Posts Tagged recommended

Learning Photography — Prime Lenses

Whether you’re new to photography or you’ve been shooting for a while, if you’re still using your kit zoom lens — you should consider getting a prime lens as your next lens.

July 16 - The Spiffy New Lens
An EF 85mm f/1.2L II mounted on my 40D

What is a “prime” lens? A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length meaning that it can not zoom. So you may wonder why in the world would you want to get a lens that doesn’t allow you to zoom? Well there are at least a dozen reasons I could give you — among them: primes are cheaper (generally for the quality you get), sharper, and faster.

Zoom optical systems are generally fairly complex because they have to correct for more factors; thus, with a simpler design, primes often require less glass (lower price) and/or produce a higher quality image (higher image quality). Furthermore, prime lenses often have larger apertures (especially for the price). You’ll find primes with apertures around f/1.4 for under $500, whereas most zoom lenses with an aperture of f/2.8 are going to very likely cost over $1k! Faster apertures also make these lenses great for taking photos at night or in a dim room without a flash. The shallow depth of field makes these lenses great for taking portraits with a beautiful background blur as well.

In addition to the tangible benefits, prime lenses also help reinforce important concepts in photography. Many photographers become lazy and use zooming to compose their images. Zooming rather than physically moving yourself to recompose your shot makes a big difference! Using a prime lens forces you to move around to recompose and makes you a better photographer. Using a prime also encourages the photographer to focus on other thing such as focusing and exposure.

Shows the same subject shot at 24mm vs. 200mm.

Shows the same subject shot at 24mm vs. 200mm.

You can see in this example that the same subject shot at two different focal lengths produce two extremely different images. Notice how the wide shot at 24mm emphasizes the shape of the glass and there is quite a bit of the background in view. In contrast, the 200mm shot compresses the detail and the glass looks pretty flat. Not as much of the background is also in the shot because the field of view is narrower. Because of this, telephoto lenses are generally preferable for shooting portraits because it does not emphasize facial features such as the nose or chin.

So which lenses should I get? Here’s a list of some prime lenses…

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A new lens for the Rebel XT

New Lens!

I recently picked up a new lens for my Rebel XT. I’ve been primarily shooting with my Canon EOS 40D and an EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM but I decided that I needed a good quality, small and compact lens for my Rebel XT.

After doing some research, I decided to pick up the EF 35mm f/2.  It is an amazing lens!  Considering that this lens is only $319, I was impressed by how sharp the lens is even when shot wide open.  Also, the depth of field is very shallow wide open which is great for portraits.  The size of the lens also works well for the size and weight of the rebels.



In my opinion the bokeh quality is very nice when shot wide open, but due to the 5 blade aperture, the out of focus highlights appear is pentagons which is not very pleasing.

Perhaps the biggest issue I hav with this lens is that the AF is obscenely loud. The AF motor makes a high pitch whirl which is audible even in moderately loud rooms. Also, this lens does not have FTM.

On the other hand, the AF is reasonably fast and the build quality of this lens is pretty sturdy too. It doesn’t “feel like a toy” (as some people have described the EF 50mm f/1.8 II).

If you’re looking for a compact lens to shoot in available light, I’d highly recommend this lens. Especially if you’re just starting out with a rebel and you’re looking to get serious about photography.

While in a similar price range, I choose this lens over the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM because, while the 50mm is an extraordinary lens, on a 1.6x FOVC camera, it is slightly too telephoto as a walk-around lens. The 50mm is a great lens and I’d pick up one of these too if you can afford both.

The EF 24mm f/2.8 and EF 28mm f/2.8 are actually closer to 50mm (on a 1.6x FOVC) but I didn’t choose these because they got terrible reviews.

Finally, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is in the same price range as these lenses and I’d also highly recommend this lens. It is larger than the EF 35mm f/2 but it is still a good fit on the rebel bodies. This lens also has a HSM motor (which is Sigma’s equivalent of USM) and FTM. Unfortunately this lens only works with 1.6x FOVC bodies so if you decide to upgrade to a full frame down the road, this lens would be incompatible. But if you’re just getting started that upgrade maybe be very far down the road anyway.

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