Which lens should I get with my 60d?
November 1, 2010 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to buy the Canon 60d. Should I get the body packaged with kit lens (8-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) or the body only and buy the 50mm f/1.8 II?

60d packaged with kit lens: $1256.
60d body-only, 50mm separate: $1056.

So aside from price, what do you recommend? I'll mostly be using it to shoot video and indoor, naturally-lit portraits. I'm leaning towards the 50mm because it's cheaper, and I don't feel like I'll miss out on the zoom offered by the kit lens.

What else would I give up, besides the ability to zoom without moving my feet, by going with the 50mm over the kit? What am I gaining?

I'm a photog novice, but experienced videographer and editor. This is my first dSLR for video.
posted by nitsuj to Media & Arts (17 answers total)
(That should read 18-135mm, of course.)
posted by nitsuj at 9:19 AM on November 1, 2010

My vote is go without the kit lens and pick up the prime. I think shallow depth of field in video is a very interesting look that was all but impossible at those prices just a few years ago.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 9:28 AM on November 1, 2010

While the 50mm is a great lens and a lot of fun, you'll probably want a zoom with some flexibility eventually. So I think it's just a matter of buying the kit lens (which isn't a bad deal for a starter lens) or putting the $200 to something like a 24-70mm f2.8 or 24-105mm f4 down the road (both of which, even Sigma or Tamron brand, will cost a lot more than $200 but will be better in low-light situations).

(Also, zooming with your feet is a little inaccurate because 135mm will look different than 50mm.)
posted by starman at 9:29 AM on November 1, 2010

The 50mm on a crop camera body will result in a short telephoto field of view; if that is the focal length you wish to represent your vision with, definitely go ahead.

I personally will pick the 18-135 - I much prefer to shoot wide, environmental portraiture type shots, and would probably get the 15-85 instead. It really is up to how you view and portray your vision; some of my friends shoot primarily with the 10-22, me on the other hand have very little use for that focal range. Or the 50mm on a crop camera. If I had to have a prime, it'd be a 24mm (which I do use).

Also, zooming with your feet is totally incorrect; by doing so you are changing the perspective in order to get the field of view you want. Ignoring the change in perspective to obtain the field of view, in tight areas, this is obviously not possible.

NB: I don't do video, only stills.
posted by TrinsicWS at 9:40 AM on November 1, 2010

I am testing the 60D right now, and the 18-135mm seems like a solid, flexible lens. A couple of primes are a good addition, though, as they open new vistas for low light shooting, portraits and shallow DoF (depth of field). Don't forget the 1.6x multiplier, though; any non EFS lenses will have their focal length multiplied by about 1.6 times.
posted by baggers at 9:48 AM on November 1, 2010

If you don't know the answer to your question already, go with the prime lens and be prepared to walk around with the camera to get the framing you want. Prime lenses are much better for learning and much more forgiving for novice photographers than high-depth-of-field zooms, and by the time you know what you _really_ want next you'll probably be able to by it with the money you've saved.
posted by mhoye at 10:13 AM on November 1, 2010

I think having a prime is great for many reasons, but to state what I think TrinsicWS was saying in different terms, "zooming" with your feet will not give you the same photos as using a zoom, even if you move to make the main subject the same size in each photo. Changes in focal length impact depth of focus and other things.

So having a 50mm prime doesn't actually replace having the zoom range, no matter how much you move your feet.
posted by snofoam at 10:19 AM on November 1, 2010

Have you tried out a 50mm lens? To get a good head and shoulders shot, you need to be REALLY close. I rarely use my 'nifty fifty' for portraits because I have to get so close that my subject can feel a bit uncomfortable.
I love my 50mm lens, but for what you want, I'd get the zoom now and save for the 50.
posted by sleepy boy at 10:26 AM on November 1, 2010

The 50mm is cheap and sharp, but a *lot* less useful than the Sigma 30mm f1.4, IMO. Doubly so if I'm using it indoors. I'd skip it entirely if I were putting together a new kit.

I usually carry a Sigma 10-20, Sigma 30 f1.4 and Canon 100 f2.8 macro. My 50 and 70-200 stay at home unless I *know* I'll need them. I almost never find myself missing either. Granted, those 3 lenses are something like $1400 worth of glass, but it's enough to do almost everything pretty well and not break your back.
posted by pjaust at 10:27 AM on November 1, 2010

I guess I didn't exactly answer the question. I think having a 18-135 lens would be pretty useful. If you're getting a discount by buying it together with the camera, I think it is a good idea to get it. I would guess it would be at least $100 more to buy the camera and kit lens separately, so count that as getting a free 50mm prime.

Also, even if a 50mm is enough for the few, specific things you are planning to shoot, you might also want to consider that once you have the camera you may discover you want to do other things where a zoom is quite useful.
posted by snofoam at 10:29 AM on November 1, 2010

Get the kit lens. With the crop factor, that 50mm is more like an 80mm, great portrait focal length, not so good for all around shooting. "Zooming with your feet" is great, but if you're shooting indoors, you might want a wider lens, because you will be limited by wide you can shoot.

Prime lenses are almost alway better, but I think a 50mm on a 1.6 crop factor body is pretty limiting. Personally, if i was going to go with a 50mm, i'd get the 50mm 1.4. It's still fairly inexpensive for a high-quality prime and it blows the 1.8 out of the water.
posted by inertia at 10:34 AM on November 1, 2010

Thanks folks. I'm going to go ahead and get it with the kit lens, then buy the 50mm later.
posted by nitsuj at 12:10 PM on November 1, 2010

The kit lens is kinda slow for natural light shooting but that 50 might drive you crazy trying to get yourself at the right distance to get good framing. I'd suggest the kit lens and accept that you'll need better lighting (you will anyway). It'll help you learn what focal range you do like to work with. You can rig up cheap lighting on your own.

You'll be spending more money on this adventure if you are having fun. Enjoy!
posted by chairface at 12:16 PM on November 1, 2010

Kit lenses are generally not worth it. But it depends on what you shoot. The 60D isn't a beginner's camera so if you are buying it, you should already have been shooting. So analyze what you shoot and how you shoot it. Pick the lens that works for that. There is no sense in buying a big-shoot-everything lens when you don't shoot everything all of the time.
posted by JJ86 at 2:06 PM on November 1, 2010

Kit lenses are generally not worth it.

I don't think this is as true as it once was. The kit lens that came with my Rebel 2000 from the year 2000 was total garbage, but the kit lens that came with my Rebel XSi from 2008 (the EF-S 18-55 IS) is actually a perfectly decent lens, and it's far more useful than just a 50mm 1.8 on a crop sensor.

The 50mm 1.8 is a lovely lens, but on a crop sensor, it's not very useful for general purpose shooting. Unless you really do want a lens with the FOV of a short tele, you should get a 30mm-ish prime instead for "normal" shooting. Alternatively, you could pawn your kit lens and get a higher-quality zoom (probably not something in a superzoom range).
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:44 PM on November 1, 2010

Avoid the kit lens, get the prime, definitely. I did that and am very happy with the set-up I have. Everyone I know who got the kit lens regretted it.
posted by Eshkol at 8:14 PM on November 1, 2010

The beauty of the DSLR setup is that you can acquire what you need as you need it. I bought my first DSLR as a body only and separate 17-85mm. That's my favourite lens to this day because it's so versatile and I can still get fairly up close if I want to. My second DSLR was a kit, and I never really warmed to the bundled lens. However, since my first purchase, I've bought all sorts of other lenses, some new, some from second hand places, friends, etc. I'd go with option 2 and then get another lens as your style and taste dictate.
posted by Sutekh at 4:40 AM on November 3, 2010

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