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Author Topic: Revolutionizing the kit zoom  (Read 4929 times)

funkboy

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Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« on: January 28, 2012, 08:10:44 AM »
I've been musing a lot about lenses lately, & I've a hypothetical question for the lens design experts out there:

What would a wide-aperture EF-s kit zoom look like?

The idea is to introduce the consumer to the concept of wide-aperture lenses like we had in the days when the 50mm f/1.8 prime was considered the "kit" lens, while still being the cheap consumer zoom so apparently near & dear to Canon's marketing people over the last 15 years.

My thinking is the following:

  • Unlike Nikon, Sony, u4/3, etc, Canon's basic prime lineup is older than Methusalem.  It is highly unlikely that they'll release any updates to any of the old "consumer prime" designs.
  • New Canon EF-s plastic zooms, however, are released almost every year.
  • Several patents for wide-aperture zooms give us hope for something different.

With the possible (hopeful) exception of an EF-s 30-ish prime, it's pretty clear that anything Canon releases to "replace" the old primes will be a zoom.  Digging into this patent, we see specs for two 2x zooms: a 24-48 and 25-50, both f/3.5-4.8.  Notice that they're in the same patent that features a lot of new tricks with DO elements and fast wide primes.  But I also get the feeling that these are all pro-grade full-frame designs.

Basically my idea is a cheap plastic wide-aperture 2x zoom with all the cost-cutting features of the 18-55 kit zoom (rotating front element, external zoom & focus, etc), but it would also have consumer-grade USM & IS.  A 22-44mm EF-s zoom for example (they'd probably call it a 22-45) would be the equivalent of a FF 35-70, and line up nicely above the EF-s 10-22.  22mm is a pretty conservative retrofocus focal length on EF-s...

My question is, could they design such a thing with a wide enough aperture to really differentiate it from the other EF-s zooms and come close to replacing the "consumer" wide prime lineup on the EF-s platform, & still keep it cheap enough to offer as an optional kit lens?  I'm thinking something along the lines of f/2.8-3.5 (constant f/2.8 would be great but is probably too ambitious).  They've done lenses in the past like the 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM (and plenty of other f/3.5-4.5 zooms), so wider-aperture variable zooms aren't unprecedented.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2012, 08:29:50 AM by funkboy »

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Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« on: January 28, 2012, 08:10:44 AM »

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2012, 02:00:48 PM »
Quote
With the possible (hopeful) exception of an EF-s 30-ish prime, it's pretty clear that anything Canon releases to "replace" the old primes will be a zoom.

i doubt that.....
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Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2012, 02:14:57 PM »

With the possible (hopeful) exception of an EF-s 30-ish prime, it's pretty clear that anything Canon releases to "replace" the old primes will be a zoom.

So, you do not think they replace primes with primes?  What about the 300mm f/2.8, the 400mm f/2.8, the 500mm f/4, the 600mm f/4?

lower cost ones?  The 100mm f/2.8 L

Looking at patents recently released, its clear they are looking at upgraded prime lenses, else why keep patenting them?

And, of course, they recently announced a whole family of prime ef mount cinema lenses.

Nick Gombinsky

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2012, 03:51:02 PM »
I think the OP is refering to non-L lenses, and I think he is partly right. They're updating several L lenses, but leaving old normal lenses behind.

But personally, I don't think consumers would be interested in such small zoom, as a 22-45mm. They tend to want more focal length at the expense of aperture, as they think "I can still take a picture without a wide aperture, but I can't get closer without more reach in the lens. I can compensate using flash". That's why superzooms are ver popular nowadays between consumers.

I would love a wider aperture zoom lens, but for now, f2.8 is good enough. I shoot a lot of pics and video, and I never go faster than f2.8, on my f1.4 primes... I know the trend nowadays is to blur the hell out of the background, but personally, I think it is narratively unproductive for most cases.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2012, 03:54:35 PM by Nick Gombinsky »
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funkboy

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2012, 07:05:00 PM »
So, you do not think they replace primes with primes?

In the basic prime lineup to which I was referring, nope.  The 28mm f/2.8 may have just been silently discontinued with no replacement at all, possibly due to slow sales, supply chain or tooling problems, or (hopefully) to make room on the production line for a modern non-L prime.

The last Canon prime lens that doesn't say "L" "TS-E" or "Macro" on it came out in 1995 (the 28 f/1.8 USM).  Northlight has a great chart detailing the entire EF lens history.

Harley

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2012, 08:42:06 PM »
I for one would love to see a fast prime as a kit offering.  There's an assumption that the general consumer wants a zoom, and I'm sure that is largely the case, but I think there is certainly a market of photographers who understand the value of a fast prime and would opt for, say, a 50mm f/1.8 over the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (or a better prime in place of a better standard kit zoom).  It would be nice to have the choice.
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bratkinson

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2012, 03:56:07 PM »
By their design, all zooms require lots of glass.  Wide aperature zooms require more glass area, and perhaps more internal lenses as well.  The key to what is offered at the consumer level is price point based.  My guess is that Canon targets their consumer grade lenses in the $300-500 range.  Hence, the smaller aperatures to keep the costs within 'limits'. 

If Canon were to create a 24-70 f2.8 or even 3.5 with non L-quality glass I'll guess it would likely run in $700-900 range.  This would then undercut the market for the 24-70L, as some consumers would rather save a few bucks off the L price to get that range and speed.  But, then what about all the 18-135, 28-135 and other consumer zooms with bigger range and less cost?  In short, I think it would 'confuse' the buyers in creating a third market-group / price-point range.

Bottom line, if a consumer wants fast zooms, they'll have to pay for it, just like the pros do. 

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2012, 03:56:07 PM »

archangelrichard

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2012, 06:51:39 PM »
1) if there were a market for it, somebody would be doing it. Do you see Nikon doing these lenses? How about aftermarket, do you see Tokina, Sigma, Tamron doing it? The market (not you but most buyers of DSLR's) WANTS tjhat 18 - 55 more than a wider aperture

2) bratkinson is right on about the weight issue, you need all the elements of the lens to be bigger, there's even more of an issue on sharpness (at the corners in particular); and then all that weight means bigger motors to move it; and then you have a width problem putting it on the lens; all that is cost and you end up with a lens not much cheaper than a "L" lens

3) you do understand that most lenses are DESIGNED to be their sharpest at F 8 - F 11 and any wider also has a fall off in sharpness (but I agree on using primes; most zooms are designed to be sharp only near the center of the range and edge or center sharpness falls off in both directions; many simply should not be used at their widest except in emergencies)

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2012, 07:38:19 PM »
I'm confused by this thread. A wide aperture EF-S standard zoom already exists in the form of the 17-55mm f2.8 IS. I'm not clear where the gap in Canon's zoom line is perceived to be.

I do share the OP's concern about the demise of the non-L primes. I'm not so bothered about the loss of the 28mm f2.8 but I hope Canon remains competitive with its f1.8 or f2 primes in the 24mm to 100mm range. That said, I'm sure Sigma would fill any void with new products.

funkboy

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2012, 08:17:57 PM »
Some very good points there, especially the one about market demand.  Tamron & Sigma do have something in this price range though (that sell extremely well), and that is their 17-50 f/2.8 zooms, the least expensive of which costs a whopping $680 less than the Canon 17-55 IS (B&H prices, not including the rebates running on both at the moment).  Granted, the $440 Tamron doesn't have IS but for an extra $170 they'll give it to you.

I agree that maybe there's not enough room in the stable for my proposed "cheap wide prime replacement kit zoom" (& I'm certainly not suggesting a revival of the 20-35 USM), but it looks to me like Tamron & Sigma have a better answer to replace Canon's aging non-L wide prime lineup than Canon does.

If they wanted to do something about that then I think something like a hypothetical 18-45 f/2.8-3.5 IS with the same cost-cutting measures I mentioned above (built like the kit zooms) and the same size & less weight than the non-VC Tamron would do very well if priced right (i.e. significantly cheaper than the aforementioned Tamron), and I don't think it would cannibalize the sales of the existing 17-55 version based on its range & aperture and "pro" features like better build quality, non-rotating front element, etc etc. as anyone in this price range is going to buy the Tamron or Sigma, not the 17-55 f/2.8 IS.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I'd personally rush right out & get one of these if they made them, but Tamron & Sigma have clearly demonstrated that there's a large market for reasonably-priced fast standard zooms for crop cameras, & are currently eating Canon's lunch in this particular segment.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2012, 08:20:31 PM by funkboy »

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2012, 09:26:10 PM »
Maybe not what you are thinking of, but I would be absolutely thrilled to see an EF-S 15-70 (or similar range) in a constant f4. 

Seems like a reasonable compromise to me. If they can do a 24-105 "L" for full frame for about $1,000, I would think it would be possible to produce a similar lens for EF-S mounts in a similar price range. Sure, it wouldn't quality as a "kit" lens for Rebels, but it would be a great option for the 7D.

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2012, 11:35:47 PM »
1) if there were a market for it, somebody would be doing it. Do you see Nikon doing these lenses? How about aftermarket, do you see Tokina, Sigma, Tamron doing it? The market (not you but most buyers of DSLR's) WANTS tjhat 18 - 55 more than a wider aperture

2) bratkinson is right on about the weight issue, you need all the elements of the lens to be bigger, there's even more of an issue on sharpness (at the corners in particular); and then all that weight means bigger motors to move it; and then you have a width problem putting it on the lens; all that is cost and you end up with a lens not much cheaper than a "L" lens

3) you do understand that most lenses are DESIGNED to be their sharpest at F 8 - F 11 and any wider also has a fall off in sharpness (but I agree on using primes; most zooms are designed to be sharp only near the center of the range and edge or center sharpness falls off in both directions; many simply should not be used at their widest except in emergencies)
This is exactly why the 16-35 f2.8L is perfect on the APS-H sensor you get 20-48 f2.8 but lose all the negatives of the lens due to the 1.3 crop. still get a bit of barrel distortion but lens correction in LR takes care of that. it is the sharpest zoom lens body combo in that range you can get. Another REALLY nice benefit is the lens is non extending and weather sealed where as the 24-70 and 24-105s etc all have an extending barrel
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funkboy

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2012, 06:51:09 AM »
Maybe not what you are thinking of, but I would be absolutely thrilled to see an EF-S 15-70 (or similar range) in a constant f4.

Sounds to me like a great idea for the next iteration of the EF-s 15-85 IS.  Of course that lens was clearly made to fill the role of the 28-135 IS on crop bodies, (anybody else wonder why they still offer that thing as an "advanced kit lens" with semi-pro crop bodies) but that would certainly be a step in the right direction.

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2012, 06:51:09 AM »

Nick Gombinsky

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2012, 08:02:16 PM »
There is the 17-70mm f2.8-4 OS HSM from Sigma... it is a nice lens, but for professional work, I don't like it. Mine is on sale due to short travel in the focus ring and non-impressive level of sharpness at any given focal length.

But then again, I don't like it because I set the bar really high for my equipment... for a consumer, I think this lens would be a great walkaround.

Pentax makes a constant f4 17-70mm, which I've read is a bit better built, and also comes with a lens hood with a small hole for you to twist a polarizer filter, which I think is a nice touch.
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funkboy

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2012, 09:14:52 PM »
There is the 17-70mm f2.8-4 OS HSM from Sigma...

Good call, I had forgotten about that one.  That's exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about (in aperture, focal length, price, and optical quality).  The PZ review judges it quite favorably for a zoom in that price range.

Anyway, I think it's safe to say that there are several announcements from Canon in the pipeline, so we'll see what happens...

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Re: Revolutionizing the kit zoom
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2012, 09:14:52 PM »