What should I look for when purchasing a camera lense?
July 7, 2005 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Canon 350D Digital Rebel XT: Should I get it with the kit lense or without? If without, what lense would you recommend?

What are your experiences with this camera and lense? I'd like to get an additional wide-angle lense even if I do opt for the kit lense, but if I were to go without the kit lense, what lense should I get to replace it? I've got very limited experience with lenses in general (due to lack of funds, until now), but plenty of manual SLR experience (using a small prime lense that came with the Minolta).

What should I look for on my lense-purchasing journey? Is my assumption that a wide-angle would be awesome naive?
posted by odinsdream to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wide angles ARE awesome. However, the Rebel's Kit Lens is 18-55mm, which is equivalent to a wide end of about 28mm on a 35mm camera. So it's already technically wide-angle. You can go wider, but you'll be looking at the Tokina 12-24mm (about $600), the Tamron 11-18 (about $550), or the Canon 10-22 (about $800). Sigma's got a 10-20 coming for about $500 but it's not out yet. You could also go with a prime lens of some kind but you're going to want at least one zoom.

The kit lens isn't a bad lens, but it's not very long. But at least it's cheap! I would still prefer something like the Sigma 18-125 or 18-200 (yes, it's an 11x zoom and it doesn't suck at all), but you're looking at $300 for the former and $400 for the latter.
posted by kindall at 4:21 PM on July 7, 2005

I got it with the lens, and I like it a lot -- I haven't compared it to any other lenses on the body, but I can say that it's sharp, focuses fast, and provides enough versatility for my everyday messing around. I plan to get a longer lens at some point -- they make a nice 55 to 200 lens that I've used on my brother's Digital Rebel -- but I can't say I have any problems with the lens that comes in the kit.
posted by delfuego at 5:42 PM on July 7, 2005

I have the original Digital Rebel, and got the kit lens. I used it messing around with the camera the first day, then got a 50mm f/1.4, and it hasn't left the body since. This is kind of a personal choice, though; I like doing low-light photography, and the wide aperture is essential for that. I am surprised by how infrequently I wish I had a zoom lens, though; the fixed is fine with me, and takes better pictures for the price.

Before you can get really good advice, what sort of shots are you looking to take? Outdoor/indoor candids, architecture, nature, ?

P.S.: It's "lens", not "lense".
posted by trevyn at 6:08 PM on July 7, 2005

I knew I must be spelling it wrong, so I included both in the tags. Sorry for the screw-up.

I'm interested in taking close-up photos of people indoors and out. Probably a significant amount of low-light photography, night-time stuff, I'd like to play around with time-lapse like I did with my regular SLR, though I don't know how good the digital will be for this. I've rarely used my flash, I just don't really like it. I like to use available light instead. I need a good "fast" lens, I guess.

I'm also interested in taking close-up photos of food, so perhaps I'll get a macro lens. On reading about macros at Canon's site, I came across one lens that could be used not just for macro photos, is this generally true, or am I looking for something unique?

And, finally, to really be vague, I also like to take pictures of buildings and architecture.

General question: How do I know whether a lens I purchase on the internet will fit the camera body? Is it just a matter of certain standards, certain brands, or what?

Is there any reason not to purchase used lenses?
posted by odinsdream at 6:51 PM on July 7, 2005

It will fit if the lens is of the EF-S or EF style. Note, however, that older Canon bodies cannot use the EF-S (new) style lenses wide-open.
As for the kit lens, get it. It's cheap, as folks have said, and it does a remarkably good job for most tasks.
posted by notsnot at 7:08 PM on July 7, 2005

It's the kit lens for a reason - it's versatile. It's roughly equivalent to a 28-80 in 35mm film lenses, which has been an extremely popular zoom range for a decade or more.

"close-up photos of people indoors and out."
You're covered with the 18-55.

"low-light photography, night-time stuff"
fast/zoomy/sharp/cheap - pick 3, usually, sometimes pick 2. It's always a trade off. Learning to brace for shots, hold the camera well, and shoot at the right time will pay off big time.

"close-up photos of food"
I'm no macro-guru, but consider saving some dough on the lens for a cheap tripod, macro work is not generally handheld.

"buildings and architecture."
You're pretty much covered, if you have a pc, maybe check out hugin, or other panotools and image stitching programs. There are mac programs too. If you find the nodal point with your lens at 20 or 28, you'll be able to make shots that look like they were taken with a panoramic camera, or 10mm lens. It's more work, and I wouldn't do it every day.. but it works.

"Is there any reason not to purchase used lenses?"
Todays lenses have a fair amount of electronics in them. I shoot a lot of manual lenses, and buy almost exclusively used stuff. I can imagine AF being more fragile, but I have no bad experiences to back that up. If you're saving a lot of money on a lens, it's going to be because the lens is graded low, on a scale of 1 (beat to hell) to 10 (mint). I generally buy lenses that are graded low because of minor dings on the threads, front element scratches, engraving or other markings, and irregular barrel wear (like scratches from being set down on concrete). I don't buy lenses with regular wear marks (from intense use or habitual abuse), dings that look like drops, or stiff/sticky focus or zoom rotation.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 8:29 PM on July 7, 2005

I'm interested in taking close-up photos of people indoors and out. Probably a significant amount of low-light photography, night-time stuff ... I like to use available light...

For these things I recommend you check out a Tamron 28-75mm, which is a constant f/2.8. It's got a good zoom range for portraiture from medium wide to medium tele, it has a large maximum aperture which will minimize the need for flash in low-light situation, and is considered fairly close in quality to the $1200 Canon 24-70 f/2.8L despite costing only $400.

Alternatively you could just get a 50mm f/1.8 prime, they're about $75 and are great for portraits (as they are 80mm equivalent on a Digital Rebel) and low light.

Buildings and architecture you're going to want a wide one, probably wider than the 18mm of the kit lens. Like I said, you're looking at $500 or more.

I have both a Sigma 18-200 (my general-purpose outdoor lens) and a Tamron 28-75 (my general-purpose indoor lens). I also have the Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro, although now that I have the Tamron, I'll probably sell it and get a 50mm f/1.4 and a separate 100mm macro.

Plus I'm still lusting after one of those wides. Believe me, you can very easily spend a LOT more on lenses than you spend on the camera body.

How do I know whether a lens I purchase on the internet will fit the camera body?

If it is a Canon EF or EF-S mount, it will fit. The "S" in "EF-S" means "short backfocus" and is a variant of the EF mount in which the back of the lens lens protrudes farther into the camera body than with EF. This is possible because the sensor in a camera that can take such lenses is smaller than the sensor in a 35mm camera which means the mirror is also smaller. The advantage is that lenses can be made smaller, lighter, and less expensive -- at least theoretically. The 18-55mm kit lens is an EF-S lens. All EF-S cameras can take EF or EF-S lenses, but cameras with bigger sensors (e.g. Canon 1D line) can only take EF lenses. If there is any chance you will ever want to use a lens on a 35mm film or "full-frame" digital camera, you should avoid EF-S lenses. That said, I don't think there's really any reason to avoid them.
posted by kindall at 10:34 PM on July 7, 2005

There's quite a few topics about the Digital Rebel over in the Canon DSLR group on Flickr - several of which discuss the merits of different lenses and such...
posted by Chunder at 1:33 AM on July 8, 2005

Thanks everyone for your advice and links, you've been extremely helpful!
posted by odinsdream at 7:45 AM on July 8, 2005

I'm trying to make the same decision. On one hand, I like fast lenses and don't care for zooms. So I'll be buying a 50mm prime immediately. On the other hand, it looks like you only save $80 by going to a body-only, and $80 is cheap to pay for the flexibility that the kit lens gives, even though it is slow.
posted by smackfu at 10:23 AM on July 11, 2005

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