Just ordered a Canon T2i DSLR. What else should I get?
September 27, 2010 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Just ordered a Canon T2i DSLR with 430EX II flash. What other lenses and accessories should I get? What photo blogs / howto sites should I be reading?

Although I love my Canon S90 and will probably keep it for casual shots, I decided to upgrade to a DSLR and chose the Canon T2i with the 18-55mm kit lens because I'm a Canon guy and it seemed like the best choice for my budget. I also got the 430EX II Flash, a Transcend 16 GB SD card, the Canon Remote Switch RS60 E3, a Hoya PRO1 UV filter (58 mm), a cheap plastic flash diffuser, and 2 extra batteries.

I considered the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens but it was out of stock (at Amazon) so I will probably get it later. Also looked at the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM because I like taking macro photos, and the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM because the thought of wide photos appeals to me (is the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD any good?).

I have ~$700 more in my budget. What would you recommend I spend it on and why?

Mostly I like taking shots of people, either in a city or in nature (hiking, camping, etc) plus macro shots of plants and insects. Most of my shots will be outdoors but it would be good to have a fast lens for taking indoor pics of people, right? I'm wondering if the lenses above that I am considering are good for these situations. It seems like a lot of the example macro pics that I've found have too shallow DOF (especially the macro shots of insects, like when just the head is in focus and the wings are super blurry... I do not see how this is desirable... can it be changed? Is it a limitation of this lens or just the photographer choosing a low f-stop?)

I am also looking for good recommendations of cheap but essential accessories (one example would be the "lens pen" but I already have one) I should get. Or even just simple solutions like putting a rubber band around the focus ring to make it easier to operate. Random stuff that I'm probably forgetting, or things that could make my life as a budding dslr photographer 10x easier for just a few bucks.

Last but not least, are there any good photo blogs I should be reading? Tutorial sites? How to use the images from this camera with Lightroom 3? What is a good example workflow? Etc. I am mainly interested in making my photos look fairly realistic (maybe punch up the colors a bit, sharpen them, slight adjustment to curves) -- nothing too extreme or artsy.

posted by buckaroo_benzai to Technology (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
a 50 mm f/1.4 prime lens and call it a day. I'd spend $200 to fly somewhere you've never been and the rest on accommodations, as you shoot a shit load of shots to learn how to use it. That is all.
posted by alex_skazat at 7:18 PM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Get a cord so you can hold the flash off camera... makes portraits a lot more lifelike.

Then start reading the Strobist group on Flickr and at Strobist.com.
posted by MikeWarot at 7:30 PM on September 27, 2010

Best answer: I'd make it a 28 or 30mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 prime. With your APS-C sensor, this will get you closer to the "normal" angle of view that a 50mm lens gives on a 35mm sensor or film.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 7:33 PM on September 27, 2010

Best answer: When I shot with a Canon 400D, the 28mm 1.8 was on my camera 90% of the time. It's not cheap, but it's bloody useful. I'd also consider getting something to take your flash off-camera. There are plenty of TTL extension cords around. The official one is quite expensive, so I'd look into a third party one for now.

The 10-20mm is extremely wide. I'd play with the wide end of your kit lens for a bit, and see if you really often need wider.

About the ultra-blurriness of macro shots: The depth of your depth of field (henceafter referred to as DOF) is a combination of four things. The focal length, the aperture (f stop), distance to the subject, and size of film/sensor.

The longer the focal length, the shallower the depth of field.
The more open the aperture, the shallower the depth of field.
The closer to the subject, the shallower the depth of field.
The larger the film/sensor, the shallower the depth of field.

So, with the very tight insect shots, often taken with the Canon MP-E65, the photographer is extremely close to the subject. The focal length is reasonable, but certainly on the longer side of normal.

Let's look at one, picked randomly from Flickr. We can see that it was taken with a Canon 20D, which has a sensor the same size as the T2i, though is considerably older. It's smaller than a full frame camera like the 5D, so it's got a deeper DOF. The MP-E65 is an f2.8 lens, and stops down to f/16, which is what this picture was taken on. It's pretty tight. The photographer used flash to enable them to get an action-stopping exposure of 1/200th of a second. Without it, the tight aperture would've made the picture very dark indeed. Last, but not least, the photographer was definitely very close to their subject.

So, as you can see, the DOF is a combination of the above. Even in this case, where a photographer tried thier hardest in all other ways to increase the DOF, their extreme closeness to the subject resulted in a relatively shallow DOF. Just think how much more narrow it could've been - this review gives the 2.8 DOF of the lens as 0.048mm. Blimey. That's a hard lens to use.

Just to note, the 100mm f2.8 macro lens (which really is excellent) won't let you get remotely as close, which is actually more useful for most scenarios. Thus, while you'll need to step down a lot to get a good DOF, you'll not have quite so much difficulty.
posted by Magnakai at 7:40 PM on September 27, 2010

Best answer: Get the BG-E8 grip. It allows you to have twice as much battery power as well as making it much easier to shoot in 'portrait' mode. Definitely my favorite accessory for any camera.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:45 PM on September 27, 2010

Best answer: Sigma has a 30mm F1.4 which is basically grafted to my Nikon D90. I hear they have a 20mm F1.8 that is even wider. What I've found, in no uncertain terms, is that low light and wide lens equals win in almost all real world situations.

The lenses have a bit of an annoying thing in that they can capture more than they can autofocus (meaning, in darkness, you have to go manual or use the focus light), but you can't argue with the results from them.

They're also really inexpensive.
posted by effugas at 8:19 PM on September 27, 2010

(And, at the point you have a flash, clearly you don't care about blinding your subjects.)
posted by effugas at 8:19 PM on September 27, 2010

You can use a flash without being blinding or overlit. You just need the diffuser and/or to point it at your face. Makes a HUGE difference.
posted by flaterik at 8:34 PM on September 27, 2010

Best answer: I have the 100mm f/2.8 macro and it is an amazing lens. It will push the limits of your hand-holding ability. If you want to get serious depth of field with it, you need a tripod for sure. Possibly also a ring flash (I cringe at the cost but some folks have DIY solutions that look fun and functional). I just took it on a trip to Madagascar where it served as my macro for flowers, insects, and chameleons, and as my telephoto for lemurs. No tripod. I did get some excellent shots as a telephoto but it is a macro first and foremost.

I love the lens and don't regret it for a minute. That said, it's not the most practical lens purchase out of the gate. I probably should have gone with the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS, and my next low-cost purchase will be the 28-135 for all-around versatility. I also picked up the 20mm f/2.8 for wide-angles. It is definitely sharper than the kit lens, but you'll spend lots of time swapping if you don't have something you like in the middle.

My best tip? Spring for Canon brand lens hoods. They are customized for each lens and mount via a secondary bayonet-type mount on the lens barrel with a quarter-twist, rather than screwing on via the filter threads on front. They also allow you to store the hood backwards on the lens in your bag. My 20mm came used with an el-cheapo generic hood and I could never get it on and off when I needed it (and the 20mm flares quite a bit).

Check out dpreview.com and fredmiranda.com for gear info, bhphotovideo.com for gear purchases, and photojojo.com for fun.
posted by MrZero at 8:55 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I use the Canon 17-85mm as my primary lens, though I've been using my 35mm more and more because its so much lighter. I'd sell your 18-55mm and buy a 17-85mm for the better quality optics and build.

I'd definitely recommend a Canon 35mm. I have the 50mm 1.8 mk 1 (old version, higher quality) and I haven't used the 50mm at all since getting the 35mm. Because of the sensor size the 50mm winds up being about an 82mm, which is basically a fixed zoom lens. Useful for portraits, but not useful otherwise. The 35mm 2.0 is just as fast, essentially, sharp as a tack, faster to focus, and is certainly has higher build quality than the current mk 2 50mm.

Here's a good T2i group on Flickr with a bunch of discussions on lenses and gear.
posted by pkingdesign at 10:36 PM on September 27, 2010

Best answer: I'll be the lone voice in the wilderness and suggest that you hold off on additional purchases for at least a little while. The camera and flash you have coming will give you tons more capability than your S90.

There is a significant learning curve involved if you want to learn to take advantage of that.

You may find that areas of photography which didn't particularly interest you before are now exciting or worth pursuing.

As time passes it will become apparent to you which additional lenses or accessories will do you the most good.
posted by imjustsaying at 1:51 AM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: A professional tripod, 50mm lens, extension tubes, flash cord, battery grip (off-brand is fine).

You can get better DOF on macro shots with a smaller aperture -- but you'll need a tabletop-sized tripod. And a flash helps.
posted by starman at 5:04 AM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: I'd do two things: cancel your order or return it once it gets there.

Get the 580ex instead of the 430. The 580 has much more power and the 480 is only borderline useful. If you use flash a lot, you will regret it, eventually.

Return the camera and buy the body without the lens. Then get whatever decent quality mid-level zoom, I think it's the 18-55 2.8. The kit lens is useable, but not great. You will also eventually grow out of it.

The 50mm 1.8 will be fun to play with.

You need to understand crop factor when you are looking at lenses, google that. For me, a 100mm lens on a small crop camera is going to be way too long to take good pictures with. That's just me though.

Fundamentally I think that 99% of good pictures are taken with lenses less than 100mm on a full frame camera. And usually between 24-85mm. That 100mm lens is going to be the equivalent of a 160mm lens on a full frame camera...fairly long.
posted by sully75 at 5:05 AM on September 28, 2010

I'm a happy T2i owner, and I'll throw in another vote for the battery grip.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:41 AM on September 28, 2010

Best answer: Another hand up for playing with your kit lens for a while before buying another lens.

I have a T1i and I love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4. It basically stays on my camera all the time since, like you, I take a lot of indoor/outdoor shots of people.

However, how I came to purchase this lens was by looking at the pictures I was taking with my kit lens after a month or two. 80% of my shots were taken in the 25mm - 35mm range, which means the Canon 50mm f/1.8, while a super deal, would have been too long for me, or I would have had to significantly change the way I took pictures.

Later on, was getting frustrated by things I wanted to shoot that were too far away, where my feet couldn't take me. So I added a Sigma 50-150mm F2.8. Love, love, love this lens when I'm outdoors and walking around. Great glass and smaller and lighter (important when you have it strapped around your neck for 6+ hours) and cheaper than comparable lenses (such as the Canon f/4 70-200 L). Only bad part is that it's not a macro lens.
posted by thisisnotbruce at 11:16 AM on September 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the great suggestions (keep them coming!). They are all great so I marked most of them as best answer. Only reason I didn't mark all of them is that it would defeat the point :)

The battery grip looks great. I didn't know they had additional buttons to assist with vertical shots... very cool. I think I will be ordering one soon. I also never heard of the extension tubes... they sound like a great inexpensive way to bring more functionality to the lenses.

I think right now I am going to play with the kit lens and see what its limitations are, and figure out what focal length I end up using the most. I think this will definitely help me decide which lens to upgrade to in the future.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 12:28 PM on September 28, 2010

Just to note - I've used the 430 EX professionally plenty of times and continue to use it regularly. It's an excellent flash, with the EX II being even better, and will serve as a great second flash should you decide to buy a 580.

The kit lens isn't superb, but is a great starter piece. It also adds very little cost to the price of the camera, making it a great way to find out what you like to shoot.
posted by Magnakai at 4:07 PM on September 28, 2010

(I have a Canon 5D and a bunch of prime lenses. A couple of months ago I got myself an S90. I now use the S90 10x more than the 5D.)

Take more pictures. Lots more. Can't stress this enough. Consider taking a class. Nothing will improve your photos like criticism from someone with a good eye.

And take more pictures. Lots more.
posted by phliar at 4:07 PM on September 28, 2010

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