Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I have my first solo wedding gig coming up and I'd love recommendations for almost any lens (under $1500, preferably) to go on my 7D. My Sigma wide-angle is basically no longer usable. I have some macro lenses, a tele that goes to 300mm, an 85mm portrait lens, and plans to pick up a 35mm or 50mm (I'll have these on a second body throughout the wedding).

That being said, what are my best options for the wide-angle/mid-range main lens? The Canon 24-70 2.8 and the 24-105 4L are the most obvious choices, but I do realize they're not super wide for a cropped camera. What are other good choices for sharp photos and stunning color? The wedding is outside, so having no IS is not a huge issue. Also, it's a fairly small wedding, so I don't need a whole lot of reach. I'd prefer to stay away from Sigma and Tamron since I've had trouble with them before, but I'm open to suggestions. If you've worked with any of these lenses before or have suggestions for a good, reliable investment, I could use the help. I realize this is fairly common question area, but I've been researching and can't seem to come to any conclusions, and I need to make a purchase this week to account for the learning curve. Thanks!

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I'm not sure why you added "it's a fairly small wedding, so I don't need a whole lot of reach". If the wedding included 3 people total, you would still want reach. –  dpollitt Jul 25 '11 at 20:07
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This entire question worries me a great deal! –  dpollitt Jul 25 '11 at 20:10
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What are the plans in case it will rain? Would your tele lens be fast enough for low-light indoor shots? –  Imre Jul 25 '11 at 20:53
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Good question, and yes, I have enough other lenses to make sure I'm okay if it rains. Still, I'm attracted to the reach of the 24-70 or 24-105 vs. the 15-55 so that I don't necessarily have to switch out. –  c3peat Jul 25 '11 at 21:03
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@c3peat: whats 15-55mm? I dont think theres any... –  fahad.hasan Jul 26 '11 at 7:16

5 Answers 5

On crop sensor cameras such as the 7D, 60D, etc Canon only makes one lens that really fits the bill. The Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS is the bread and butter of this range. Many full frame photographers keep a crop sensor camera around just to be able to use a lens with IS in this range, with this aperture, on a zoom. The 24-70mm f/2.8 L is the closest comparison, but it is obviously for full frame bodies if you consider the focal length, but it does not have IS as the 17-55 does.

I would look at the 17-55mm, and add a fast prime in the 35-50 range. That, along with a 70-200mm of some kind, is really the kit that you need to shoot a wedding.

A great place to start is the-digital-pictures's list of recommended wedding photography lenses. It is hard to argue with any of the selections on this list.

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+1 I agree, the 17-55 IS is probably the best lens for that type of work on a cropped sensor. The optics on that lens are excellent...I'm surprised its not L-series (does canon just not make L-series lenses for cropped sensors??) I'd give you two upvotes for mentioning TDP reviews if I could...such an excellent site! –  jrista Jul 25 '11 at 20:15
    
You are correct, Canon does not give any EF-S (crop sensor only) lens the L-series designation. Despite the fact that many professionals rely on this lens for wedding photography work. In practice, it varies little from L-series lenses, but it does not have weather sealing or come with a lens hood. –  dpollitt Jul 25 '11 at 20:18
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My worry is that once I decide to upgrade to a full frame, I'd have less use for the 17-55. Still, a very good lens to consider. Perhaps renting is better at this point, though this would be a good, reliable lens. –  c3peat Jul 25 '11 at 20:34
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Yes, the EF-S lenses such as the 17-55 do not work on full frame cameras. For the most part, Canon lenses increase in value, I would not underestimate the size of the market that purchases EF-S lenses. Canon is clearly dedicated to this line, and many professionals find the 7D and its predecessors to be more then adequate for professional use. If you play the "may upgrade some day" game, you will be purchasing a kit that is not optimal for your current body, or you will grossly overspend. Overall, the 17-55 is fantastic, and worth it even if you have to sell at a loss someday. –  dpollitt Jul 25 '11 at 21:02

The Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 is probably your best. It is bright enough to throw out distracting backgrounds out of focus and will help you avoid missing shots compared to prime lenses where you either have to change lenses often or move yourself faster.

Canon makes a nice 17-55mm F/2.8 which is within your budget and I normally recommend as a general-purpose lens but I think the 24-70mm suits weddings better. You have to remember that since you primary subjects are people, wide-angle are actually not flattering. So, to get more in you will get better results if you can move yourself back. The 70mm end, on your cropped-sensor DSLR is also excellent for portraits.

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I disagree. I believe the 17-55mm is exactly the range you need for a wedding, and the addition of IS over the 24-70 is a great benefit. The 24-70mm is THE lens to have on full frame for weddings, for many of the same reasons the 17-55 makes sense on crop sensors. –  dpollitt Jul 25 '11 at 20:05
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I tend to agree with dpollitt here...on a 5DII, the 24-70 is ideal, but the OP mentioned a 7D, which has a crop sensor. I think the 17-55 offers a better focal range, and the IS is an extremely handy added bonus. –  jrista Jul 25 '11 at 20:12
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+1 - I'd rather a bit more on the longer end, for the fact that it makes a good portrait without switching lenses. Unless, you're rocking a 70-200 2.8 on your other body (which it doesn't sound like he is). –  rfusca Jul 25 '11 at 20:33
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Actually, depending on the situation, a 24-70/2.8 sounds like it could very well be the way to go. I have a 28-70/2.8 which is my first choice lens for when I can use both hands for the camera. It's slightly long indoors, particularly on a crop sensor, but outdoors, it's great. Combine it with a 70-200 and a fast prime, and you should be good to go. Yes, I use a crop body (EOS 50D). –  Michael Kjörling Jul 26 '11 at 8:20

Two bodies is a great way to ensure you're ready for photo opportunities. If you do not need reach, and assuming that both of your bodies are crop, I suggest 24-105 and 17-40.

The 17-40 is an excellent and relatively inexpensive lens. On a 7D is gives you enough headroom for group shots while still offering a reasonably natural perspective for dynamic portraits on the long end.

If you are expecting low light levels, or would like more creaminess at f/2.8 the 24-70 is exellent and on a 7D the range is ideal for portraits (though the additionally flattened perspective of the 24-105 is even better, at the cost of a stop).

Ultimately, it is up to the kind of style you are seeking to achieve. If a photojournalistic b/w look, all you need is a 35 or 50. If you anticipate a lot of candids, then 70-200 on a 7D would be great.

If renting a lens is a possibility - do it. Don't buy a lens for just one gig, or based on its requirements.

Has the client stated a preference for the kind of images they want?

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If you're looking to do more wedding photography I'd suggest you buy the second body and rent the lenses. –  ElendilTheTall Jul 25 '11 at 19:54
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Did he say he's doing it on a single body? In fact, I thought the opposite.."I'll have these on a second body " –  rfusca Jul 25 '11 at 19:55
    
Unless the original question changed, it sounds like the poster already has a second body. –  dpollitt Jul 25 '11 at 19:57
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I do have a second body already, no worries. –  c3peat Jul 25 '11 at 20:12
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My fault, sorry. Too much, nor not enough coffee. –  ishmaiel Jul 25 '11 at 20:45

For outdoor shooting you don't need a fast lens. If you want wide and medium tele, I guess Canon EF-S 15-85mm is your best option. Its surprisingly sharp and its IQ is on par with any L glass. Its true that a lot of other canon lenses reach upto 85mm but none of them goes down to 15mm. Its not very expensive (around 750$) and not very cheap either. It has top notch IS, FTM, USM, non rotating front and more or less all latest technologies by Canon to date. Its highly rated in The-Digital-Picture.com (click to see their review), well built, and not a pain to carry around for long. Also you can use this lens and forget about using a 2nd body (unless you want more reach).

Only down side I can see is the variable aperture f/3.5-5.6 but as you'll be shooting outdoor, it wont be a problem. Even indoor weeding photographers here use this paired with a good flash. EDIT: Variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6 also means less shallow DOF (comparing to something having constant f/2.8).

I'd suggest you compare the ISO crops of this lens against any other (even an L) lens before making the decision.

Downvoters, please read the reviews for this lens and check the links I've provided before downvoting this answer! :D

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"Fast" is not only about exposure time, it's also about depth of field and (sometimes) optical quality, particularly at large apertures. In an outdoors wedding photography situation, I likely wouldn't care much about exposure time (that's likely to be fast enough anyway), but I certainly would care about DoF. –  Michael Kjörling Jul 26 '11 at 8:23
    
I know. He has a second body and 85mm portrait lens for that purpose. 15-85 is optically very good and I've mentiond it's downside of having variable aperture which directly relates to DOF. I'll edit my answer to mention it clearly. Thanks. –  fahad.hasan Jul 26 '11 at 12:04
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I agree with Michael. I wouldn't pick up a lens above f/2.8 for a wedding. Not just for the DOF, but for indoor low light shots WITHOUT a flash. f/5.6 for a wedding, good luck! If you are buying a lens to take ONE outdoor wedding, you should be renting. I agree f/3.5-5.6 is fine for outdoor use on occasion, but you should think longer term, invest a bit more, and get the 17-55mm f/2.8 instead. –  dpollitt Jul 28 '11 at 13:36

I know its slightly above the price-range mentioned, but I am surprised nobody threw the Canon 16-35mm/2.8 out there. It is about $1700 but its fast, well-made and useful range on both crop and full sensor cams. I personally live by the 24-70, but I'll probably be adding that lens to my collection ASAP. I've shot with it numerous times and love the range/quality of the photos (on full or crop frame sensor). Hope this helps.

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