I bought a Canon 550D months ago, and at that point I chose the 50mm f/1.8 because it was super affordable and quite popular. I must say I've taken some really wonderful photos with it; mostly with some people in them.

I'd like to upgrade to a second lens that has built-in zoom to take wider pictures. For example, when being in Barcelona, I was unable to take a good shot of the Sagrada Familia because the building was not fitting inside my pics.

Also I would like to take some distant landscape.

What would be the best next lens to get that would be great and cheap like the 50mm f/1.8 but serve a different and complementary purpose?

  • 2
    What is your price range?
    – dpollitt
    Nov 9 '11 at 18:59
  • 1
    The Canon EF-S 15-85mm comes to mind for under $800. Other options include 18-135 or 18-200. It all depends on your budget basically. You will not find something that has the image quality of the 50mm f/1.8 in a zoom for under $400 I believe.
    – dpollitt
    Nov 9 '11 at 19:04
  • @dpollitt it seems the budget was expressed in "great and cheap like the 50mm 1.8"
    – Imre
    Nov 9 '11 at 19:15
  • I see that, but the 50mm 1.8 is one of a kind as far as bang for the buck! I guess you could shop used threads or find some older EF lenses.
    – dpollitt
    Nov 9 '11 at 19:30
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of What is a good two lens starter kit
    – dpollitt
    Nov 9 '11 at 19:50

Some logical recommendations by price:

If you want to focus on wide angle shots, you may be interested in the ultra wide angle Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, which would be suited for that type of photography. If you are interested primarily in long distance landscape shots, one of the fine 70-200mm lenses would be a great way to get into that.

To summarize, I think it is important to note that the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens provides a great value or bang for your buck. I am not aware of any other lens that really provides that great value for the money in that price range. You may be able to find something used or second hand that has a great value(utility) to you. The options above are great compliments to the lens you already have, but you have to start to make decisions on what you want out of the next lens, what price range, and what trade offs you are willing to make to achieve that.

  • 1
    thanks so there is no clear answer as the 50mm 1.8 was at the time. I will probably get the 18-135 then.
    – xsace
    Nov 10 '11 at 8:34
  • 2
    I bought the 18-135 lens with my camera and I can't wait to get rid of it. I took some OK shots with it and the only reason I keep it is that I do not have another wide angle lens and cannot afford a better one right now. You will be disappointing because the images from this zoom lens will not come close the those you get from the prime you have. Borrow it first before you buy. Nov 10 '11 at 15:24
  • 1
    thanks for the info. I really need to take more time on this question then. I'm leaning toward the 15-85 atm
    – xsace
    Nov 10 '11 at 16:22
  • The 15-85mm is a great lens. Not quite professional quality, but much better then a standard 18-55 kit lens. It is affordable too.
    – dpollitt
    Nov 10 '11 at 17:07
  • 1
    @xsace Go for the 15-85 or 17-55 if you want a normal every-day walk-round useful zoom lens, but if it's wide angles and architecture you want to shoot consider the 10-22. Tokina do an 11-16 f/2.8 which is somewhat cheaper...
    – Mike
    Jun 19 '12 at 7:34

You mention that you're looking for something with zoom, and @dpollitt gives some logical recommendations there. Be aware, though, that excepting the most expensive suggestion, these are all quite slow variable aperture zooms, and debates about zoom-vs-prime image quality aside, will generally not share a lot of handling characteristics with your 50mm. So, if you really like using your 50mm and want something to complement it, you may want to consider a prime lens of a different focal length.

It's true that the particular lens you have is an amazing bargain and there aren't other offerings quite like it. However, Canon offers a full range of lower-range fast prime lenses (in addition to very expensive models which we won't discuss here). Of these, several are the logical next step:

Like the 50mm, these lenses are generally well-regarded for the price. 35mm/50mm/85mm completes a classic trilogy of prime lenses — a typical "complete set" before zoom was common.

On a 1.6× crop-factor SLR like the Canon 550D, the 50mm acts as a short portrait prime (as I think you've noticed, from your description). The 85mm is in the same general class, but for tighter shots (for example, portraits featuring just the face). You could also use it for some of those landscape details (although it is not a super-telephoto by any means).

The 35mm is closer to the "classic normal" field of view of a 50mm on a film or full-frame camera. And 28mm is actually even closer to the "true normal", which is equal to the diagonal measurement of your camera's sensor. (In addition to the f/2.8 version I've linked above, for about twice the price there's also the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM, which I'd also seriously consider.)

The 24mm gives you another classic favorite field of view, and is also well regarded for its price and size/weight. And, as the widest of the lenses I've listed, it might best fit your desire to fit more into your photographs. You can get lenses that go wider than that (24mm on 1.6× is not very wide angle), but price-for-image-quality starts to go up exponentially.

  • 1
    wow really interesting answer, that's definitely going to fuel my thinking.
    – xsace
    Nov 10 '11 at 13:30
  • 1
    @xsAce: More fuel for that line of thought: The Case Against Zooms :)
    – mattdm
    Nov 10 '11 at 13:42
  • I think your answer is better then mine. If he really wants to stay in the same mindset and keep price/performance ratio in line, a prime would be the way again. I was just going the zoom route after he mentioned wanting wide AND tele for his 2nd lens. Only a zoom would suit both.
    – dpollitt
    Nov 10 '11 at 14:24
  • Well I'm an amateur, I don't like to travel with a lot of lenses, so a zoom would reduce what I carry with me, and avoid to perform the lens switch which I feel unconfortable with. On a side note, if 35mm/50mm/85mm is the classic trilogy, Why is there no 35-85mm zoom that would fullfill most of the needs?
    – xsace
    Nov 10 '11 at 14:56
  • 1
    @xsAce — well, actually, the standard kit lens is 18-55mm, which covers almost exactly that range of field of view on a 1.6× crop DSLR. Unlike the classic lenses, especially at the long end, the maximum aperture is quite restricted (f/5.6 vs f/1.8!), which in theory is partly made up for by the increased high-ISO flexibility of modern DSLRs.
    – mattdm
    Nov 10 '11 at 15:09

Also think about the Canon EF-S 10-22 - a very good lens, and you'll have a lot of fun with it due to the extreme wide angle. It will work very good for landscapes. Note it won't work on full frame if you think about upgrading soon.

Not a zoom, and a completely different lens is the Canon EF 85/1.8. It's one of my favorite lenses. I suggest this lens because perhaps you like the shallow DOF of the 50/1.8. With the 85/1.8 you'll probably make even better portraits and the lens is much better built. Watch out for a used one, they don't cost that much compared to others.

It's near impossible to find the "best" lens unless you decide what is more important for you (I know, that's difficult to decide at the beginning). In terms of quality, prime lenses are usually the best, but a zoom lens is more flexible.

I suggest to get a universal zoom lens like a 18-200 superzoom or a less extreme zoom to start. It will allow you to shoot a very wide range of focal lengths and is great for simple situations, where it's more important that you have the right framing instead of having a stunning bokeh. If you continue to enjoy photography, you will for sure buy more lenses and perhaps then you'll have a better feeling for the focal lengths you need.

Anyway, it greatly depends on your own shooting style and interests. If you don't have a specific preference yet (like "want to make great landscapes and some beautiful portraits in candlelight and perhaps do some sports photography"), start with a universal lens, i.e. a zoom.


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