I was able to get a great deal on the Canon EOS 60D body and now I have to buy myself a suitable quality lens.

Unfortunately my order was later revoked so no great deal for me. Will have to continue searching. but lens selection is still valid even though I didn't get the camera.

I don't want to buy the cheap low quality 18-55 that can be purchased for low money because that wouldn't make too much sense. Before I get enough money to also buy a decent lens like Canon 17-55 IS, Canon 15-85 IS or at least Canon 17-85 IS I'd like to buy a good lens for less...

I'm flirting with either of these two lenses for the meantime:

  • Canon 50mm 1.4
  • Tamron 17-50 2.8 XR Di II LD ASL - the non-VC version because internet reviewers say it's better quality than the newer VC version

50% of photos will be done photographing people indoors, 25% will be still life objects like food indoors and the rest outdoor photography...

Should I be considering other alternatives as well? I've had a chance of using Sigma 17-50 2.8 on a Nikon some time ago, but was dissatisfied with the image quality.

I suppose if I'm about to buy a zoom lens my 50mm could still be easily used while Tamron (although much more versatile than the fixed length 50mm lens) will become obsolete afterwards... Most likely. I'm probably going to buy one of the previously mentioned zooms in a year or two.

Which lens would you recommend would be a better fit for the meantime and why? Which one would you buy if you were in my shoes?


As suggested by one of you guys I should also add another lens I could buy beside the couple I'm deciding between. And that would be the Canon 60mm 2.8 Macro. It's high quality, a bit narrower to 50mm but a great portrait lens as well... And well worth keeping for closeup macro work I also intend to do (minority though). But it could be used as my only lens until I buy a zoom in a yer or two.

  • Am I understanding correctly that this will, at least initially, be your only lens? (It might be helpful if you edit the title of the question to reflect this specifically, to distinguish from all of the other situations in which one might buy a lens for a mid-range Canon camera....)
    – mattdm
    Dec 14, 2011 at 11:17
  • @mattdm: You're correct. I should also change the title, not just the question itself, because it was ambiguous at first. And yes I am buying only ONE lens. Dec 14, 2011 at 17:55
  • fyi canon just patented a new 50m f1.4 lens adding to rumors of it being rereleased in the next 2 years. Dec 18, 2011 at 14:04
  • @MarkHosang: Ok, but that doesn't mean that current 50mm/1.4 is bad/low quality. It just means the new lens will likely make the old one a bit cheaper. Dec 19, 2011 at 18:35
  • @RobertKoritnik no, you are correct, there is nothing overly wrong with the f1.4 besides just being very old. Personally, I'd wait to buy the new 1.4 mk2 in hopes that they would replace the USM with ring USM as that is the only complaint i've heard about that lens Dec 20, 2011 at 12:22

4 Answers 4


You have pretty much done your homework, 50mm f/1.4 and 17-50 f/2.8 makes a good combination for indoor usage, one giving you better range for group shots, and another better portraits with shallow DOF and neither one breaking your bank balance! However, for portraits, instead of the 50mm you could try a 85mm f/1.8 (price range almost same) which is a very good lens for doing portraits as well. As you already have the 50mm f/2.8 range covered with your zoom lens, 85mm f/1.8 makes better sense than 50mm f/1.4. Only problem will be sometimes you wont have enough room to use a lens this long, which could potentially be a problem for the 500mm as well. You can always buy the nifty-fifty (50mm f/1.8, ~100$) if you miss the 50mm f/1.4 setup too much!

Do not underestimate your kit lens. Its very versatile (f.e 18-55 can be used for descent macro works i.e butterflies, flowers etc). I always encourage beginners to get the kit as their first lens instead of buying something expensive because, using the kit helps you understand your shooting preferences, subjects, preferred focal length and thus gives you an idea of what should be your next purchase.

17-85mm does not differ too much from 18-55 in terms of image quality as opposed to 17-55mm IS or 15-85mm IS which are really good lenses.

EDIT: If you're decided on buying one lens, I'd prefer the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 (currently on rebate in B&H) just because it'll allow you to take group shots as well as decent portraits. You can also consider the 50mm f/1.8, its pretty cheap and has amazing image quality as well as low light capability. You can get both of them in around 500$ now. Even if you upgrade to 15-85mm later and decide on selling off the Tamron 17-50mm, I'm sure you'll be more than willing to keep the 50mm with you.

  • I've changed my question slightly... I'm not about to buy both lenses. Just one of the two... If I was to buy both I'd consider the 85 yes... But in that case I'd already be on budget for 15-85 which would cover the whole situation (with less aperture but best of the line IS in which case it's much more superior to 17-85 that you pointed out is a similar lens)... Would you mind to rethink your answer because... Dec 14, 2011 at 11:04
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    @RobertKoritnik: I have updated my answer :) Dec 14, 2011 at 11:48

I'm very much in favor of the prime-lens-only approach to photography. I don't have anything in general against zooms; I just think a small set of prime lenses makes a nice way of working. (See this question and answer for more behind that way of thinking.)

But, on an 1.6x-crop APS-C DSLR like the Canon 60D, 50mm does not provide an ideal single lens. It's effectively a short telephoto, outside of the range of "normal". This makes it very nice for head-and-shoulders portraits (or closer), but isn't particulary versatile for general use. (More on this here.) Same goes for 60mm, but even more so.

Instead, I'd recommend starting with something around 28mm or 35mm. One option would be the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. There's a question exploring details of "normal" lens options for Canon APS-C here. Then, later you can complement this with the 85mm f/1.4 (or the 50mm, or both), and after that add a wider-angle option.

The zoom will give you more flexibility right away, of course, but you don't necessarily need that. I do think, though, that you'll feel constrained by the narrow field of view provided by 50mm or 60mm on this camera.

  • When we talk about normal 50mm is still the most natural lens either on full frame or cropped sensor. Distortion is what makes it normal. It's distortion is most similar to the human eye. But it's true that the whole image will be cropped on a 60D. especially 35mm lens will produce similar results in terms of image framing to 50mm on full-frame, but distortion of 35 will be unnatural. Even more on the 28mm. Dec 14, 2011 at 17:34
  • But I agree 50mm may be to narrow on cropped sensor. Dec 14, 2011 at 17:47
  • @Robert — distortion in this sense is a matter of perspective, and perspective is simply a matter of where you stand, and in turn, to get the same framing, where you stand with a 50mm lens on (Canon) APS-C is where you would stand with a 80mm lens on full-frame. If you take a 28mm or 35mm lens on full-frame and crop to the center portion and print at the the same size as a photo from a 50mm lens uncropped, they will be roughly the same in terms of distortion. This makes sense logically: when you have a wide-angle lens, the most apparent distortion is at the edges. Here, it's cropped out.
    – mattdm
    Dec 14, 2011 at 17:48
  • Theoretically answers to this question should discuss this further, but as of now they don't really.
    – mattdm
    Dec 14, 2011 at 17:49
  • For your only lens for the camera, I agree with @mattdm that you'll feel a bit suffocated. That being said, I use my 50 mm f/1.8 probably 90% of the time, unless I'm taking pictures of birds outside. I've been considering replacing the f/1.8 with the 50 f/1.4 more for the USM and (hopefully) better autofocus, or getting a wider prime. But that's all in the context of already having the kit 18-55, plus the 55-250.
    – Michael H.
    Dec 15, 2011 at 16:57

60mm f2.8 Macro

I would also look at a Macro lens if you are shooting object indoors, a fast macro such as the 60mm is great for objects as you can get really close to the smaller detailed parts. but also serves well as a portrait lens as well.

  • This is a great idea I haven't considered at all. I'll check price deals whether this can be used as my only lens until I buy a decent zoom. And it could be used afterwards just as well as the 50mm... Great suggestion mate! +1 just for that. Dec 14, 2011 at 11:10
  • I checked some reviews of this lens and seen some photos and I must say it's an incredible piece of glass... Thanks again. Dec 14, 2011 at 12:01
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    Thanks. There is a common perception that these lenses are only good for close ups, hoewver they should be looked at as reglaur primes with the added ability of being able to focus on very close subjects. Dec 14, 2011 at 12:06

Can you afford the Canon 17-40mm f4? Indoors often implies that you can't back up to get wide shots, so a wide angle lens is called for. It isn't fast as it could be, but it is tack sharp.

  • Unfortunately that's twice the price of the two lenses of which I'm about to buy one... But it is a nice suggestion... Dec 14, 2011 at 11:08
  • Yup, very expensive and worth it. As far as value goes, the 50mm f1.8 can't be beat. Dec 14, 2011 at 13:00
  • @Paul: This lens seems to be sandwiched between the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 (no-VC) and Canon 17-55 f/2.8 in both price and mfr-or-third-party. Is there a reason to prefer this one over the Tamron with the wider aperture & the lesser price?
    – Michael H.
    Dec 14, 2011 at 16:30
  • My GF has that Tamron. It stays in the bag now. Sharpness is the big reason. I also rarely shoot at f/2.8, I stay up around the f8 range so that's not an issue for me. The tammi is a fine lens though. My first sale ever was with the Tamron, I like the lens. Dec 14, 2011 at 16:36

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