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Author Topic: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!  (Read 5106 times)

DeadPixel

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Hello all!

Firstly I just want to say I've greatly enjoyed reading these forums - the wealth of information here is fantastic!   

Let me preface this with saying I'm not a professional, nor do I pretend to be.  I'm really just a hobbyist.  No I'm not rich (far from it!), but I don't mind waiting longer to save the money necessary to get a quality lens if the difference is visibly noticeable to me.

Recently I went from being a long time P&S user to a DSLR.  I had a Canon SX20IS which I absolutely loved - the zoom range was incredible and I expanded my knowledge greatly.  However I made a trip to the grand canyon/Hoover dam and when I enlarged some of the images there were areas where image quality was lacking rather significantly.  In light of that I bought a nearly new T3i from a friends wife (who decided DSLR's were too complicated) with the 18-55 kit lens and EF-S 55-250.  A friend who exited photography gave me an EF 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 IS USM and an older EX 580 speedlight they had lying around in exchange for helping them move an entire house full of furniture/belongings.  After reading here about the incredible value of the 50mm F/1.8 I picked one up and have had a blast experimenting with apertures, truly amazing that a $120 lens can be so much fun!  At this point I'm having enough fun with photography that I'm planning to stick to EF lenses for my likely eventual upgrade to full frame in a few years.   It also seems resale value of EF lenses is better than that of EF-S variants.

After getting my feet wet (and willing to get wet up to my waist) I have a few questions that I'd value some opinions on.   

Several of my friends belong to a local gem club and I take pictures of their collections for insurance purposes/e-bay sales.  I did some stuff previously for them (nothing impressive) with a point and shoot - but would really like to be able to do better.  Some specimens are quite small, so I was looking for a macro lens to get me to 1:1 magnification.  After looking at the threads/pictures on this site (love the lens galleries on here!) I was considering the EF 100mm F/2.8 Macro USM.  Understanding that one of the primary differences between the "L" & non-L version is the Hybrid IS and that I use a tripod and light boxes - do you feel that the "L" version will produce noticeably higher quality photographs?  Or am I better off saving a few hundred bucks and getting the non-L version?  I have read several threads on this site on various lenses where they say even with crop bodied cameras the "L" glass provides a higher quality image.   

As I mentioned I have and enjoy the 50mm F/1.8 and looking further into it, the F/1.4 is still priced very reasonably I thought about trading up already.  I know that when shooting wide open these lenses tend to loose sharpness - but would the additional range in F-stop be visually significant enough to entice me/you or would I have to make the jump to the F/1.2 to really get that benefit?

I live in a more rural environment and do enjoy shooting pictures of the outdoors/landscapes/wild critters nearby.  In going about I have found the kit lens a bit lacking in the range I desire.  The wide angle is fine - seldom do I say "gosh I wish I had a wider frame", however without swapping lenses I do frequently say "Dang I wish I had more zoom".  I fully understand that often moving the camera body is the best way to get the shot and I do my best to move as much as I can first.  However that squirrel up in the tree is something I can't exactly climb up to and by the time I grab my 70-300 out of my bag and attach it might be gone.  Also discovering from the knowledge here and online that generally the wider the range the lens covers - the more likely it will have negative effects on image quality at one extreme or the other.  I was considering the EF 28-135 F/3.5-5.6 to cover a greater range for my walk-about lens - however I am open to suggestions.   

I really appreciate any feedback!

DeadPixel

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Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 05:48:37 PM »
For Macro images of gems and jewelry, lighting is a big issue, maybe not so much for insurance purposes, but if you want it to look nice, you need to look into light tents diffusers, etc.

Virtually all Macro lenses are excellent or at least very good, a EF-s 60mm, a 100mm USM or 100mmL, sigma, Tamron, Zeiss, and so on are excellent.  I'd say get a longer focal length to allow room for proper lighting or a light tent, etc.  Some have made a simple light tent from a 1 gallon milk bottle, training lights on both sides to diffues the light, and cutting out the top just enough to make room for the lens.

At any rate, photographing jewelry and coins or other shiny objects is somewhat of a art.

Tijn

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 06:20:47 PM »
A friend of mine just got the non-L 100mm macro, and he's liking it a lot. I think that with your background, the non-L will do just fine for you - especially so since you're using a tripod. It's a ton better than where you came from, and it will probably take a lot of pixel peeping to make out any difference between the L and the non-L.

The 100mm non-L is a very decent lens, and you won't miss out on much other than the IS by skipping the L. I don't think IQ differences between the two are easily noticeable. Bokeh is a tad softer on the L. The L has more chromatic abberation in corners wide open on a fullframe camera than the non-L. Other than that, pretty much the same. Since you don't need IS, I'd save the money for something else. Perhaps something more versatile, like a lens that you would/could keep on most of the time.

The lens you're looking at as a main zoom - the 28-135 - is not very sharp, especially in the corners (nor is it L-grade build quality). The 24-105 f/4L IS USM on the other hand is a great walkaround lens, extremely sharp for a zoom with its range. It's also faster at the short tele end. The only disadvantage on a crop would be the lack of wide angle, which you already stated wouldn't be a problem (and 28mm is worse anyways). If you really consider the 28-135, get the 24-105L instead. You will want to have its babies.
Keep in mind though that on a crop, you will still lack the wide angles. The difference between 18 and 24 is very significant. The relative framing difference between 105 and 135 is much smaller. Play around with framing at 24mm on your current lens, and realise how that as a maximum wide angle would restrict your shots.

However, if you're shooting squirrels, you might just have wanted a telezoom on your body to begin with anyways. 105mm (or 135mm) is still a bit short for a good tele shot. The 70-300mm L lens is quite good; it's very sharp and has a nice wide zoom range. It's not a superfast lens though (f/4 - f/5.6) ('fast' meaning a lens that lets in lots of light. I'm not talking about focus speed). Faster lenses are the 70-200mm's, which come in f/4 and f/2.8 flavors with and without IS. The best one by far is the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (tack sharp), also the heaviest and most expensive by far. In terms of image sharpness, the 70-200 f/4L IS comes next best; but if you're considering that, the increased flexibility offered by the 70-300 f/4-5.6L might be more worthwhile.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 06:33:01 PM by Tijn »

tt

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 06:27:47 PM »
Isn't the 100mm IS version also a great portrait lens? Remember zarias talking about it I think a while back on his blog post about gear.

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 07:17:10 PM »
do you still have both the 70-300 and the 55-250? bit of double up here
you could probably sell the 70-300 to help fund the purchase of the 100 f2.8L macro keep the 250 for longer stuff
its an awesome lens, great for portraits, light, comfortable and very good image quality. It is quite long on a crop body though effectively a 160mm so for -portraits you will be either standing quite far away or shooting very tight and cropped in
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jm345

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2012, 08:08:56 PM »
With a tripod the Canon 100mm macro will do just as well as the newer 100mm Macro L IS for close-ups of very small objects. And it is also a very nice f/2.8 portrait lens.

Your 70-300 IS is a good lens and you'll have to spend quite a bit more to get anything sharper with IS at 300mm.

The 24-105 f/4L IS is probably the best choice for an all purpose walk around lens unless you would consider an EF-S lens. Both the 17-55 f/2.8 IS and 15-85 f/3.5-5.6 IS are excellent.

wickidwombat

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 08:28:44 PM »
Your 70-300 IS is a good lens and you'll have to spend quite a bit more to get anything sharper with IS at 300mm.
I dont think that 70-300 has IS you might be confusing it with the newer L
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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 08:28:44 PM »

Tijn

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2012, 09:12:01 PM »
The EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 (non-L) IS... Does have IS. And there's no 70-300mm without it. You must be thinking of the older 75-300mm.

wickidwombat

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2012, 09:18:36 PM »
The EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 (non-L) IS... Does have IS. And there's no 70-300mm without it. You must be thinking of the older 75-300mm.

ah yeah thats where i got confused
the 55-250 has pretty much got the long end covered anyway, is similar quality and you can sell the 70-300 for more, not much point selling the 55-250 until you sell the crop body as you can probably sell together and make it easier to sell or get more, becasue the 55-250 is a kit lens they dont fetch alot when trying to sell on their own
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Michael_pfh

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2012, 10:02:46 PM »
Several of my friends belong to a local gem club and I take pictures of their collections for insurance purposes/e-bay sales.  I did some stuff previously for them (nothing impressive) with a point and shoot - but would really like to be able to do better.  Some specimens are quite small, so I was looking for a macro lens to get me to 1:1 magnification.  After looking at the threads/pictures on this site (love the lens galleries on here!) I was considering the EF 100mm F/2.8 Macro USM.  Understanding that one of the primary differences between the "L" & non-L version is the Hybrid IS and that I use a tripod and light boxes - do you feel that the "L" version will produce noticeably higher quality photographs?  Or am I better off saving a few hundred bucks and getting the non-L version?  I have read several threads on this site on various lenses where they say even with crop bodied cameras the "L" glass provides a higher quality image.   

If you are planning to use your 100mm Macro only in combination with a tripod and decent lighting provided then go for the non-L, however if you plan to take it along for hiking and exploring places on foot without carrying a tripod around then go for the L. The IS works really well and often makes a real difference between a blurry shot and a clear shot when shooting handheld. Moreover, with IS you can stop down further and still manage to get a clear shot with more detail since the DoF will not be as shallow with a bigger minimum aperture yielding a clear shot without IS.

As usual, I recommend to borrow/rent both lenses and compare them side by side.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 10:07:40 PM by Michael_pfh »
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DeadPixel

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2012, 09:43:21 AM »
Great responses!  Thanks to all! 

Mt Spokane, so far I've used a small light tent and a bunch of 5200 k bulbs in cheap generic clamp holders on both sides and the top.  The results aren't anything I'd enter in a photo contest, but they made my friends happy.  I was surprised how hard it was to take pictures of these things, I thought it'd be much simpler.  At first I tried it without a tent at all and the results were rather poor - another area where I have a lot to learn!

Tijn - I appreciate the feedback on the non-L lens, the trivial difference in image quality is great to know.  I hadn't considered the 24-105L before, I'll have to dig into it more and see how happy I am with 24mm on mine.  I don't normally plan on shooting wild life, but come across it frequently when I'm out and about and can't help but try to get shots of it.

Wickidwombat - Yes I do still have both, I hadn't actually considered already trying to get rid of one of them but you're right they do overlap significantly. 

jm345 - I wouldn’t rule out the EF-S lenses if they will provide me the best experience with my current body since I plan to have it for a few years, perhaps I really should look into the 15-85 more.....  I had been a little leary of it after reading about some chromic aberrations at the extremes of each end and some vignetting at wide open apertures here.  http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-S-15-85mm-f-3.5-5.6-IS-USM-Lens-Review.aspx

Michael_pfh - I hadn't really considered carrying the 100mm out and about with me, I thought it'd be too limiting to do a whole lot with unless I was very far away from my subject.  One fella I know here has the 100mm L and sent me some pictures from it which were quite nice.  Unfortunately when I talked about bringing my body over to his place to try it out he balked for some reason and I didn't press the issue.  I do like your suggestion to try them both side by side - a few times I considered renting a lens (lensrentals and borrowlenses were the two places I looked) but I was a little unnerved by the "fine print" of the rental agreement and didn't go through with it.

I really appreciate your responses!

Any other suggestions?

Tijn

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2012, 12:36:41 PM »
jm345 - I wouldn’t rule out the EF-S lenses if they will provide me the best experience with my current body since I plan to have it for a few years, perhaps I really should look into the 15-85 more.....  I had been a little leary of it after reading about some chromic aberrations at the extremes of each end and some vignetting at wide open apertures here.
Shoot your pictures in RAW format and have them pass through a program called Adobe Lightroom. It has great customizable noise reduction, white balance correction, spot removal, red eye removal, cropping, lens correction etcetera capabilities - basically all post-processing things you might want to do. It's decent and quick to use, and allows for batch processing of files as well.
In this program there are preset lens correction profiles that remove vignetting and chromatic abberation, tailored to whichever specific lens you're using. Chromatic abberation is well removable, and slight vignetting is decently fixable as well. The more important physical properties for a lens are its sharpness and contrast. The 15-85 is very decently sharp. It provides you with great wide angles (that you'd miss on the 24-105) and also some short tele. Again, not enough for portraits of squirrels, but still a very nice lens - more versatile than the 24-105 on a crop camera. The only downside is that it's not a very fast lens (not very big apertures). I personally went for a 17-50 f/2.8 from Tamron as a main zoom lens, because the f/2.8 aperture was more important to me than the zoom range on the 15-85, and the price of the Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS was just too high ($600 more than the Tamron, which is about as sharp). If aperture wasn't my main priority, the 15-85 would definately have become my main walkaround lens on my new 60D, except if I had a great budget. But then again, with a much bigger budget I probably would have gone full-frame.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 12:42:33 PM by Tijn »

girod199

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2012, 01:25:47 PM »
I would also recommend not getting the Canon 28-135mm. I had one that came with my 40D and it was not sharp at all. Also, 28mm is not very wide at all. Even if you don't shoot wide angle you will be disappointed. I sold my 28-135 and I got the Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 non IS. It is a very sharp lens, even at 2.8. Since it is a 2.8 you don't really need IS. It only costs about $400. I couldn't get myself to buy the Canon 17-55 IS for $1000 because that is way too much for an EF-S lens. I also own the Canon 70-200 2.8L and the Tamron is close in sharpness. The autofocus is a little loud but the image quality is worth it. I would really recommend the Tamron 17-50mm. It is light, small, sharp, and inexpensive. I recently upgraded to the 5D Mark II and the only downside of the upgrade is losing this lens. So far that is 2 recommendations for the Tamron so you should try it out!

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2012, 01:25:47 PM »

Positron

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2012, 02:02:32 PM »
I'd also like to chime in against the 28-135. While I don't own it, I have used it before and while the images it puts out are okay, they're simply not great (in my opinion not significantly better than the 18-55 kit zoom), and on a crop body like the T3i, 28mm becomes 45mm, which is long enough that it may leave you feeling restricted even for street photography and group/environmental portraits, to say nothing of landscape and architecture (even if it's not particularly your thing, one of the defining features, I think, of what we call a walk-about lens is its ability to do just about anything on a whim).

I don't know whether the macro or walk-about is more important to you, but if you were considering the 100mm L macro, then the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM isn't too much of a stretch financially. I know you said you're planning to go full frame in a few years (as am I), but a few years is a long time, and the Canon lenses hold their value extremely well (if they didn't, I'd have bought all the lenses I ever wanted used by now...  :P), and if you're serious about practicing photography, it's a lens that won't let you down.

I've also heard good things about the EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, but I've never had an opportunity to use one and the fact that I almost never see people with them or trading them suggests they may be harder to sell when you do upgrade.

If you are set on sticking to only EF lenses, the 24-105L is of course wonderful, but for about the same price as the 17-55 you lose quite a bit in terms of performance on crop (it's also slightly heavier).

For macro, I would say that aside from a macro lens, lights are your friends. They're extemely useful for bringing out fine detail, creating aesthetically pleasing reflections, and whiting- or blacking-out your background. Canon 430EX IIs are nice, but on a budget Yongnuo YN560s can be had for 1/3 the price if you are willing to shoot manual (which is a good idea for product-type macro photography, anyway), and cheap radio flash triggers abound. Strobist is an invaluable blog for learning that type of lighting.

Just to put it into perspective, I don't know exactly how much power those flashes put out, since those figures are rarely published, but just as a for instance, if you were serious about studio product photography you might look into some studio strobes (monolights). The most modest of these run about 160 Ws (watt-seconds) and have flash durations in the realm of let's just call it 1/500 (even though this is maybe a bit generous for a low-end strobe, it makes the math easier).

Time for some dimensional analysis.

160 Watt * second        500
-------------------------   *   -------------  =   80,000 Watts.
1                                       1 second

So you'd need approximately 800 100W light bulbs to produce the same amount of light. Needless to say, a setup like that would both look and cost ridiculous.

Sorry, I seem to be rambling. I just get so excited talking about photography! You sound like you know what you want from your gear, which is more than many people can say, so I think you'll find the right decision even if it takes a little more research or thinking. Have fun shooting!  :)

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2012, 03:03:29 PM »
EF 100mm F/2.8 Macro USM.  Understanding that one of the primary differences between the "L" & non-L version is the Hybrid IS and that I use a tripod and light boxes - do you feel that the "L" version will produce noticeably higher quality photographs?

The L version is /likely/ to be sharper, but not by much.  The difference is insignificant.  Given your intended use it's an absolute non-issue.

Quote
would the additional range in F-stop be visually significant enough to entice me/you or would I have to make the jump to the F/1.2 to really get that benefit?

If you're often shooting wide open then you'll likely find a larger aperture lens more useful.  The f1.4 and f1.2 are a lot nicer to use than the f1.8, mainly because of proper focusing rings.  If going to full frame you'll get thinner depth of field equivalent to about one stop so I'd take this into account when considering an upgrade.

Quote
I was considering the EF 28-135 F/3.5-5.6 to cover a greater range for my walk-about lens - however I am open to suggestions.

I own the Tamron 28-75 f2.8.  28mm is not wide enough on a crop (though 50 or 55mm is also too short).  Your problem of being focal length limited will get worse when you go full frame - that 28-135 you're considering will now be nice and wide but feel a little short.  If you put a high value on quality my advice is to put up with lens swapping and either get closer or get the subjects to come closer.  I know this sounds flippant but it really is good advice! Use bait and perhaps a hide.  Develop a relationship with those squirrels so that they come to you.

Also, consider having the telephoto lens on as the default. Typically anything needing wider angles will be around long enough for you to change lenses etc.

Having advised against taking long range pot-shots at targets a lens worthy of consideration is the Sigma 50-500 OS.  Not wide enough for many purposes but that 500mm gets you real close, whilst 50mm is still a very handy starting focal length for a lens.  I'd rate image quality as okay-to-good rather than excellent, but it's a lens I'd love to own.

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Re: Amateur looking at a Macro, Prime and Walkabout lenses... input please!
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2012, 03:03:29 PM »