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Old Dec 14, 2008, 7:43 PM   #1
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I know almost nothing about photography. I bought my Digital Rebel XT about 2 years ago when I had my son because regular point-and-shoots were too slow and I was missing all the cute moments that pass so quickly with a baby! I love my digital SLR for that. I have been using the lens that came with it (18-55) but I don't feel like it lets me zoom in enough. I have to be right up in the baby's face to get a close-up. So I want something that will zoom more and just take great pictures in terms of quality (is that a factor of the lens or the camera body?).

I would like to spend $700 max, preferably under $500.

Any help is appreciated!
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Old Dec 15, 2008, 9:01 AM   #2
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Cleo,

As a father of a 2 year old I can relate. Quality comes from a lot of factors - the camera (yours is absolutely fine for what you want to do), the lens, the light source but also the photographer.

There are a TON of different types of pictures you can take of a 2 year old. There are certainly lenses available that give more reach allowing you to shoot from farther away and still get a close up. But, it depends on what type of shots you want.

A stellar lens choice in your price range is the Canon 70-200 f4L. Great lens - professional grade. It will allow you to take shots in any lighting you currenty take shots in. BUT, remember, it's only 70mm at the wide end. So when you put that lens on your camera you won't be able to get the wide shots you get with your current kit lens. The quality of that lens will knock your socks off compared to what you're getting with the kit lens. As long as you're OK with switching lenses as you need to. There are some 18-200 type lenses out there but I'm not a fan of them. Quality is similar to what you get out of your current lens which is to say not very good. You pay a premium price for the convenience of not switching lenses. So, if convenience is more important than quality then the Canon or Sigma 18-200 may be an option.
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Old Dec 16, 2008, 12:52 AM   #3
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Thank you so much, John. That is really helpful. I am ok with switching lenses when I need to, although I would love to find something that minimizes that need! I now have a 6 month old baby as well so I am always snapping shots of her as well (and have little time to get myself something to eat, let alone switch lenses! :-)).

One thing I really want to learn how to do is to achieve the background blur that I often see in professional pictures. I have been reading up on this a bit - doesn't that mean I need a faster lens than the one you are recommending? Seriously, I know pretty much nothing about this so correct me if I am wrong or using the wrong terms! Will I be able to get that blur effect with the one you mentioned?

Thanks again!!
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Old Dec 16, 2008, 5:48 AM   #4
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Hi Cleo

John has given you some good advice. I don't know about lens prices where you live, what currency, (or even which country you live in). But the 70-200mm would be a good telezoom lens for your purposes without being very very expensive.

It will also compliment your 18-55mm zoom lens rather well in terms of focal length (though obviously you'll have to change lenses to take wider angle shots). I have the 18-55mm kit lens on my Canon Digital rebel XT, but like you I found the zoom range limiting.

Although I don't have children of my own, I have taken tens of thousands of photos at children camps in various countries, where I have been a camp leader, and also I have many friends and relatives with young energetic children. I have the 28-135mm lens which I've found to be great for many camps / candid children situations / photos, and is my favourite "walk around lens". The 70-200mm f4 lens would be great for many situations you mentioned like this too, with extra range, plus it's a "quicker" lens (that is - lets in more light, thus more background blur)..

To get background blur open your lens right up (that is, use the smallest f-stop available - on the 70-200mm it's f4 at all focal lengths, on the 18-55mm, it's f5.6 (at 55mm). Zoom to the maximum (i.e. 200mm or 55mm respectively) and have the subject as close as possible / practical to the camera (for the composition of course).

As an example, here is a photo of my niece with my 28-135mm lens at 135mm, at f8. If I would have had it at f5.6 a bit more background blur would be possible. At 200mm length, more background blur is possible. And at f4, even more background blur is possible. But still you can notice some background blur even in my photo at 135mm and f8 (and thankfully an uncluttered background helps, always keep this in mind!)

Truly professional photos often use aperture values of f2.8 or lower, - often prime (non zoom) lenses give great background blur possibilities. (e.g the 85mm f1.8 lens is a very popular choice for people photography with background blur. If I had an ideal (portrait/child) zoom lens, it would probably be the 70-200mm f2.8 IS, but that is one big, heavy and expensive lens. The 70-200mm f4 is a very good alternative (lighter / smaller and less expensive), and not too much different in terms of possibilities for 90% of applications / uses!

Another thing I'd keep in mind for children photos is that you probably want a lens that can focus quickly to keep up with, or be ready for the "fast movement" of children. A USM focusing lens from Canon (or HSM from Sigma) are very good. Keep this in mind too.

All the best. Let us know how you go.

Paul
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Old Dec 16, 2008, 12:37 PM   #5
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Thank you guys SO MUCH. This is really starting to make at least a little sense to me. I managed to get a little of the background blur with my 18-55 with your instructions! Problem is I could do it with a little object like my son's toy car but I had to get REALLY close to it to be able to get the blur. When I tried this with my son, it didn't work at all! I had to get so close to him and then he moved while i took the picture so he ended up blurry too! Is that something I am doing wrong or is that because of the lens?

So I am highly considering the 70-200 USM lens based on what you guys said. I see there is also an option for IS on these too? Although the price goes up dramatically with those. Do I need IS for my purposes?

Thank you again!!

Oh -I am in the US by the way!








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Old Dec 16, 2008, 12:53 PM   #6
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Do you need IS? That depends on how much coffee you drink, IS helps correct for camera shake causing blurry, I really like IS. If the lens you already have has been fast enough for you, then you might want to take a look at the new Canon 18-200 mm IS lens. You would have the extra reach and still have the wide angle that you have now and no changing lenses either.
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Old Dec 16, 2008, 1:07 PM   #7
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Calicajun wrote:
Quote:
Do you need IS? That depends on how much coffee you drink, IS helps correct for camera shake causing blurry, I really like IS. If the lens you already have has been fast enough for you, then you might want to take a look at the new Canon 18-200 mm IS lens. You would have the extra reach and still have the wide angle that you have now and no changing lenses either.
true - it's convenient. But the quality drop off from the 70-200 f4 is great. Again, what's more important - convenience or quality. No single correct answer to that question by the way. Also it's a loss of one stop of aperture (f4 to 5.6) which is a loss of bokeh as well.

Again, no single lens does everything. When I want really shallow DOF and I'm indoors, I prefer the 85mm 1.8 ($360).

Here are a couple examples - using 2 different lenses. You'll notice the face is filling more of the frame in the first shot as well which would reduce the DOF. SO if the two shots were framed with the same FOV you'd see even less blurring in the first shot.

Shot 1: f4




shot 2: f2.0:



With 5.6 aperture you'd have to be at full 200mm to really get a decent blur. That means you have to have a lot of room to get away from your subject.

It all depends what is most important to you. No single lens does everything.
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Old Dec 16, 2008, 1:17 PM   #8
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Oh boy - the plot thickens. :-)

So I see that one has IS but doesn't have USM. I really like the range on it though! I am having a hard time figuring out which one I would need for my purposes. Apparently the ones that have both IS and USM are way out of my price range.
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Old Dec 16, 2008, 1:21 PM   #9
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Oh John I hadn't seen your reply when I posted just now. Hmmmmm ... I want quality more than convenience. I don't mind switching lenses when I need to. I just want great imae quality and I want that blur!!!

I love the blur you got in the second picture. Would I be able to do that with the 70-200 you recommended?
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Old Dec 16, 2008, 1:22 PM   #10
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:GMy wife said I was in for it as soon as I hit the send key. Of course if she had her way I would own all "L" glass which would be nice ("L" are great) but not in the budget right now. Just too many lenses out there to choose from, just have to find the one that the needs of each photographer.
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