Which lens?


TPF Noob!
Jun 19, 2013
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Hello all

I am new at photography but working my way through to be a fine amateur photographer :) At this point I am not interested to become a professional. I take photos for fun... I have purchased the Canon 650D (Rebel T4i) with the kit lens 18-55 mm. I am NOT satisfied at all by this lens!

I would like to own a good general purpose lens, a wide angle lens and a macro lens. I have read so much about lenses and am lost. I have looked into the 18-200 mm (for general purpose), the 10-22 mm for landscapes but I don't know what to get for the macro. Is it better to get a prime lens or a zoom lens?

Thanks for your help
Why are you dissatisfied with the kit lens? I didn't like it personally, but many on here advise that weak kit lens photos are often down to inexperience.

For the same money, prime lenses give better low light performance, better subject isolation and (generally) better image quality than the zooms. However, the zooms add a lot of convenience. Personally I prefer primes for most things, but I know a majority of people prefer zooms.

My PERSONAL preferences for the lenses you mention:
General purpose: 28mm/2.8 (provides a field of view equivalent to full-frame 43mm, making a great standard prime lens). This lens has been discontinued meaning you may find a bargain second hand, or go for the new alternatives of the 28/1.8, 28/2.8 IS or the Sigma 30mm 1.4 (with the latter, ensure you get one that focuses nicely). If you have money to burn and prefer a zoom, consider the 17-55/2.8 or the 24-70/2.8 L (the latter especially if you think you may be interested in a full-frame camera in the future).

Wide-angle lens: 10-22/3.5-4.5. Cracking lens with nice colour rendition and minimal distortion. The Canon option is pricey though, I'm very happy with mine but many reviewers suggest I could have saved a chunk of money and gone for a Sigma or Tamron alternative. I *sometimes* feel that the results from the 10-22 are a little on the soft side IF I want to keep every detail sharp in a particular shot - I don't think any of the ultra-wide competitors are better in that regard. There are wide primes (e.g. 20mm 1.8) that are certainly sharper, as is the 17-55 mentioned above. However, if you want to go ultrawide, I think a little corner softness may be inevitable - and 90-95% of the time it really doesn't matter in my images; it's just the odd one which looks a little soft.

Macro: I have the 60mm/2.8 Macro. It's a lovely lens, great sharpness and colour rendition. A little slow to focus at distance subjects, but for macro work manual focus is best anyway so it's really not a big issue. HOWEVER, it doesn't give you much working distance to your subject at minimum focus distance. Therefore, I suspect I'd be happier with a Canon 100mm Macro (or maybe the Tamron 90mm Macro, which attracts rave reviews on amazon).
Very helpful iolair...Thx much. The 18-55 mm is a good lens to start with but it offers relatively poor image quality, the maximum aperture at the 55mm end is f5.6 and it isn’t wide enough, photos in low light aren't good, background blur is weak, the autofocus tends to be slower....to name a few of the things I din't like. But surely lack of experience adds to it ; I believe that a good photographer should know how to make the best use of his lens
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relatively poor image quality
What makes you think this? Personally, I've never noticed anything worth complaining about with IQ on this lens in terms of the more qualitative aspects of IQ (it doesn't flare badly, bokeh seems okay, etc.)

MTF charts show that it is significantly better at resolution and contrast than the 18-200mm you are currently considering as a replacement, even at the tele ends (the inherent advantage of long focal lengths seems to be more than made up for by the disadvantages of a large zoom range).

Is it as high in IQ as the 24-70 2.8L? No... but it also costs about 30x less (and actually isn't that far behind. The difference between resolution and contrast between 18-55 vs. 24-70L is about the same as the difference between the 18-55 and the 18-200, for instance).

I wouldn't worry about this, honestly. Image quality is so high on all modern Canon lenses (or the older ones that were good enough to keep in the lineup) that I don't think it really matters for any but the most extreme situations, or if you are consistently doing extreme crops on extreme telephotos (and thus need every pixel of resolution you can get). And it does NOT always scale the way you would expect with price. Usually what you are paying for with nicer lenses is the larger aperture or a quieter/faster motor, or more physical glass for full frame coverage, or whatever, more so than image quality. Again, for example, the 24-70 2.8L costs 30x as much as the kit lens, but only has maybe 50-75% better resolution on average (none of which will matter for most prints at normal sizes or internet viewing).

the maximum aperture at the 55mm end is f5.6 and it isn’t wide enough, photos in low light aren't good, background blur is weak
This is more of an issue. However, you are fairly limited in terms of upgrades. The 18-200 you mentioned is not any faster than the kit lens. And the 28mm 2.8 is less than 1 stop faster than the kit lens, but doesn't come with image stabilization, so if you want to shoot still subjects at night, the kit lens will actually be better at this. If you want to shoot moving objects in low light, the prime would be very slightly better.

The background separation is also no better for the 18-200 (except for the apparently softer blur of a long focal length if you shoot at that, but not due to aperture), and only marginally better with a 28mm 2.8 (only 2/3 of a stop faster).

So unless again you want to pay literally thousandS of dollars for an upgrade, you won't be improving this much. If you want great background separation and night performance in a standard-ish focal length, the 50mm 1.8 is your best bet (almost THREE stops faster than the kit lens at 50mm, thus vastly better for moving subjects and even a little better for still in terms of hand shake, and much much better at background blur). Or the very similar 35mm f/2, but at 3x the price (still reasonable), if that focal length is more your speed. Both are over a full stop faster than the 28mm f/2.8, and there's even more of a difference between each of these and their kit lens equivalent lengths, too, since the kit lens gets slower as it gets longer (i.e., 35f/2 is 2.3 stops faster than kit at 35mm, 50f/1.8 is 2.6 stops faster than kit at 50mm, 28f/2.8 is 0.6 stops faster than kit at 28mm).

Thus, I think the 50 1.8 or 35 2 represent cheaper and more effective upgrade potential than the 28 2.8, unless you are really really enamored with those extra 5mm of angle.
the autofocus tends to be slower....
This is the most relevant issue of all, and the easiest to actually effectively upgrade. The probably cheapest and most effective upgrade for AF quality for a midrange zoon I think would be the EFS 18-135mm IS STM. at around $500, you get impressively larger range without any noticeable drop in quality from the kit lens, and the autofocus is Canon's most recent technological generation of AF. I own this lens, and it is blindingly fast at AF. Perhaps not as fast as a USM lens with a huge aperture to give the AF system plenty of light (like some of their wide angle 1.8 or 1.4 USMs), but very fast. Plenty to knock your socks off compared to the kit lens.

As for your other desires:

Macro: go for the 100mm macro. You will appreciate the longer working distance, trust me. Makes lighting way easier and shooting bugs or anything that might run away easier.

Wide angle: I suggest the Sigma 10-20mm zoom, at 2/3 the cost of Canon's 10-22, and just as high quality (I actually like it better. It feels higher build quality, feels better damped).

Or the slightly more exotic and similarly priced Tokina 11-16 f/2.8
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I have to agree with the other posts. While the 18-55mm 'kit' lens isn't a top of the line lens, it's certainly capable of producing great images (in the right hands). The worst thing about it, is the reputation is has on the internet...and that it 'feels' like a toy, when compared to other (more expensive) lenses.

I have looked into the 18-200 mm (for general purpose)
If you're not satisfied with the 18-55mm, then I'd think that the 18-200mm would make you cry. Typically, the greater the zoom range, the lower the image quality (especially at the extremes). Practically all the best zoom lenses, are in the range of 3X zoom (17-40, 24-70, 70-200)...and something like the 18-200mm will have had many compromises in the design, to keep it small and affordable.

The 10-22mm is a fantastic lens. I had one and loved it dearly. I only sold it because I upgraded to a full frame camera (and because it's an EF-S lens, it's not compatible with full frame).

As mentioned, if pure image quality is what you're looking for...it's hard to beat a prime (non zoom) lens for it's quality per dollar. The cheapest lens, the 50mm F1.8 can produce great image quality...but to be honest, it also feels like a toy and the general build quality isn't on part with most other lenses. The 50mm F1.4 ($400) is a much better investment IMO. The 85mm F1.8 is also a very good lens for it's modest price.

If you really want to look at some top of the line lenses, check out the 24mm F1.4 L, 35mm F1.4 L, 135mm F2 L etc.

As for macro, there is an EF-S 60mm Macro and a 100mm macro that are worth looking at. The benefit of the 60mm is that it's a rather small lens, and thus doesn't take up much room in your camera bag. There are also some Sigma/Tamron macro lenses in the 90-105mm range that are probably cheaper than the Canon.
I love this forum :) You guys have enlightened me with your inputs. Thanks a lot. I say it again I probably don't appreciate much my kit lens because of my lack of experience; hoping somehow to produce nicer pictures with a more sophisticated and performant lens! Will come back later with some photos taken with my 18-55 and will look forward to your CC.
Oh also, the 18-55 kit lens has a really close focusing distance. Of all the lenses I own that are not specifically made for macro, it has by far the highest magnification ratio without any adaptation.

Magnification on the kit lens is 0.34x. By comparison, the 50 1.8 is like 0.15, most tele zooms are like 0.25 if you're lucky, etc.

Sort of an underappreciated super power of the humble kit lens.
hoping somehow to produce nicer pictures with a more sophisticated and performant lens!
Unfortunately, too many of us have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) :lol: It's really fun to shop for and buy new gear...and yes, better gear can certainly help to get better photos...but really, the very best way (and usually the cheapest) to improve you photos, is to improve the photographer. In other words, invest in yourself; get some good books, read plenty of stuff on the internet and best of all, take a class.
The EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 is basically the high-end replacement for the 18-55. The 18-55mm feels moderately cheap in build quality -- so it sets an expectation that it's just going to be an "ok" lens... but not a great lens. One day I decided to go through my photo libraries looking for shots taken with my old T1i (which was the "latest" model back when I bought it.) I was actually surprised at some of the photos I took where it's "sharpness" (resolution and contrast) were better than I would have expected from such a lens. Optically... it's actually a decent lens.

You're right on the focal ratio... being limited to f/5.6 or slower can be a barrier when you're in low light. This is where the f/2.8 lens really shines (all f/2.8 lenses do well here.) Add to it that it has the faster USM focusing motors and it's a solid upgrade.

Lower focal ratios also allow you to create a deliberately de-focused background, BUT... the quality of that background wont necessarily be good. The shape of the aperture is a strong influencer in this quality. Typically more blades or blades with a better shape (rounded blades) will result in improved quality. This is an area where the EF 50mm f/1.8 lens (the least expensive lens in the Canon lineup) does not do well at all even though it has an f/1.8 focal ratio.

BTW, I also used to own the 55-250mm lens often paired with the kit 18-55 lens. I did find that lens lacked in image quality (specifically resolution and contrast). It's highest quality is that it's "affordable" because the lenses in that range that provide the IQ more in line with what I'd like are all north of $500. So it's nice that they offer something affordable -- but expectations have to be reasonable.

If you're not thrilled with your 18-55 then I'd _really_ discourage you from seriously considering the 18-200. The 18-200 doesn't outperform the 18-55 (well... other than it has a nice zoom range.)

If you want a dedicated macro lens, I highly recommend the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM. I positively gush on about this lens... I wax poetic over it. I only gave up my copy because I got rid of my APS-C crop frame body and you can't mount an EF-S lens on a full frame body. Sure the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM is a very good lens... but it's also nearly $1000. The EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM costs about half as much and delivers image quality that seriously rivals the L series macro. I think that 60mm macro is the best bargain in the entire EF-S line.

You might want to check out the-digital-picture.com and read his reviews. Not all, but I think perhaps most of the lens reviews I see tend to review the lens as a standalone item. What I enjoy about the-digital-picture reviews is that he recognizes which OTHER lenses you're probably also considering if you're considering the lens featured in that review -- so he adds in comparisons to those "other" lenses. So when you're reading his review on, say, the 10-22mm lens by Canon, he'll probably also mention the lenses in the similar range by Tokina, Sigma, Tamron, etc.
I choose a lens primarily on what vision it can help me accomplish. "Quality" is a much-too-examined aspect, as most photographers fretting about equipment choices don't have the ability to push any of their equipment to its quality limits. Some people will say a technically better lens produces technically better photos. OK. Go with that then. Gear addiction never improved anyone's photography, nor did having an expensive lens. Without the skill, it's like having a race car and tooling around town at 25. Why have it if you can't push it? Well, two main reasons: to show off and to feel good, and the same applies to photography. A lot of people have gear they can barely use, but it's cool and it makes them feel good. It's simply not the equipment that makes the picture worth looking at. If the lens that serves my vision happens to be a bit more expensive, then it's something I save up for. I don't get a cheaper version of something just to save money. Vision trumps gear, and my gear is an investment. Joel Nisleit Photography | What Lens Should You Buy?

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