Canon SLR Lens advice
April 20, 2006 5:08 AM   Subscribe

Need advice on Canon SLR Lenses

We're headed to mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos and need to get a lens or two for the Rebel XT. Everything we've seen indicates there will be everything from wide-angle vistas and animals that will need at least a moderate telephoto. Our budget for lenses maxes out around $2,000. As we will often be on the move, we're thinking about bringing a monopod so we have our eye on the image stabilization lenses, but we also want something that's going to continue to be useful outside of vacations. Given those limitations, does anybody have recommendations? Right now we're thinking something like:

The 100-400 L IS USM with the 17-40 L USM
The 28-300 L IS USM

We currently have the kit lens and a 50mm f/1.4 USM.
posted by arabelladragon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We went to ecuador and the galapagos for 10 days last april.

For the galapgos I brought 3 lenses with my xt.

canon 70-200 f4l
sigma 18-50 2.8
and a 50mm 1.8

I used the 70-200 90% of the time, except for the last day where i tried out the 18-50 for some wider landscape shots.

I went with these lenses for some very specfic reasons.

Traveling arount the galapagos is physically exerting. i needed something I could hand carry, and hand stabilize as needed. I brought a monopod to start, but ditched it after the first day.

There was a gentleman who carried around a full tripod, and huge L glass canon lens the whole trip, so it CAN be done.

If I could do it again, I'd get:
70-200 f4l
and either a prime, or that new 3rd f4l lens that canon announced earlier this year.

I'd hand carry everything, bring a monopod in-case you feel adventurous.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:22 AM on April 20, 2006

I use a Sigma 28-300 for virtually everything, and although I'm not a connoiseur (yet!) I've been happy with most of the results... I'd imagine that the Canon version offers some significant improvements.
posted by Chunder at 5:39 AM on April 20, 2006

I've relied on this page before.
posted by mert at 5:51 AM on April 20, 2006

I wouldn't bother with the 28-300IS. There are too many compromises inherent with the design (wide-angle to super telephoto.)

The 100-400IS would indeed be very sweet for animal shots. The IS would probably be good enough that you could get away without bringing a monopod. If the 100-400IS is too big and heavy for you, the 75-300 IS DO is supposed to be a fantastic travel lens, though some of the reviews I've read about that weren't very positive.

An alternative to the 17-40 for the wide-end would be two 3rd party lenses, something like the Tamron 28-75/Sigma 24-70 and Sigma 10-20/Tokina 12-24. These would give you significantly more coverage for a similar price and image quality.
posted by alidarbac at 6:11 AM on April 20, 2006

If having to chose between the two options, I'd go for the 100-400 and 17-40.

The 28-300 is heavy, and in the future you might prefer to have a nice walkaround lens (the 17-40) that's less bulky.

Depending on your needs, 28mm would also not be wide-angle enough on a Rebel XT, so you'd still need to carry the 18-55mm for that; and that in turn means you'd switch lenses more often and would need to lug around one more lens.

If you can live without the IS, it might be worth considering a combination of Canon 24-70 f/2.8, Canon 70-200 f/4 and an 1.4x extender for the latter.

(To give a little context to my advice, I own a Canon 24-70 f/2.8, Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS, 1.4x extender and a Sigma 50-500, although I'm thinking that maybe the Canon 100-400mm would have been a better choice for my needs instead of the Sigma.)
posted by ckemp at 6:12 AM on April 20, 2006

I would use the heck out of my sigma 15mm fisheye if i was going on that trip.. If i had the money you are talking i'd add the ever popular Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS. These two would total about $2k.
posted by joshgray at 6:19 AM on April 20, 2006

I've got a 70-200 f2.8 that I love but I can only shoot a few minutes with it handheld before I get fatigued. If I was going to the Galapagos (lucky you), I'd want something a lot lighter. The 28-300 you mentioned is almost 4 pounds! Have you tried some of these out in your nearest photo store? Worth hefting a few just to see.

Image Stabilization is definitely worth paying extra for if it lets you ditch the monopod.
posted by zanni at 6:31 AM on April 20, 2006

Zanni - Yeah that's why I like the 70-200 f4. Quite holdable, and you can use a neck strap with it all day without getting too fatigued..

To allow handholding for all of my shots I dorked with the ISO. On the XT I was able to go up to 800 with minimal noise.

I also shot 100% raw, and used CS2's raw import function to tweak white balance and up the contrast a smidge. It worked like a champ.

I'll try and put up my gallery this evening for samples..
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:55 AM on April 20, 2006

I have the 100-400 L IS for my EOS 20d and it is a very nice lens. I got the BH kit that upgraded from the 18-55 kit to the 17-85 EF-S IS, but I still plan to eventually replace that with the 17-40 L when my budget allows (L glass is great, but not cheap). So, those are definitely the ones I would suggest. You wil probably find that even with the crop factor on your camera 400 mm will still leave you wanting more length on some wildlife shots, so that is another reason to avoid the 300 mm zoom. I am getting old and shaky, though, so even with IS I get the best results with a 'pod. I recently got the Sigma 12-24 zoom and it is great for landscapes, if you plan anything like that. A better source of infromation than AskMe for this question might be the Canon digital photography forums. Registration is free (although not needed to view most of the content) and there are a lot of friendly, knowledgeable people there.
posted by TedW at 7:07 AM on April 20, 2006

I've got the 100-400. It continually blows my mind.The only complaint is that it likes to suck in dust, like a bellows. Optically, it's crazy sharp. However you do NOT want to handhold it for long - heavy SOB. I usually tripod it, but have monopodded with it any number of times with great results. I don't own the 17-40, but I've never read nor heard a single bad thing about it. Between the two choices you list, I'd go with those over the 28-300. I've not heard great things about the 28-300, and really, it's not all that wide on a crop-factor camera.

I know you didn't mention it, but the 17-85 EF-S is really a nice lens, despite not being L glass. It's got IS, goes wide, but also has some reach - and covers most of the range you'd miss between the zoom end of the 17-40 and the wide end of the 100-400. It's what I keep on my XT, and while it's not cheap, I believe it's got the most walk-around utility of anything out there. It also takes a beating and keeps working.
posted by notsnot at 7:14 AM on April 20, 2006

I can personally recommend the 75-300 IS DO. Besides just being a good lens, it has the advantage of being relatively short when not extended, where most of the 300s look like small cannons. I can also recommend the 24-105, it's a great general purpose walking around lens, but that would still leave you needing a wide angle.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:22 AM on April 20, 2006

I've had a lot of fun recently while using a Canon EF 28-135mm IS USM. It is a light, versatile lens that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. You might want to check out the related Flickr pool.
posted by scoria at 8:43 AM on April 20, 2006

I have the 17-40 and 70-200 f4, and while they're both great lenses, I don't know that they're a good combo for what you want. Depending on your future needs, I'd probably find a wide prime i.e. the Sigma 20mm f1.8 and a longer tele/zoom such as the 100-400mm. The Sigma 50-500mm is a monster, and fairly slow, but you cover all the range with it.

I'd focus (heh, heh) less on covering every mm and more on finding a good few quality primes at the extremes to complement your 50mm and kit lens (which honestly, at 18mm, is about as wide as you should practically need). A fast 100mm and 300mm would be a good setup now and later if you can handle juggling 2-4 lenses.

I tend to use my 17-40mm 80% of the time, but I don't shoot birds and wildlife and other things that require long teles. It's a nice lens, but f4 is fairly slow for $600.
posted by kcm at 8:47 AM on April 20, 2006

I have both the 17-40 and the 70-200/4L for my 10D and they're both stunning. The 17-40 is a great normal zoom for the 1.6x cameras, and if you want to buy a 5D or similar in the future it will be very useful on that body, too.

I too would suggest that the 17-40 and the 100-400 are the way to go. I don't find 28 to be wide enough on a 1.6x camera to be of much use. My 28-105 is collecting dust and will do until I get a 5D.

Consider the 70-200/4L. I've travelled with it extensively and is light, sharp and very versatile. Might get more use than the 100-400, especially if you do like I did and buy a 1.4x teleconverter, which makes it a ~100-280/5.6L. The converter doesn't degrade image quality enough to notice.

Also consider the 10-22 for a great wide angle.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:52 AM on April 20, 2006

(my point was mostly just that after N years of taking pictures, I've learned that having every mm available to me is far, far less valuable than having very good capabilities [be it primes, etc.] at the "right" lengths: wide angle 15-20mm, standard 50mm, short tele 100mm, long tele 400mm)
posted by kcm at 8:54 AM on April 20, 2006

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