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The story never gets old:

I was given a Canon 500D camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. Later I was also given a Tamron AF 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) Macro with Canon mount. As they say "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" be happy you got it. This is a good starting kit and I have fun and enjoy using this gear.

However, I'm starting to see some limitations as my skill increases:

  • not wide enough
  • soft on the end
  • slow on focus

I'm looking for long term investment in lenses that will be "beneficial" to my landscape photography. I came up with two sets of "combos" of lenses that I think would complement each other for given set:

  1. First option:
  2. Second option:

Personally, I'm inclined towards second set that has wider aperture, they more closely mirror my current set despite the higher price tag. I'm covered at long end (100-300mm) as I got myself Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM that I use for wildlife.

EDIT: Since I wrote this question things had changed. I can confirm for these that maybe in similar situation that I was back in time I use now following equipment. Moved from Canon 500D to Canon 7D, bought 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM (expensive piece, but love it) and 70-200mm f/4L IS USM (as it is lighter then f/2.8)

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6  
Don't you think 24mm will be a bit narrow (especially on a cropped sensor) for landscape photography if you choose set 2 ? –  David Oct 28 '11 at 9:31
    
Thank you all for enlightening comments. Shame I cannot mark multiple posts as answer, never the less all deserved up-vote. However the answer can be only one which in this case goes @drewbenn and his links with analysis apps. –  peter_budo Nov 1 '11 at 11:57

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'm going to focus on the focal length range here, not the IQ, aperture, or AF-speed aspects, or anything else for that matter.

Set one gives you 17-105, while set two gives you 24-200. Those are very different, both on the wide end (41%) and on the long end (48%). I'd suggest reading What software can show my most frequently used focal length? to see which might be better for you.

Two more suggestions for landscape photography:

I'd also like to point out that you don't necessarily need to have a "set" of lenses that complement each other. For example, I have a big gap in my lenses, from 55-100mm, because I rarely take pictures in those focal lengths. Also, since you already have 18-400mm covered, you might get more value by looking at lenses outside that range, so that your new lenses allow you to take pictures that you can't take now.

Some general advice which may or may not be applicable to you: I think it's best to take a lot of photos (at least 1,000). After you do that, if you analyze your favorite photos you'll have a very good idea of how your equipment is limiting you and you'll be better able to zero in on which lenses will most help you. Once you've done that, you will be the best judge of what lenses are best for you.

Finally, to try to actually answer your question: I wouldn't take either of those sets. The wider one isn't wide enough (for the pictures that I like to take), and the longer one isn't long enough (for the pictures that I like to take). I'd pick up that 10-24, along with the prime or zoom lens which best fits your own requirements for focal length range, IQ, maximum aperture, and price range.

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+1 for comment and suggestions –  peter_budo Oct 28 '11 at 14:11

A friend of mine has the EF-S 15-85. It is a fine lens; good range, sharp and great contrast. To elaborate just a bit, for me the contrast and sharpness are important in any lens, and are not a given across the board even with Canon's excellent reputation. The 15-85 has a great range (24mm - 136mm 35mm sensor equiv) providing a good wide angle w/o much if any barreling and the ability to zoom in from a distance. Prime lenses (which I use to use) are great, but having to change is kind of a hassle and takes time. I found the picture quality for this particular lens to be really good (like L class) and the zoom range to be very close to ideal. I know it's a bit of a subjective point of view but that's part of it, no?

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2  
Combined with the 100-400, it might be a good choice. The lens has been discussed in greater depth here: What's wrong with the Canon EF-S 15-85mm? –  Imre Oct 31 '11 at 5:41
1  
It is another EF-S in the bag, which I'm not keen to take on. I maybe silly, but maybe in the future I will get full frame (they may become more affordable, more common, or I will become pro photographer) –  peter_budo Oct 31 '11 at 7:25
    
Jottos - Can you elaborate why think this would be a great lanscape lens, and what makes it a great landscape lens? Many lenses have a good range, are sharp and have great contrast. –  dpollitt Nov 1 '11 at 0:34
    
FTR, I just approved an anonymous edit to this post which appeared to be made by @jottos, but I have no way of knowing. If it wasn't you, please feel free to revert. –  mattdm Nov 3 '11 at 19:10

I would recommend going with a third option, which is very similar to the two options you outlined.

  1. Canon EF 17-40 mm f/4.0 L USM
  2. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM
  3. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L IS USM

Landscape photographers start out thinking that they need the widest possible focal lengths to get the "most in the frame", but this is usually very difficult to do well, and not what you want many times. A landscape photographer will find a 70-200mm lens just as useful and required as part of a kit as a 17mm lens.

You should keep in mind that this set includes lenses that are compatible with full frame as well as crop sensor cameras such as you 500D camera. Other options are available, such as the following:

  1. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
  2. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L IS USM

This set would provide a f/2.8 with image stabilization and a nice focal length for landscape photos of 17-55. Along with of course the 70-200mm lens.

As you pointed out, the 100-400mm that is great for wildlife is already in your bag, this kind of negates the suggestion to even purchase the 70-200, but I am trying to generalize this answer for all landscape photographers.

You can substitute any of the 70-200mm options depending on your budget, they are all fantastic lenses and offer trade-offs based on price, aperture, build, sealing, stabilization, etc.

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+1 for your comment and advice David. –  peter_budo Oct 28 '11 at 22:07

Since you already have a good telephoto for wildlife you could also go with something like the Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. I don't personally own the lens but the reviews are very positive and it has many of the "L" class attributes. You will get a much wider angle then with the 17-40mm which at least in my humble opinion is essential for landscape. True, it is not too fast but you could also a get a fast macro prime say 80 or a 100mm to compensate for that but you which would also allow you to shoot great macros of flowers, insects, etc.

Although a nice lens, I think the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM is meant to be coupled with a full frame where it would be comparable to roughly a 18-55mm lens on your camera. As someone already mentioned on a cropped sensor it would be a bit too narrow. If you want an upgrade for your 18-55mm kit lens then consider the excellent but expensive Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM or the much cheaper but reportedly almost as good Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM

Lastly all this depends on the type of landscape photography you shoot. Personally I use tripod for every landscape shot so having a fast lens is not as important.

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I'm currently renting the Canon EFS 17-55 and Tamron 17-50, both f/2.8 and IS/VR. If peter_budo is in the states, he could do likewise! –  khedron Oct 30 '11 at 2:07
    
@khedron I'm in London –  peter_budo Oct 30 '11 at 9:02
    
@peter_budo: Ah, okay. A quick search turns up a couple of options, along with camera forums asking this question & getting responses, so hopefully that's still a possibility for you. (I just can't speak personally for the companies involved.) –  khedron Oct 30 '11 at 15:22
    
Should have given the 15-85 the thumbs up here –  jottos Oct 31 '11 at 3:29
    
I won't vote you down, but I wouldn't recommend the 15-85: other than the 24mm-equivalent focal length I don't think this is a very good lens. I rented one for a week or so, and enjoyed it and got some good pictures, but it certainly isn't L-class build quality and there is a lot of distortion for the price. I rented it from LensRentals, and I think that "Roger's Take" at lensrentals.com/rent/canon/lenses/wide-angle/… is pretty accurate. If it's better for you than an ultrawide+walkaround then go for it, but it's just not a great lens. –  drewbenn Oct 31 '11 at 6:48

you are indeed going in the wrong direction. You're assuming just replacing your existing glass with more expensive versions will improve your photography, it won't. Figure out what you really need in focal length, THEN find the optimal cost/capability tradeoff for your budget that offers that focal length (or range).
Seeing my own photography, the majority of landscape work I do with either a 20mm or 35mm Nikkor, but there are some shots that needed a 500mm to work. It's simply impossible for most people to have that entire range in highest quality glass, and I don't even try (though I get pretty close, it took me over 15 years to collect it all to where I now have (semi-)professional glass all the way from 10 to 400mm).

Be honest with yourself, decide where your focus in your photography will be and then decide what optics to buy to best cover that. The rest can come later, and you may find you'll rarely use those other lenses after you buy them. Always remember that the image is what counts, not the gear that produced it.
My last trip, which yielded several hundred pretty good photos, was mostly shot using only a 20mm f/2.8 and a 35mm f/2 Nikkor. I had 2 other lenses with me, but in the final selection those two lenses only counted for about 5% of the shots included (when they'd counted for about 20% of the total shots produced).
I obviously can't determine whether the same would be true for you (and it's not always true for me, there are periods when my 70-200 doesn't leave my camera for weeks on end), but it does show you should examine your needs carefully before spending money.
If your needs are like mine, get the 70-200, a 20mm, a 35mm, and maybe a 50mm or 60mm macro lens and you've got all your bases covered. I'd recommend 70, 105, 150, and 200mm primes but that set would be way too cumbersome and expensive compared to the zoom which is almost as good optically (whereas the lower focal length primes are lightweight, relatively cheap, and typically optically far superior to zooms in the same range).
But as I said, first do an honest analysis of what focal lengths you're really going to be using, and focus on those first before spending money on gear that'll just be gathering dust in years to come.

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+1 for comment and suggestions –  peter_budo Oct 28 '11 at 14:12

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