Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ask Clane (Part Due)

Hi Clane,
I have decided that I’ll be purchasing a Canon camera, my question is, is it better to go with a kit that includes a lens? The EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, or the EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, or purchase just the body and then buy a better lens than is included with the kit? I guess what I mean is, will the kit lens get me very far? I do also intend on getting a 70 – 200 hopefully not too long after the camera. Is there an “everyday” lens that you would suggest instead of the kit lens? I apologize, I think you were telling me this at the workshop, I was very overwhelmed with everything at the time.
Which also brings me to my next question, when looking at future lenses, what do all those letters actually mean? I notice a large price jump in the “L” lenses. I understand the IS as Image Stabilization? But the USM? No clue about that one.
I have to say that in the time I have gone out since the workshop, the amount of information that I was able to retain is incredible. I am having far more fun out there than I ever had before, mainly because I understand better how to take different pictures. Adjusting ISOs and all that never meant anything to me previously. I look forward to getting into this deeper in the future.

Best Regards,
Corey (website coming soon)

Corey,
Thank you for the kind words.  Those are some great questions!  Let's start with lens, it really depends on your budget.  The 28-135mm lens (I think comes with the 50D kit) is a great lens, and it's an EF lens, so it will fit on full-frame bodies if you decide to get a 5D or 5D Mark II sometime in the future.  However, this lens has no wide angle abilities on an APS-C sensor body (rebels and 40D, 50D), and I guarantee you'll be wishing you had a wider lens.  The 18-200mm lens sounds good, but don't make the mistake of getting one.  It has a super high level of distortion and I would recommend staying away from it.  My advice would be to go out and buy a lens separately- buy an EF lens (not EF-S) so that when you upgrade to full frame all the lenses will fit.  Unless you know for sure you never wan to go full-frame, in which case EF-S lenses are more economical.  The best 70-200mm lens for entry level photographers is the 70-200 F/4 L.  Street price is between $500 and $600, it's a great lens with high quality optics and superbly fast auto focus (faster than my 70-200 F/2.8L IS USM).  I shot with it for a year and loved it.  It was my first "L" lens, and I highly recommend it.
As for "everyday" lens recommendations, keep in mind that the wider the range of zoom, the more the distortion.  For example, the 18-200mm lens will give you much more distortion at 100mm than the 70-200mm F/4L shot at 100mm.  I think the best "everyday" lens is the 24-105 F/4L IS for full-frame Canon cameras.  On a full-frame sensor it's a little bit of wide angle, and a little bit of telephoto and image stabilization.  For an APS-C sensor, I like the 17-85mm IS best, I used to shoot with it when I had a 40D, it is a similar zoom range as the 24-105 F/4L on a rebel or 40D body.  Canon claims the 24-105 F/4L IS steadies hand shakes up to three stops, I would say it's between one and two stops.  Either way, the IS is noticeably better than the 17-85mm IS.
As for deciphering the letters, IS is image stabilization.  IS lenses have a floating lens element that is moved via electromagnets to hold the element "still" as you shoot.  There are many different claims about how many stops you can go down if you have IS- I say two.  Image Stabilization is useful if you're trying to get a crisp shot between 1/2 and 1/30 of a second (and shooting in low light).  VR in Nikon and IS in Canon are the exact same thing.  USM means "Ultrasonic Motor" which is basically a quieter and faster focusing motor then the other, mechanical focusing motors.  All the info you never cared to know on USM HERE.  "L" lenses mean that they have aspherical elements in them.  "L" stands for Luxury.  I do notice a difference in color, contrast and focusing speed when shooting with L lenses, but is it worth the extra $1000??  Depends on who you are and what you do with them.  A large part of it is a marketing ploy, especially since Canon chooses to put a red ring around the top of the lens.  I still feel like it's more about what you're shooting then what you're shooting with.  I shot with a rebel and a 17-85mm IS lens for my first year of weddings.  I did just fine without L glass.
Hope that helps!

Have a camera or photography question?  Feel free to email it to me at clane (dot) gessel (at) gmail (dot) com