Why is it so hard...

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by AmberBella, Jul 7, 2008.

  1. AmberBella

    AmberBella TPF Noob!

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    to pick a lens? My thinking is that I'm going to need at least 3 lenses to make me happy...I have my 50mm which is great, but so limited. When I walk around I get so frustrated that I can't capture the bird in that tree and I can't take a decent macro. I also really want a decent wide angle, and in the house I often can't get far enough away to take a good pic with my 50mm.

    So, what do I get first? I really want a quality lens that is going to last me...I don't want to have to re-evaluate in a year and have to buy a new lens with the same reach as my next lens purchase. What do you think will serve me best? What lens do you use the most (besides your 50mm)? I'm not asking about the specific lens, just the range.
     
  2. Battou

    Battou No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The difficulty prolly lies in the price but any who


    My every dayers are as follows

    400mm 5.6 Vivitar
    85mm 1.8 Canon
    50mm 1.4 Canon
    28mm 2.8 Canon
     
  3. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well, your original question... why is it so hard? My take is that it is impossible to have a lens... or even a couple lenses... that cover all circumstances and skill levels. Even if you have a few lenses that cover you really well now, you will find in a couple years that you've gotten better than your lenses (or that you more readily notice where they fail) and you have to get better ones.

    Compound that with (as Battou implied)... money. A really good lens is really expensive. With the exception of everyone's beloved "nifty fifty" a hell of a lot of excellent lenses cost $500+.

    Of course, you can stick just to prime (non-zoom) lenses, and that will cost you less, but then you are going to be flipping the lenses around more and will find each individual one rigid... as you are finding when trying to take a picture of a bird with your 50mm.

    Part of the reason a "quality" zoom lens costs so much is just because it is far more complicated (and therefore expensive) to make a lense that covers a broad range of focus with good optical quality (glass), and good speed (larger aperature).

    So, in the end you have to understand...
    1. What kind of pictures you want to take.
    2. What level of quality do you consider acceptable.
    3. What amount of money are you willing to spend.
    That's a lot to figure out, especially when, as I mentioned, many of these conditions will vary over time.

    Consider, for example, that you can get a (roughly) 70-200 lens for a Nikon for anywhere from $120 to $1600. There may be more expensive ones beyond that, but I don't want to know about them. :lol: Why? Because of #1 tells me I need such a lense, #2 tells me I need better quality than what I have currently, and #3 tells me my wife will put me into my grave if I spend even the $1600, let alone anything more. :lol:

    As an example of the variation effect... two years ago I looked at my existing 28-100 and was like "Jeez, I almost never take this thing off my camera... and people complain that it's a terrible lens... I really don't see it"... and now I'm howling in pain over quality issues and the lack of zoom capability is annoying the hell out of me.

    In the Nikon space, I generally tell people if you're only going to get one lens... or start with one... that you should get the 18-135... or the 18-200 VR if you can afford it. Neither is a tack-sharp lens, but it is very flexible and not bad for the money. Good starter. I would never advise a 50mm prime as the only lens. That would drive most folks batty. (Still, an awesome lens though)

    Just my rambling opinions. :)
     
  4. icassell

    icassell TPF Noob!

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    Well ... from a Canon viewpoint ...

    My walkabout lens is my Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 and I probably use it for greater than 75% of everything I take.

    My next most frequently used is the Sigma 50-150. Sometimes I use it with a 1.4x or 2x TC. I debated getting the slightly longer 70-200 f2.8 and, if I were going to do it again, that's probably what I would get. Between those two lenses, that's probably >90% of what I do.

    Now if you're a Macro nut or a serious wildlife photographer, your needs would be very different.

    My other lenses (see below) are much less frequently used, although I really like them all.
     
  5. AmberBella

    AmberBella TPF Noob!

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    I have a 18-55 kit lens, but I'm finding it useless. The quality is nothing and I find that I can usually get my feet to where they need to be to just use my far superior 50mm.

    I'm not worried so much about how much it's going to cost...I'm likely going to spend around $500 dollars for each lens I buy until our financial situation changes....but which one do I buy now? I want quality over zoom if that makes sense, but wonder what people find the most useful in their every day. What distances do you shoot at the most?

    I know that it will be ever-changing, but right now, I absolutely need more versatility, but I definitely need quality far above my kit lens.

    icassel, that's very helpful.
     
  6. Freedbaby

    Freedbaby TPF Noob!

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    I think that generally speaking, $500 gets you $500 quality. If your looking for razor sharpness and expanded focal lengths then $500 is about $500 short for one lens. I did that with my Tamron 17-200 that I rarely use because the fact that its slow is limiting.

    I dont want to be in a position like icassel mentioned....I am saving for either the Sigma 70-200 F 2.8 or the Canon L series version with IS. I could go and buy a 50-150 now cuz I have the money, but ultimately I would just be saving again to buy what I really need.

    My pennies worth

    Freedbaby
     
  7. AmberBella

    AmberBella TPF Noob!

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    Very solid point of view! I've been contemplating this as well. I just HATE waiting.
     
  8. PattiS

    PattiS TPF Noob!

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    I use primes for my portrait work, but love zooms for anything personal. My favorite is 24-70. :)
     
  9. AndrewG

    AndrewG TPF Noob!

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    A 50mm is limited? I beg to differ; a single, prime lens might be the greatest aid to creativity you have. Quite simply it takes away the easy option of zooming in on a subject or widening the field of view for your convenience and forces you to think much more about composition. Furthermore the humble 50mm f1.8 is frequently the sharpest and most contrasty optic for minimal outlay.
    If you can't get the bird in the tree, so what? There are a million subjects out there...
    It's easy to get into an equipment-centred mindset; I've been there and now seldom leave the house with more than one lens-I just find it so much more liberating than an arsenal of focal lengths!
     
  10. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Oh come on, you're being silly. I completely understand the whole "be creative" thing and the whole "work around what you have and learn" thing, but shrugging off taking pictures of birds because you don't seem to care about them is kinda ridiculous.

    Yes, I'm sorry but the "nifty fifty" is limited. It simply cannot take pictures of birds in trees. Hell, I have a hard time doing it with some birds and a 300mm lens I have. Using a 50mm would be absolutely pointless, unless your idea of a great bird shot is a 12 pixel dot in the middle of the image. :lmao:

    In truth, all lenses are limited in some ways. A 50mm is significantly limited as far as range is concerned. My 70-300 has marginal optical quality and isn't very fast. The 80-200 2.8 VR I intend to buy sometime soon weighs a metric ton and is hard to carry around.

    I doubt anyone would debate that a "nifty fifty" is an awesome lens, especially for the money... but it is not useful in all situations.
     
  11. AndrewG

    AndrewG TPF Noob!

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    Well I guess it really depends what you want to photograph; of course, if it's birds then, unless the bird in question is particularly accomodating, a 50 won't help much. I'm speaking from the point of view of a situation I found myself in; I was doing a college photography course where we were forbidden to use anything more than a standard lens on assignments. Where the shot might have been simple-given a range of optics-being 'limited' to just the one really got the creative juices flowing.
    The great shot, as ever, lies within the photographer and not the equipment.
     
  12. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Absolutely an awesome way to learn. This is also why I tell people not to rush out and buy uber equipment on day one, but rather to spend some money on some "crap" lenses because it forces them to learn the limitations of certain equipment in certain situations.

    Again, another fine general sentiment and a good way to think, but total hogwash in practice.

    If the shot lies 200' away from you and all you have is a 50mm lens, then the shot lies within the equipment... that you don't have.

    Like it or not, photography is part talent and part equipment. Can you get awesome shots running around with a Canon AE1 and a 35mm lens? Absolutely. May your shots be better than anything I can do with my D300 and my 80-200 2.8 VR? Possibly. But can you get the shot of the bird in that tree? No. What about all those amazing closeups at the Red Sox game? No. What about the picture of the actions of the firefighters at a local burning building? No.

    The same can be said for a lot of other pieces of equipment...
    ...can you get a well exposed no-noise shot of someone at a party inside a dark building without a flash? No.
    ...can you get a reall solid picture of a night-time city skyline without a tripod? No.
    Certainly, if you're a crappy photographer, no amount of equipment is going to save you... but if you're a good photographer, at some point you will be limited by the quality of your gear. If this were not true, I could make a pinhole camera out of a cardboard box and take pictures that would rock the world.
     

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