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gardensurf May 30, 2006 6:34 PM

Well, I've spent countless hours searching through forums and reading reviews about every lens out there, and am slowly narrowing down my ‘want list'.

I'm upgrading from a Panasonic FZ20 to either a 20D or a 30D. My main use will be surfing photography (from both land and water), and I'd like to be able to sell some photos to local magazines and newspapers. I will also be shooting wildlife (mainly birds), landscapes and portraits. Basically everything! Would even love to get into indoor sports!

I'm mainly interested in zoom lenses, and have up to $3000 US to spend on lenses. I want a telephoto zoom, a good walkaround and an extreme wideangle. Unfortunately, from the reviews I've read, I fear I already have L fever, but will consider non-L or Sigma, if I can be convinced that image quality (particularly sharpness) is not much compromised. Here are my options as I see them…

Telephoto Zoom: Really leaning towards Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS. On a 20D this will give me 640mm I think, which is adequate (most pro surf photogs use 600mm f4). Biggest concern is the speed of the lens (f5.6 isn't too great) which will give me shutter speeds ¼ of an f2.8 lens at equivalent ISO – is this right? The faster primes are out of reach on my budget, and I like the zoom anyway. Could probably afford a 300mm f4, but would need at least a 1.4x converter which would lose a stop (=f5.6 right?). Also considered the 70-200 f2.8, which would be great if I wanted to shoot indoor sports. But to get 600mm (which I consider minimum for surf photography), I would also need a 1.4x converter, making it f4. This is a stop better than the 100-400, but will I lose a lot of image quality (and autofocus?) with this combination? So really: 70-200 +1.4 vs 100-400.

Mid-range walkabout: This is the lens I'll have on my camera most of the time, especially while travelling (which I plan to do a good deal of). Will also be used for ‘pulled-back' photos of surf breaks etc, so want a ‘publishable' quality lens. I like the look of the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L lens or the 24-105mm f4L IS, but they may be slightly outside my budget. As these two are similar priced, would the IS and extra reach of the 24-105 be bette for me than the faster (and non-IS) 24-70? Also a bit worried about 24mm (= 38mm on 20D) not being wide enough. Other lenses I've considered are the EF-S 17-85 and the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 and the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 EX DG. How does the image quality of these lenses compare to the two L lenses above? Any other suggestions? Note, I may be able to use a cheaper, slower walkabout lens, and use the 50mm f1.4 in low-light situations. Thoughts? Is there any mid-range walkabout lens that is slower than the L lenses above, but doesn't give up much in quality/sharpness?

Wide-angle: I plan to buy a housing to use the camera in the surf. Most surf photographers use a 15 mm fisheye on a full frame sensor. I know there's a couple of third-party fisheyes around 8 and 10mm, but I think these may not be good enough quality. I think a non-fisheye wide-angle may be adequate, and I think either the Canon EF-S 10-22mm or the Sigma 10-20mm are my only options. How far behind the quality of L lenses (or the 15mm fisheye) are these lenses? If only Canon produced a 10mm fisheye L lens!!! Will probably also get a 50mm f1.4 for use in the housing when shooting surfing from a channel or a boat.

Thanks in advance!

Speedie May 30, 2006 11:33 PM


For the telephoto area, have you looked into the Sigma 100-300mm F4? This lens is really sharp, fast, and image quality is near prime lenses. One advantage for this lens to the Canon 100-400 is the constant aperture. You loose the IS, but if you are doing surfing images,the ISwon't help to much. If you then add on a good 1.4x TC (a good Sigma DG model) then you will have a constant F5.6 lens. If you really want more light, then the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 is the bet. A few other options are the Sigma 50-500mm (Bigma), Canon 100-400mm IS, and any of the Sigma or Canon 70-200mm F2.8 lenses with a TC. For the Sigma lenses and TC's, look at the DG models. They have new coatings to work with digital cameras, and fight against CA.

For walkaround lens, any of the L or Sigma EX will give you great images. One of the advantages to the 20D and the 30D is that they are more sensitive with a F2.8 lens. They have more focus points in the center area. You do not see these, but they are used to be more accurate. Any of these will work, as the Canon 24-70 and 24-105 are great lenses. Also, the Sigma 24-70 and Tarmon 28-75 are right behind them on image quality.

For the wide end, both of the lenses that you mentioned are great. They both can produce sharp images. What you will have to watch for is the housing. Which will work in that.

Hope some of this helps


peripatetic May 31, 2006 3:16 AM

In your shoes I would go for:

Canon EF 100-400mm L

Canon EF-S 17-85mm + body in kit.

Canon EF-S 10-20mm

Canon EF 28mm f1.8

Canon EF 50mm f1.8

I think you could get all of those for your $3000 lens budget.

jacks May 31, 2006 6:39 AM

You'll want to save some money for a mono/tripod and filters which can get pretty expensive for big lenses.
Is a polariser necessary for shooting surfing? Would slow the shutter, but I can't even look out to sea in West Australia without a pair of polarised sunnies...

Emjay May 31, 2006 10:16 PM

Why don't you consider investing the whole $3000 into your long lens first, because if you're planning to make some mulah on your surf and bird photography, this is the lens you'll be using.* *After you've made some money, you can get the other lenses.* This way you can get a good L-series.**I have 2 L-series, the 70-200 f2.8 and the 300mm f2.8, and i shoot snow skiing and night sports with them .... couldn't do without either of them, for what i do, these 2 lenses are my bread and butter, and the others are recreational only (for the most part).Hope this philosophy helps .... because when it comes to making money, you can't compromise your image quality.* Give it all you've got first, then add to the fleet later.mj

NHL Jun 1, 2006 1:54 AM

gardensurf wrote:

Unfortunately, from the reviews I've read, I fear I already have L fever, but will consider non-L or Sigma, if I can be convinced that image quality (particularly sharpness) is not much compromised.
I'm already cured... thank god! :lol: :-) :G

I have the 100-400L (among other L's) already, but my favorite is the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 EX ;)
I've found that a 400mm is sometime too short whereas the 120-300 is not only faster @ f/2.8, but with a 2x TC it can get you to 600mm (f/5.6) in a jiffy. Theses are all shots from that lens:;forum_id=11

-> You really need only 1 more lens(and less to carry) for the wide angle to medium telephoto then... (and still under $3k) :cool:

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