Prime lens recommendation

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mduser63, Oct 3, 2007.

  1. mduser63 macrumors 68040


    Nov 9, 2004
    Salt Lake City, UT
    I just read an interesting article linked from Daring Fireball. I'm planning to buy a digital SLR, most likely a Canon 40D within the next week or two. It will be my first SLR. Having read that article, I think would like to get a nice prime lens. I'm looking for recommendations on which one to get. I'm a little confused because it seems that as mentioned in that article DSLRs with a smaller than 35 mm full size sensor multiply focal length by 1.6. Does that mean that a 35 mm lens really will act like a 50 mm lens would on a film SLR?

    Anyway, interested to hear others thoughts and opinions. Money is not particularly limiting, but I was hoping to spend $200 or less on my first lens since I'm just starting.

    FWIW, I'm not really sure what kind of pictures I will be taking. I'm sure there will be plenty of the indoor, family sorts of shots, but I'm certainly interested in learning and doing other, more artistic sorts of shots.
  2. shecky Guest


    May 24, 2003
    Obviously you're not a golfer.
    this luminous landscape article explains it pretty well, but basically, yes.
  3. dllavaneras macrumors 68000


    Feb 12, 2005
    Caracas, Venezuela
    If you're just starting and don't want to spend a bundle, you might want to check out the Canon 50mm f1.8. It sells for about $80, and it's great!
  4. shieldyoureyes macrumors 6502


    Nov 1, 2005
    Uppsala, Sweden
    That article was a good read. I'm a big fan of primes, I hardly touch my 18-70 now that I have my 20/35/50/105 prime set, which covers absolutely everything I am interested in shooting on a film or digital body.

    You are right on about the 35mm...on your crop body, it will be like a 50mm on a 35mm camera. I'd recommend that over the 50mm, especially if it going to be your only lens. A 50mm is going to be a little long for most things and general photography, being equivalent to an 80mm lens. I can do just about 80% of the things I want to do with a 35mm f/2.

    Personally, I think you will be much happier shooting with a prime than with a cheap zoom.
  5. Butthead macrumors 6502


    Jan 10, 2006
    As to the article, yeah, some of it makes sense, but consider what you are going to be photographing, and depth of field...take a look at this site to use as a comparison on those faster lenses with the Canon D40 (or less expensive 400d)

    Why such an expensive dSLR as your 1st? Bodies become obsolete much faster then lenses do. I would reconsider going with a Canon Rebel, and spend the rest of the money not spent on the more expensive D40 body to get more than just a prime lens. Image stabilization should be your very 1st concern as a new dSLR owner. Get a IS Canon or other manufacturer's zoom lens w/IS, and then get a prime. 30mm prime is going to give you roughly the field of view than the old standard 50mm gave on 35mm film cameras, so you maybe happier with that. Of course 50mm equivalent is not really wide enough for many indoor shots, so either a wider prime or zoom lens is what you should consider, IMHO for more flexibility. Go into a camera shop, and ask to see the D40 (a good pro shop may have a display model you can fire up and play with), and maybe they'll let you use a kit lens or one of the lenses you are considering using. Even in side the store you will get an appreciation for how wide or long a lens will help for your picture taking desires. If not that model, then maybe some other similar; heck, even use a PnS with equivalent range of focal distances, so you can get a feel for what you'd get with a dSLR. 35mm-105 on a PnS, as compared to the 28mm-105 Canon SD 800is, makes a big difference to me for short-range shots at the wide end.

    Cheapest made Canon lens, good performance but shoddy construction. All plastic, easy to damage if you're not careful with it, prone to knock the end of the lens barrel (let me find a link that explains that). Find a used original version of that lens, with metal will cost more used than the rev.2 version costs new...but it's worth it for the added quality, longer lifespan.
  6. Butthead macrumors 6502


    Jan 10, 2006
    Ok, here's the link to quality issues with various Canon primes:

    You get what you pay for with the all plastic 50/F1.8 MkII, vs. the discountinued metal version. Still w/1.6 crop factor, it's really a short tele lenses which limits its usefulness, IMO. Either go wider or go longer for your needs.

    Still think on a APS sensor dSLR, you're better off going with spending more money on a 30mm lens. Or better yet, the Sigma 24mm F1.8 w/macro capability, but like a 30mm F1.4 from Sigma, the cost is a few hundred more than $200.

    See negative reviews of the 24mm F1.8 Sigma macro on this link:

    Then see "Peeping Toms" comment about spending 4 times as much to get an IS wide-angle Canon L series zoom. For the price difference of the Rebel & D40, you can afford to get that lens...almost ;).

    Except for the $1k price ;), and not being an L-series with weather seals to keep dust out, this Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS seems to be a favorite for either Rebel or D20/30/40 series, IS can be the make or break factor on many a shot:
  7. walangij macrumors 6502

    Mar 10, 2007
    The topic of focal length multipliers is quite confused amongst the DSLR community. Essentially, yes when you put on a 35mm lens on a 1.6x crop camera, you get a field of view that is equal to 56mm but your perspective is still 35mm and not 56mm. There are certain staple focal lengths that create pleasing perspectives for portraits, sports, landscapes, ect. which can be found in numerous books and those focal lengths are still the same on a 1.6x crop sensor camera. Like when you shoot with on a 1.6 crop w/ a 200mm lens, your perspective is exactly the same (200mm) as if you looked through the same lens in the same position with a full-frame camera except that on the 1.6x crop it would be well, cropped. The 1.6x wouldn't magically make the lens 320mm and bring the subject closer than a FF camera. The 1.6x crop doesn't change the perspective, just the crop. I wrote intending to clarify, if it just confused, then ignore.

    I'd recommend as others have, the 50mm f/1.8. The 50mm perspective is classic (as is the 35mm), so with the crop it would be as if you're shooting w/ an 80mm lens with the same perspective of a 50mm. Even though it's not very wide, I'm sure you'll adjust and grow as a photographer, some of the most creative shots I've seen are from primes that are "too long" to be used indoors.
  8. mduser63 thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 9, 2004
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Thanks for the suggestions so far. To make it clear, I'm not necessarily saying I want to get only a prime lens, in fact I was still thinking a zoom lens would be a good idea too.

    Opinions on the Canon EF 35 mm f/2.0 for around $200?
  9. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    It's not USM so the focus motor will be noisier than more modern USM lenses. This may be distracting to you, but might not be an issue. In addition "only" being f/2.0 may not be fast enough for some low light situations, but only you can tell whether that would be a deal breaker or not.

    I've heard a lot of good things about the image quality of this lens, but for me these issues were a deal breaker. I stumped up for a second hand (so almost half price on eBay) EF 35 f/1.4 L. It's totally awesome but in a different price bracket all together :D
  10. shieldyoureyes macrumors 6502


    Nov 1, 2005
    Uppsala, Sweden
    Will you be doing a ton of very low light stuff?

    If you are only doing occasional low light stuff, I think f/2.0 is fine. With the 40D's low noise, you can just bump the ISO up if absolutely needed.

    I don't have any experience with the Canon version, but the Nikon version is excellent. I find the focal length on both a 1.5x crop body and FF very convenient, so if you ever do get the film bug, you already have a great lens!

    I have heard mixed reviews about the Sigma, 30mm f/1.4, which might be worth looking into. If you get a good copy, it is an excellent lens, but if you get a bad one...:mad:
  11. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2004
    Huntsville, AL
    I'd get the 50mm f/1.4, personally. The focus motor on the 1.8 is loud and slow.

    After that, I'd look at the EF-S 17-85 or the 24-105/4L.
  12. scamateur macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Why such an expensive dSLR as your 1st? Bodies become obsolete much faster then lenses do. I would reconsider going with a Canon Rebel, and spend the rest of the money not spent on the more expensive D40 body to get more than just a prime lens. Image stabilization should be your very 1st concern as a new dSLR owner. Get a IS Canon or other manufacturer's zoom lens w/IS, and then get a prime.

    (above quoted from "Butthead")

    Excellent advice -- except you'll probably be very happy with the Canon IS zoom and never use the prime after the first few times.

    It would be much more sensible to, as quoted, get the cheaper body and the better lens. There will be a new body out next year, which you'll want, and which will still work great on your high-quality Canon lens.
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I have to agree with the above too. Back in the "old days" it made sense to invest in a high end SLR body because you would keep it forever. The technology didn't change very fast. Back then the advice was to hold the camera n your hands and see if it "fits". But today the dSLR body is something you use for a few years then give away, you can hardly sell them after they are a generation old. Now it's the lenses that last forever through a few body swap outs at least.

    While I do use my 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 and I like them. The "kit" lens is a great deal that I always recommend. the answer is more economic then technical. It just turns out that both nikon and Canon sell these kit lenses at what might even be a loss or break even price just to promote sales of the body and get you into their system. So take advantage of this offer. These loss leaders are a great deal.

    Then after you've shoot a 1,000 frames go and buy a 50mm f/1.4 lens or he 85mm or the 35mm lens or maybe
    a macro or whatever. But the $100 kit lens is not money lost. Once you have 1,000 image notice that the focual length used for each is record in the image file. You can reviiew them to see what you use the most.
  14. mduser63 thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 9, 2004
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Can anyone summarize the important disadvantages of going with a Rebel (xti I imagine) as opposed to the 40d? As I said money is not a real limitation, but if it really makes more sense to go with a cheaper camera and put the extra money into lenses, that's what I'll do. I'd just like to get a good idea of the pros/cons of going that route.

    Just want to add that this is why I love MacRumors. I've read the forums too, and despite the fact that they're dedicated photography forums, the people there don't seem nearly as friendly or helpful as the people here.
  15. redrabbit macrumors 6502

    Aug 8, 2006
  16. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Mar 30, 2004
    Another good read:

    Why You Should Ditch That Zoom for a Classic 50mm "Normal" Lens

    Unfortunately, Canon makes only two 35mm primes: excellent but very expensive EF 35mm f/1.4L USM and outdated EF 35mm f/2. Even though EF 35mm f/2 is priced closer to EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, it lacks USM, has slower maximum aperture, and shares the same 5-blade aperture found on much cheaper EF 50mm f/1.8II. Its image quality also falls short of EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and EF 50mm f/1.8II.

    My recommendation? Pick up one of 50mm primes and learn to live with 1.6x crop sensor. For times when you must have wider focal length, get a wide angle zoom lens.
  17. walangij macrumors 6502

    Mar 10, 2007
    I'd recommend the 30D over the XTi, I'm pretty sure they can be had for near the same price. I don't have the authority to summarize the disadvantages of the XTi to the 40D, but anyways, the advantages of having better glass outweigh the body by far.
    50mm f/1.4 is a great starting point, recommended many friends this and they love it, the 85mm f/1.8 is also fantastic from what they've said (if you like the shallow DOF), for WA shots, I'd suggest the kit lens for now and wait for experience to catch up b4 investing in a very nice wide angle, even though it gets knocked on a lot it's not too bad but not too amazing either. I considered getting the 35mm f/2.0 (since I'm a prime guy), but the advantages of the f/1.4L version is worth the extra cash and wait.
  18. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Mar 30, 2004
    Some of the reasons for getting 40D over 400D (XTi):
    1. Ergonomics and build: many photographers find 40D more ergonomic and sturdier than 400D.
    2. Significantly faster continuous shooting.
    3. Larger viewfinder with ISO speed info.
    4. Spot metering.
    5. Lower noise at high ISO. 3200 ISO speed, with auto ISO (400-800) mode.
    6. 14-bit image capture with DIGIC III (gives you more room over 12-bit RAW on 400D).
    7. Significantly longer battery life.
    8. Larger 3" LCD with live view mode. Dedicated info display LCD panel.

    Some of the reasons for getting 400D over 40D:
    1. Price: you can pick up a nice lens or two with the savings.
    2. Size: 400D is significantly smaller and weights less.
  19. form macrumors regular


    Jun 14, 2003
    in a country
    My opinions:

    If I had money to burn, I'd get the better camera. If I had money to use wisely, I'd get good lenses.

    The 50 f/1.8 II is a good lens, because it has great image quality and is fast enough for most purposes. It isn't built well, however: I broke one after a fall one day, so I bought another one. The price for two of them was the same as one of the metal-mount original design.

    The 35 f/2 is a pretty good lens I hear, but I don't need it. Perhaps not quite as sharp as the 50 f/1.8 II on the edges.

    The 85 f/1.8 and 100 f/2 are also supposedly very good lenses and sharp throughout, and I am thinking very seriously about buying a 100 f/2 for portraits.

    I have enough experience with Sigma products to not recommend their 30 f/1.4, not because of the center sharpness (which I understand to be extremely good) but because of the edge sharpness (which is not good) and because of the strong red tint of the chromatic aberrations I have encountered in many Sigma lenses, including the one 10-20 I own. I bought the Sigma ultra-wide because Canon's 10-22 cost a lot more and didn't show any better resolution, and Tokina's 12-24 wasn't wide enough. My distaste for red chromatic aberration is a personal preference.

    Tamron's fixed focal macro lenses are very good but the 90 f/2.8 I had showed some purple fringing, especially at wider apertures. I now use my 50 f/1.8 II as a macro lens with the aid of a homemade extension tube.

    The best bang for the buck as a basic lens is the 50 f/1.8 II; very sharp, quite fast. If you want better "color," "contrast" and "bokeh," get an "L" lens.

    I currently own a 50 f/1.8 II, a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 and a Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6, and a 580EX speedlite. Someday I might get a telephoto lens, but at present I do not "need" one.
  20. milozauckerman macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2005
    I have to disagree with some folks - in the good old days, the body didn't matter, lenses and film determined what your image would ultimately look like - so unless you needed pro-sports-quality autofocus or 12 frames per second shooting, there wasn't much reason to shell out for a better camera.

    In the digital world, bodies do matter - they now occupy the 'film' spectrum as well. The way a Rebel processes images is different from the way a 40D does - maybe not better or worse, or even noticeable, but different nonetheless.

    That said, the best argument I can think of for paying the '40D tax' is the viewfinder. I find the XTi's viewfinder reasonably bright, but too small to use comfortably.

    I'll echo those who suggested getting one high quality prime lens. Were you to take up photography in a learning environment, in all likelihood they'd start you off with a 50mm lens and tell you not to use anything else for a while. Learn to walk before you run and everything.

    As a general rule, a good-quality prime lens will be the match of a professional zoom costing thousands more. Zooms are always a compromise.

    In the world of Canon, getting you to a roughly 50mm equivalent:
    24mm f/1.4L - a 'professional' lens, large, over $1000.
    24mm f/2.8 - as 'fast' as any zoom lens on the market, very cheap
    28mm f/1.8 - part of Canon's prosumer line, a good size for a 40D body, ~$450
    Sigma 30mm f/1.4 - designed for dSLRs with crop sensors. Not a Canon-made lens, so there are compatibility issues and Sigma quality control is not best-in-class. But they do tend to make right on their products (ie warranty service) and when this lens is good, it's very good.
    Canon 35mm f/1.4L - same basic concept as the 24mm - large, fast, well-respected, expensive
    Canon 35mm f/2.0 - same concept as the 24/2.8 - small, cheap, not very fancy
  21. milozauckerman macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2005
    Perspective is a function of subject-photographer distance, not a trait of lens focal length. So a 20mm on a 1.6x crop body behaves differently than it would on a film body, because you would stand further back to frame the same subject. Thus perspective and distortion are not the same.
  22. sjl macrumors 6502


    Sep 15, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    Um. No.

    Perspective is a matter of the distance from the camera to the subject. Period. You'll get the same perspective from an 85mm lens on a 1.6 crop body as you would with a 135mm lens on a full frame body. (136 vs 135 is not enough difference to be discernable to the naked eye.)

    The difference is the depth of field. A smaller sensor will give you a greater depth of field, for a given field of view and aperture, than a larger sensor will. This difference isn't significant when comparing full frame (or 35mm) sensors to 1.5 or 1.6 crop sensors, but it is significant with small compacts, which use tiny sensors. For some photography, greater depth of field is an advantage. For others, it's a disadvantage. Choose accordingly.
  23. walangij macrumors 6502

    Mar 10, 2007
    I think my terminology and choice of wording is incorrect than. I should be more aware that specific photographic terms like perspective/distortion are not interchangeable and that it's much easier to explain a POV verbally.

    My point is that when I want the classic "50mm" perspective on a shot (on either my FF or crop), I'll always pick up my 50mm lens, never the 35mm lens or 28mm unless I'm looking for that perspective/view/distortion/look that utilizes that focal length.
    Same goes with shooting Head/shoulder portraits at 135mm, I pick up my 135mm instead of the 85mm on crop or FF b/c it suits it best (for me).

    If I want to shoot sports at 200mm, I use the 200mm instead of the 135mm (all these on either crops or FF I'll pick the same lens for the job). I think I'm just nit-picking in my own little world and stuck in my ways, maybe I'm going against the grain these days which wouldn't be a surprise. And after taking classes on some Medium Format cameras for fashion, the FL on their lenses forced me to relearn, ect, so I'm still in a middle state.

    The reason I say this is because I've seen confused crop users pick up the 28mm trying to get the same look in a shot as the classic 50 and wonder why things do not look the same ie: portraits exaggerate noses, things are smaller, ect.

    The focal lengths aren't "multiplied" they are just cropped. The lens of a said focal length will never bring the objects in a picture closer (like a magical crop sensor zoom effect), but the picture will look closer on the sensor (and on the computer) due to the crop. I hope we're all on the same page now and hope this doesn't confuse the OP.

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