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Canon Lens Recommendations
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

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Introduction

If you're reading this page you most likely may skip directly to "Normal."

This page has my suggestions for the common 1.6x factor, APS-C sized cameras, which are the 20D, 30D and Rebels.

The slight gotcha is that Canon makes digital and film cameras in three different formats.

Except for the tele suggestions, most of these won't work on the professional 1.3x, APS-H sized cameras, which are the 1D series, nor will any but these teles work on Canon's film cameras and full-frame digital cameras like the 5D and 1Ds Mk II. For these cameras, the handiest wide lens is the 17-40mm or the fatter 16-35mm f/2.8.

The EF-S series of lenses only works on the 1.6x factor, APS-C sized cameras, which are the 20D, 30D and Rebels. You must use only traditional EF lenses on the others.

Normal

Even if you own twenty Canon lenses you're still going to want a mid-range zoom like the 18-55mm or 17-85mm IS for your new digital camera.

This is because the 1.6x focal length magnification effect of these digital cameras makes a 24-135mm lens you might already own only as wide as a 40mm lens, which isn't wide.

Likewise, even if you own the 16-35mm lens it's equivalent to a 26 - 56mm lens, not much of a zoom range. Thus for a real mid zoom you need one of these new special lenses that start very short and zoom out reasonably far. The 18-55mm is similar to a 29-88mm on a 35mm film camera and the 17-85mm IS is similar to a 27-136mm on a 35mm film camera.

The 18-55mm lens only adds $100 to most packages and I'd get it even if you already own a slew of film lenses. Personally I'd get that one since I already own and usually use either my ultrawide digital zoom or tele zoom and rarely a mid-zoom. If I often used a medium lens I'd go for the more expensive 17-85mm IS because it has a broader zoom range, faster speed at the long end and image stabilization (IS). IS does a great job of eliminating blur from hand shake. It allows sharp photos in bad light without a tripod so long as the subject is still.

See Why IS Matters for examples.

Wide

The bad news is that if you want a genuinely wide lens on any common Canon DSLR you're going to have to pay $800.

Lenses starting at 17 mm on DSLRs are the same as 28mm lenses on 35mm film cameras, so I don't consider them as wide.

The only wide zoom from Canon for DSLRs is the 10-22mm that goes for about $800. It's head and shoulders better than the off-brand $500 lenses. See my Wide Angle Lens Comparison.

Tele

The in expensive Canon 75-300mm USM (about $180) is fine for most normal people. I'd get that if you have to ask.

All the serious photographers I know have the 100-400mm IS (about $1,500) and love it for wildlife use.

For indoor sports and concerts, you'll want an f/2.8 zoom. Get the f/2.8 70-200mm zoom (about $1,200). It's obviously a professional lens.

I'm addicted to Image Stabilization (IS) for still lifes in dim light, but IS doesn't help for sports. The 70-200mm f/2.8 IS goes for about $1,700 if you're interested.

The f/4 lenses are great; however I suggest if you're buying this lens for the purpose of indoor and night use that you'll want to go all the way (in weight and expense) for an f/2.8, or simply be happy with the slower (f/4-5.6) Canon 75-300mm USM.

PLUG

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me write more.

Thanks for reading!

Ken

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