Friday, October 23, 2015

Let's Talk - Camera Lenses

by Dotti

What's on your camera today?

It’s not uncommon, in fact it’s a pretty sure bet, that when a group of photographers gets together the conversation is going to turn to camera gear at one point or another. So, why don’t we chat about lenses today?

Do you have a go-to lens, a favorite lens? Or are you like me in that the season of the year dictates the lens most likely to be on your camera?

When I’m out and about for an afternoon or full day of shooting, the lens most likely to be on my camera is my Tamron 18-270 mm F/3.5-6.3 because I like wide option in focal lengths. It’s often hard to predict what you may find to shoot, so I like to be prepared.

This is also the lens most likely to be on my camera when the weather is warmer. In fact, wonder of wonders, it’s the best lens in my current arsenal for shooting butterflies.

Another photo taken with the 18-270. To get these photos, I pretty much have to go all the way to 270 mm focal length or the critters get skittish, still the background isn't bad at F/6.3.

There are drawbacks to this lens, though. It’s not great for indoor shots unless it’s a very well-lit space. Since it’s not a fixed aperture, it’s not always possible to get the creamy, bokeh-filled background that most of us prefer. And, truth to tell, since this lens is made for cropped-sensor cameras, it’s the major obstacle standing between me and a full frame camera.

When I need a faster lens, I have several options. One is the Tamron 28-75 mm F/2.8 which I used for my daisy picture. I got this before the Tamron 24-70 mm came out and if I’d known it was coming, I would have waited. But anyhow – I do like this camera indoors and for the past month, I’ve actually had it on my camera constantly. Since I seldom use it, I decided I was short-changing it and needed to become a bit friendlier with it. I must say, I have rather liked getting reacquainted with it. For one thing, with its fixed aperture of 2.8, it does produce nice backgrounds.

I also have two pancake lenses, a Canon 24 mm F/2.8 and a Canon 40 mm F/2.8. I do wish these were more versatile because they’re so lightweight, making them delightful to carry on your camera. Again, with a fixed 2.8 aperture, they’re fast enough to shoot in low light and to produce lovely backgrounds. But usually when you’re out for a serious photo walk or all-day excursion, it’s just not possible to zoom with your feet adequately enough to make this an effective all-day lens. They are good inside, though, and are a great option when I want to take a wider shot, usually for still life 
photography, than what I can get with what might just be my favorite lens: my Canon 50 mm F/1.4. The above photo and the one below show the difference between these two lenses on the same subject, although at different times. Both lenses were wide open.

I absolutely love this lens! It’s fast, it produces beautiful backgrounds, it’s lightweight. What’s not to like? The only drawback to it is that it is not a macro lens. This brings us to the next lens which we’ll discuss today: the Canon 50 mm F/2.5 compact macro.

This lens is one of the first that I bought for my camera several years ago and it has quite a few photos to its credit. Like the 50 mm F/1.4, it is lightweight, which for me is a prime consideration. And speaking of ‘prime’, while I love the versatility of my two zoom lenses, I really love my prime lenses. Photos are sharper with a prime lens, in my humble opinion, so I’m a big fan. 

And finally, the last lens that I want to talk about today is the Canon 85 mm F/1.8. This is one sweet little lens but I do find that it has some restrictions. It’s definitely not what you want on your camera if you want a close-up of flowers but as a portrait lens, I love it. Just the other day, my husband asked me to do and head and shoulders shot of him to have in his files for those occasions when he’s asked for a photo for one thing or another. Well, I couldn’t run quickly enough to retrieve my 85 mm from the shelf. Here is his ‘official’ publicity photo. Someday this will be in our local paper, or in somebody’s banquet program or some other such thing that he finds himself roped into. (And he'd die if he knew I used him as an example in today's blog. This is one of the original Mr. No Social Media guys, so, shhh! Don't tell him. I also offered to soften his wrinkles but he declined, saying he'd earned every one of them.)

True confession time: even with all these lenses, I’m seriously considering getting a Canon 100 mm macro. The weight of this lens is what’s holding me back because I really do like to travel light. When I’m out on an all-day adventure, it’s likely I’ll only have two lenses with me, the one on my camera and a second one for when the other lens just won’t work. In fact, I traveled for three weeks in Europe with only two lenses, my Tamron 18-270 and my 50 mm 1.4.  So the heft of the 100 mm macro has been the big drawback for me.

Now it’s your turn to answer my questions. What’s your favorite and/or go-to lens? And for those of you who have the Canon 100 mm macro, what are the pros and cons? I look forward to your input on our comments page.                                                                                                    


terriporter said...

Oh, my gosh, I could go on and on -- but I won't. I have had various love affairs with different lenses over the years. When I got my 50mm 1.4 it was o n my camera all the time and I loved it. I had the Canon 24-70 but it was just too heavy and I sold it for the 28-105 which is lighter but only a 4 rather th an a 2.8 like the 24-70. Then Tracey Clark introduced me to the 50mm compact macro and my love for macro was born. Before too long, though, I felt I just couldn't get as close as I wanted to my subject and admired the photos of two friends who had the 100mm 2.7 macro. That year Santa brought me one and since then it is on my 95% of the time. Whenever I go somewhere without it, I always see things I would love to be able to shoot with it so it's my one "don't leave home without it" lens. My newest lens is my 50mm 1.2 which is absolutely fantastic in low light and for creating the most beautiful bokeh! It's heavy as a horses leg, however, so I don't use it as a walk-around lens. Yes, the 100 is heavy but oh, so worth it! So I said I wouldn't go on and on and I have but you have chosen a subject today that is near and dear to my heart -- lens love!

terriporter said...

Sorry, that was supposed to be the 100mm 2.8, not 2.7, but you know what I meant!

Anonymous said...

Super post Dotti and I love the examples you have chosen to illustrate your different lenses. All excellent. I especially like the portrait of your hubby. Very well done, but I will keep it our secret! Oh yes, lenses! I have three and love them all, but still wish I had more. I have the Nikon 50 mm 1.4, which on my full frame is a true 50 mm and it gives me shots I fall in love with. Soft, creamy and very sharp where I want it. But as I've gotten into photography I've found myself wanted to go wider and do landscapes and seascapes my 24-85 mm f 3.5/4 has gotten me some pretty good images. Probably not as good as the 24 -70 mm f 2.8 but also not nearly as costly. My telephoto is the heaviest and the least used 70-200 mm but when I'm on my sailboat boat I really need it. I also like it for portraits and flower shots -- it has a lovely bokeh and it's a very good lens. So what else do I want? Well an even longer lens for wildlife and such. A good macro. And a really wide angle so I can get more of the sails in when I'm sailing. Sounds greedy, I know. But really, I'm happy with what I have. I think the challenge for me is to really learn how to use what I have to get the best images I can -- and that takes time and effort and consistent practice. It can get distracting to have too many options to be working with. It is good to work with constraints. But I can dream too, can't I?

AFishGirl said...

Oh, this makes me miss you two! Oh my. Lenses. You know me, the 50 mm and the 24mm, I use those two primes the most. I still have to use the 100mm more. I dunno, it kind of scares me. Great post showing these lenses, Dotti. Happy Saturday to you. Happy Saturday to dear you.

Sandra said...

An interesting posting on lenses. My favourite is often the 50mm f/1.4 on my Canon because I love the pictures taken with this, the creamy backgrounds and the light weight of the lens is a definite advantage. I also have the 100mm f/2.8 macro which does indeed weigh a ton and I can't hold it for long and am loathe to use a tripod. The results can be stunning though. It's definitely not a travel lens because of the weight!

If you have a 50mm compact macro at f/2.5 that gives such good results, I'm wondering if you actually need the 100mm macro, especially if you don't care for the heavy weight.
I love all the examples you give to show off your different lenses.

Roxi Hardegree said...

Like your long lens, I love my Canon 70-300. Flowers, insects, kids outside, portraits at the shortest focal length and distant stuff like birds. I want a 24-70 but hesitate because of the weight. I have a 100 and love it for flowers, also works great for portraits because with a crop sensor it's like an 85. I never take it on a trip unless shooting flowers is on the list, because of the weight. Great post.

kelly said...

some really good info here dotti! these days i'm shooting with my tamron 24-70 f/2.8 lens about 90% of the time. like others have said, it's heavy. but personally I love the versatility of it. before this lens, I loved my 50mm f/2.8 compact macro - actually I used it so much i wore it out. and I also love my 100mm macro.

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