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Old Apr 12, 2008, 10:27 PM   #11
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BillDrew wrote:
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For going cheap, anyone should thing about used lenses. If a source isn't available locally (best), there are KEH, B&H, Adorama, and, for the adventurous: ebay. There are a lot of them available for well under US$100.

When I say cheap, I mean cheap. Something to try out without spending a bunch. Cheap enough to count the entire cost as tuition as you toss it into the trash. Not looking at something better for a little bit more - there are an almost infinite number of little bits getting something better.
All the more reason to shop carefully. Why spend $50 on a lens you'll throw away when, for $70, you can get a keeper.

And the next step up from the $170 Sigma APO telephoto zoomis the $700 f/2.8. That's an awfully large "little bit".
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Old Apr 13, 2008, 8:29 AM   #12
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TCav wrote:
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All the more reason to shop carefully. Why spend $50 on a lens you'll throw away when, for $70, you can get a keeper.
...
If that were for sure true, I'd agree. Unfortunately it seems that when digging at the the bottom of the barrel, what you get is a matter of luck - cheap lenses are not known for consistant quality. I do agree that it is worth looking at reviews of the cheap lenses when choosing between them - but a price difference of forty percent is more than I would recomend.

Also, another reason for someone to buy a cheap lens is to learn what a bad lens is like. That bit of photographic learning will really only sink in with experience. I think it is better to spend $50 instead of $70 for the lesson if you have bad luck. If you have good luck, try again.
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And the next step up from the $170 Sigma APO telephoto zoomis the $700 f/2.8. That's an awfully large "little bit".
I'll bet I can find all kinds of steps between those prices. Perhaps not all Sigma, and perhaps not all exactly the same zoom range, but lots of little steps.

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Old Apr 13, 2008, 8:55 AM   #13
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BillDrew wrote:
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Also, another reason for someone to buy a cheap lens is to learn what a bad lens is like. ...
So buying a cheap lens is useful as an example of what not to do?

Sort of like sticking your hand into a flame?

I think I can say that I haven't ever actually stuck my hand into a flame, but I have the benefit of the experiences of other people to tell me it's not a good idea. Can't we extend that same benefit to lenses? Isn't that what these forums are for?

I've had the benefit of buying a bad lens. That was the Konica Minolta 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3, a rebranded Tamron. I have since shared that experience here with others considering the same or a similar lens. Keeping in mind that 'cheap' and 'expensive' are relative terms, should I have let them find out for themselves how bad most of these superzoom lenses are?

When people come to these forums seeking advice, should we let them flounder on their own? When a person is considering a cheap lens for a purpose for which we know it is ill suited, should we let them discover for themselves that it is a bad choice?

To be sure, cheap lenses serve a purpose. There are many people that have bought that $39 fisheye lens off eBay and had fun with it even though the optical qualityand the image quality areatrocious. But if someone has a serious purpose in mind, we should provide serious advice, even if such advice steers them away from 'Cheap Glass'.
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Old Apr 13, 2008, 4:33 PM   #14
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But if someone has a serious purpose in mind, we should provide serious advice, even if such advice steers them away from 'Cheap Glass'.
TCav, I think you nailed exactly when someone should not be using cheap glass. But not all photography is serious - sometimes it is done just for fun. Nothing serious about it at all - doesn't really matter if the photo is far from perfect.

And you are very right to say that folks should consider the use of something before they buy it. That applies to lenses, cameras, vehicles, buildings, land, and anything else I can think of. Having fun is a legitimate reason to spend money so long as the amount doesn't get out of hand. As you say, it is fun to play with a fisheye even if it doesn't produce good pictures. Had an $8 one a while back - before digital. Lots of fun. Cheap long lens can be fun as well.

Think of getting a cheap version of something like an 18-200. Would be a good parade lens where the intent was nothing more exacting than snapshots and web photos. Certainly better than frame grabbing from video like this:

(my palmcorder only goes as wide as about 35mm equiv - cheap 18-200 would do a better job. Though this is just about good enough.)

Yes, I have bought cheap lenses that I found unusable for anything serious. Had one lens that would produce flare if you were shooting at the North Pole on the winter solstice with a new moon. Bought it cheap, sold it for what I paid and told the purchaser exactly what was wrong with the lens - we were both happy with the transaction. That lens did teach me that I really wanted a wide lens and that flare was a real common problem with that kind of lens. Even if I hadn't recovered the $20 I paid for it (this was a few years ago), I would have consdered it money well spent.
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