Forgotten in its old age

by Aditya

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So here's my story. I bought a used Canon Rebel on ebay thinking I would like to have a NICE camera for taking my kids' pictures and maybe a few for my friends. Well it turns out I love taking pictures and have been asked quite a few times to take newborn shots, family portraits and more.

I only have the kit lens 18-55, and I did purchase a 50mm 1.8 that I used ALL the time, but it dropped and broke yesterday. :( I enjoyed the "nifty fifty" so my question is if I should replace it, upgrade to the 1.4, or go for a different lens completely? Do I strictly look at CANON brand only? Or are there other compatible lenses that are better? I LOVE the bokeh and sharpness look.

My son turns 4 soon and starts tee-ball, so I also was maybe thinking about purchasing a nice zoom lens for just that. Any and all recommendations/advice would be greatly appreciated! THANKS!!

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Was there anything particular you didn't like about that lens? Its tough to beat that lens at that price point. –  rfusca Apr 2 '12 at 4:20
    
Hello, if you could tell us your budget, it'd help us suggesting something appropriate. As you already know lenses can be as cheap as 100$ and as costly as 10,000$ despite having their own positive and negative sides. –  fahad.hasan Apr 2 '12 at 4:47
    
Obviously I am not looking to spend $1000 on a lens, but willing to spend $100-$400, if I knew it was worth the extra money. When I used the 50mm 1.8, I loved it way more than the kit lens, but always felt it could have been a little sharper. I don't know if it was my fault with the focusing part as I am still learning, but I did indeed like it. Is the upgrade to the 1.4 worth the extra money? To Pat, would you recommend the 17-55 zoom lens for sports shots? –  user9257 Apr 2 '12 at 5:22
    
It wasn't sharper because the subject wasn't properly in focus, or for other reasons (it might be worth asking another question, "why isn't this picture sharper," and including a sample or two, and including the settings you used)? You can't see the actual depth of field through your viewfinder when the lens is wider than about f/2.8: you might need to use LiveView to focus properly. –  drewbenn Apr 2 '12 at 6:22
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possible duplicate of Should a telephoto zoom be my next lens after the kit lens? –  mattdm Apr 2 '12 at 12:19

6 Answers 6

To start, I would most certainly replace your 50mm lens - if you can, with the f/1.4 version. I have it on a crop-sensor body, and it's fantastic.

As for an alternate lens, you couldn't do better than the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. Nice and fast through the whole range, this will serve you well as an every-day walk around lens. It has all the aspherical and UD elements of its big brothers and is really L series quality in an EF-S body

For the Tee-ball (I really don't know what this is but assume a sport of some kind) you will want a slightly longer lens. A good one to start with would be the EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM. It's one of the sharpest zooms Canon makes, and is a good chunk cheaper than the f/2.8 version.

Just my 2c worth :)

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T-ball is baseball, but instead of having a pitcher throw the ball to the batter, the ball is placed on a tee for the batter to swing at. It's for little kids, so they can play baseball without needing the hand-eye coordination and dexterity needed to hit a ball being thrown at them. –  drewbenn Apr 3 '12 at 17:19

Since you enjoyed the 50mm f1.8 so much I suggest you first consider replacing it. Another 50mm f1.8 would obviously be a fine replacement. What aperture do you typically shoot at? If you're often using it wide open (f1.8) or at other fast apertures, you might appreciate the f1.4 version: it's obviously a little faster still and will be a bit better at wide apertures. On the other hand, if you're often shooting at f4-8, I bet the 1.8 is a perfect replacement for you.

I think a longer lens is going to be essential for shooting your son playing t-ball. With your 18-55mm set at 55mm, try framing him from 10, 20, 30 feet away and I bet you'll see he doesn't fill the frame very well. You won't always be able to get so close to him to get a good shot, so the telephoto zoom is really your best bet.

Will your son be playing t-ball during the bright daylight hours, or will it get into dusk, under lights? I assume during the day, but it's still worth pointing out that you will want to be sure you have enough light to capture him adequately. Will a slow f4-5.6 zoom let you get a fast enough shutter speed to capture him so that he's not just a blur? The answer is probably "yes," but some practice and experimentation before purchasing might be in order.

There's a few different telephoto zooms in your price range from Canon (and other manufacturers), though I don't have experience with any of those current models. However, if you like working with prime lenses like the 50mm and you want/need something faster, the 85mm f1.8 and 100mm f2 might be good options that fit in your price range.

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If the t-ball league ( :-) ) plays outdoors, the EF-S 55-250 seems like the best & cheapest option for you. It won't have the same low-light performance as the 50 f/1.8, of course, but it's well within your price range. I use it for taking pictures of birds outside my window. You can track prices here: canonpricewatch.com/product/01168/… –  khedron Apr 3 '12 at 23:47

I started with the kit, and picked up the Canon 50mm F1.4. I love it and it was under $500. Not as cheap as the $100 F1.8, but a better lens.

Of course, if you plan on dropping it, you should just get the F1.8 and plan on buying a couple of them over the next years.

I also have the 17-55 F2.8 zoom, and I love it. Having the wide angle is great for indoor shots.

For T-ball, I'd just get the standard "kit" 70-300mm or maybe the 55-200, each are inexpensive, under $500. Lots of folks swear by the higher quality lenses, like the 70-200 F4, but it doesn't have IS (image stabilization) and that is key for a lot of photographers.

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70-200 f/4 have the highest image quality among all the lenses you have listed in your answer. And for shooting action, IS wont do you any good, you'll need faster shutter speed as well as faster focus-speed and accuracy. –  fahad.hasan Apr 2 '12 at 4:45
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@ShutterBug IS still helps, especially when trying to keep an outfielder framed properly while handholding. I agree with everything else you said, though. –  drewbenn Apr 2 '12 at 6:15
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True, you need IS for tracking your subject better in the viewfinder, but around 200mm its not much of an issue, unless you're doing macro. And also, a monopod helps :) –  fahad.hasan Apr 2 '12 at 6:43
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@PatFarrell :: There has been a lot of confusion about IS and people these days think its impossible to live without one. While IS is a very nice to have feature, it is not a must and simply does not matter for sports. I often turn off IS in order to save battery and I dont need to turn it on as often as I thought. The IS in the 55-250mm or the 70-300mm do not make them a better lens for shooting sport just because they have IS and 70-200mm does not. –  fahad.hasan Apr 3 '12 at 1:06
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@PatFarrell :: I am just saying that for shooting sports, IS do not matter and should not be the deciding factor. Also, I did not find any offensive tone in my first comment, but that said, I am not a native English speaker, sorry if I've offended without knowing. –  fahad.hasan Apr 3 '12 at 1:11

It all comes down to how much you want to spend. Obviously there are diminishing returns the more you spend. The 50mm f/1.4 costs 3.5 to 4x as much as the nifty fifty, but it isn't necessarily 4x as "good", but still a lot better. I started with the f/1.8 and moved to the f/1.4. Combined with a good filter it can really make for gorgeous photographs, especially portraits; I love it. A decent external flash is also a very important investment. It's just a matter of how much cash you are willing to part with.

As for zooms, the new kit 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 is quite sharp and extremely affordable. The 17-55 f/2.8 costs about 5x as much, and again isn't necessarily 5x better, but still extremely sharp, versatile, and pretty good in low light. The 15-85 f/3.5-5.6 is worth checking out, but a little pricey. I always recommend photozone.de for their reviews. But the bottom line is that virtually all lenses are at least "pretty good" - it just comes down to what you want to spend.

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I gotta chime in here. I recently purchased a Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 to replace my canon kit lens and couldn't be happier. For a little less than $500 I got an outstanding general purpose lens that works well for portraits, action, zooming, landscape, you name it. A very good walking around lens that for its price range I think delivers very well. I also have a T2i and if you're a 'prosumer' like me I don't think you can get a better configuration. However, obviously if you want super de duper sharpness you'd probably want another f/1.4 nifty fifty, but you're limited in what shots you can get (you mentioned your son's t-ball and you gotta have a zoom lens for sure!) It's not the fastest lens but a fast zoom lens is going to set you back WAY more than you're looking to spend.

Technically speaking, this lens delivers nice bokeh, doesn't suffer a lot of vignetting or distortion problems (at least it hasn't been a problem for me!) and has a good heavy, sturdy feel to it (tho it is definitely WAY heavier than the 18-55 kit lens...something you gotta get used to....long shoots your wrist WILL get sore if you're not used to it).

This lens has gotten me AMAZING wedding photos, so much so that a wedding company has asked me to do ALL of their beach weddings, so you can't get much more endorsement than that! Good luck, hope this helps.

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If you are looking to replace the 50mm, I would suggest the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. It gives you an additional stop of light as well as offering a more natural field of view, it's roughly the equivalent of the 50mm mounted to a full frame sensor.

For a t-ball lens, I recently picked up a used 70-200 f/4 L, which is a fantastic sports lens as long as you are outside in good light.

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What's the price range on that 30mm? –  huzzah Apr 6 '12 at 15:40
    
$400-$450. There is a similar Canon, the 28mm f/1.8, but it's not quite as nice and usually costs a little more. It would be nice if there was a low-cost, fast EF-S prime around 30mm, but unfortunately there's not. –  cadmium Apr 6 '12 at 16:40
    
That's about the same cost then of the Canon 50mm f/1.4. Not bad, but I think I'd rather stick with the Canon nifty fifty as a portrait lens (I don't have a full frame sensor). –  huzzah Apr 6 '12 at 17:42
    
It's hard to beat a $99 lens (or whatever it's up too now). It's a great lens for the price, but I often found it claustrophobic indoors. I use my 30mm much more often than I did my 50mm and the extra stop is pretty nice. But at almost 4x the cost, it's a tough sell. –  cadmium Apr 6 '12 at 19:14

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