Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lens Selection Anecdote


My friend Pat recently came to me for some lens selection advice, so I thought I would do the right thing and pass it along here. He'd just purchased a new Canon 60D, but he did the smart thing and bought it body-only. His brother had recently purchased a Nikon D3100, and he was disappointed with the kit lenses that came with the camera. I had also advised him against the kit lenses since there are so many great lenses out there that are better suited to particular tasks. In Pat's case, he wanted a good low-light lens, a good portrait lens, and a good travel lens, all for about $1200.

He'd already ordered the 24-105/4L IS and the 50/1.8. While I'm definitely a fan of both of these lenses, but I had to explain that the 24-105 simply wouldn't be wide enough for travel photography with the 60D's cropped sensor. Also, being an f/4, it's not the greatest portrait lens. His counter argument was that he could just get a wide prime later for travel. While this was true, it would also have all kinds of drawbacks:
  • You're traveling, so it's essential to keep things light and simple; don't take two lenses when one will do.
  • Two lenses at the wide end will usually result in many lens changes when traveling. This means you're going to hold up your tour group and/or miss the shot.
  • Every lens change when you're out and about just gets more dust on you sensor.

Luckily he'd ordered the lenses from B&H, so the return policy for the 24-105 wasn't a concern. Now we just had to figure out which lenses he did need. The new EF-S 17-55/2.8 was tempting, but it just didn't seem like it would be quite long enough, plus it would have blown his budget if he still wanted to get a portrait lens. After a bit of discussion, he ended up going with the EF-S 18-200/3.5-5.6. Even though I'm generally not a fan of lenses with variable apertures, I think this was a good choice. My Nikon friends seem to get decent shots out of their equivalent DX 18-200 lenses, so Canon should at least be able to match that (don't worry, I have a soft spot for Nikon as well).

With the travel lens decided, we now had to figure out a portrait lens. This was actually an easier choice, since Canon has always had many great USM primes to choose from. Back in college I used to drool over the 100/2 prime. This would have been a bit on the long end for his cropped sensor though, so I ended up recommending the 85/1.8. It should compliment the 50/1.8 nicely for outdoor vs. indoor portraits.

So in the end, Pat will have a great Canon travel and portrait kit started with a 60D, 18-200/3.5-5.6, 50/1.8, and 85/1.8. I'm looking forward to his pictures.

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