Starting a System

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by jvgig, Jan 17, 2009.

  1. jvgig

    jvgig TPF Noob!

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    I have finally recouped my funds from my skiing accident last year to the point where I can purchase a camera setup, but I am finding it difficult to make the decisions regarding lenses.

    With a max budget of $2500 and no current equipment to be carried over, I cannot find a way to get more than 2 lenses.

    Canon 40D- refurb $670
    430EXII flash- $240
    8gb CF Sandisk III- $45 Good enough for 6fps sports shooting?
    Manfrotto tripod with ball head- $270
    remote shutter button -$40
    Throw in a UV filter- $50 Total w/o lens 1300

    That leaves another $1200 for lenses. My current advanced P&S has an aperture range of 2.4-3.5 from 28-140mm(equiv). I know that I take 20% of my images with an aperture of 2.8 or larger and that 77% of my images are taken at 3.5 or larger. With that in mind, I do not see how I would end up satisfied with my purchase with an f3.5-5.6 lens.

    Firstly, I love macro photography, so I am nearly sold on the Canon 100mm macro lens and have intentions of purchasing the 65mm 5:1 lens within the next year (the only reason that i am not getting it now, is because of its lighting requirements at higher magnification). $455

    The other things I shoot include landscapes, architecture, sports, art work, and a little bit of everything in between. This is where my dilemma is. Landscapes do well with wider lenses, art needs to be as telephoto as the room will allow, sports require telephoto and a large aperature, and the everything else needs something in between. Obviously I cannot afford all of those lenses now, or likely even within the next year, two, or even three. (I have been saving for 2 years to aquire the funds for this purchase.)

    I have looked at both prime and zoom lenses. In the wide range, prime lenses are very expensive ($1000+) considering I am on a crop sensor. I do a lot of my shooting hand held or by propping my camera against something, even though I currently own a, albeit flimsy (but suitable for a P&S), tripod. That leaves me with the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens at $570. This poses a problem as my focal length range would then be 17.6-25.6 and 160 and I only have another $200.

    A 2.8 70-200 lens w/ 1.4x seems to be the best option for a sports/general telephoto lens; althout I am considering the f4 as it would not be much different than my current camera. This will not be included in this purchase as it would severly limit my useful focal lengths. For now I will be using the 100mm as a sports lens as it is longer and faster than my current setup, so I will be happy at least for a little while.

    In the middle focal lenth range prime lenses are more reasonable, 50 1.4 (equiv 80mm) for $350, but I have not seen many good reviews for the 35 which would give me the 50mm. 2.8 zoom lenses all hover around $1000 which would put me a few hundred over my budget.

    My current focal length usage is heavy around (equiv) 28mm, 50mm, 140mm, and cropped 140 wishing it was longer.

    Most of my artwork is shot around 50mm due to the size of the room.

    Any suggestions on how to make this work?

    Thanks for the help.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2009
  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm a Nikon shooter, so I can't speak specifically to Canon gear, BUT based on a few years of experience, I will throw out a few suggestions. First, I suggest buying a NEW body and used lenses. You'll save anywhere from 30 - 50% when buying used glass, and thus get a LOT more for your money. I'm not a fan of used bodies, even if they are factory refurbs. It's relatively easy to tell if there's anything wrong with a lens. Not so much with a body.

    Second, and trust me, I know full well the temptation of wanting all the gear now, don't be in a hurry to go out and get everything right off the bat. I would scout around for a used 24-70 F2.8L; this might not be as wide as you want, but it is a VERY useful focal range, and quite often you can make up the lack at the wide end by stitching multiple images together.
     
  3. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    * Think long and hard about the 65mm MP-E macro lens. It is a speciality lens that is fairly difficult to use and light. I've seen several people give up on the lens and few experienced enough to do wonders with it. For starters, you WILL NEED a focusing rail, STABLE TRIPOD, and PROPER macro flash. You can blow more than your entire budget just on these items alone.
    * I agree tirediron, you don't know exactly what you are going to need/want until you have shot for a while. Don't be in such a hurry to buy everything NOW.
    * If you are going to spend $$$$ on an expensive lens, please tell me you are going to invest more than $50 into a UV filter for that expensive lens.
    * Since you mentioned you "love" macro, I'd start there. Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro and the proper macro flash.
    * Add to the 100mm macro, a medium general zoom. In your budget, maybe a the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 or the Canon 28-135 IS.

    Look for used lenses for best bang for the buck.
     
  4. jvgig

    jvgig TPF Noob!

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    Obviously I know that I cannot get everything I want now or even in the near future, I am just looking for some advice on to what I can most easily live without. As I said, my main interest is macro which requires a tripod, light, remote shutter, and macro lens, but this also gives me a fast 100mm lens for other shooting eliminating the need for the 70-200 to start.

    I am aware of the challenges of the 65mm macro which is why it is not on my list for now. However you suggest that I look into the dedicated macro light now. The prices for the canon lights are in the $500-700 range depending on the model. Is the benefit over a standard flash (off camera) worth the investment for an initial purchase?

    I did not think of the multiple images solution for the wide angle as trees, rocks, and buildings do not usually move. Used 24-70s seem to be going for around 900 which would be difficult to fit into my budget without cutting something. On a crop body, how does the focal length of the 24-70 compare to the 17-55?

    I am looking at B&H and Adorama for used gear, but their 2.8 glass selection is very limited. Any other reputable places to look?

    Thanks for the advice
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2009
  5. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For used items... KEH.com
     
  6. JustAnEngineer

    JustAnEngineer TPF Noob!

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  7. jvgig

    jvgig TPF Noob!

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    I have been doing some research and have a few more questions.

    For macro photography, what type of tripod head should I be looking for? Would a ball head give more than a 3-way head or should they be pretty comparable?

    It seems that it is highly sgugested that you use the Twin Lite MT-24EX with the 65mm macro lens. That light is $685. As I cannot find any used macro lenses, I am assuming that resell value is not one of their strong suits which makes me leery to purchase the MR-14EX as a temporary solution, especially considering the price difference between the two to be only $200.

    Any suggested UV filters. Looking at just the B&W line, prices for 58mm filters range from $15-120. Any objections to this filter? I see that there are two grades 415 and 010, any noticeable difference? http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/8246-REG/B_W_65011399_58_mm_UV_415_UV_Blocking.html#specifications

    Price point update

    40D (new)-$800
    8gb Sandisk III-$45
    Manfrotto tripod and head-$280
    Canon 100mm macro- $455
    B&W 58mm UV filter-$55
    Tameron 17-50mm f2.8-$395
    B&W 67mm UV filter-$90
    Canon remote switch RS-80N3-$45

    Total-2165 which leaves about 300 for lighting

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2009
  8. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Seriously, get more experience with macro photography with a real macro lens (like the Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro as opposed to a zoom with macro setting) before even attempting the 65mm MP-E macro. The fact that you haven't even mentioned a focusing rail leads me to believe that you don't understand the 65mm lens. It is not a question of what type of head (ball, 3-way) it is a question of how are you going to focus!

    There is a BIG reason why you don't see much discussion on the 65mm lens... it is a very specialized lens. As I said before, you can blow your entire $2500 budget alone on the 65mm MP-E "setup" and still have difficulties with it.

    1st) the lens is NOT autofocus. This is technically NOT an EF lens.
    2nd) The lens has a minimum focusing distance of less than an 1 inch. It is very difficult to work at that distance.
    3rd) The DOF is soooooo thin that you need a LOT of light to stop the lens down. The MR-14EX is not ideal for this lens. It is underpowered and is not adjustable (light source is always straight on). MT-24EX twin macro flash alone is almost $700.
    4th) Unlike the 100mm macro, the 65mm MP-E is not really usable for other purposes. The 100mm macro for example is also well known for portraiture.

    For someone who is considering the MP-E lens, you are asking all the wrong questions. I really hate to see yet another person blow their money and jump in head first into the 65mm MP-E. For $$$, you are FAR FAR better off with the Canon 180mm macro L.

    I like to describe the 65mm MP-E to my customers as a microscope designed to fit the EOS system. It is very difficult to find the 65mm MP-E used because so few people use it.
     
  9. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you "love" macro photography, I'd strongly suggest focusing and placing your budget there. Get a good macro flash (twin light would be my preference), lens (100mm or 180mmL), HEAVY duty tripod, head with a focusing rail. That is were I'd place most of your budget $1200 budget.

    Then take what is left over, save up a bit more cash, and look for a used general use zoom.
     
  10. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    firstly I agree about the MPE65mm its possibly the hardest lens to use out there - definatly get macro experience before jumping on it. Its a wonder of a lens when you see the results, but you need good skills to use it (ps it can be used handheld - its definatly not easy but I have seen it done)

    Secondly consider other macro lenses on the market - since your after insects and not looking abudget options I will discount the shorter lenses from the list. They are still good lenses - but you don't really want less than 90mm for insects:

    Canon 100mm macro - a good solid choice for canon cameras - its only drawbacks are that its lens hood (which apparently can't be used for macro work as its too long) and tripod collar are not sold with the lens - getting both these additional parts the price rises to about the same as the sigma 150mm (which can use its hood). Its also not compatable with canon teleconverters, but some 3rd party options (kenko or sigma) might fit - I just don't know

    Tamron 90mm macro - shortest recomended lens for macro insect work - a good solid performer - if possibly not as popular as some other options

    Sigma 105mm macro - good solid choice of macro lens

    Sigma 150mm macro - this and the 180mm macro from sigma are their top class macro lenses - both have the high quality sigma build (EX); inner focusing (the lens does not extend as you alter the focus - it happens internally); teleconverter compatability; HSM focusing motors (better AF and quieter). The 150mm is about hte longest lens which is considered handhold able for macro work.

    Sigma 180mm macro - a very good lens and often chosen instead of the canon 180mm L macro because it gives the same optical quality for half the price - its a longer focal length, but its a bit heavy for prolonged hand held macro work - a lens more suited to tripod work

    Notes -
    of the lenses above there is no one that is a consitantly better performer than the others - they are pretty much sharp and well built lenses - which ever you choose will give good solid results and performance

    AF on macro lenses tends to be slower than on normal lenses - this is not a limitation for macro work as its done almost totally in manual mode

    sigma lenses compatable with teleconverters are compatable with sigma teleconverters only - some other 3rd party options might be possible, but its best to stick with sigma

    focal length - for bugs you idealy want 90mm or more since the longer the focal length the greater the distance from camera to bug at full magnification. That means there is less chance of spooking the bug when you get closer.

    I also encorage the use of a 1.4 teleconverter with macro work since it not only increases focal length but also increases magnification a bit whilst still being usable. That is great for getting a bit closer to smaller bugs - note that image quality is lessened only by a faction (harly noticable)

    My choice - I went with the sigma 150mm and have not regreted it one bit - one thing that I did like about the lens, aside from its longer focal length - is that its good for grabshots of other wildlife as well (being a 150mm lens).

    In addition you question what tripod head to use, ball heads are mostly very difficult to use for macro work as only the most expensive will not suffer from creep when setup (this is not noticable when doing non macro work, but even tiny movements make a big change in macro work); I would recomend looking at geared heads which let you make specific adjustments to your positioning - the manfrotto junior geared head is a good solid option.

    Also as you have cash to spend I recomend getting a lumiquest softbox for your flash - it makes a wonder of the lighting and really helps diffuse the light.
    I also encourage you to read the following sites:
    good starting info
    Juza Nature Photography

    reviews of the 180mm options from sigma and canon:
    Juza Nature Photography
    Juza Nature Photography

    macro webblog by a very talented macro shooter:
    No Cropping Zone
     
  11. davebmck

    davebmck TPF Noob!

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    I have the MR-14EX ring flash and it works quite well with my 100mm macro. This is a good setup to get started in macro. You will soon find this is harder that it appears, so you have a lot of practicing to do to learn the techniques.

    BTW the MR-14EX can be used as a master for the 430EX flash.

    By the ball head. It is much more versatile for outside shooting.
     
  12. jvgig

    jvgig TPF Noob!

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    I think I might have been misunderstood.

    I will NOT be purchasing the 65mm MP-E now due to its many challenges. I have done a considerable amount of research on the lens and realize its limitations, abilities, challenges, and various techniques. However, I would like to keep it in mind so that I do not have to repurchase items like a tripod or light in a year or so. I am not considering using a zoom "macro" lens, but I am open to other 3rd party options.

    Thanks
     

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