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Old Jan 25, 2005, 6:07 PM   #1
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My husband has given me a "gift" of $1000 to spend on up to 3 lenses for our digital rebel (I take the vast majority of the pictures). Obviously, the main thing I want to do is replace the kit lens, but I'd also like something with decent wide-angle and decent telephoto.

After an afternoon of researching these forums and some review sites, I've tentatively decided on the following:

Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF
Canon EF 28-105 f/3.5 II USM
Canon EF Telephoto 135mm f/2.8 Autofocus Soft Focus

Both Canons get reviews of 8+, and the Sigma reviews are favorable as well.

My biggest question is is there enough difference (when used on a digital rebel) between a 20mm and 28mm, and between about 90mm and 135mm (as I've read the zoom gets a bit fuzzy as you approach 100mm) to make it worth buying the twoprime lenses? I'm guessing yes, but it's been too long since I've had anything more than a "kit" zoom to play with and I don't remember the "rules". Or would I be better off going with the Tokina AF 17mm f/3.5 AF Pro for my wide-angle, since the "effective" width would be narrower on the rebel? I'm used to the range of the 18-55 kit lens.

I'm most interested in "everyday" photography (for the zoom), some action stuff with our cats at home, landscapes, flowers, and wildlife, with the occasional portrait. My husband would also possibly be using the lenses for astrophotography.

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Old Jan 25, 2005, 10:35 PM   #2
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From what I've heard, the Sigma 20 f/1.8 is a very nice lens. I haven't used one myself, failing to justify the cost so far, but did consider it at point and may again in the future. 20mm is fine for a wide-angle on a full-frame/ film camera, but on a 1.6x crop DSLR, it is like a 35mm. Borderline technically wide-angle, but more practically a "standard" lens replacement / alternative. Certainly not close to the 24mm wide-angle mark. At wide angles, those few mm's make a noticable difference, so much so that 24 and 28 both existed as popular wide angle lenses, and some would have both. And some, like me, preferred to be able to go to 20mm with lenses like the 20-35 L.

Summary: Sigma 20 1.8 is probably a very good lens, but not one that fills the typical "wide angle" role on cropped DSLR's. I'd say instead that the Tokina 17, or many of the other zooms covering that range, are better for that role. E.g. Tamron 17-35 f/2.8-4, Canon 17-40 L, Canon 17-85 EF-S, Sigma must have a couple of competitors here too, they're probably well worth considering.

Note also that at wide angle, you've hit one of the main problems of cropped DSLR's. The only cheap answer is the 18-55, and frankly, it's probably very decent price / performance considering the alternatives.

I use a 17-40 f/4 L myself, and really like it, and find it generally useful. But in tests, the 18-55 is inferior, but the casual viewer might not notice a difference unless it's pointed out. My point here is that your money will probably be better spent on other focal lengths, unless you think as I do that the 17-35 / 17-40 cover a lot of frequenty-used focal lengths, and so is worth investing in even for a slight improvement.

An alternative, that many people are choosing, is leaving real wide-angle to the 10-22 EF-S, and jumping higher for the rest of the range. This is a valid solution for the serious wide-angle buff with money.

50 1.8 for low-light and portraits. Great lens optically, great value. You've probably read this a dozen times already. We repeat it because we all think so.

135 soft focus? I would have guessed that lenses like this are obsolete, considering what is done easily in Photoshop. Unless you really like that particular soft-focus effect, and perhaps even if so, your money might be better spent elsewhere.

Although this might not answer your question, I asked myself how I might spend that money in your case, and came up with the following list of candidates, using lowest prices from Adorama (some grey market):

Tamron 17-35 f/2.8-4 470
Canon 17-40 f/4 L 670
Canon 50 1.8 70
Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 370
Canon 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS 400
Canon 70-200 f/4 L 570

(I have the Canon 17-40, 50, 70-200. That is a popular set, but too far out of budget.)

I picked the above set because I'm certain that these are good lenses (assuming youdon't get one of the duds). I'm less certain about other alternatives. Many of them are cheaper, and they can be fine, but I'm not sure about them.

Excel can be used to do the permutations better than I can show here. Candidate sets come out as follows:

Including wide angle:

17-40 + 50: 740. The only option with the 17-40, because it's relatively expensive.

17-35 + 50 + 28-135: 940. Probable winner.

17-35 + 50 + 28-75: 910.

Including reach, excluding wide-angle:

28-75, 70-200: 940. Nod.

28-135, 70-200: 970

I would recommend any of the above combinations. I hope you find my little exercise useful.
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