depend on the prime for critical shots.

    Sure 1.8 will allow more light than 2.8 however consider other factors as well and look into 24-70 2.8 instead. If its really dark hall you will definitely need focus assistant of an external flash as well (Nikon allows flash to just use the focusing beam without firing the flash).
  19. AlaskaMoose, May 22, 2013
    Last edited: May 22, 2013

    AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    Canon flashes can also be used with the camera to assist with focus without firing the external flash. But the focus assist beam (IR beam) on the external flash can be annoying to the person (s) conducting the ceremony.
  20. cupcakes2000 macrumors 6502

    Apr 13, 2010
    I would hope they have made their lens choice by now! ;)
  21. Prodo123 macrumors 68020


    Nov 18, 2010
    On a full frame I'd go with the 85mm, but on a crop I'd go with the *Sigma* 50mm f/1.4, which would be a 80mm f/1.4 equivalent.
    The Sigma has better sharpness and bokeh than the Canon 50mm f/1.4.
  22. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    For weddings -

    Fast lenses for dSLR serve for focus only. No pro worth his/her salt would shoot wide open at 1.4 or 1.8 (with exceptions for intentional artistic images).
    So consider the fast lenses as doors open for faster focusing (both auto and manual if your camera provides good ergonomics etc.)

    You admit the handicap you have is the camera itself given that the equivalent of ISO 1600 does not provide you with images you find acceptable. The choice of a fast lens doesn't change this problem.

    What others have recommended for lenses seems to be your best "patch" for this situation. Also, if you decided to rent some lenses to see what best suits you, you might as well on a one time basis find a camera that provides quality images at an ISO of 1600 to 3200. Chances are you will have chagrin at what a difference it makes to have the freedom to concentrate on images rather than learning how to avoid challenges with your camera and the added fast lenses.

    I have shot many weddings in the days when film was the only option. At wedding where I was not the primary photographer but with permission of the bride and groom also took photos I found that more times than not, I could ask the couple and the one presiding over the wedding if I may use flash and the answer was yes IF* I was careful not to disrupt the service or shoot the flash directly in anyone's faces. I used both 35mm and medium format.

    If I were to shoot today for "fun" - I would even consider something akin to some of the point and shoot cameras that do work well with higher ISO and are at least 8 mp. Most major makers have some pretty good high end point and shoot and don't kid yourself, some do quite well. A personal like for me would be a rather expensive rangefinder such as the Fuji X series (out of your budget but just an example).

    Rent both lenses and at least one time a camera that matches the topic of wedding photography without flash. I think you will get a valuable experience and some hands on knowledge that may help you later.
  23. ohbrilliance macrumors 6502a


    May 15, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    This is more of a non-recommendation: unless the wedding is in an open space, or unless you're only interested in shooting the couple and individuals, then 50mm or greater is far too close with a cropped sensor.

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