Lens recommendations requested

Lindsey_CADecember 28, 2010

This is my first time posting to the Photography forum. I recognize a lot of names here from the Kitchen Table. :-)

One of my Christmas gifts from my husband is a Canon EOS Rebel T2i (also known as the EOS 550D). It came with the EFS 18-55mm IS lens.

I'd like to know if anyone here can give me any recommendations as to other lenses that I should consider to be "must haves."


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Good Morning Lindsey and welcome to the photography forum.

While you state that this is your first post in this forum we certainly hope that you will stick around and become a regular contributor.

I was initially trained as a "Still Photography Specialist" while serving in the USAF in the 60's and if I have learned nothing else in my mere 40 years of photography, I have learned that only you can answer your question. Now don't think that I am trying to pass the buck or be a wise guy here. At best a camera is merely a tool through which you can express your personality, providing of course that you use it whereas while sitting on a shelf a camera is little more than an expensive ornament.

The key to deciding which lenses or accessories you need is to first begin with what you have and use it often. Use it so often that instead of looking through the viewfinder to see what you can get, you begin to see an image in your mind and you use the camera to capture it. Once you are thoroughly familiar with both the capabilities and limitations of the lens you have you will then know what you want the camera to do and you will be able to determine what lens you need to achieve that goal.

The human eye produces an image that has roughly a 90degree angle of view. Regardless of what camera we use, in order to produce an image with the same 90deg angle of view we must use a lens that has a focal length equal to the diagonal measurement of the negative or image format. Your camera uses a Type C image sensor and the "Normal" lens for that camera is approximately 30mm. If we then shorten the lens we get a wide angle view and if we lengthen the format we get a telephoto effect. Your 18-55mm lens is giving you a good beginning range from a modest wide angle to a short telephoto. That telephoto is also an excellent portrait lens.

If you could provide some information on what you desire to shoot we may be able to help you decide what additional lenses you may need, but for the moment I would strongly encourage you to thoroughly explore the capabilities of that lens in regard to what you want to shoot.

Having said that, there are a couple accessories that in my humble opinion are almost mandatory.

Get a good tripod. You don't necessarily need a professional grade Bogen, but do not be lulled into those flimsy aluminum and plastic junky things in you local discount store either. I would look for an all metal tripod in the $45 to $75 range that will hold up to hard use under all conditions for years to come. Keep in mind that when shooting vibration is your worst enemy. The tripod you select must be able to hold you camera steady while outdoors in a mild breeze.

Get a remote shutter release. Most modern digitals have provision to use a small infra red shutter release that works like a TV remote. With one of those you can set the camera on a tripod and shoot self portraits or family shots but even more important, when shooting on a tripod in dim light you can use the remote to release the shutter and you don't have to worry about vibration from your finger on the shutter button.

My camera also has a small mini jack where I can plug in a hard wire remote shutter release button. If your camera has that feature I would strongly suggest you get the remote cord. (they are usually about $10 on ebay).

If I can offer you no other advice allow me to say this. Quite often we see amateurs who have super fine cameras such as yours but in their zeal to amass a collection of lenses the opt for the cheap after market lenses from other companies such as Sigma or Tamron. I don't mean to imply that some of the lenses from Sigma or Tamron are not fair lenses, but they are not nearly as good as the OEM lenses that were designed and manufactured by your camera company for your camera. In the overall scheme of things you would be much better served to have one or two OEM lenses than a half dozen aftermarket ones.

I personally shoot Pentax and I have amassed a collection of over 25 genuine Pentax lenses ranging from 16mm to a true 1,000mm prime that is 45" long and weighs 12lbs, not to mention a long list of after market ones, but it has taken me nearly 40 years to put this mess altogether and in the end, the lens I use most often is an 18-55mm.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2010 at 10:05AM
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Hi Lindsey! I'm not familiar with Canon equipment, but the folks at this DPReview forum certainly are. You can probably find some good ideas by browsing/searching the message threads, or post your own question.

With lens buying, it's not just a matter of focal length, but which particular brand, etc., is best for the individual camera. For my own photography, my favorite lens is a 35mm macro (actually 70mm measured for most cameras), which is great for portraits as well as closeup work. My newest acquisition is a 70-300mm (140-600mm) lens that I need to learn how to use. Practice, practice......

I'm sure you'll enjoy your camera!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2010 at 8:33PM
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Thank you, Lazypup, for taking the time to write such a thorough answer.

You said, in part, "only you can answer your question." Yes, I know. It was after I'd clicked on the Submit button that I slapped myself upside the head, realizing that I hadn't included anything about the type of photos I like to take. That, of course, totally affects what lenses to buy. I would have posted a supplement, but it was getting late and I was making a feeble attempt to get to bed at a semi-decent time (an attempt that failed miserably, by the way).

Having said that, I am heartened by your comment, "the lens I use most often is an 18-55mm." As long as I don't get a comment that "camera companies include an 18-55mm lens because it's practially worthless and they don't mind getting rid of them," I'm happy.

And I also realize that I need to become intimately familiar with this new camera and its capabilities before I can truly decide what other lens I can't live without, especially when I look at the prices on some of them! :-)

I very much appreciate your comments/suggestions about the accessories. I do have a good tripod, thank goodness. And, yes, Canon makes both a wired and a wireless remote shutter release for this camera. The Canon price on them is $30 each. It would be nice to get them for less, but unfortunately, I don't know which eBay sellers can be trusted to sell authentic OEM stuff, and I do only want to use genuine Canon "parts." I don't subscribe to the "parts is parts" train of thought. And I'm especially paranoid about non-Canon lenses on a Canon camera!



I know you've mentioned before (at the Table) how much you like your macro lens. And I really love it when you post photos you've taken with it and ask us all "can you guess what this is" -- your shots are awesome.

Thank you for the link to the DPReview forum. My hubs can watch football on Saturday as long as he desires, because I'll be reading the forum! :-)


Again, thank you both. I know I'll be back here to read and learn, and, hopefully, to post some decent photos!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 3:10AM
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Not to quibble, but is a remote shutter release still useful now that most cameras have a timer setting?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 8:11PM
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I believe the remote shutter release is mostly used to eliminate the vibration that occurs from manually tripping the shutter. Unlike a self-timer, the remote release gives the photographer complete control over when the image is captured.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 8:50PM
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Quote:'but is a remote shutter release still useful now that most cameras have a timer setting?"

Actually the inclusion of a self timer is not by any means a new improvement. Self timers have been a standard feature on neary all SLR's & TLR's since the late 50's or early 60's and 4x5 press cameras had an accessory self timer back in mid 1930's.

Using the timer will work fine when shooting scenics where you don't have to worry about the subject moving, but when shooting wildlife, people or other action shots with long lenses from a tripod the use of a remote is extremely important.

I not only have the IR (infrared) remote, I also have both a 3ft cable shutter release button and a wireless shutter release that allows me to control the camera from up to 100 meters away.

I managed to get some excellant shots of hummingbirds by setting the camera on a tripod 4ft from the hummingbird feeder and attaching the wireless control. Then I sat in the house looking though a window and shot pics of the hummingbirds as they came to the feeder. In this manner the birds were not intimidated by the camera as they might be if I had been sitting there holding it. In fact, I had some birds actually land on the camera while i was shooting.

I used the same technique to shoot some closeups of chipmonks by setting the camera on a low tripod about 6" above the ground and three feet from the opening to their den then I sat back a couple hundred feet and shot them as they emerged from the hole.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 6:01AM
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You have the low end covered quite nicely with the 18 to 55mm lens since the normal focal length for your sensor size is 30 mm. For starters, I'd get one more lens to cover the range from normal to longer zoom, say from 30 to 90 or 120mm. (3 to 4 times zoom). The effective lens opening is maximum at the low end of the zoom and reduces as the lens is zoomed to longer lengths. Look at the widest opening at max zoom. On some lense, this opening becomes so small that it limits the usefulness of the lens at long zoom. I have a Canon with a 12X zoom and its opening ranges from 1/2.7 to 1/3.5 across the zoom range. These are excellent specifications not matched by many lenses. Use these as a guide in assessing the specifications of a zoom you might wish to purchase. The average lens will have less f-stop at full zoom, and a poor lens will have much less. An aveage lens might run from f/2.8 to f/4 or f/5.6.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 11:25PM
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Quote "I have a Canon with a 12X zoom and its opening ranges from 1/2.7 to 1/3.5 across the zoom range."

I think you may want to check your lens specifications a bit more carefully, your camera may be telling you the lens is at f3.5 when the lens is zoomed to 12x but I find that claim a bit difficult to accept.

The normal focal length is determined by measuring the diagonal measurement of the film or digital image sensor or you could use the Pythegorian Therum to compute normal focal length where;

the square of the normal focal length is equal to the square of the image height plus the square of the image length.

In 35mm photography the industry standard for the negative format is 24x36mm and the diagonal (normal lens) is actually 43mm but when they first started making 35mm camera they had problems getting the shutter, mirror, lens mount, aperture and focusing mechanism plus the actual lens elements into a 43mm package so the industry adopted a standard of 50mm for the normal lens.

When they began making digital cameras they basically began by using a 35mm body and put the digital sensor in place of the film plane, however the digital sensors are slightly smaller than the 35mm image format and no doubt, as a result the normal focal length for your sensor is 30mm.

The actual diameter of the aperture is determined by dividing the focal length by the fstop guide number.

Now, if your normal focal length is 30mm and it is zoomed to 12x the resultant focal length is 30x12= 360mm

A 360mm lens with a f3.5 aperture would have an actual aperture diameter of 102.85mm which is slightly over 4".

In order to build a 4" diameter aperture the actual lens barrel would need to be nearly 6" in diameter.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 1:36AM
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The lenses I find that I use the most are the kit lens (love it for sunsets, with a Tiffen warming filter), for animals I love the F4.0 L 70-200mm with a 1.4 tele-converter, to make it equal to 280 mm, and a macro lens for flowers. I use Sigma macro lenses because they are cheaper than Canon and are of good quality.
Have fun with your camera, Lindsey!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 3:05PM
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