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Old Jul 12, 2009, 6:02 PM   #1
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Default Lens recommendations for photojournalism course

A friend is starting a photojournalism course this coming fall and she asked for my advice re lenses to buy for her recently-purchased Canon 5D. Admittedly, I can offer some advice, but I'm no expert (by any stretch of the imagination).

Her course outline recommended the following:
"... a selection of zoom lenses. The speed of the lens is extremely important, particularly for lower light level situations. Avoid lenses slower than f/2.8. An ideal zoom lens for working for photojournalists is with the wide angle to normal range... 16-35mm... or a fixed 35mm f/2. Additional lenses such as an 80-200mm f/2.8 should be budgeted for and will be needed in second semester."

Does this make sense? I know that course outlines are often put together by non-experts. I was tempted to suggest a 10-22mm and perhaps a kit lens (the 18-55mm IS, although the max apature is f/3.5 and thus too slow according to the course outline), then maybe a fixed 50 (the f/1.4 USM is fast but expensive, the f/1.8 is cheaper and also fast but neither matches the recommended 35mm).

My advice would be hobbyist input, based on a range of lenses that might work well for an amateur that's not employed as a professional... I'm somewhat in the dark about "photojournalism" requirements. Some pro advice would be helpful. Anyone?

Last edited by Boldstar; Jul 12, 2009 at 6:07 PM.
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Old Jul 12, 2009, 6:59 PM   #2
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Neither the 10-22 or the 18-55 will work properly with the 5D as they are designed for APS-C sensors rather than full frame.

There is a 16-35mm f2.8 Canon which is a rather expensive tool, that is probably what they are talking about. The 35mm f2 is a world cheaper. As they say either/or then a 24-70mm f2.8 would potentially do the job, I would however get her to talk more to the course organisers as these are costly purchases and there is no point in getting it wrong.

With the 70/80-200mm f2.8 then there are a few options out there, you have Sigma, Tamron and 2 Canon options. The Tamron is a great price but the AF is not overly fast which could hinder some PJ shots, the Canons are the best options with the choice of with or without IS. The former is the sharper of the two Canon lenses and also cheaper.
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Old Jul 12, 2009, 7:07 PM   #3
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Thank you for the input Mark. I really appreciate it.

I think I know where you're coming from regarding the kit lens. I gather your advice is based on the fact that the 5D is a "full frame" camera. (Am I correct?) But isn't there a 10-22mm L-series lens that would work for both full frame and APS-C sensors?

Can I assume that the 16-35mm would be a better choice overall, as opposed to the fixed 35, if she had the money to spend? I think I understand that the fixed lenses are better in terms of less glass and more light, but wouldn't a fixed lens like that be somewhat limiting? My thinking is that if she's going this route for a career, then the money spent on lenses will not be wasted.
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Old Jul 12, 2009, 7:14 PM   #4
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Also, one of the recommended cameras on the course outline list was the XSi. Would they recommend lenses that wouldn't work on an APS-C sensor camera? Or are those lower-grade lenses transferrable?

The recommended Canons on the list are:
  • Rebel XSi
  • 50D
  • 5D II
  • 1D MarkIII
They also recommend a list of Nikons, but she's already purchased a used 5D.

Oh ya, are there two 5Ds? A 5D and a 5D II?
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Old Jul 12, 2009, 7:22 PM   #5
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There are 2 5d cameras as you said. I find it amazing that, for a single class, students are required to buy f2.8 lenses. In the working world, that is certainly true because of the various situations a PJ would have to shoot in. But requiring $1500-2000 in lenses for a single class seems odd - especially since it sounds like this is her first class.

NOw - my personal recommendation is that your friend follow the advice of her instructor. Have your friend contact the instructor directly as a write-up in the curriculum guide could have been done by someone else. You don't know what prejudices or styles the teacher may have - if the teacher prefers primes (which used to be the standard for entry level photography classes) then your friend goes with that. On a full-frame camera though, I might suggest the instructor would not require a 16mm lens. A 24mm lens might be OK. That gives better options - like a sigma 24-70 2.8 - less expensive than a 16-35L and still very sharp.
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Old Jul 12, 2009, 8:00 PM   #6
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Holy crap! the 16-35mm f/2.8 is nearly $2000 CDN before tax! Is this the only high-quality zoom lens option in that range? I agree JohnG, it's crazy expecting new college students to come into a first-year class toting equipment like that.

Would she have been better off buying an entry-level DSLR (XTi, XSi, T1i) and some more reasonably-priced lenses? Wow.

I will definitely advise her to contact the instructor re more realistic purchases.

But please, if you guys have any more advice, keep it coming.
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Old Jul 12, 2009, 10:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boldstar View Post
...Her course outline recommended the following:
"... a selection of zoom lenses. The speed of the lens is extremely important, particularly for lower light level situations. Avoid lenses slower than f/2.8. An ideal zoom lens for working for photojournalists is with the wide angle to normal range... 16-35mm... or a fixed 35mm f/2. Additional lenses such as an 80-200mm f/2.8 should be budgeted for and will be needed in second semester."
The course instructor probably meant lenses for APS-C cameras in which case there are plenty of 'digital only' lenses of lower cost than the 16-35 f/2.8 L

The Tokina 16-50 f/2.8 (or 11-16 f/2.8) for one is excellent in every respect, but only works on the 50D or Rebel XSi
-> Theses digital only lenses work out to be 24-70 f/2.8 (or 16-24 f/2.8) on cropped cameras - i.e. non full-frame

Last edited by NHL; Jul 12, 2009 at 10:43 PM.
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Old Jul 13, 2009, 6:56 AM   #8
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I wouldn't worry about it too much. What the course literature says you need and what actually happens on the ground are often two very different things.

Firstly as mentioned - none of the EF-S lenses will work with the 5D.

The instructor is aiming his recommendations at entry-level DSLR cameras. The 5D has a general 1-1.5 stop low light advantage over even the best current crop cameras.

That means that having the f2.8 wide angles is not as important. For PJ the 5D is perfectly fine at ISO1600 and 3200.

So as an ultra-wide zoom it is certainly worth considering the 17-40L f4. But once again if the instructor was talking about actual focal length (not equivalent) then a nice Sigma 24-70 f2.8 will do just fine, or the Tamron 28-75 f2.8. Both very good, very sharp. A 50mm f1.4 or 35mm f2 would also work very well as a single lens if you didn't want a zoom - and the instructor suggests you might get by without one.

For the telephoto zoom the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 is reasonably priced and 70-200 f4 IS L too.

If you can manage the budget then go for:
1. Sigma 24-70 f2.8
2. Sigma 70-200 f2.8
3. Canon 50mm f1.4

If she just turned up with the 5D and Sigma 24-70 she would probably do just fine.
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Old Jul 13, 2009, 11:06 AM   #9
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I would definitely stay clear from any 16-35 or ultra-wides in general for PJ work as anything below 28mm will greatly distort people images on a full-frame.

These type of lenses are great for dramatic effect, but the 16-28 range has very limited use in PJ (and she'll end up constantly changing lenses) - IMO the 24mm at the low-end as suggested is already more than enough, and most likely your friend will spend most of her shoot at the higher focal lenghts on the 5D

Last edited by NHL; Jul 13, 2009 at 11:14 AM.
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