Lens Questions

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Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852
Lens Questions

I am dreaming of a new lens. I don't know when the day will come that I can afford a new one, but I want to be looking so I know what price range I need to save up to.

I have a Canon Rebel Xsi and just a stock lens, and a 50mm 1.8 lens (which I LOVE). The next lens I'd like to get is for one with more than one person in it- 2 or more people, group shots. I'd also like it to be really sharp rather than a soft focus. Right now, I'm only using my 50mm for every picture and anytime I take a group picture, at least one face is not entirely in focus and it bothers me so much. I'd also like a lens that is able to shoot in low light situations, like maybe 2.8 or so at least. I'd also like one that has zoom options other than one set one like my 50mm. Any ideas?

I'm asking here to see what you ladies recommend and also am curious as to which ones you own that you love and why. Then, I'm going to begin looking around for the best option for myself.

Thanks in advance. Biggrin

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

I suspect that the problem with your group photos is user error and not your equipment. The 50mm should be perfectly capable to take a good small group photo (3-4 people). The trick to everyone in focus is a nice small aperture. You have to close it up more and more for each additional person in the photo. For three people on roughly the same plane, it should be at LEAST 5.6. Add more people and that number needs to go up.

But, if you really do want a "group photo lens" and are wanting to take photos of large groups (5 people or more), a group photo lens should be a wide angle lens...right now you should be using your kit lens for large group photography since it doesn't need to be a low aperture number like 2.8 and is a wide angle zoom with a nice wide angle of 18mm at the widest end.

If you want to upgrade from the kit lens, a good choice is the Tamron 28-70mm 2.8. This lens is sharp, but mine is only sharp when using the center focal point which means you have to focus and re-compose.

The pros are that it is a good quality lens with a nice low aperture capability and is fairly wide at 28mm at the widest. It's a good everyday lens. Once I got it I almost never used the 50mm anymore. BUT, on the downside it's not quite as good in quality as the 50mm...just a zoom which makes it a touch more convenient. It really won't feel too much different from your kit lens. It should show an improvement in quality and will perform much better in low light than the kit lens, but you already have the 50mm for low light.

If I were you and were watching my pocketbook...I'd take out my kit lens for another run and make sure it's not performing the way you want.

The hole in your lens arsenal right now is really a far reaching or telephoto lens. You've got the low end covered...no, not with the best quality glass, but it's covered. You have nothing in the best portrait area of around 100mm. If it were me, I'd consider getting the 85mm 1.8 or a nice telephoto zoom.

Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852

Thank you Amber for explaining so clearly. You are right about the number of people. I look back on which pictures I'm thinking of and the better group pictures are the ones I used a smaller aperture on. I didn't know you had to close it up smaller with each person. Good to know.

Now I don't know what to do. Maybe a speedlight would be a better option for me? And I'll have to practice with my stock lens and see how that works out for me. I haven't touched it since getting my 50mm.

I wanted to add that I just looked into the 85mm 1.8 lens and it sounds like something I definitely would like to have for portraits.

And as far as group shots go, if I got the 85mm lens would it be recommended to use that lens or the stock lens for group photos? Which would work better? I guess it might depend on the distance I am able to stand away from the group?

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

"Jaxie" wrote:

And as far as group shots go, if I got the 85mm lens would it be recommended to use that lens or the stock lens for group photos? Which would work better? I guess it might depend on the distance I am able to stand away from the group?

Yeah, the best group photo lens would depend on how far away you can stand. I use my 70-200mm for just about everything when I'm shooting outdoors...including family shots... because I can get as far back as I need to. If I can't get back far enough, I switch to my Tamron 28-75mm.

Really, it's just wise to use your best glass for everything you can. Right now your best glass is your 50mm so you are correct to be using it most of the time. Your kit lens should be used when you can't get back far enough to use the 50mm or if you want to do any landscape shots. If you got the 85mm...that would be your best glass and you'd want to use it whenever you had the room.

The other thing to keep in mind is the difference between telephoto, normal, and wide angle. From what I can see you've got a wide angle (your kit lens) and a normal (your 50mm), but you need a telephoto. If you want to get that really nice blurred background that looks like a watercolor wash, the best way to get that is with a telephoto lens...for you that means 85mm or farther.

On the other hand....a speedlight is always a good choice!

Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852

Thanks so much for taking the time to explain this to me. I have another question though if you don't mind. Smile

I just looked to see about the Tamron 28-75 lens you mentioned that you use. It says it's a wide-angle telephoto lens. So, would that work for both purposes? Would it still give the nice background blur?

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

Yes, at the 28 end it's wide angle, at the 75mm end it's a slight telephoto. It's 10mm shorter than the 85mm...you'll get more blur with the 75mm than with your 55mm.

Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852

Hrmmm.. I'm thinking of maybe getting that one now. I know I don't have to decide at this moment. I'll keep them both in mind I guess for now. I'm thinking the tamron lens wouldn't be as nice as a telephoto lens or does the 10mm difference not matter much?

coolmama72's picture
Joined: 10/20/01
Posts: 8185

I have the Tamron 28-75mm lens and I really like it. I've barely taken it off my camera since I got it a few months ago. I do still love my 30mm f/1.4 but I won't recommend that to you since you're using your 50mm so much. The next lens I want to get is the 85mm although I really want something like the 70-200mm too. Ugh. Anyhow, if you're shooting indoors, then maybe a speedlite is your next choice. If you're shooting more outdoors, then look at the Tamron. Smile

(Amber, you're awesome for your great advice, I am still learning things from you so I appreciate that you're so willing to give)

Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852

"coolmama72" wrote:

I have the Tamron 28-75mm lens and I really like it. I've barely taken it off my camera since I got it a few months ago. I do still love my 30mm f/1.4 but I won't recommend that to you since you're using your 50mm so much. The next lens I want to get is the 85mm although I really want something like the 70-200mm too. Ugh. Anyhow, if you're shooting indoors, then maybe a speedlite is your next choice. If you're shooting more outdoors, then look at the Tamron. Smile

(Amber, you're awesome for your great advice, I am still learning things from you so I appreciate that you're so willing to give)

I'm curious, why do you want the 85mm lens along with the Tamron 28-75 lens? I'd really like a comparison of the two I guess.

coolmama72's picture
Joined: 10/20/01
Posts: 8185

I want the 85mm as a portrait lens. I've just read great things about using it for portraits, that's all. I don't feel like I have enough space with my 30mm sometimes. And 85mm would let me be a good distance away. Besides, a single focal length should give me a sharper image than a zoom (but I could be wrong in my assumption)

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

Pure and simple...the 85mm is better glass. The tamron is aperture 2.8, the Canon 85mm is 1.8. From what I understand, it has better color, clarity, sharpness...and ability to focus. My tamron is only sharp when using the center focal point. The 85mm gives much creamer background blur than the Tamron from what I have seen.

I don't have the 85mm yet, but it will likely be my next purchase. I try to never use the Tamron for my pro work as it is not a pro quality lens. I want to get the 85mm to replace my Tamron as my newborn and walk around lens. That is unless I bite the bullet and replace the Tamron with the Canon L glass equivelent.

That said, the Tamron is a good lens, definitely better than my old kit lens and better than the equivelent lens that Sigma makes.

Joined: 03/16/15
Posts: 53852

Ok, thanks. Smile