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Old Apr 16, 2009, 4:06 PM   #1
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Hi

Last year I bought a Canon 40D with the EFS17-85mm lens. Image results were reasonable but I need higher definition. My two camera gurus are giving me conflicting advice.

One says just change the lens on the 40D to an L series L IS USM 24-105mm. His argument, supplemented with a great deal of optical physics is that this will produce the most sharply defined images for me.

The other guru disagrees and says for the sort of image quality I am looking for a full frame SLR is the only way forward - something like the 5D.

Both of these guys are dealers and are looking to sell me equipment - any adice? At the end of the day I need top quality images not cameras with fancy gadgets.
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Old Apr 16, 2009, 5:53 PM   #2
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What types of photos are you taking? If you could post an example and indicate what you would like to improve about it, that would be helpful. That will help us determine if either new camera or new lens or change in technique will improve your photos.
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Old Apr 17, 2009, 1:54 AM   #3
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Why do you need higher definition?

When you say that you mean that you want the same kind of definition you are getting at f8 with the 17-85 at other apertures right? Because if not then a new lens ain't going to do it for you.

It would help a lot to know what type of photography you are doing.

A 5D has almost the same Mp count as the 40D. Do you mean the 5DMkII? Why not the 50D?
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Old Apr 17, 2009, 5:17 AM   #4
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The Canon 40D is a fine camera.

The 17-85 is reasonably sharp, though at the wide endit does suffer from chromatic aberration, distortion and vignetting, and while the 24-105 L is better than the 17-85 in most respects, it's not much better.

I am also interested in learning exactly how your current kit isn't serving you adequately.

BTW, if you switch from the 40D to a 5D (or a 5DMkII), you'll need a new lens as well, because the 17-85 is for APS-C image sensors.
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Old Apr 17, 2009, 10:44 AM   #5
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Many thanks for the responses. The pictures I take tend to be of large gatherings of people at festivals or in processions - colourful religious processions, sometimes with hundreds of people in the shot. These are used by High School teachers teaching about religious customs and traditions. They use them in PowerPoint presentations and so the image has to go large.

Occasionally I am shooting inside a place of worship such s a Gurdwara or Mosque and again there are lots of people. Priests or Granthis tend to be holding small ritual objects and quite often these are not always clear.

Until recently I was using a Fuji Finepix 5000 and the pictures I have made available for teachers can be found as reduced images at http://www.rssupport.org.uk/pg/gall.html- that should give you some idea of the sort of thing I am seeking to photograph.

Last year I moved up to the 40D because non DSLR was a pain and because I needed to improve image quality. None of my more recent pictures havce been posted on the website but in test shots I am not really seeing much improvement. A local photographic shop looked at the pictures and the jpegs and felt the lens was soft - he returned it to Canon, who said it was OK. So I am trying to work out my next move.
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Old Apr 17, 2009, 11:02 AM   #6
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Some helmet cameras that are cheap. Should i buy one of those or should I choose those expensive ones? Can this be installed on a side of a bike?

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Old Apr 17, 2009, 11:15 AM   #7
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Well,

for the outdoor shots of buildings the 17-85 should do a very decent job - you'll be at f8-11 and the lens is sharp there. Apply USM in post-processing and you should have good enough photos for your purposes.

The challenge is the other two types of shots I see - indoor shots and close-ups are really poor for either the 17-85 OR the 24-105.

For the inside shots, the 17-55 2.8 IS would be a great boon. Incredibly sharp and the IS will help with hand-holding. The 16-35 f2.8 would be a great choice if you envision yourself going full frame (as the 17-55 is an ef-s lens).

I would pair that with a 70-200 f4 for the close ups outdoors. If you want ultimate flexibility then the 70-200 2.8 IS would be the choice - gives you better options for non-flash close-ups indoors. There's a reason pro wedding shooters use that lens alot.

The reality is though, a move to the 5d or 5dmkII really is going to be wasted for what you are doing. Powerpoint presentations - even on a large screen don't require the detail that large prints do. And, you'd have to buy the above lenses I recommended anyway. The jump to full frame just isn't going to buy you much.

Better optics will help but so will better understanding and practice of your gear and proper post-processing.
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Old Apr 17, 2009, 11:22 AM   #8
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From the pictures you have posted I don't think changing to a sharper lens or camera is going to help you much.

There are many reasons why pictures might be soft, the most likely by the look of things is that you are getting camera shake because your shutter speed is not fast enough in the lighting conditions you are operating under.

If you need to get close up views of artifacts you need to do one of the following things:
1. Use flash.
2. Use a tripod.
3. Use a longer lens (zoom in) and a tripod or flash.

In summary - there is probably nothing wrong with your camera and lens. You just need to learn to use it better.

It is VERY COMMON for one's pictures to be no better or often even get worse when moving from a P&S camera to a DSLR. 99% of people this happens to think that the solution is to spend more money on equipment, when in fact they need to spend more time and expend effort learning how to use the very good equipment they have just purchased.

If you post some of the actual pictures you are not happy with we will be able to offer more specific advice.

At this point I am fairly confident that the issue is behind the camera not in front of it. Of course it is not in the interest of people who sell cameras to say this.But the real problem is that the more you spend on cameras and lenses, the less automatic the equipment becomes. Pro level cameras are designed to be used by experienced photographers; so spending even more money might make your pictures worse, not better.
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Old Apr 17, 2009, 11:30 AM   #9
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peripatetic wrote:
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From the pictures you have posted I don't think changing to a sharper lens or camera is going to help you much.
I'm going to disagree - I think different lenses will be a big help. The 5.6 is poor for indoor work and the focal length is way too short and the 17-85 isn't a great portrait-style lens (not shallow dof or sharp enough wide open). With the exception of the outdoor building shots almost every other shot would be improved by having a wider aperture available and better 'punch' for the people shots.

Having said that I agree completely with the rest you've said. But the 17-85 is a poor lens choice for the majority of these shot types (especially indoors where access is limited). The 24-105 offers better sharpness and punch but it's not wide enough nor long enough. It's not that the 17-85 is bad it's just a bad tool for the types of photos the OP is taken given many of the restrictions likely being encountered (especially indoors).

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Old Apr 17, 2009, 1:46 PM   #10
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But the OP isn't trying to shoot atmospheric portraits, this is documentary stuff, and detail is important. And possibly large DOF is required for being able to get detail front-to-back. In that case flash is going to be essential.

On the other hand it may be that the best investment he could make is something like a 70-200 f2.8 IS lens, which will give him a few extra stops to play with and the ability to zoom in on the detail he needs for the artifacts instead of having to "zoom digitally" by enlarging to 100%.

But...

We don't even know yet what f-stop and shutter speed and ISO he is currently using. I suspect one of the scene modes, and possibly stuck at ISO400.

We simply have to see the actual shots with EXIF to give better advice.
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