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I have just started taking interest in photography and after reading through couple of blogs I decided to purchase Cannon T2i as a beginner camera. It came with 2 lenses

  1. 18-55 (I don't remember rest of the details of this lens)
  2. 70-200 (I believe this is the other one, not sure)

I mostly travel and take pictures of buildings, landscapes, sports mode photography and some portrait shots of friends and family.

I didn't feel anything is missing out of these lenses, (perhaps I didn't know much about photography at that time) but now I have started to realize that my 18-55 isn't helping me much. The issues are:

  1. Taking pictures of buildings at night is really difficult, especially if there is some street light around, etc.
  2. I love taking pictures where background is blurred. Unfortunately, with 18-55 lens, I have very limited angles to make it possible

I'm not sure if I need a new lens. What do you have as a recommendation?

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3  
The best advice I can give is to use the equipment you have until you understand it well enough to make informed knowledge based decisions. Most people either don't like this advice or fail to heed it so they instead want a specific model of lens that they can buy. That is what my answer below suggests(50mm f/1.8 lens). –  dpollitt May 14 '13 at 16:22

4 Answers 4

I would pick up the Canon 50mm f/1.8. This has already been covered at length by multiple other threads here, so take a look at some of these great questions/answers:

The biggest advantage(opinion) that this lens has over your current equipment is the extremely wide aperture of f/1.8. This will allow you to shoot in much lower light, freeze subjects in low light better, and also allow a more shallow depth of field for a "blurry" background.

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On a crop body camera, the 18 to 55mm is really your every day or "standard" zoom range. You might benefit from a slightly longer range, but most likely your biggest gain would be getting a "faster" lens.

When we talk about the speed of a lens we're talking about how wide the aperture (the hole that the light is focused through) can get. The faster a lens, the wider the hole gets. Additionally, the wider the hole is, the shallower your depth of field gets (which lets you get the background blur you want) and the more light it lets in (which helps with your problems with dark shots).

With a camera like the T2i, you'll probably still have some trouble in low light since it's a low end camera, but the nice thing about getting lenses is that even if you decide to upgrade your camera later, you can reuse your existing lenses. (The one exception to this is that EF-S lenses will not work on full frame camera bodies, but unless you plan to get much more in to photography, that is unlikely to be a problem for you.)

So in short, yes, a new, faster lens in the mm range you currently have or even maybe a slightly longer range would help you improve both your background blur and your low light photography and would also be of benefit if you upgrade your camera in the future.

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buildings, landscapes

Then a wide focal length is the ideal, which you already got - 18mm on a T2i (1.6x crop factor) is ~28mm on a full frame. Wider than that and you'll start getting some serious perspective distortion you'd need to correct.

sports mode photography

Then a fast telephoto and good AF is essential. You already have a telephoto, depending on what sports you're shooting and what quality you want to achieve that's all you need. Since you said you're a beginner, unless you have money to spend I don't think it's necessary to get a fast telephoto with a good on-lens AF motor (which would be very expensive).

and some portrait shots of friends and family

Again, you already have a nice focal length range for that. If you want to get better quality on those, get a better glass. 50mm fast prime lenses usually are the best cost-benefit alternative for that.

Taking pictures of buildings at night is really difficult, specially if there is some street light around etc

Instead of a better lens consider getting

  • A better angle
  • A tripod
  • Photoshop if you really really don't want the street lights on the picture

A wider lens might help you there too, but then again there's distortion. A tilt shift is probably the best lens for taking pictures of buildings (specially tall ones), but it's absurdly expensive and require some skills to use. A faster lens might help with the low-light issue, but a tripod is cheaper and better for that (I'm not saying it substitutes a fast lens, I'm just saying it might be best for the OP).

I love taking pictures where background is blurred. Unfortunately, with 18-55 lens, I have very limited angles to make it possible

The most important thing here is the aperture not the focal length. The wider the aperture, the blurrier the background (the shallower the depth of field). A larger format would also provide a shallower depth of field.

To sum things up: I don't think you need a new lens, but if you want to get one, get a fast prime.

  • The AF will probably be better for sports
  • The quality will probably be better than the kit one's
  • It'll make low-light photography easy
  • You already have two zoom lenses
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All EOS compatible EF-mount lenses have on-lens AF motors. –  Michael Clark May 14 '13 at 16:40
    
@MichaelClark - right, I think he was referring to the fact that a cheap EF lens is going to have a cheaper AF motor that isn't going to focus as quickly and high speed accurate focus movement is important for sports photography. –  AJ Henderson May 14 '13 at 16:52
    
Any of the 70-200 EF lenses from Canon have AF that is more than fast enough for sports, and can more than keep up with the focus system on a Rebel T2i body. –  Michael Clark May 14 '13 at 17:00
    
I suspect he has the 55-250, not any of the 70-200s. OP isn't sure about what lenses he has, and the 18-55+55-250 kit is a common one for Rebels. –  Chinmay Kanchi May 14 '13 at 17:48

The everyday lens depends on your subject and, if you suppose that all the subjects you list are everyday subjects, there is no single perfect lens that will fit.

The best compromise I know of is the excellent Canon EF-S 17-55mm F/2.8 IS USM. This one covers the same range as your kit lens except it is significantly sharper and has a much brighter maximum aperture.

When shooting near 55mm you will get a nice shallow depth-of-field with blurry background. Still, if you add $100 you can get a fixed 50mm F/1.8 too which would be even better for portraits and low light photography. For general shooting, the 17-55mm F/2.8 though will be more versatile.

PS: If your camera came with two lenses, the second on is almost always the 55-250mm or 75-300mm which are not as good as any 70-200mm but quite superior to the 18-55mm you have. Therefore, by getting the 17-55mm F/2.8, you will replace your biggest problem with respect to image quality.

PS 2: This will do nothing to improve your photography, only the quality and versatility of your gear. To improve photography, read books, take classes, attend seminars and practice.

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