Upgrading Canon Lenses
December 17, 2004 6:15 AM   Subscribe

I've got a Canon Digital Rebel. I'm interested in upgrading the EF-S 18-55mm zoom lens it came with to something a little more professional. Has anyone done this?
posted by Shanachie to Media & Arts (14 answers total)
I have many different EOS lenses that I use on my Digital Rebel, is there a specific type of lens you're looking for?
posted by Tenuki at 6:20 AM on December 17, 2004

Basically, I'm looking for a replacement for the 18-55... I'd like to get a faster lens, that's easier to use with manual focus.
posted by Shanachie at 6:27 AM on December 17, 2004

When you say upgrade, do you mean you want to substitute for something faster than the kit lens (f3.5-5.6), or you want to get kitted out with additional lenses? If the latter, you need to specify what kind of photos (portraits, landscapes, architecture, sports, birdwatching) before anyone can rcommend lenses.

On preview, looky.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:35 AM on December 17, 2004

Yes, I want to substitute for something faster than the kit lens. But, I'd certainly be interested in any additonal lens suggestions....
posted by Shanachie at 6:40 AM on December 17, 2004

An answer also depends on how much you're willing to spend. All the Canon L-series lenses are faster with wonderful glass, giving you some wonderful color & sharpness. Of course, they come with a price (all over 1000$). But they're worth it.
posted by misterioso at 7:39 AM on December 17, 2004

By "faster", do you mean a wider aperture lens or faster autofocus?

I have the 28-135 IS lens. It's not quite as sharp as the L lenses, but it's much cheaper, and it's a great value for what it costs. It has a true USM motor for full-time manual focus, the autofocus is very fast, and it has a non-rotating front element so you can use a polarizer or graduated ND filter. The aperture range is 3.5-5.6, but it is an IS lens, so you get effectively 1-2 stops more.

Many of the pictures here were taken with that lens on a digital rebel.
posted by Caviar at 8:01 AM on December 17, 2004

Prepare to spend a lot of money, or just buy a couple of primes if you really want fast (but not as convenient). A 50mm/1.8 will be only $90 or so and is incredibly faster than your kit zoom.
posted by smackfu at 8:07 AM on December 17, 2004

Most people with Canon DSLR's (including people with the Rebel/18-55 kit lens) upgrade to the 17-40mm f/4L if they're looking for a lens near the zoom range of the kit lens. If you can take the $700 hit to the wallet, the lens is definitely one of Canon's cheapest L lenses and gives you full-time manual focusing (which will make your life much easier if you prefer manual focus from time to time), as well as all the other niceties of Canon's L series--pro-quality construction, sharpness, color rendition, autofocus speed/accuracy (ring USM), and so on. Being one of the newer L lenses, the 17-40/4L also has rubber gaskets should you upgrade to a body that provides weather sealing, and will hold its resale value very well so long as you take good care of it.

The only potential problem here is speed: f/4 isn't terribly fast, and is only about 0-1 stops faster than the kit lens. At this moment the only faster lens that covers the same range on the Canon mount is the 16-35/2.8L, which I use, and I'll admit is terribly priced. If you're unhappy with the f/4 speed of the 17-40/4 route and you want to go faster, your choices are either the expensive 16-35/2.8L, choose a lens that covers a different/longer focal range (such as the excellent Tamron 28-75/2.8), or go with primes.

My recommendation? Pick up the 17-40/4L and, if you feel the itch to go faster, complement it with a prime of the focal length you tend to be using when you feel yourself wanting for more speed. Best of both worlds.

If you want more details, I gave a few more tidbits to another person looking to upgrade his 18-55 lens just a couple of hours ago on this thread.

On preview: I second smackfu--the 50/1.8 is a steal and a no-brainer if you're looking for a fast prime, if you're not looking for more speed at a wider focal length.
posted by DaShiv at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2004

I'm using the 24 - 85mm f3.5 on my 20d and I'm happy with it. It's a decent lens for a decent price. It is pretty sharp and quick. I would like something a little wider. When I have some more cash, tis not the season to buy stuff for myself, I'm going to upgrade to the 17 - 40 L series.
posted by trbrts at 8:42 AM on December 17, 2004

Also, KEH has pretty good deals on used lenses and you can generally count on the grade that they give the used lenses.
posted by trbrts at 8:49 AM on December 17, 2004

For a lower budget, I would definitely second the 28-135 IS and 50mm 1.8 MkII suggestions.

That being said, I am champing at the bit for a wide-angle replacement (or enhancement) to the kit lens. I am very very tempted by the new Sigma 12-24mm.
posted by LondonYank at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2004

Thanks for the advice! I sorta dig the idea of using primes... it's cool somehow.

As a sidenote: Anyone use a rangefinder instead of an SLR? I'm curious about them. I like shooting on the street and it seems like a good way to be a little more covert.
posted by Shanachie at 10:14 AM on December 17, 2004

Go with an L lens. Some Canon photog extraordinaire once said, "I always go with L lenses, so I never have to trade up later on."

The best replacement is the 28-70mm f/2.8L USM. It'll set you back about a grand.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:22 AM on December 17, 2004

There's a good review of the 18-55mm here on photo.net, including a discussion in the conclusion about possible competitors. It's not a bad lens, for the price.

I've considered replacing mine several times but there's always some other coverage I'd rather get. I agree with the suggestions above about going for fast primes -- since primes tend to be small, I don't find switching them around to be much of a hassle.
posted by nev at 3:44 PM on December 17, 2004

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