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Old Dec 14, 2003, 2:03 AM   #1
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Default Diff between $100-$500 lenses with $1000 lenses and up

I'm new to SLRS and have been searching for good lenses at $500 and below. I have gotten the impression though that to get the best out my new camera (Digital Rebel)--aside from becoming a better amateur photographer--is to step up to lenses that cost $1000 or higher. (Professional photographer friends have said so. Shutterbug's 12/03 Digital Rebel review declared "this camera positively explodes when coupled to some really good lenses.")

So my questions are: are the differences that notable? What are great lenses for the price. I figure two lenses--a wide angle and a telefoto (up to 300mm) would be good enough for me. Someone recommended the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM as a nice general purpose lense. Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old Dec 14, 2003, 9:24 AM   #2
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It is true that better glass will give better results in most cases. For a good under $500 general purpose lens that gives very good results, look at the Tamron 28-70 F/2.8 XR Di lens.

Try these links for some comments:



Regardless of which lenses you decide to purchase, you can achieve your best results by studying your cameras exposure modes and reading as much as you can about exposure. My other advice for tack sharp photos is USE A TRIPOD whenever feasible.
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Old Dec 14, 2003, 9:41 AM   #3
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There are a lot of differences between the cheap and more expensive lenses in theory. Many you probably won't notice, some you might. It all depends on how much of a perfectionist you are... how picky you are. It also depends on how you'll use it.

The build quality is better on the more expensive lenses. Some are even waterproof. The cheaper lenses won't be.

More expensive lenses often (but not always) have constant apertures, cheaper zooms usually have varying apertures. This makes them cheaper to build. Is this bad? Technically, no. But if you need the smaller fstop at the longer focal lengths then what choice do you have? A larger Aperture (i.e. lower fstop) is desirable but costs more (materials & design) and they are heavier. Always a tradeoff.

Better coatings. Lens makers apply special coatings to some number of lens elements. This (I believe) cuts down on chromatic aboration, maybe lens flare. The more coated lens elements the better. Coating is expensive. Cheap lense will have none or one. Better lenses will have upwards of... 4?

Often cheaper lenses are push/pull lenses. This makes them a bit harder to use and can get dust into the lens. It also means the lens can creep (extend) by gravity if you tilt them down. Of course, the 100-400L is a push/pull lens. So not all expensive lenses use a ring instead of push/pull.

More expensive lenses usually have Ultra Sonic Motors (USM.) This means they focus faster and quieter than non USM lenses. Many (app?) also have full-time manual override. This means if you want to adjust focus a bit (focused on a branch infront of your kid instead of your kid) you don't have to do anything other than turn the focus dial.

Many expensive telephoto lenses have a focus limiting switch. That speeds up focus even more by not allowing the lens to focus shoter than a certain distance. This can speed up AF a lot. I don't know if non "expensive" lenses have this, but many of the expensive ones do. This really only applies to long telephotos.

Note that I really haven't touched on optically quality yet. There are many aspects to a lens.

They are often sharper both in the middle and towards the edges. They have better image constrast. They are not too bright or too dark. They don't vignette at the long or short ends (although this is normally an attribute of really cheap lenses, and the digital crop from the smaller sensor in the Rebel all but eliminates this issue.

You often get Image Stabilization, but some of the cheaper lenses have that too.

Did I miss anything? Anyone? I must have.

So the answer is that you get a lot when you buy a more expensive lens. But does it matter to you? The cheaper lens could be sharp enough. You might not care to get a larger aperture. Who cares if the lens works in the rain, you camera body doesn't! (I've taken pictures while under a trash bag so I and my 10D was dry, but the lens stuck out a hole.)

Me, the thing that almost anyone would beneft from is USM. Faster focusing is never wasted unless you take pictures of non-moving objects. And I believe some cheaper lenses have that.

The best answer I can think if is to borrow a lens from someone else and try it. Rent the lens and see how well it work (many places will let you rent and apply part to buying it.) Or buy it with the option to return it.

Does that help?

For a professional, the answer is usually much easier. They need what get them the best picture to sell. If you miss the picture, or the picture isn't sellable then either you or the equipment need fixing. That is not the best criteria for the average photographer.

Cheaper lenses still produce good pictures on the Digital Rebel.

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Old Dec 14, 2003, 8:57 PM   #4
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Eric, I think you hit all the main points except the more expensive lenses tend to use ED glass, and maybe be a stop or so faster than their lower end counterpart.

They also weigh more(sometimes a lot more) and come in a trendy Canon white color which lets everyone know you are using L series lenses.
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Old Dec 15, 2003, 12:39 AM   #5
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Eric gave a good overview, thanks Eric!

I have a Canon 17-40L lens, and I started to use it a lot as my day-to-day lens. I also have a Canon 28-135 IS. I bought it because everyone said it was a great day-to-day walkaround lens, but I find it to be not wide enough on my 10D because of the 1.6 factor. I do really like the IS and the long range on it though. But for that reason I would think hard about the 24-70L.

Besides that you could consider getting the 55-200 that only fits on the Digital Rebel, or buy the Canon 70-200L (the F4 version is $600, thus below your $1000 limit even :-))

Of course there are many non-canon lenses out there that are really really good, and often cheaper. NHL can fill you in on that front.

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Old Dec 15, 2003, 6:38 AM   #6
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I think you mean the Tamron 28-75 XR di Model A09 .
I bought that one a few weeks ago and it's superb.

The quality of the lens really makes the pictures or breaks them.

I started out with a Canon 75-300 standard lens and thought I went downhill compared to my HP850 P&S camera.

I searched the internet and found a used Sigma 70-210 f2.8 APO (older model) and bought it for arround $500,00 it blew me away, it really appeard as if I went from a 3MP camera to a 6.5MP camera this huge a difference.

Since then I have been searching for cheap lensen that give TOP quality.

My bag is containing the following now and I'm pleased with it, no more lenses for me (except maybe the 135-400).

Sigma 70-210 f2.8 APO can be found for arround 500,00 used
Tamron 28-75 f2.8 XR Di model A09 (new 400,00)
Tamron 90mm 1:1 Macro f2.8 (new 350,00)
Sigma 135-400 f3.5-f5.6 (new 450,00)

This is all new price in Euro's and 19% VAT.

I'm very very pleased with this batch and it didn't cost me as much as one 70-200L lens from Canon , I recently tried one out and I must say that I have the right decission, the quality was not better or worse than my Sigma not even when printed out on A4 format and looked at very closely.

The only thing I miss is IS on the longer lensen, so I wait with exchanging the 135-400 until Tamron or Sigma or Tokina comes with a xxx-400 lens with some sort of stabilisation.

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Old Dec 16, 2003, 9:10 PM   #7
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I enjoy my Canon 75-300mm IS USM lens. Nothing wrong with that... 8)
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Old Dec 19, 2003, 8:18 PM   #8
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a few other points-

price is a function of quality and the complexity of the lens design. The 50mm f1.8 is the least expensive lens you can buy, it's also one of the best optically. The reason is that it's relatively easy to make a good 50mm lens unlike a making a 28-300mm lens with the same aperature and optical quality.

You can also look at buying used - my Tamron 70-210 is a very nice lens and it was half the cost of a new one. You can often get some good deals if you're willing to wait. I've only bought stuff from a large a reputable store - if there's a problem I know where I can find them.

Personally I'd rather have a few good to very good lenses rather than owning only one excellent lens. I can't buy everything I want so I'm not going to be able to afford 4 or 5 L series lenses all at once. You may consider getting a very good quality 'everyday lens' and going cheap on the lenses that you won't use all that often.

One upside on digital SLRs is that they don't use the entire image coming from the lens. That's good because cheaper lens will often show optical 'defects' (fringing, barrel distortion etc) in the corners. You get to avoid this somewhat.

One thing to remember (and something eric didn't mention) is that you'll likely keep your lenses for longer than the camera body. Most of us will have as much money invested in lenses as in camera bodies.
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Old Dec 21, 2003, 8:22 AM   #9
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You're right, I didn't mention about longevity of lenses. I usually do. It just didn't seem to fit into the question he was asking.

A replaceable lens camera is a system. In the long run, at any given time, you will have a lot more money on lenses than you will in a camera body. And they will last much longer. I know people who use the same lens for 20+ years. Treat them well, and there is no reason they won't last.

And I fully agree on the 50 f1.8. It's very easy to make and they've been doing it for 20+ years. Every manufacture could make them in their sleep by now. So they cost very little, but optically are quite good.

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Old Dec 27, 2003, 11:58 AM   #10
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Which lenses would allow me to use a teleconverter? I just got a Digital Rebel. Also, where would be the best place to get one? BH?
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