peter w. carpi | lenses

 

~The Equipment~


LENSES

My original lens, and the one I used for many of the photographs on display,
was the EF-S 18-55mm that came standard with the Digital Rebel kit.
This was a great lens for me, due to the low cost and the wide angle zoom.
There was little distortion for me on the few wide angled shots I took,
and that was easily corrected using standard post-processing software.
Although the construction was somewhat lightweight, I never had trouble
with it breaking or wearing down.

EF-S 18-55mm

18to55

 

Soon after I got familiar with the DSLR I realized the 55mm angle wasn't
narrow enough for me; I wanted to be able to get more reach in my shots.
Staying with Canon, I next acquired the EF 75-300mm, which, coupled
with the magnification factor associated with a small format sensor of 1.6x, 
gave me a reach up to 480mm (effective 35mm equivalent).  This was the
setup I used for over a year with the Digital Rebel.  Both lenses used 58mm 
filters which made things easier for me. 
EF 75-300mm

I noticed a generally poor quality in the photographs I took with the
EF 75-300mm.  It wasn't bad enough to ruin well composed photographs,
but the color was washed out and details were not crisp. This led me to look
at Canon's higher quality 'L' series zoom lenses. Because I often shot at the full
300mm, I backed away from the 70-200mm, despite it's fantastic record and
user feedback. Instead I next purchased the EF 100-400mm IS L in conjunction
with a Canon 1.4x tele-extender. Together this allowed me to get close to 1000mm
35mm equivalent zoom. More on the extender below. This lens has been fantastic
for me. Shots up to 300mm are super crisp and color has never been an issue. The
weight of the lens is a bit of a drawback, as was the new filter size of 77mm, which
required me to get all new filters to fit the new lens, most important of these for me
was the polarizer.
EF 100-400mm IS L

 

My next purchase was in conjunction with the upgrade to the 20D body.  I wanted
to upgrade the quality of my 18-55mm yet maintain the wide angle, which I hoped
to start to use more often.  I wanted to stick with the 'L' series given my great
experience with the 100-400mm, and I wanted to be able to use the same 77mm
filters as on the 100-400mm.  After going to the local camera store and testing a number
of lenses on the old Digital Rebel body, I settled on the EF 17-40mm L.  The quality
of the 10-22mm wasn't what I wanted, despite the great wide angle ability.  The 
16-35mm was just too expensive and I couldn't tell the difference in my tests with the
17-40mm.  Since I have been using the 17-40mm I have been pleased.  The construction
is fantastic, and there are certain features that have been helpful, like the fact that the
lens does not rotate when you change the zoom or focus or the fact that you can focus 
manually or through AF without pulling the motors - really convenient. 
EF 17-40mm L

My first prime purchase was Canon's EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. I acquired this lens to fill the gap
between the 17 - 40mm and 100 - 400mm, but wanted a fast lens since the two zooms are
limited to f/4. While it doesn't fill the entire 40 - 100mm gap, at that focal length
I can typically move back and forward to get the right framing, so it isn't a significant
problem. The lens has performed wonderfully, despite taking filters at 58mm versus my other 77mms.
performance-wise it is one of the fastest lens you can get and it's clarity and color reproduction
are good. I recommend it for its performance given the price. Other aspects are its small
size and light weight, although it feels liks a toy.
EF 50mm



After a while I realized the 50mm was a pain because it was never left on the camera, so
each use required changing lenses. Funny how something like that makes a lens worthwhile or
not. I purchased Canon's EF 24 - 70mm f/2.8 L to fill the gap between the 17 - 40mm and
100 - 400mm. This is now more workhorse lens and the change is worth it, even though it
isn't as fast, because I get a wider range making it suitable for remaining on the body,
and the optics are great. Most of the photos taken at Oshkosh 2007 were with this lens.
People often complain that it is a heavy lens, but it seems fine for me. Using a 5D with battery
grip my setup is already heavier than most and the extra weight of the 2.8 lens doesn't bother me.
Many also go for the 24 - 105mm f/4 instead because it has IS and slightly longer reach,
[originally written in October 2007, edited here in January 2009: people are also getting
this lens because Canon is pushing it out the door hard with their new bodies as kit lenses.
It is now becoming clear they are doing this to run off inventory as there is an upgraded
version coming shortly.] however, for me they both effectively filled the 40 - 100mm gap and the added
IS didn't compensate for the slower speed of the lens (IS doesn't do a lot for stopping subject motion,
just camera shake. This and my 100 - 400mm are my primary two lenses now and the 17 - 40mm
has been reduced to use just for those really wide angle shots that I have plenty of time to
setup for, which are rare.
EF 24 - 70mm f/2.8 L

 

[Up to this point was written in 2007 or before, after was written in early 2009]
The next lens in the never ending bottomless bag of lenses is the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 II.
This is a lot heavier than it looks and very difficult to use to it's potential.
It is incredibly fast and creates breathtaking portraits due to shallow depth of field.
It is also great for twilight/indoor/low-light situations. Some of the photos in my Boston
section of Recent Memories page from the homepage were taken with this lens at a New Years
party in 2008/9. You can see that, even though I've had the lens for a year, I still can't
get the focus on target very often because the depth of field is so shallow when you open
the lens up.
When you do get it right, however, the results are irreplicable since there really aren't
any other lenses as fast. I have to work on shooting at f/2 rather than all the way down
at f/1.2 all the time as I am sure I would get lots more usable images and the 5D MKII has
better low-light reception.




SUGGESTIONS TO OTHERS

I would use 'L' glass whenever possible for your zoom lenses. The 70 - 200mm is the best of  
the telephoto zooms and the 17 - 40mm has worked well for me wide, although is a bit slow.
[4/18/07: since switching to the full frame 5D body from the 1.6x crop factor I have noticed
significant image quality loss at the edges of the 17 - 40mm shots. The best way to combat
this is to use smaller aperatures, f/8 - f/16]  

I recommend trying to maintain all lenses at the same diameter to reduce the number of
filters to purchase and carry, typically 77mm will be your best bet if you want fast lenses.

I would stay away from EF-S lenses because as you migrate to better bodies they will
become obsolete. Further, I see a trend toward full frame sesnors, which will limit the
ability to use EF-S format lenses.

Finally, prime lenses can be superb even without the 'L' designation. My 50mm is a
marvelous lens, despite it's smaller diameter, which requires different filters.  
I would try to use prime lenses when possible.



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January 23rd, 2009

2009 Peter W. Carpi. 
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