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Archive 2013 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?
  
 
rtljr
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


I was told by a professional photographer to always buy the fastest lens you can afford. I almost never shoot indoors or even in the evening with low light. And if I do do a night shot I use my tripod and everything is cool.

How would I benefit from a fast lens? Faster than say f/4 which is what I'm looking at now. I have heard that primes have better optical quality than a zoom, (I'm looking at zooms) I'm usually outdoors using natural light and shooting landscapes and architecture.



Sep 09, 2013 at 10:41 PM
mitesh
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


If you're almost always shooting outdoors in good light and using a tripod, there isn't much reason to choose an f/2.8 or faster lens over an f/4. Two zoom lenses often used by landscape photographers are the 17-40/4 and the 70-200/4. They're much lighter and cheaper than their f/2.8 brethren. IQ is excellent, and you can easily find threads and example photos on this site to evaluate for yourself.

Faster lenses, by allowing higher shutter speeds, would make low-light shooting handheld and action shooting easier, allow you to minimize noise by using lower ISO, and can help with AF (more highly sensitive AF points enabled). Your post above doesn't mention any of those as priorities.

Edited on Sep 09, 2013 at 10:53 PM · View previous versions



Sep 09, 2013 at 10:50 PM
vivisha
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


If you're shooting landscapes and architecture you will have little benefit using fast glass. You'll probably benefit more from a Tilt-shift lens to correct perspective and use tilt for depth of field.

People use fast glass for faster shutter speeds and to control depth of field, you have little use for those



Sep 09, 2013 at 10:53 PM
kevindar
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


this is a 2 in one question, zoom vs prime, and fast vs slower aperture.
Fast Vs slow zoom. this are generalization, and not always true
Fast glass advantage:
1. low light shooting/faster shutter speed. if you are always shooting at f4, this does not apply to you. 2.better autofocus, with better low light autofocus. focus points on most cameras do better with f2.8 or faster lens.
3. For long lenses, using TC and mainaining auto focus.
4. Consumer level lenses have best performance usually 2 stops from wide open. so the wider wide open, the better at lower f stops, again, not always true, but an f2.8 lens performs better at f4 than an f4 lens sometimes.
Disadvange: Cost, and weight (second one is a biggy also).
zoom vs prime, fast primes are less expensive than their euivlant zoom, are smaller and lighter, and used to be a lot better optically. the modern zooms however are excellent.



Sep 09, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Ian.Dobinson
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


Yes you can say buy the fastest lens you can afford ,
But you also want to consider buying the fastest lens you don't mind carrying around all day .

Ie why buy for example the great 70-200/2.8 mk2 when it will sit at home most of the time 'cos you don't want to lug it round inthe bag all day .



Sep 09, 2013 at 11:05 PM
rtljr
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


Can someone elaborate on how focus points on most cameras do better at f2.8? Not sure I understand how that works.

Thanks



Sep 09, 2013 at 11:26 PM
mitesh
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


See this article. About halfway down, you'll find a discussion of aperture as it relates to AF.


Sep 09, 2013 at 11:28 PM
jasonpatrick
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


A faster lens will be brighter in your viewfinder. Also, no matter what aperture you make an image at, the camera always utilizes the fastest aperture the lens is capable of for autofocus.

As far as prime vs zoom - that's a personal choice. If you always have time to perfectly compose your images...primes can offer several advantages. If you don't...zooms offer several advantages.



Sep 09, 2013 at 11:33 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


rtljr wrote:
I was told by a professional photographer to always buy the fastest lens you can afford. I almost never shoot indoors or even in the evening with low light. And if I do do a night shot I use my tripod and everything is cool.

How would I benefit from a fast lens? Faster than say f/4 which is what I'm looking at now. I have heard that primes have better optical quality than a zoom, (I'm looking at zooms) I'm usually outdoors using natural light and shooting landscapes and architecture.


If you heard the "pro photographer" correctly, either there was more to the story than you are reporting or your "pro" is providing some truly dubious advice.

Potential benefits from a faster lens might include:

- the ability to reduce depth of field a bit more, if you need this

- the ability to shoot handheld in somewhat lower light if subject motion is your concern

- potential that corner performance might be marginally better a bit earlier as you stop down

- potential to use 2x tele-extenders on some cameras where you might otherwise be limited to 1.4x extenders

- a viewfinder that might look a bit brighter in some situations

With all of those positives, why doesn't everyone just go out and get the largest aperture possible?

- cost is generally significantly higher, which is fine if you need the larger apertures, but not so exciting if you don't

- weight and bulk can be significantly increased.

- you'll need larger and more expensive filters if you use them.

- for many types of photography, the potential advantages of the larger aperture don't pan out in actual photography. For example, if you are most concerned with shooting at "normal" to large apertures, you may see little or no difference in image quality.

If you have an actual need for what larger aperture lenses do, then consider getting them. If you don't understand why you would want them, or you are just considering them because "a pro"* told you to, don't.

Dan

* The term "pro" is not an objective classification of photographer. To many people it can mean a range of things: someone who looks like they have cool gear, a person who makes a full time living doing nothing by making photographs, a person whose living is some combination of making photographs and other things. Not all people who might be described as "pro" from various of these perspectives will necessarily have the best advice for other photographers. In fact, among "pro" photographers you can probably find someone who will recommend just about anything!



Sep 09, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Deanh
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


I tend to agree with the "pro" advise given, if you can afford the faster lens then why not have that available if you need it. I agree "need" is very individual.

At least if you start with the fastest you can afford and find it unnecessary you can sell it and get a slower lens without the nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you "need" the faster and should have bought that.



Sep 10, 2013 at 12:15 AM
 

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StillFingerz
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


rtljr wrote:
I was told by a professional photographer to always buy the fastest lens you can afford. I almost never shoot indoors or even in the evening with low light. And if I do do a night shot I use my tripod and everything is cool.

How would I benefit from a fast lens? Faster than say f/4 which is what I'm looking at now. I have heard that primes have better optical quality than a zoom, (I'm looking at zooms) I'm usually outdoors using natural light and shooting landscapes and architecture.


When you get a recommendation for gear, most any purchase, take a long/hard look at the person giving you the advice. What/when/where do they primarily shoot, how long have they been shooting...is their imagery any good, and finally are the subjects they shoot what you shoot or want to shoot.

Your photographic eye, what images you wan't to create...will dictate what gear you may need to buy. While we can't change the laws of light, we can change how we shoot. After forty plus years of shooting and experimenting, my gear purchases aren't much simpler, but that's more wanting the 'shinny new toy' than what might just work better.

I've found the faster, heavier gear is less used, it tends to sit and gather dust; is not shot much. When faster glass is needed I turn to smaller faster primes, otherwise the f4 zooms work fine for my work. For near two decades a slow 24-85 was my most used zoom, now it's an f4 ultra-wide and f4 medium telephoto. Fast primes fill the middle ground; f4 and possibly f5.6 telephotos the rest.

And, I'm still floundering about using Crop vs FF bodies. Full frame for me was always film, with digital it's been crop bodies that produce the majority of my images; FF having been borrowed or rented for short periods only...but that's a discussion for another topic.

With that said, this advice comes from a person with a high-level disability, in my case a spinal cord injury that has mostly left me paralyzed from the neck/shoulders down; my arm strength is not great and I have 'zero' grip.

I chose the 70-200 f4L IS simply because using the f2.8 version would have just been too difficult for any extended shoots; I mostly hand-hold, it's the most freeing way to shoot from a wheel chair. I've not found f4 to be limiting at all, but have seen images the f2.8 produces that I can't duplicate.

Each of us finds our style, buy what you can afford, shoot the heck out of it, exploit every mm and pixel, create what makes you happy or gets your clients to smile and you paid.

I'd not recommend getting a fast lens if it restricts your shooting, the only way to learn/grow is to get out and shoot.

Cheers,
Jerry


Edited on Sep 10, 2013 at 10:04 AM · View previous versions



Sep 10, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Jefferson
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


70-200 f/4L IS...

5Dc + Canon 70-200 f/4L IS @ 128mm & f/5... ISO 50... 1/200
Hand held just walking around...

http://jeffersonposter.smugmug.com/Photography/11-x-14/i-Bb7Qt9m/0/X2/untitled-1-17-X2.jpg



Sep 10, 2013 at 01:25 AM
Gunzorro
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


I think the key to the original premise is buying a lens that "you can afford", or in other words, that which has adequate value to you that you would buy it.

Kevin touched on a point that deserves attention. Every lens I've owned (or nearly every one!) has benefited from being stopped down at least slightly from its wide open aperture, prime or zoom alike. Some lenses benefit more than other, and it is usually the cheaper lenses that are slower and less well corrected for aberrations. Closing these down to f/5.6 to 8.0 usually gives good to very good performance. Maybe not excellent, but still quite usable, and a good bargain. But there will be quite a few more compromises to handling, IQ, and general flexibility for shooting situations compared to faster glass.

Faster glass doesn't have to be super-fast to be a benefit. Look for primes in the f/2.0 to 2.8 range. Look for zooms around f/2.8. With these, you have great improvement when you stop down to f/4.0 to 5.6 -- generally excellent imaging. Some faster lenses, that are from f/1.2 to f/2.0 will show amazing IQ at f/2.0 to 2.8.

Even my outstanding 100/2.8L Macro IS improves immensely by closing down to f/4.5 -- all trace of light fall-off is gone and the images are superb.

The moral is, with a faster lens, you start getting better imaging at larger apertures, without resorting to stopping down too much for general photography, especially hand held.

One other pretty obvious point with fast lenses are that you can capitalize on selective focus technique with shallow DOF at wider apertures. Some are specially designed to provide pleasing background OOF softness (bokeh) that is highly prized by some photographers -- but you pay a premium for these types of lenses if you leave the standard 50mm f/1.4 type of lens.

If you use the guideline of "buy the best lenses you can afford" you will generally get the faster glass, unless you are looking for specialized lenses or are on a strict budget. I'm also a firm believer in buying the best camera bodies that you can afford too!

Good luck on your quest!




Sep 10, 2013 at 01:36 AM
kezeka
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


Jefferson wrote:
70-200 f/4L IS...

5Dc + Canon 70-200 f/4L IS @ 128mm & f/5... ISO 50... 1/200
Hand held just walking around...


Why shoot at ISO50 and get a photo with motion blur?

Gunzorro nailed this on on the head though - faster glass can be stopped down to a still fairly open aperture. So a 70-200 f/2.8 at f/4 is sharper than the 70-200 f/4 at f/4 (for example). If you want to see actual comparisons between particular lenses then I strongly suggest you head over to TDP and use Carnathan's amazingly thorough tests:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=687&Camera=453&Sample=1&FLI=0&API=2&LensComp=404&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=0

I would also add that having a faster lens always gives you more options for photos than a narrow aperture. A lens at f/4 cannot isolate a subject as well as a lens at f/2.8, nor can it stop motion in low light. I am not much of a landscape photographer and much prefer to cover people doing stuff so my opinions here should be taken with a few grains of salt for you. That said, it sounds like you are still getting into photography and may not have had an opportunity to use fast glass yet. I strongly encourage you to find a way to try some (lensrentals.com) and take photos around whatever people you can find in addition to taking some landscape photos.

Finally, primes traditionally have been sharper at wider apertures than zooms due to their ultra wide maximum apertures. Obviously, huge apertures lenses like the 50L and 85L 1.2s rule the roost at night because of this, but stopped down to f/2.0 the 85L is almost as sharp as it will ever get corner to corner. The drawing and rendering styles of primes tends to be different than zoom lenses in addition to the usually better contrast, color, color saturation, and "microcontrast"/"pop"/"3D" in some of these lenses. The 70-200 f/2.8 MKII and 24-70 f/2.8 mkII are the only two zoom lenses that I know of that come even remotely close to the sharpness and color saturation that I get with my primes. I haven't used the new 24-70 but I know my 70-200 mkII does a terrific job of maintaining sharpness, contrast, and color wide open which could not be said of the mkI non-IS I owned before.

Finally, If you are shooting landscapes go try some Zeiss glass - it renders better and since you aren't in a huge hurry to chase down someone while manually focusing they generally work well. I loved my 50MP before I sold it to fund my 21mm f/2.8 Zeiss ZE lens. Or just buy at 17-40L.



Sep 10, 2013 at 02:15 AM
UCSB
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


Just stick with the f/4 glass you are looking at right now; it is great for what you are shooting. Quality fast glass (either zoom or prime) is expensive and you would know if you needed it because you would be having difficulty with your images. You don't mention what camera you are using, but it might be cheaper to upgrade the camera and shoot at a higher ISO rather than buying expensive fast glass.

In general, I think the advice from the pro was good. I personally shoot fast glass to be as prepared as possible for whatever situation materializes. I don't sense you have those worries.




Sep 10, 2013 at 02:27 AM
Paul Mo
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


UCSB wrote:
In general, I think the advice from the pro was good. I personally shoot fast glass to be as prepared as possible for whatever situation materializes.


Me too. It's also the advice I tend to give especially when I know that what the person needs is similar to me - event and street photography in low light.

I'll always recommend fast glass over slow, unless a specialised lens (MP-E 65 or TS-E) would be better. The only other factor being budget.



Sep 10, 2013 at 02:32 AM
scottam10
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


If you don't know why you need a fast zoom, you don't need it.

If you always shoot stopped down and/or using a tripod, it's not worth paying for (and carrying) fast lenses.

- If you stop down to f/8 on an f/2.8 zoom, you'll get much the same result as you would selecting f/8 on an f/4 zoom. And the f/4 zoom will be much lighter to carry

There are plenty of review sites (eg www.photozone.de) which test lenses and allow you to compare optical performance.

If I want a fast aperture for low light or shallow DOF, my preference is prime lenses which often offer much faster apertures than an f/2.8 zoom anyway.



Sep 10, 2013 at 03:02 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


Deanh wrote:
At least if you start with the fastest you can afford and find it unnecessary you can sell it and get a slower lens without the nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you "need" the faster and should have bought that.


But wait... doesn't the opposite approach work equally well?! ;-)

On the general topic... I have some fast lenses and some not so fast lenses. It all comes down to what I'll be using them for and how I'll use them. For example, I generally prefer to use the smaller aperture L zooms (like the 17-40 f/4 and the 70-200mm f/4) for landscape and similar work. I'm almost always going to shoot them stopped down, and when I don't f/4 is often quite sufficient. And they are lighter and smaller. (A subject I'm thinking about right now as I plan for a 10 day backcountry photography trip where ounces add up to pounds!) I could carry f/2.8 zooms for this, but they don't provide any particular advantage for this use.

On the other hand, I also have some large aperture primes for certain other kinds of shooting - events, concerts, environmental portraits and similar - where I may want to shot in limited available light and handheld.

I don't question the value of large aperture primes for certain things, but I surely do question the blanket advice that you were given. Lens choices are not as simple as "always buy the biggest" - but are better made by matching your needs and intended use to the feature set of the lens.

Take care,

Dan



Sep 10, 2013 at 03:14 AM
robbymack
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


Beware of blanket advice like, "buy only f2.8 zooms". It's silly. It's all a personal choice. Some like 2.8 zooms and will wax poetic about them. Others, like me, don't think 2.8 is all that fast and would rather carry f4 zooms and fill in with fast primes where needed.


Sep 10, 2013 at 05:04 AM
Pixel Perfect
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Lens quandry regarding lens speed?


robbymack wrote:
Beware of blanket advice like, "buy only f2.8 zooms". It's silly. It's all a personal choice. Some like 2.8 zooms and will wax poetic about them. Others, like me, don't think 2.8 is all that fast and would rather carry f4 zooms and fill in with fast primes where needed.


Well there is one f/4 zoom that is very fast!



Sep 10, 2013 at 05:19 AM
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