I currently have a 550D with 18-5mm kit lens + 55-250mm f4-5.6. I would like to start getting better gear to maybe look into opening up my own business. I'm getting different opinions from everyone.

Is it better to invest in a very good lens such as the 70-200mm L f2.8 IS II to use on the entry 550D (for photo journalism)? Or save up a little more to buy the full-frame 5D Mark 2 with a 24-105mm L f/4.0?

What would you guys do?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Budget is not a problem, since I am able to save up the amount money for either one or the other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Penumbra84
    Jun 27, 2012 at 6:35
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Get lenses that will both fit your current camera body and any future one. You may want to keep your current camera body as a backup in the future. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rene
    Jun 27, 2012 at 9:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ My initial thoughts exactly Rene! Plus I can keep the 550D for extra reach as well because of the 1.6 crop factor! \$\endgroup\$
    – Penumbra84
    Jun 27, 2012 at 9:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of After 2 years of amateur photo, buy a new body or a great lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 27, 2012 at 12:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also see photo.stackexchange.com/questions/17028/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 27, 2012 at 12:03

3 Answers 3


The 550 has enough quality for the images. So the bump in the road is your lens. I would go for a better quality lens and keep the 550 body. Then post-processing is your last stop on your way to good quality shots.

That said, the body is a tool, and if you feel that you cannot create good enough images that maybe your problem is the camera body and how it handle/feels like.

A last thing, there are great cameras between the 550 and the 5D. Cameras like 60D and 7D are great cameras, that will take you away from the plastic feeling of the 550.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with what you say regarding getting a quality lens for the 550D. These where my initial thoughts. I'm pretty happy with the image quality off my 550D. For the time being I won't be needing high FPS rates and although I'm sure the 5D handles and feels much better and far nicer and the 550D is a little plasticy i'm pretty happy with it (for the time being that is hehe). \$\endgroup\$
    – Penumbra84
    Jun 27, 2012 at 7:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Moving to a more professional crop sensor camera (in addition to better glass) can definitely be a step in the right direction. There's many fields where full frame would certainly be nice, but isn't needed. IMO, what you get with more pro crop sensor camera is consistency and the ability to adapt to a new situation faster - IQ may or may not significantly increase. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Jun 27, 2012 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another vote for upgrading lenses. I did that a few months ago, and it was well worth it. If your body is relatively recent (< 3-4 years old) it'll do you well. I tell people to plan to ugprade bodies every few years, but good lenses will last decades. rfusca is right about the 7D, that body rocks; I love mine. \$\endgroup\$
    – chuqui
    Jun 27, 2012 at 23:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ by the way, a good way to help decide this issue: rent sample lenses and bodies and go do test shoots. chances are, a quick shoot with top caliber lenses will make the decision obvious. \$\endgroup\$
    – chuqui
    Jun 27, 2012 at 23:19

I would say, whilst not necessarily L lenses, that you would indeed be better off buying better lenses to go on your existing camera. The 550D is a very capable camera, and I certainly had some L glass (the 24 f/1.4 and 100-400) on my 7D before moving up to full frame.

But there may be alternatives to L that you hadn't considered - two EF-S lenses for a start, the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-5.6 USM for a wide angle, or the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM perhaps. The 10-22 would be an ideal wide angle for your 550D whilst the 17-55mm would make an outstanding replacement for the kit 18-55.

A 50mm prime would also make a great addition to your lens lineup.

The EF 70-200 f/2.8 IS II USM is of course, a great lens by any measure - but it has the price tag to go with it. Whilst you would no doubt love it, and get some fantastic photos with it, you need to weigh up if the cost is something you are able to justify. Don't forget also, that on your 550D that lens will be the equivalent of 112-320mm with the crop factor. But hey - still all at f/2.8!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Initially I was thinking the same way you did Mike. But If I have plans to upgrade to full-frame eventually, is it a good idea to spend money on EF-S lenses? I mean I can save up and go for upper quality L lenses right away and It would be a better investment in my eyes since I can use those L lenses on both crop and full-frame bodies. As far as the 50mm, I was thinking of eventually getting the 1.4 which is good enough for me and not as expensive as the 1.2 and it fits on both. \$\endgroup\$
    – Penumbra84
    Jun 27, 2012 at 7:42

As I see it, a short tele zoom like the 70-200 is equally useful on a crop body as on a full-frame body. If you want it now, buy it and use it on the 550D. You will not be missing out on anything.

As for a normal zoom, I'd advice differently. What is a normal zoom on a full-frame camera (ie your typical 24-70ish lens) does not make sense as a normal zoom on a crop camera, it simply does not go wide enough; a 17-50ish lens is a good normal zoom for a crop camera but simply won't fit a full-frame body at all. You can in principle use an ultrawideangle full-frame zoom like a 16-35/17-40 on a crop camera, but they really are a bit short for use as a normal zoom. I'd get a good dedicated normal zoom for the crop camera and expect to replace it outright when moving to full frame. The Canon EF-S 17-55 is best of breed, but has an L-level pricetag; there are cheaper third-party options out there that are quite good.

As for wide angles, this is even more true. Buy for the camera body you have now, replace it along with the camera body when the time comes.

As a side note, I see you are planning to get a Canon 50/1.4... I just want to point out that while it is decent optically, its build quality leaves a lot to be desired. The autofocus mechanism in particular is hideously vulnerable, one knock in just the right place on the front of the lens is all it takes to break it. A friend of mine killed two of these in within a couple of years. Do get (and use!) the optional lens-hood if you buy this lens, it gives decent protection against this kind of mishap. I'd also take a long hard look at the Sigma 50/1.4 if I were you, by all accounts it can be a very good lens and it is far more robust than the Canon offering.


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