Whats an ideal everyday lens for an EOS 450D?
September 24, 2009 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I need advice on a 'walking-around' lens on a sub-frame Canon DSLR.

This is a followup to my previous question that I received some wonderful advice on. I'm hoping for more, hivemind!

My Rebel XSi/EOS 450D is now about four weeks old, and I've probably shot about 1,100 frames on it. I'm happy with the camera, I'm learning quickly and I'm ready to branch out into my first 'real' lens. I admit that this is partially fueled by my weekend rental of an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM that I took to the zoo, and immediately fell in love with.

So, I'm looking for a 'walking around' lens to be my primary lens that will be on the camera as a default. Ideally it would be good for architecural, landscape and street photography but still have a decent amount of reach for the occasional shot that requires it. A good maximum magnification factor certainly wouldn't hurt.

The best of these sorts of lenses always seem to be more than 20mm focal length at the wide end, and on a 1.6x crop body, it's far too wide for anything architectural or landscape. The few that are good at the wide end tend not to have a lot of reach so you end up with the opposite issue. There are one or two contenders in the EF-S series of lenses, but I'm wary about them since an upgrade to a full frame camera is not out of the question in the future.

I have a nifty fifty and have used it as my primary lens, as well as the 18-55 kit lens, but there are situations where these are just not the right lenses.

So, the contenders that I am considering, and their major concerns, are:

- EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM (expensive, not wide enough, slow)
- EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM (expensive, not wide enough, no IS)
- EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM (no IS, slow, practically no reach)
- EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM (not wide enough, slow)
- EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS (EF-S mount, slow, questionable optics)

Is there another option out there that I'm missing?
posted by WinnipegDragon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
All hail the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. L-quality glass, IS, fast. Only downside is the price.
posted by zsazsa at 11:52 AM on September 24, 2009


the 24-70 is *gigantic*. i don't think it contends as a walkaround lens.
posted by jangie at 11:57 AM on September 24, 2009


the 24-70 is *gigantic*. i don't think it contends as a walkaround lens.

I've heard that. I'm not super concerned about size and/or weight, honestly. I toted that 5lb 70-200 around for six hours without a problem, and it was monstrous!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:01 PM on September 24, 2009


All hail the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM.

Forgot to include that one. I just, really, really worry about dropping $1k on a lens that I might not be able to use with my next body. I've seen some stellar pictures taken with it though!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:02 PM on September 24, 2009


Most zoom lenses have too much barrel distortion to be good for architecture shots. You end up with all sorts of curvy lines more often than not. Also, zoom lenses are gigantic, which I think makes them less suited for taking with you out and about. I used to own the 17-40mm L, which is a great lens, but it's most definitely gigantic. I think the filter size on those L lenses is 77mm. You can see my photos with the lens on Flickr. My walk around lens now is a 28mm f/1.8. I think prime lenses are usually nicer than zooms. I usually just 'zoom' by walking where I need to be to take the shot. This doesn't work all the time, of course.

And yeah, that EF-S 17-55mm is well regarded, though it's just a nicer version of the kit lens you find lacking. So if the kit lens isn't working for you, I don't think the 17-55 will.
posted by chunking express at 12:04 PM on September 24, 2009


When I had a crop-factor Canon, I loved the hell out of my 17-85.
posted by notsnot at 12:07 PM on September 24, 2009


Also, buy your lenses used. The L lenses you can most definitely sell for the same price you bought them for (more often than not) assuming you keep the lenses in good condition.
posted by chunking express at 12:07 PM on September 24, 2009


. I just, really, really worry about dropping $1k on a lens that I might not be able to use with my next body

You know... I'm in a similar boat, though my own walkaround tends to be the 35 f/2, since light weight and size matter a lot to me. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that glass tends to hold its value pretty well. Given the recent launch of the 7D, it looks like there probably won't be a cheaper-than-5D full-frame option any time soon; you'll probably be able to sell an EF-S for a substantial portion of what you paid for it, and in the meantime enjoy some really stellar optical quality. The 17-55 f/2.8 is basically L quality in most respects - it, and the 10-22, are often considered "stealth L" glass, with the assumption being that Canon refuses to slap an actual L label on anything EF-S as a matter of principle and marketing.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:08 PM on September 24, 2009


If I wasn't so concerned about the EF-S vs EF issue, I might have already purchased the 17-55. If seen the side by side comparisons, and I have no doubt it's an 'L' quality lens. Priced like it too!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:10 PM on September 24, 2009


Also, buy your lenses used.

Considering the fragility of the lenses, if the pricing is very similar to new, I don't understand buying them used?

(also hopefully I'm not over-posting in my own thread)
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:12 PM on September 24, 2009


Oh, and incidentally, you may want to think about taking the prime route - yeah, you may have to swap lenses more than you'd like, but it's almost impossible to get real speed out of a zoom (look at all those f/4s, even among the most expensive options!) and good primes are generally much cheaper than their zoom counterparts. 90% of my shots could be done with a good normal prime (say, a 28 f/1.8 or a 35 f/2) and something like the 100 f/2, for less than the cost of any L zoom - and all of it would work just fine on the full-frame body I hope to have eventually.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:13 PM on September 24, 2009


So what's the issue with the kit lens? It's got the almost got exact same range.
posted by chunking express at 12:13 PM on September 24, 2009


Sounds like you are going about this in the right way. There is also a 28-300 L zoom, but I can't say I've ever seen it in the wild.

My upgrade path (on a 350D) was 28-135 to 50 1.4 to 70-200 f4 to 17-40 to 24-105 to 100-400 to 35 1.4 (now my main lens on my 5D MKII) to 70-200 2.8 IS, with the next victim being the 85 1.2.

Personally, I'd go for the 24-105. It's a great lens (not the top of the line, to be sure), but its range and IS make it well suited to be your primary lens for walking around. There are also a number floating around used from people who wanted 5D Mark II's but could only buy the kit, not the bare body. However, if you're pining for a 70-200 2.8 IS, you might go for the complementary 24-70. As noted above, if you buy L glass, you can almost always recoup your money down the road.

There is no one lens that does what you want. Primes offer the best image quality at a given focal length and are, by definition, one trick ponies. Be one with your focal length and skip the zooms!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:14 PM on September 24, 2009


So what's the issue with the kit lens? It's got the almost got exact same range.

Build quality, sharpness, contrast, saturation, max aperture, no USM, and no full-time manual focus.

Once I had the 70-200mm in hand, I took some shots with both, and I got the L-glass fever I guess :)

I would still need a dedicated telephoto, I know.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:18 PM on September 24, 2009


There is no one lens that does what you want.

Yeah, learning that the hard way. This is the biggest adjustment from P&S shooting so far.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:21 PM on September 24, 2009


The Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS holds its value really well when selling used in case you decide to do so later (even better - buy it used! the depreciation will be even less). It is worth noting that it isn't just a "nicer version" of the kit lens, it is more versatile due to the aperture and IS, but the focal length is definitely similar. If you are limited by the focal length range on the kit lens, the 17-55 will not change that.

You might conisder holding out for the upcoming 18-135 IS

"Considering the fragility of the lenses, if the pricing is very similar to new, I don't understand buying them used?"
In my experience (depending on the lens, to some extent), they aren't that fragile, and they are often 25-30% discounted from new (or more, again depending on the lens).

I echo the "there is no one lens that does everything you want." I want to point you towards an excellent technical review catalog (that is surprisingly easy to understand). The digital Picture. Specifically - 24-105

I have to disagree that the 24-105 is "not the top of the line, to be sure." It is an excellent lens.
posted by kenbennedy at 12:33 PM on September 24, 2009


Nthing the prime lens recommendation. I used to lug around the 24-70, but since I've picked up my Sigma 30mm f/1.4, it never leaves my XSI. Amazingly fast and sharp, and it has an eminently usable focal length for most situations. And much more portable than a big old zoom lens.

You can check out sample shots on Flickr here. (There are Flickr groups for most lenses, if you want to investigate the other models you're interested in.)
posted by flod at 12:46 PM on September 24, 2009


The 24-105 is indeed an excellent lens. The picture quality is not as good as the faster 24-70 2.8, in my experience, and it is a far cry short of the 70-200 2.8 IS (in a number of respects from IQ to focusing speed), to say nothing of Canon's excellent primes. At a fixed f4 aperture, it's not particularly fast--the IS makes up for some of it, but if you have a moving subject in low light conditions, the results leave much to be desired.

As kit lenses go, it is fantastic. I bought mine used for, I think, $800--and the lens is a bargain at that price. I view the 24-105 + 100-400 combo as Canon's B team line up, with the 24-70 + 70-200 2.8 IS as the A team in that general range.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:51 PM on September 24, 2009


As kit lenses go, it is fantastic. I bought mine used for, I think, $800--and the lens is a bargain at that price. I view the 24-105 + 100-400 combo as Canon's B team line up, with the 24-70 + 70-200 2.8 IS as the A team in that general range.

Funny you should mention those combos. I was considering the 24-105 and then the 100-400 but I've read about the push/pull zoom on the 100-400 drawing dust onto the sensor. In either case, I would still need a dedicated wide-angle at some point though.

You are right about the 70-200 2.8 IS being stellar. I'm a total amateur and I managed the best shots of my life at the Winnipeg Zoo with it.

Maybe i should just bite the bullet, stick with the 50mm 1.8, add a dedicated wide angle prime and save up for the 70-200mm 2.8 IS...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:57 PM on September 24, 2009


I typed out another huge response, but deleted it to say again that 1 lens really won't do everything, and you need to prioritize based on what you want to shoot (or buy more than 1 lens).

You can certainly take good landscapes on a 1.6 FOVCF body with focal lenghts over 20mm, they just aren't the same composition as ones with a 14mm lens.

If you haven't been there yet, I also recommend the (Canon) forums at Fredmiranda.com.

Yeah, primes lenses can be sharp, but they can't do everything.
"Ideally it would be good for architecural, landscape and street photography but still have a decent amount of reach for the occasional shot that requires it."
If you really have your heart set on this, then that rules out a prime, unless you buy more than 1.

I suggest you not rush (not to say that you are), and pick one of the lenses on your list to make the most of for a while. Any of those is good enough to occupy a decent photographer for thousands of shots at a time. They are ALL upgrades from the kit lens.

(sorry for the excessively long answer)
You also might reconsider the wide aperture thing. If you aren't freezing live action, and if you aren't trying to get super creamy bokeh, then an IS lens will let you shoot in low light very well (especially the 24-105 with 3-stop IS). What are you really taking pictures of (a question to ask yourself, not necessarily us - But we will help when you tell us)?

I think the meat of all these answers is to pick a strategy for building your equipment list - a strategy that is NOT "1 lens to do everything." That is probably setting yourself up for disappointment (or a lot of lens buying and seling). Looks like I wound up with another huge response anyway. But if you aren't happy with the sharpness, contrast and color of the kit lens, don't buy a non-L zoom. Move upwards, not sideways.
posted by kenbennedy at 12:58 PM on September 24, 2009


"Maybe i should just bite the bullet, stick with the 50mm 1.8, add a dedicated wide angle prime and save up for the 70-200mm 2.8 IS..."

Now you're talking. That strategy lines up with reality.
posted by kenbennedy at 12:59 PM on September 24, 2009


I don't see the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 here, so I'll just throw it out there. It's the lens I use on my 50D all the time. It's not as well-built as the Canon 17-55mm, but really at 1/2 the price, the optics are very good. Here's a review. Unless you're sure you don't want a third-party lens, definitely look this lens up.
posted by reformedjerk at 1:03 PM on September 24, 2009


There are a lot of great answers here. Thanks everyone.

Knowing that resale on a lens is solid, I could go 24-105mm for now, with plans to replace it down the road as well. It *is* what I have been leaning towards.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:07 PM on September 24, 2009


add a dedicated wide angle prime

I would like to point out that the "use prime lenses" solution works for every focal length that you are looking for except for the wide end. If you really need 17mm there are not a lot of prime lens options that will give L performance and wide primes are very expensive. The only 17mm Canon prime is a tilt-shift L lens that costs almost $2,500. If you want 17mm, "L" performance, autofocus, and don't want to spend more than a thousand dollars, the 17-40 f/4 L may be the best bet.
posted by Procloeon at 1:12 PM on September 24, 2009


I was just browsing B&H and I noticed that. Seems like the EF-S 10-22mm is everyone's darling for crop-bodies, or the Tokina 12-24mm.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:14 PM on September 24, 2009


A word on the 100-400, too--I think this is a really adequate lens. IQ is not great, nor is focusing particularly fast, but I'm pretty sure that it is the single cheapest way you're going to get to 400mm on a Canon body (except maybe via a 70-200 zoom plus a 2x teleconverter). I bought mine used for $1100. I never noticed any problems with dust on the sensor, but I do have to say that the push/pull zoom is a pain in the ass. It's actually a bit lighter that the 70-200 2.8 IS. I think you would be very happy with the 10-22, the 24-105 and the 100-400, if you went that route. Ultimately I think I'd be happy with the 35 1.4, the 85 1.2 and the 135 f2, plus the 70-200 2.8 IS (and maybe the 100 2.8 macro). Oh, and the 17 TSE. And Maybe the 50 1.2, that's a great focal length. And maybe a second 5D Mark II so I can have one dedicated wide body and one telephoto. And maybe a couple more strobes. And...

Seriously, photography is more expensive than crack, and just as addictive (though not as wack).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:36 PM on September 24, 2009


B&H is a good resource. However I think the best reviews are over at the Canon lens review forum at Fredmiranda.com. They also have Tokina reviews. My 17-40 f/4 recommendation is for the 17-to-whatever focal length range, not all that relevant if you want a wider lens.

A word on the 100-400, too--I think this is a really adequate lens. IQ is not great, nor is focusing particularly fast, but I'm pretty sure that it is the single cheapest way you're going to get to 400mm on a Canon body


There is another option, especially if you just want to get to 400mm, the 300mm f/4 L IS with a 1.4X teleconverter. This lens is absurdly sharp and with the 1.4X you get a 420mm f/5.6 with very good autofocus performance. It also has a very close minimum focus distance, great for small critters like butterflies. This combination would be about $1,625. A new 100-400mm is $1,680.
posted by Procloeon at 1:56 PM on September 24, 2009


I have the 10-22 and love it, but it obviously will not cover anything requiring "Reach" and really fails to cover anything in the "normal" range. It's a great wide angle though. Sharp too. You just really have to understand the limits and design intent of your equipment. Too many photographers (in my opinion, especially when starting out) just expect any piece of equipment they have to deliver award winning results with no effort (I am NOT talking about the OP).

And the 100-400? I respectfully suggest that it is more than "adequate." I (and many others) get great IQ from this lens. Again, know the limits of your equipment.
Pic 1 Pic 2 (yeah I know I'm opening myself up with those links, no guts no glory)

But seriously, the (prime) non IS 400 f/5.6 L is cheaper if you just want 400mm. Just use a tripod/monopod. To the OP - Unless you are using the 100-400 in the Sahara, I don't think you will get excessive amounts of dust on the sensor - I would say no more than changing lenses to go between 100 and 400mm for sure (which is the other option). The push pull zoom is all personal preference, it works for some (Including myself), but do "try before you buy. It's tough to compare it to the 70-200, since the aperture and focal lengths don't match. You get better results at 400mm with the 100-400 than a 200mm zoom + teleconverter (reference).

And throw a TS lens in there for me, wouldya? Lots of good advice here.
posted by kenbennedy at 2:00 PM on September 24, 2009


If you are really still considering a longer tele, have a look at the ISO CROPS on "the digital picture" and read the reviews of the 300mm f/4, Bryan is pretty thorough.

300mm f/4 w/1.4x TC (420 f/5.6) vs 100-400 @ 400mm
(use the mouseover)
posted by kenbennedy at 2:05 PM on September 24, 2009


And primes may be fast, but they aren't all good.

Canon 20mm f/2.8 USM

Canon 28mm f/1.8 USM

(And by not good, I of course mean know the limits of your equipment)
posted by kenbennedy at 2:15 PM on September 24, 2009


I'm quite happy with my Tamron 17-50mm f2.8.

Not good for zoom... but I find for walking about, wide-angle is usually far more desirable than not.
posted by TravellingDen at 2:59 PM on September 24, 2009


On a full frame, the 24-105 is great, it has IS but sadly is only a constant f/4. On a crop factor, either the Canon 17-55 IS or the Tamron 17-50. Both are a constant f/2.8 and if you wait a bit longer, you'll even have the option of getting the Tamron with VC (what they call IS).
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:23 PM on September 24, 2009


Fisheye seems to be the only way I've been able to get wide shots. I usually defish them on the computer.

You should look into Sigma and Tokina lenses as well. Canon makes great glass but Sigma and Tokina do very good and may cover a different range you like better. I haven't found any one lens I would consider universal but I usually end up with my 60mm macro or my 28-135 zoom. The macro is so sharp I need to invent new adjectives for it, like flayzer sharp.
posted by chairface at 11:11 AM on September 28, 2009


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