What lens would you recommend?


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Apr 20, 2009
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Eastern Oklahoma
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I just bought my first dslr (Canon Xsi w/ kit lens) after using a kodak easyshare for years. I mainly take portraits of people, and honestly, I really get a lot of compliments on how they turn out. I'm in no way a professional, but I would like to purchase a better lens. Like I said, I mainly do portraits of people. I've actually done it for money for an engagement and a wedding so far (believe it or not) and the customers have been really happy with the results. I just want to get better at it and I think a better lens would help (along with some composition and lighting lessons). So far, all I have is the kit lens. I don't want to spend tons and tons of money either, because, like many of us, I'm liftin' the cushions to buy a cheeseburger. ;)

One more thing to mention: I really do rely on the autofocus because I have bad eyes and when I depend on my own eyes for focusing, it never turns out good. So I would like the lens to have the autofocus option available.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Do you find the focal length of the 18-55mm (I assume that was the kit lens) adequate ?

If not, what focal length would you like to have ?

You will need to give us a ball park on your budget.
For portraits of people, I recommend the 85mm f/1.8. It's pretty cheap ($350) considering the quality of lens you're getting.

It's currently backordered at B&H... It'll probably be back in stock in a few days.
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Do you find the focal length of the 18-55mm (I assume that was the kit lens) adequate ?

If not, what focal length would you like to have ?

You will need to give us a ball park on your budget.

Actually, I want to be able to get closer without being directly in their faces. The lens focal length of the kit lens is actually good enough, I was just told by other people that the quality of the lens isn't as good as others made by Canon.

My budget would be anything under $500 probably (without having to finance it).
The 85mm will certainly let you get closer without being right in their faces.
Some people find it too long on a crop sensor, but I think it's just fine.
Just a point (I don't know the portrate world that well) but don't worry about using auto focus - DSLRs are made to use AF and are not as well suited to using manual focusing as the older film cameras were - thus even with good eyesight manual focusing can give poorer results - though of course it lets you put the focus where you want it.
Also check that you camera diopter is set right (read camera manual for directions) also there are a range of diopter adaptors that will attach over the viewfinder to help if you have poorer eyesight - that might be something to look into to make things a bit easier.
Budget aside, I think you'd love the 70-200 f/2.8 or the 24-70 f/2.8, but they both run in the thousands.

I was also thinking of the 85mm f/1.8, which runs about $350.

Its a prime lens, not a zoom. But if you want good image quality at under $500, you should stick to prime lenses as zooms giving equivalent IQ will be more expensive.

You could always look at the third party lenses from Sigma and Tamron.

I recently purchased a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 for my XSI and I really like the lens. The image quality is not as good as the Canon 24-70, but it is very close. You can do some back post searching here on the lens, someone posted a great review of it.
BH has it for $400 compared to $1250 for the Canon equivalent.
I just got an 85mm 1.8 yesterday and its fantastic.
The 18-55 is not a bad consumer lens.. It gets a bad rap on forums because everybody is enamored by the high quality professional "L" lenses.. The optics in an L are excellent, but you also get weather resistance and a build quality that may or may not be useful to you.

You say that you are on a budget, so keep the 18-55 and plan to supplement it with one of the better standard Zooms that Canon makes....and they are very good, If they weren't, Canon would have gone under long ago..

One of the better, perhaps the best, consumer zoom that fits well with any camera bag of L lenses is the Image Stabilized 28-135 f3.5/5.6, It's not the fastest, but you plan to watch your lighting, right ! It's a great lens at a decent price (~500 bucks).

If you want one lens for everything you plan in the near future, save up twice as much (OK, maybe 3x as much) and get the L series 24-105..:thumbup:

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