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Old Nov 9, 2010, 1:03 PM   #1
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Default Upgrade from my EF-S 18-55mm kit lens?

I've had my T1i for over a year now and the kit lens (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) has treated me really well. I'm a semi-talented hobbyist at best, and I mostly photograph:
  • Friends and family at social gatherings, special events, on vacation, etc.
  • Outdoor landscapes while travelling
  • Food (trying to help a friend with her book)
I go on the odd mission to capture specific scenarios or try different techniques, but I'm mostly in the business of preserving memories.

I'm looking for suggestions on what could replace my kit lens. I want better results indoors, in low-light situations, without having to use the on-board flash. For the most part the kit lens does a good job, but even at 18mm (zooming with my feet), with the apature wide open and ISO bumped up... some come out great but others are botched or blurry. I'd rather not have to use a flash... no-flash photos look warmer and more realistic. At least to me they do.


I'm hoping to find:
  • A lens for less than $500
  • Something that does a decent job photographing people indoors, in low-light situations
  • Something that can also capture wide-angle stuff
Any opinions?

Last edited by Boldstar; Nov 9, 2010 at 1:06 PM.
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Old Nov 9, 2010, 4:34 PM   #2
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Large aperture, stabilized, standard zooms aren't very good, except for this one. If you can do without the stabilization, the Sigma 17-70/2.8-4.5 and 18-50/2.8, and the Tamron 17-50/2.8 are excellent, but their stabilized siblings are not.
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Old Nov 9, 2010, 6:45 PM   #3
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Thanks for the feedback TCav. Can you tell me why the "large aperture, stabilized, standard zooms aren't very good?"

I'm sure the Canon you linked to is an awesome lens, but it's a little out of my price range at the moment. A colleague recently acquired the Tamron you mentioned, except it's the VC (vibration calibrated) version. He hasn't used it much yet, but I could have sworn that I read a very positive review on it.

When you say, "if you can live without the stabilization," what do you mean? Probably 99% of my photography is handheld. Does that tell you that I require and IS-equivalent lens? Or would a large apature lens like the Tamron be fast enough without it?
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Old Nov 9, 2010, 6:55 PM   #4
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Sorry. I stand corrected. It must have been the non-VC review that I read (which was overly positive). The VC review isn't so great.
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Old Nov 9, 2010, 8:12 PM   #5
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Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro (Tested)
Sigma AF 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC macro
... versus ...
Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM (Tested)
Sigma AF 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC HSM OS

Sigma AF 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC Aspherical IF
... versus ...
Sigma AF 17-50mm f/2.8 DC HSM EX OS

Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF SP AF (Tested)
Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 SP XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF]
... versus ...
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II VC LD Aspherical IF SP AF (Tested)
Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD Asph. [IF] VC
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Old Nov 9, 2010, 8:44 PM   #6
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Thank you for the reviews TCav. That's awesome. I'll definitely read them all before I make a decision/purchase.

If you have time though, would you mind answering my questions? I'm curious about your opinion. Thanks in advance.
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Old Nov 10, 2010, 4:40 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boldstar View Post
When you say, "if you can live without the stabilization," what do you mean? Probably 99% of my photography is handheld. Does that tell you that I require and IS-equivalent lens? Or would a large apature lens like the Tamron be fast enough without it?
With your 18-55 IS kit lens, you were shooting at up to f/5.6 at the long end, and the image stabilization would allow you to get away with longer shutter speeds without motion blur due to camera shake. A lens with a similar focal length and a constant f/2.8 aperture, but no stabilization, would let you gather more light while using faster shutter speeds, so you could prevent motion blur due to camera shake. So the larger aperture without the stabilization could work as well as the smaller aperture with stabilization, plus the faster shutter speed could prevent motion blur due to subject movement as well, but you'd have to deal with the more shallow depth of field.

At the wide end, however, the difference between f/3.5 and f/2.8 isn't very much, so if you've needed to take advantage of image stabilization while using shorter focal lengths, you wouldn't have it. Of course, at wider angles of view, image stabilization is less useful.

I've been very pleased with the shots I've gotten from my unstabilized Tamron 17-50/2.8, but that was on a stabilized body.

If you can look at the photos you've taken with your current lens, and conclude that, at the long end, the extra two (or so) stops you'd have gotten with an f/2.8 aperture would have served you as well as the IS, and that at the wide end, you could have gotten away without the IS, then a standard zoom with an f/2.8 aperture will give you the better results you're looking for. But it won't work miracles.
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Old Nov 10, 2010, 12:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCav View Post
... At the wide end, however, the difference between f/3.5 and f/2.8 isn't very much, so if you've needed to take advantage of image stabilization while using shorter focal lengths, you wouldn't have it. Of course, at wider angles of view, image stabilization is less useful.
So if I'm normally shooting indoors with my kit lens at 18mm, no flash and f/3.5, are you saying the Tamron wouldn't show much difference? Honestly, I don't know if I've "needed" to take advantage of the IS at shorter focal lengths... Image Stabilization is always turned on by default. I only shut it off if I'm using a tripod for something.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TCav View Post
If you can look at the photos you've taken with your current lens, and conclude that, at the long end, the extra two (or so) stops you'd have gotten with an f/2.8 aperture would have served you as well as the IS, and that at the wide end, you could have gotten away without the IS, then a standard zoom with an f/2.8 aperture will give you the better results you're looking for. But it won't work miracles.
There's no real way for me to know if the extra two (or so) stops would have served me as well as the IS, for the reason I mentioned above (IS always on).

I tend to shoot indoors at shorter focal lengths and the apature wide open (hopefully I've got my terminology right, I mean 18mm and f/3.5). And I try to zoom with my feet. But some shots still come out blurry, likely due to the lack of available light. I wondered if there was an affordable option out there that could help. But sounds like, at least in the case of the Tamron, that the wider apature with no VC won't make much difference. I wonder if the VC version is better in that respect...

Complicated stuff.
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Old Nov 10, 2010, 1:51 PM   #9
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If you're getting blurry shots indoors with a stabilized lens, that could be motion blur from subject movement. A large aperture lens won't help out much there, but neither will stabilization all by itself.

Can you post some examples of what you're dissatisfied with?
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Old Nov 10, 2010, 2:02 PM   #10
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Yes, I'll try to dig up some examples to post here.

In the meantime, one more question: If the IS kit lens does just as good of a job as something like the Tamron VC, at one-third of the cost, why would anyone buy the Tammy?
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