Help me fill in the gaps in my photography setup
March 6, 2016 7:28 PM   Subscribe

After years of mindless snapping, I'm finally improving my photography skills by taking my dSLR everywhere and taking more photos more mindfully. This has revealed two gaps in my gear, at least for what I'm focusing on right now: a cross-body camera strap that works for my body and a lens that I like with a focal length < 50mm. Details and requirements inside!

My camera: an old Canon Rebel with a cropped sensor. Me: A short (5'5"), curvy woman.

I have a camera bag solution I'm happy with, but I don't always want to carry the bag. I hate neck straps and my camera's too heavy to wear around my neck anyway. I've tried a few cheap cross-body straps and like the general setup, but they're often uncomfortable to wear (because breasts), cause the camera to bounce around when I move (because generous hips), and are difficult to adjust or impossible to adjust for my height/curves. I'm aware of the well-reviewed cross-body straps out there, but are there any that work particularly well for short, curvy folks? Or do any other short, curvy folks have suggestions for alternate comfortable, non-bulky camera strap solutions?

As for the lens, I loooove my 50mm f/1.4 but it's got a limited range, especially with my camera's cropped sensor. My other lenses are cheap/kit/off-brand zooms of varying ranges, so they're versatile, but I don't love them. Can you recommend a more versatile prime lens <50mm? I like taking pictures of people, mostly, but also places. Not really into wildlife or action right now. I'm willing to save up some cash for this.
posted by rhiannonstone to Shopping (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The standard recommendation is a 35mm, but The Wirecutter likes the 40mm EF f/2.8 because it is so small.
Something that's really cheap that's improved my photography is a set of filters., but I'm still shooting film.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:47 PM on March 6, 2016

I can't recommend a specific Canon lens, but drop down to a 28mm to 35mm prime and you'll get much better two and three person shots, where the 50mm on your camera is essentially a portrait lens (80mm equivalent).
posted by zippy at 7:57 PM on March 6, 2016

Rapidblack makes a strap specifically for women. They talk a little about how it's different here (also mentioning the Elle, a product it appears they don't make anymore). There's some discussion of the product on the Amazon page and some women chiming in to say they like it. Though I haven't been able to find much specifically about why it's better, other than sort of vague mentions that it fits better across the chest.

I will echo this review of the unit: namely that even on my un-hippy frame swinging seems to be par for the course. I also have adapted the poster's technique of always keeping one hand on the camera. Not ideal, but for a lot of situations it's still better than many of the alternatives I've tried.

On the lens front, I've shot for years on a crop body with a 28mm and have loved it. Slightly wider than the "normal" 50 at that crop factor, super versatile. It was my first purchase after shooting with only the 50mm for a long time and I've been super happy.

Mine is this Canon model.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:00 PM on March 6, 2016

Ooh, also: one tool I've used when sizing up camera equipment is searching Flickr for specific lenses, cameras, or focal lengths that I've been considering. Here's a search for "28mm rebel" and the vast majority of results are what you'd expect. You can trawl through that and get a sense of how the focal length works on your camera body and what kind of situations it'll be good for.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:04 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you don't mind wearing a belt the Capture Clip may work for you.
posted by Mitheral at 8:12 PM on March 6, 2016

I have the 35 f/2, and it's my standard prime. I will say, though, that once I got a decent flash (480 EX II) and some paraphernalia, that I really enjoyed the creative flexibility that it provided, plus the practical flexibility of using a relatively short zoom indoors.
posted by supercres at 8:27 PM on March 6, 2016

I have that EF 50mm/1.4. It has broken twice. I started with the kit zoom but once I bought the 50 it was all I used. Until its autofocus motor broke.

I also have the 28mm/1.8, bought after the first time the 50 broke. I loved the 50 (when it worked) but I actually loved the 28 more, and it became my standard lens. I've moved on to Micro Four Thirds though, and it's sitting in a box waiting for me to get around to selling it (along with the 50mm, for that matter, but it needs another repair of its autofocus motor).

I bought the 28/1.8 because the 35/2 was said to be noisy, although I believe 35 might be better optically. I never had any problems with the 28.

There's a new Sigma 35/1.4 Art lens, and I don't have any experience with it but reviews of the Art line have been really good. And IIRC Canon has modernized the 35/2 in the years since I compared them. So I'd try going to a camera shop or maybe renting all three online (28/1.8, Canon and Sigma 35mm) and see if one strikes your fancy.

On straps: I always just doubled over the strap and wrapped it around my wrist, so with the smaller Olympus camera I have now I just use a wrist strap from Gordy's.
posted by fedward at 8:48 PM on March 6, 2016

I do currently have a wrist strap that I like a lot, but I definitely felt its limitations this weekend as I scrambled up and down rocks and tried keep my balance on icy paths in Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park (OK and also while triyng to walk around adorable mountain towns with my camera, my coffee, and my shopping bags ;)). My goal is to keep both hands free.

Thanks everyone! I'm starting to think the 28mm/1.8 will be my next purchase. There's a very tempting 24mm/2.8 pancake lens, too, but f/2.8 is probably not fast enough for me.

Please keep the recs coming!
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:39 PM on March 6, 2016

I have the 24mm 2.8 pancake lens, and I love the pictures I get out of it and the fact that it is small and light. It's also a lot cheaper than many of the other options being suggested.
posted by Cheese Monster at 11:30 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

f/2.8 is probably not fast enough for me.

Just on this, and please believe I'm not trying to tell you how to suck eggs, but a noticeable thing with relative newbies and especially on camera forums that tend to be dominated by gear heads, is an obsession with the fastest lenses you can possibly get.

Creamy bokeh is lovely, it's true, but it can be easy to use that depth of field as a crutch, masking poor composition, subject isolation, and lighting.

I say all this, cause I once wanted the fastest lenses I could get my hands on, too. But 1) taking portraits where only the eyelids of one person are truly in focus is not great, and 2) with proper composition and framing, you may find actually that a slower aperture is not only perfectly acceptable, but actually helps make better photos.

Professional photographers - even portrait, even wedding - generally shoot slower than you think, and slower than vast majority of people on forums (I include myself in that category!), and they shoot a damn sight better than people on forums, too.

Don't write off that Sigma lens until you give it a try, their primes in the last few years have been bloody stellar, especially for the price. :)
posted by smoke at 11:49 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

My photography budget is scant so personally I'd head over to and buy EX or higher condition examples of the Canon EF 28mm and 21mm 2.8 lenses. Probably less than the cost of one super fast, minty lens. That'd cover standard, portrait and wide in primes. After a year if I favoured one I'd sell them both at a negligible loss and put that towards something higher end. I can't imagine not having some prime of ~35mm focal length equivalent though. Just my thoughts!
posted by Lorin at 12:09 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm rather fond of my sigma 30/1.4 crop sensor lens, they've replaced it with a newer art series lens that's supposed to be even better than mine.
Sigma 30/1.4 DC art

But if you want to go really wide, I have a Canon ef-s 10-22 3.5-4.5 usm that is incredibly useful. However it looks like there's a newer canon ef-s 10-18 is 4.5-5.6 stm that's half the price, although less range, slower aperture, and cheaper focus motor, but does gave stabilization.

The 30/1.4 and 10-22 I use for different purposes. Youll want to decide what range works for you. . You'll want to read reviews on the lenses to see if there are known issues with the newer lenses.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:54 AM on March 7, 2016

I have the Blackrapid body strap mentioned above and I love love love it. Get it. You won't be sorry.
posted by cooker girl at 4:07 AM on March 7, 2016

If you want an excellent wide to moderately wide lens, the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 Art should be on your list to evaluate. It's not prime, obviously, but its versatility more than makes up for its slight decrease in sharpness and larger size. Especially while still learning, that flexibility is important. The only negative thing about it is that it won't work on a full sensor camera if you upgrade bodies, but I'd still argue that it's worth it even if you end up selling it down the line.
posted by Candleman at 4:30 AM on March 7, 2016

Just went to KEH to figure out how much I could sell my 28/1.8 for, and they've got some marked down in their overstock event. You probably don't want to buy mine if you can buy theirs, but I guess MeMail me if you're interested in mine. It's in good shape and I've got the hood and a nice clear filter for it, so the front element is pristine.
posted by fedward at 7:54 AM on March 7, 2016

I have the 28mm f/1.8. It's a good lens and will remain useful when you eventually upgrade to a full frame sensor, which you should. Mine is not for sale. :-)
posted by w0mbat at 8:35 AM on March 7, 2016

I have a CarrySpeed sport strap and LOVE it. I picked the CS Sport over the Blackrapid recommended above because I had to fit my 38" ribcage, and the Sport had a slightly longer strap; I'm very curvy (large breasts, large hips, short torso), but YMMV. The underarm strap doesn't chafe me, and keeps the body strap from sliding around. The strap's easily ratchetable up, to bring the camera up closer to your torso, rather than your hip, for when you need to move without the camera bouncing around. I do generally keep one hand on my camera out of habit. That said, I've had to break into a full run while wearing the camera, and the strap held beautifully. The anchoring plate's solid and still lets you quickly mount the camera to a tripod without removing it; the ballhead's seriously tough.
posted by culfinglin at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2016

« Older Fun activities for a class of first graders to do...   |   Dealing with Lexapro side effects Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.