Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Gear -Lenses

Canon 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6:
This was the kit lens that came with the Elan IIe. It's lightweight and plastic. I don't use it much. I suppose it could be a decent walkaround lens, but I don't really do much "walkaround" photography. I can't really say much more -I don't use it because it's not wide enough for landscapes and it's not telephoto enough for wildlife photos.

Canon 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM:
I bought this lens while I was still using Auto on my Elan IIe and I was floored at the reach it gave me. I got years of use out of it before realizing how soft its photos were. I still use it here and there -I don't really have an adequate replacement for it, but I consider it a low-quality lens. Photos printed to 8x10 would probably look fine, but any larger and I fear the quality issue would become a problem. Note that this lens has since been upgraded, changed, and there are also several versions on the market (non-IS, non-USM, etc).

Canon 100 f/2.8:
Photos I've taken with this lens.
Feeling confident in my skills in other areas, I decided to tackle macros, so I bought this lens. When it arrived I learned how challenging macros can be! But, since then, I've mastered the art and found out how amazing this lens really is. Aside from your average insect or flower macro, this lens gives a shallow depth of field which can be used artistically, and it's also got good low-light performance due to the f/2.8.

Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5:
Photos I've taken with this lens.
I got this lens as a gift from my husband and when I got it I wasn't sure I'd really ever use it. Wow was I wrong! I love this lens. It's not only good for landscapes, but it's also nice when you have no choice but to shoot closer to your subject than you want as well, and playing with the distortion it gives at 10mm is fun as well.

Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 (aka the "Bigma"):
I got this lens as a gift from my husband as well, but I knew I'd use this one. 500mm! And it's much sharper than my Canon 75-300mm. I've talked to a few pro wildlife photographers who use Canon 100-400mm lenses and they say that the Bigma is not far off in quality. This lens is great for wildlife and shooting races, but it has one big downside: it weighs 4 pounds all by itself. This means a tripod or monopod is necessary if shooting for any length of time and carrying it around is a chore. Still, it's a great lens if you have the need for something like it. As an interesting side-note, I rented a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS and did a sharpness test comparing it against my Bigma and the Bigma turned out to be sharper!

Sigma 30mm f/1.4:
Photos I've taken with this lens.
In an attempt to get a more shallow depth of field for car photography, which I thought I wanted to get into more, I bought this lens. It's extremely sharp, even at f/1.4 and it does a great job of giving a more shallow DOF than any of my previous lenses, which is awesome for either eliminating a distracting background, but it also performs very well in low-light environments so it's been great indoors as well.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 II:
Photos I've taken with this lens.
During my research before buying the Sigma 30mm, I found this lens, which was a fraction of the price at around $100. The only downside of the lens seemed to be it's construction, so I bought one of these as well just to see the difference between the two. There's no doubt the Sigma 30mm is built better. It's solid, metal, and has a smooth-moving and dampened focus ring. This lens, in contrast, is very light weight, made of plastic, and has the cheesiest focus ring I've ever seen -it's very thin and hard to grip, especially because it's at the very end of the lens. Still, this just might be the sharpest lens I own (it's either this or the Canon 100mm f/2.8) even at f/1.8! My husband and I tend to share the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and the Canon f/1.8II and use them fairly interchangeably. It's great for getting a shallow depth of field and indoors in low light due to the f/1.8.

Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8:
Photos I've taken with this lens.
This lens was another gift from my husband. It's not a beginner's lens, that's for sure. I had a hard time with macros when I started on my Canon 100mm, but this lens is several times harder to master. Sure, it goes up to 5X while the Canon 100mm is a maximum of 1:1, so there's that. The bigger the subject, the shallower the DOF, so the harder focusing is and timing the shutter press if you hand hold for macros like most of us do. But, on top of that this lens is "fixed focus". I find that most photographers I talk to that haven't used this lens have little to no idea of what that means, but it's pretty simple really. Take a prime like the Canon 100mm macro, set the focus so it's set to focus as close as possible and then don't move it. That's the MP-E 65mm in a nutshell. There is no focus ring. The focus is in one place that moves as you increase the size of the subject from 1X to 5X, so you are forced to change your focus by moving the camera closer or further away from your subject. At 1X you have to focus just a couple inches from your subject, higher magnifications require you to get closer. And if that's not hard enough to deal with, after 1X the viewfinder gets darker and darker at higher magnifications until at 4X you can barely see your subject indoors, and at 5X the viewfinder is nearly black. Outdoors is better, but still challenging. This, I've found out, is what the focusing lamps on my macro flash is for, but they timeout before I can focus most of the time so, I've just stuck to 1X to 3X so far. I've yet to find a subject that really requires anything higher than that, but I count myself as an advanced beginner with this lens still, so I'll add more if I find anything helpful to pass along.

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