Fast Prime Selection Help

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Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 2:39 pm

I recently purchased my wife a Canon T3i and have really enjoyed learning more about photography in the process. One thing I've pretty quickly come to realize is that the kit lens that came with it (18-55mm IS II f/3.5-5.6) doesn't do particularly well with low light/indoor shots without a flash. My initial search for a faster lens seems to naturally have landed on the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and I think that's still my top choice, but there are a few things about it that give me pause - softness at max aperature (apparently sharpens up around f/2), micro motor that is susceptible to damage vs. ring type, and one more I can't remember right now. That being said, I'm very excited about f/1.4 aperature and full time manual focus override for the price (around $315). The other lenses that I'm considering as possible contenders are as follows:
Canon EF 35mm f/2 Wide Angle (allegedly superior optics with wider [more "normal"?] angle but a bit slower aperature)
EF 40mm f/2.8 STM (pancake) (cheaper, slower, but smaller/lighter and STM for quieter focus in video)
EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro (allegedly superior optics but quite a bit slower aperature)

Thoughts? Should I just go with the 1.4 and be happy despite its shortcomings? I don't want to go down the 50mm 1.8 - the build quality seems just a bit too low for my liking. My next lense will probably be a bit longer telephoto than the stock lense, probably somethign 55-200 like the EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM, but I think the ability to not use a flash inside it going to be a huge improvement in my pictures. Thanks in advance
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 4:29 pm

Can't comment on the lenses, since I shoot micro 43... but it looks like you haven't really decided what focal length you really want? 35mm vs 50mm would probably feel like very different lenses. What I did before buying my first prime was to get some software for figuring out what focal length I was using the most. Quick google search yields this:

http://photo.stackexchange.com/question ... cal-length

I guess if you're always zoomed in all the way on your stock lens, then you'd want the 50mm. Make sure that's what you really want though. The other way to check is to actively use the camera with the zoom lens at only one focal length (35 or 50). For me 50 would be too zoomed in...

...I used a micro four thirds with the 20mm f1.7 prime as my only lens for a long time (basically, 40mm f3.4 equivalent in full frame terms). I really liked that focal length for photographing individuals / small groups of people. It's not wide enough for more than 2 or 3 people, unless you back up a lot (which can be harder to do indoor).

The 50mm f1.4 would be full-frame equivalent to a 80mm f2.24. That's probably pretty similar to my 45 f1.8 (90mm f3.6 equivalent) which is way too zoomed in for a general purpose lens, but makes for a nice companion lens.

(Also, It's easier to crop than to stitch multiple photos together, though that's an option, too.)
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 4:46 pm

You need this puppy:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1 ... _lens.html

Well I need that puppy although the FE 55 1.8 is supposed to be very close at f8.

Probably the best lens at that focal length ever made. Leica has a contender too.
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 4:49 pm

With an APS-C sized sensor, I'd find a 50mm lens probably a bit too long of focal length for an all purpose indoor/low light lens.

What about the28mm f/1.8 USM? It gets pretty decent reviews, though I have no experience with it. It's getting a bit pricey, but pretty much in the same range as your 50mm pick. The one criticism seems to be that it gets soft at the edges at f/1.8. Hower, the cropped size of the APS-C sensor may mitigate this somewhat.
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:16 pm

Welcome to the Canon crop challenge, Frumper15!

My last camera was a 60D- essentially the 'semi-pro' equivalent to your T3i. Same sensor, articulating screen, though the 60D may have had a faster AF setup and more sophisticated AF- but it has that over my 6D too :D.

So, here's what I think:

50/1.8 II- build quality is nary the issue for an amateur, but results are. Here, this lens fails at background rendering due to having an aperture with five straight blades. Sure, your subjects will be isolated and your backgrounds blurred, but they will be busy and point light sources will be rather ugly pentagons. Probably worse is that the AF is neither particularly fast nor extremely accurate, and you will have to be persistent to get sharp results. The better points of this lens are that the lens is cheap, it's light, and on your T3i, it's as sharp as any 50mm auto-focusing lens available for the Canon mount.

50/1.4 USM- better build quality to a point, and faster AF to a point, but on your T3i, the main benefits of the upgrade are the more sophisticated aperture resulting in better background rendering and the capability of full-time manual focus override, and if you're a polarizer user, a non-rotating front element. This is the 50mm lens I use with my 6D, but I must mention that it's IQ advantages and faster AF are largely limited to newer FF bodies. I can only really recommend it for a T3i user if you must have 50mm and are serious about the quality of your photographs.

Other 50mm lenses for Canon- there are plenty, but none that stand out as terribly useful. The Sigma is a basket case for AF, the high-end Canon 50/1.2L is slower focusing and not sharper than either more accessible Canon lens above, though it does have wonderful rendering, and the rest are expensive (ranging to extremely expensive) manual focus designs. The harsh reality is that Canon desperately needs to introduce a truly 'great' 50mm lens for their mount; there is a rumored 50/1.8 IS USM in the works, similar to the family of wide-angle primes they've already introduced, that would likely solve this problem. No ETA, unfortunately.

My recommendations?

1. 40/2.8 STM for indoor shooting. Wider than 50mm, which will be constricting on your T3i, and also with a much wider rounded aperture than your kit lens and extremely sharp wide open with accurate AF. Truly a gem of a lens on any camera to which it's mounted.

2. 85/1.8 USM for actual subject isolation. Better build quality than the 50/1.4, same price, with lightning fast AF that hits it's targets. This was my second favorite lens on my 60D, though it will be too long indoors for much more than single portraits.

3. 35/2 IS USM for real indoor work. Expensive, though B&H is letting them go for $500 at checkout, and worth every penny. I used the 24/2.8 IS USM, my favorite lens on my 60D, which is of the same family. Fast, accurate AF, the best background rendering at 35mm on Canon, and sharper than the aging 35/1.4L and almost as sharp as Sigma's new 35/1.4 Art, both of which are significantly more expensive. If you could stretch for any lens, this would be it. The non-IS version that you mention above isn't really a great alternative, since it shares every weakness of the 50/1.8, though like the 50/1.8, it is definitely sharp in the center.
Last edited by Airmantharp on Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Canon 6D|24-105/4L IS USM|70-300/4-5.6 IS USM|40/2.8 STM|50/1.4 USM|85/1.8 USM|Samyang/Bower 14/2.8 Full-Manual Rectilinear Wide-angle|24/2.8 IS USM|
Canon EOS-M|11-22/4-5.6 IS STM|22/2 STM|EF-M 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM|
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:55 pm

frumper15 wrote:I recently purchased my wife a Canon T3i and have really enjoyed learning more about photography in the process. One thing I've pretty quickly come to realize is that the kit lens that came with it (18-55mm IS II f/3.5-5.6) doesn't do particularly well with low light/indoor shots without a flash. My initial search for a faster lens seems to naturally have landed on the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and I think that's still my top choice, but there are a few things about it that give me pause - softness at max aperature (apparently sharpens up around f/2), micro motor that is susceptible to damage vs. ring type, and one more I can't remember right now. That being said, I'm very excited about f/1.4 aperature and full time manual focus override for the price (around $315). The other lenses that I'm considering as possible contenders are as follows:
Canon EF 35mm f/2 Wide Angle (allegedly superior optics with wider [more "normal"?] angle but a bit slower aperature)
EF 40mm f/2.8 STM (pancake) (cheaper, slower, but smaller/lighter and STM for quieter focus in video)
EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro (allegedly superior optics but quite a bit slower aperature)

Thoughts? Should I just go with the 1.4 and be happy despite its shortcomings? I don't want to go down the 50mm 1.8 - the build quality seems just a bit too low for my liking. My next lense will probably be a bit longer telephoto than the stock lense, probably somethign 55-200 like the EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM, but I think the ability to not use a flash inside it going to be a huge improvement in my pictures. Thanks in advance


What's the difference between a f/1.4 lens that's supposedly soft wide open yet sharpens up at f/2, and another lens that starts at f/2?

What is it you're shooting?

"Aperture", not "Aperature".

I've never had a client tell me one of my images was too soft, and that includes pics taken with multiple kit lenses and a cheapie Quantaray 70-300mm.
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:19 pm

I'm not going to be much help. On my 7D, I use the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM for this purpose.

I recently picked up the tiny pancake EF 40mm f/2.8 STM as a gift for my father. It seems to be a great little lens for only $140 new.
Follow prices here:
http://www.canonpricewatch.com/product/ ... price.html
Read the review here:
http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Revi ... eview.aspx

I own the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM. This is the lens that I mount the least frequently. The focal length is too long for most indoor photos on a crop body (unless you're going for tightly-framed face shots). Nailing the focus just right with the razor-thin depth of field at f/1.8 requires more skill and patience than I normally manage. I just haven't had as much fun shooting with this lens as with my others.

The EF 35mm f/2 IS USM seems like the best tool for this job, though I have no personal experience with it. The addition of image stabilization to an f/2 aperture should make this lens extremely hand-holdable, even in low light. It's currently going for $500.
Prices:
http://www.canonpricewatch.com/product/ ... price.html
Review:
http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Revi ... eview.aspx
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 11:00 pm

Thanks for all the replies - I see I'm not the only one that may struggle with this! It would appear this problem is easy to solve if I just through some more money at it :P but that's true for a lot of things. It does seem like I would want a wider lens for indoor shooting - that being said, I end up using the wider end of the kit lens just because it allows for a lower f-stop. I'm leaning toward the 40mm pancake and at that price I could also pick up a refurbished 55-250mm IS and still be under what I was thinking for the 50mm 1.4 http://www.adorama.com/CA55250AFSR.html ... lAID021866 or there's always the nifty fifty too.

I'm going to keep researching and see what the black friday sales bring. If Canon refurbished makes me an offer I can't refuse on one of these lenses it might just make my decision for me. I would love to hear what others think if someone wants to chime in and I'll update this when I get something and let you know the results.
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 11:03 pm

Yeats wrote:
What's the difference between a f/1.4 lens that's supposedly soft wide open yet sharpens up at f/2, and another lens that starts at f/2?

What is it you're shooting?

"Aperture", not "Aperature".

I've never had a client tell me one of my images was too soft, and that includes pics taken with multiple kit lenses and a cheapie Quantaray 70-300mm.


Good point and something I had considered as well. Good catch on the extra "a" - a quick Google shows I'm not alone in my inability to spell that correctly :) I won't ever have a client, but I hope to make some decent shots of my family for future viewing.
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 23, 2013 11:48 pm

How about something out of left field...
Since you don't mind manual focus, how about a MF lens? :D

There are a wide number of old MF lenses still in circulation. Most are of excellent optical and build quality.
Read here for the various issues to be considered:
http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/eo ... s_EOS.html

FWIW, I've got a collection of OM glass that I shoot on an old Rebel XT with good results.
http://www.keh.com/camera/Olympus--Fixe ... 39680?r=FE
http://www.keh.com/camera/Olympus--Fixe ... 27500?r=FE
and a few more. My $10 fleabay adapter ring works fine.
About 90% of the weather images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/19806236@N00/sets were taken with the OM glass.
The 50mm is just a little soft wide open but most lenses are...

Apart from squinting to focus in low light (the biggest drawback to a crop camera is the #@%^@ tiny viewfinder), my camera's metering is not always as accurate as with an EOS lens - depending on the specific MF lens and aperture in use.
Last edited by Geonerd on Sun Nov 24, 2013 2:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sun Nov 24, 2013 12:35 am

When considering one of the 55-250 lenses, save yourself some trouble and get the new STM version. Unlike the other STM-ed 'kit' lenses that have seen small increases in image quality, the new crop telezoom has been endowed with a massive improvement in image quality. It now competes with the lower L lenses when stopped down a little, and leaves the more expensive 70-300 IS USM non-L (which I own) in the dust.

Otherwise, I dug up some reasonably sharp shots taken with my 60D and the 50/1.8 II, straight out of camera with the default picture style and other effects zero'd:

In the Fort Worth Kimbel Art Museum, F/2 and F/2.8:
ImageImage

At the Fort Worth Water Gardens, F/2.2:
Image

Random building in Singapore last year, F/5:
Image

These two are wide-open at F/1.8, first at the Water Gardens and second inside a Singapore subway train:

ImageImage

Note that I had to dig through plenty of 'failures' to find sharp shots that were not too noisy; these were all taken before I had a real grasp of using the 60D, and before I realized the need for a tripod :).
Canon 6D|24-105/4L IS USM|70-300/4-5.6 IS USM|40/2.8 STM|50/1.4 USM|85/1.8 USM|Samyang/Bower 14/2.8 Full-Manual Rectilinear Wide-angle|24/2.8 IS USM|
Canon EOS-M|11-22/4-5.6 IS STM|22/2 STM|EF-M 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM|
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:11 am

Airmantharp wrote:When considering one of the 55-250 lenses, save yourself some trouble and get the new STM version. Unlike the other STM-ed 'kit' lenses that have seen small increases in image quality, the new crop telezoom has been endowed with a massive improvement in image quality. It now competes with the lower L lenses when stopped down a little, and leaves the more expensive 70-300 IS USM non-L (which I own) in the dust.


Thanks for sharing the sample images - they look nice. I have read the new STM 55-250 is much nicer than the older versions, so despite being almost half the price for a refurbished first gen IS, I think I'll hold off on the zoom (the original plan anyways) and focus (get it...) on which prime I want to start with. The 35mm f/2 IS USM looks like it would be awesome and fit my desired use case, but $500 isn't in the budget right now. Fingers crossed for a refurbished Black Friday sale on that one (or possibly one of its wider sisters the 24 and 28mm)

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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:31 am

EF 24/2.8 IS USM on the 60D in action, at F/2.8:

Image

It acquits itself nicely- though I've stopped using it as much on full frame, as it's a bit too wide, and that FOV is already covered by my 24-105L.
Canon 6D|24-105/4L IS USM|70-300/4-5.6 IS USM|40/2.8 STM|50/1.4 USM|85/1.8 USM|Samyang/Bower 14/2.8 Full-Manual Rectilinear Wide-angle|24/2.8 IS USM|
Canon EOS-M|11-22/4-5.6 IS STM|22/2 STM|EF-M 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM|
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sun Nov 24, 2013 3:15 am

Here's another with the 24/2.8 IS USM at F/2.8, in the Dubai Mall:



Image
Canon 6D|24-105/4L IS USM|70-300/4-5.6 IS USM|40/2.8 STM|50/1.4 USM|85/1.8 USM|Samyang/Bower 14/2.8 Full-Manual Rectilinear Wide-angle|24/2.8 IS USM|
Canon EOS-M|11-22/4-5.6 IS STM|22/2 STM|EF-M 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM|
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sat Nov 30, 2013 10:45 pm

Well, I was disappointed that I missed getting the 50mm f/1.4 from Canon refurbished earlier in the week, only to have it go on sale brand new for $279 today at Amazon, so I bought it. I had the chance to shoot my wife's cousin's Nikon with a 50mm prime f1.8 and loved the results. Also, I've been using my kit zoom at the 55mm end more often than not, so I decided to give it a shot. I figure if all else fails and I am disappointed with it, the going used price doesn't seem to far off what I just bought it for new and I can sell it and get a 40mm 2.8 pancake or a 35mm f/2 instead. I'll report back when I get some time with it.
EDIT for horrible grammar
Last edited by frumper15 on Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:12 am

Make sure you have light (i.e., fast shutter speeds and lower ISOs), and I think you'll be duly impressed!

Stop the lens down past F/4, and it's among Canon's sharpest, too. It stays on my 6D more often than not :).
Canon 6D|24-105/4L IS USM|70-300/4-5.6 IS USM|40/2.8 STM|50/1.4 USM|85/1.8 USM|Samyang/Bower 14/2.8 Full-Manual Rectilinear Wide-angle|24/2.8 IS USM|
Canon EOS-M|11-22/4-5.6 IS STM|22/2 STM|EF-M 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM|
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Re: Fast Prime Selection Help

Postposted on Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:55 pm

I got a lot of nice shots with an EF 50mm f/1.4. Realistically, the amount of time you'll spend shooting indoors at maximum aperture will probably be low, due to the shallow depth of field. I rarely shot mine below f/2.8 IIRC.

If you find the field of view is too narrow at 50mm, I wouldn't stop at 35mm -- go to at least the EF 28mm f/1.8, or the 24mm others have recommended. The 28mm is an older design but it performs quite well, and used copies usually clear for $290-325 on eBay. I finally sold mine after picking up an EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, and only because I didn't really use it anymore.
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