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Old February 22nd, 2015, 09:41 AM   #1
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Differences in Lenses?

I currently own a Tamron 24-70 2.8 (which may not be as sharp as the canon version but has VC which I love), a 50 1.8, the tokina 11-16 and canon 70-200 2.8 IS ii.

I shoot on a 6D and use it for both photography and video. My wife uses it to shoot portraits, senior pictures and weddings

I use it to shoot corporate videos and short promos.

Basically I was considering getting a new lens but wasn't sure what to get. I heard the 85mm is fantastic but not sure if I should get it because I already have that length in my 70-200. Is that a dumb thought? Would the 85 be that much sharper?
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Old February 22nd, 2015, 02:36 PM   #2
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Re: Differences in Lenses?

The 6D is full frame, but you have the 11-16? Isn't that only usable at 16mm?

Given your set, I'd change out the 11-16 for the 16-35/2.8L or even the new 11-24/4L if you like crazy wide stuff. For video, I prefer (and own) the 16-35 as it's faster in low light and covers a more useful range. The 11-24 is more for landscape photographers where they will stop down and possibly use it on a locked down tripod. Couple that with the new 50 MP 5D S and you can print wall-sized landscapes.

Then again, this won't help your wife take portraits. I have a friend in the high-school senior portrait business and he shoots with the 70-200/2.8L IS. He doesn't use a faster 85mm lens as the focus gets wildly shallow and he has remote flash kits to ensure enough light. Then again, if she wants that romantic super-shallow look, a fast 85 is the way to go.

Unfortunately, I find the 85 range a bit problematic. The 85/1.2L has autofocus, but the focus control is poor for video and slow for photos and it has no IS. You can go with a Samyang or Zeiss 85/1.4, but these are manual focus and again have no IS. Personally, I went with the 100/2.8L IS Macro as it was less conspicuous and cheaper than the 70-200, has IS, and is quite sharp. 85mm lenses are generally for flattering portraits rather than sharpness, so they are often somewhat soft and the corners go dark.

A more useful lens for me is a fast 35. I have the 35/1.4L at home and a Zeiss 35/2 at work. At 35mm, you get more motion and perspective at 35 than 50mm. The DOF isn't too shallow and focusing isn't too difficult at 35mm. It's a good lens for full body portraits where f/1.4 will still separate foreground from background. It gives you one more low light option. Frankly, I could shoot an entire film with a 35mm lens and be happy. Add an 85 or 100 for closeup shots and I can make the film more personal. Add an ultrawide and I can add nice establishing shots.

Stepping back, I'd upgrade the 11-16 first. When shooting in tight spaces, being able to zoom to just that right level allows you to frame things well. If Canon were to release an 85/1.4L or 85/2L with IS and good focusing, I'd jump on that. A 35/1.4 or 24/1.4 is great for full body portraits and is great for motion and perspective in video at low light. I checked out Canon's f/2.8 IS lenses and I don't see the need for IS at this focal length. (The wide IS lenses are more for still photographers who want deep focus in areas where they can't use a tripod, like cathedrals.)

Fortunately, your lens set is already pretty complete. No need to rush into anything for the sake of the gear-bug. :)
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Old February 23rd, 2015, 07:41 AM   #3
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Re: Differences in Lenses?

Great stuff Jon...

To be honest, we brought the 70-200 and the 6D at the same time about a month ago and I haven't put the 11-16 on it once. I was considering selling it and maybe buying my wife a flash or something. Not sure yet. I really don't need to be as wide as 16 on this camera. I really only purchased it because I planned on using it on my steadicam but now that I have the 24-70 with VC, i have no use for it. 24 on a FF is plenty wide for me.

My cousin is a fantastic child photographer and she only shoots with an 85 and a 35. Perhaps the 35 needs some more consideration. I may have to look at buying that one.

At this point, I'm just struggling wanting to spend real money on something like an 85 or 100 when my 70-200 covers that range and is fantastic doing so.

I guess I'm really just trying to figure out what I need to buy next for the good of both of our businesses. Lenses are always a good idea. She needs a flash. She wants a new bag. We should invest in a good laptop. Not sure which direction to go
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Old February 23rd, 2015, 10:55 AM   #4
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Re: Differences in Lenses?

Having seen some of your productions, I would agree that the 70-200 has you covered at the long end. I don't see an 85 at f/1.2 complimenting your style. That said, your wife's photos might benefit from a romantically shallow DOF.

I once tried photographing some young kids at fairly close distance with a manual 85/1.4 wide open. I got zero usable photos(!) Looking back, I needed to move a bit further away, set a fixed focus, and "focus with my feet."

FWIW, I used to own the EF 85/1.8. I found the results to be somewhat "milky". It simply doesn't have the same coatings that you find in higher end lenses. The focus ring has a short throw for video use. On the other hand, the auto focus works well.

The bottom line is that a fast 85 would mainly be for portraits and is best for posed shots. The 85/1.2L and manual 85/1.4s are no sports lenses.

On the wide side, 24mm is wide enough until it's not. On the documentary side, a wide lens helps you get establishing shots. Maybe you want a shot of a large building, but it's on a narrow street. Sometimes you want a shot of a house, but with a long lens, the power lines are in your way. Use a wide lens and you can move forward and clean up the shot. An ultrawide is also awesome for time lapse. You can set up the camera low where people will walk by while getting a shot of a crowded venue.

For normative projects, the 16-35/2.8 is ideal. Maybe you need to shoot in a car, elevator, phone booth, or other tight space. I don't recommend primes as they aren't generally faster than f/2.8 anyway. Also, when the space is tight, you need a zoom to get the framing just right. You'd need a large collection of primes and the spare time to swap them to get your framing. With a zoom, you put it on before getting in the elevator and frame at will.

So basically, the 16-35 is a problem solver. You won't use it regularly, but when the problem arises, you're covered.

Also, consider this for your wife in the case that she shoots sports portraits. I attended a Canon event where a photographer described a Nike print ad. He used the 16-35 to shoot a sprinter from the launch position with the camera just behind the back foot. It was sunrise in the desert with the mountains in the background. The sprinter just started, and the shutter was long enough to get motion blur on the foot. The wide view gave dynamic perspective and brought the whole scene into focus.

There was a second photo using the 70-200 that was a tight closeup of the sprinter. She was sweating, extremely intense, and isolated from the blurred background.

The photographer said that he "never shoots in the middle". The ultrawide allows one to capture depth, space, motion, and perspective. The telephoto captures character. He feels that medium shots are a compromise. They capture neither space/motion or character well. And why are the photos in the order of wide first, tight second? Action and reaction. It was really effective.

Now imagine the typical sports photo. A medium, full body shot of a kid in a football uniform. It's boring. It documents the body type of the kid. But it doesn't portray the sport or show emotion. Now imagine the kid's hand in the dirt and an ultrawide up close. And imagine a closeup of the kid's face as he's pumped to get off the line. This tells the story about a kid playing football, rather than just dressing up.

So if your wife shoots athletes and wants to get creative, a wide zoom might just be a nice match. Just remember to get the camera up close. Landscape photographers move a wide lens back. Action photographers move a wide lens close (but not necessarily closest to the face.)
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Old February 24th, 2015, 07:55 AM   #5
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Re: Differences in Lenses?

That is great advice with that Nike photographer. It really does make a lot of sense. Not sure if that's practical for every photography situation, such as a wedding, but it's definitely great advice when it comes to sports. I'll need to keep that in mind.

I probably won't go with the 85 at this point. I mentioned to my wife that a lot of photographers love their 35mm and would never leave home without it. I've used it a little for video and it was fantastic. She mentioned she would rather have the 50mm 1.2 than a 35, which I am not going to complain about. It's a great lens.

So you suggest not getting primes? Is that strictly from a versatility standpoint? They are quite sharper aren't they?
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Old February 24th, 2015, 11:02 AM   #6
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Re: Differences in Lenses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brock Burwell View Post
...So you suggest not getting primes? Is that strictly from a versatility standpoint? They are quite sharper aren't they?
Reading Jon's discussion of sports portraits (great stuff!) reminded me...

IMO, one of the central issues around use of primes vs. zoom lenses has to do with control of the set. In shoots where you or your wife can control the pace of the action, get resets and redos as needed, and can tell subjects when they're done, primes can be great.

As paid professionals working projects where someone else is setting the tempo, say, a wedding officiant, there are no resets, there are no redos, and you're not in control of the distance from camera to subject, zoom lenses are essential tools.

Some will disagree, and we all *should* be doing more zooming with our feet (because wide lenses look different than telephotos, even when the subject is the same size in the image).

I do love that 16-35mm f2.8 Canon lens on a full-frame. Good glass and a real problem solver at the short end, bearing in mind that as you get below about 22mm (FF) you're into the superwide range, where there are some distortions. Pleasant and appropriate for some compositions, not so for others.
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Old February 24th, 2015, 11:47 AM   #7
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Re: Differences in Lenses?

I love primes. :) But for the ultrawide and video, a zoom is the way to go. With normal and longer lenses, I can select something close and can then back up or move forward to get my framing. Also, if you want speed between 24mm and 135mm, a prime is the only option. But for the phone booth/car/elevator situation, a zoom is the only way to shoot. Small changes in angle and focal length affect the framing quite a bit, so the zoom is the only practical solution. Besides, once you go wider than 24mm, there are no fast primes available anyway. If you were to sell the Tokina and get a 16-35 (or the less expensive 16-40/4), you'd be prepared for the day you need to do that tight shoot.

A 16-35 wouldn't be used much in a wedding photo shoot, but I can envision a couple of uses. It could be helpful if there is a large group portrait opportunity in a small space. It could also be used where the groom is posing as to shoot the garter or the bride is holding the bouquet at arm's length. In both cases, the camera is near the hand, looking toward the person. If stopped down a bit, you get deep focus, forced perspective, and lots of background in view. It wouldn't work in a dingy reception hall, but could be wonderful in a natural setting or in front of a historic church. But these are unique artistic photos, not the core shots. The core stuff is about character and emotion, and that's best done with the 70-200.

Note that you could also consider an extender. This would allow your wife to stand back further and get tight expression shots without being noticed. I used to have a 200/2.8L and 2x extender, and it was really fun to photograph my family on outings where they had no awareness of the camera. That said, the 2x gets a little soft, and at 400mm they start to look like surveillance photos. I'd recommend the 1.4x for weddings.

Regarding the 50mm vs. the 35mm view, this is a matter of personal taste. I find the 50 to be neutral and a bit dull. It's also in that dreaded "middle" where it's neither about character or space/action. It can have a documentary, person-standing-in-the-room look. Of course, you can still move forward and force perspective or move back to take in space, but if you don't work it, you get the neutral look. At 35mm, there is just a touch of spice and magic without drawing attention to itself. It seems neutral at first glance, but things are just a little bit more dynamic. It's also a bigger step away from the 70-200, so there is more motivation to use it when you want a wider view. The 50 might stay in the bag as 70 is close enough.

Of course, your wife can determine her style by shooting the 24-70 lens and noting her preferred focal lengths after each shot. Then again, zooms make us lazy. We stand where we are, twist the lens and shoot. Primes make us find the right perspective for the right shot. Rather than zooming and checking the length, set it to 35 and start shooting. After a number of snaps, set it at 50 and do the same. Listen to experience and check the prints. Maybe try 28mm as well.

For me, this is my feeling on full frame:
* 50mm is neutral.
* 35mm is relatively neutral, but with a touch of drama.
* 28mm is wide, but with little noticeable edge distortion. You can shoot normally.
* 24mm is wide, and right at the edge of being a wide effects lens. Start to take care to avoid problems.
* 21mm is challenging. It has noticeable edge effects, but isn't so wide to look extreme. Nail it and you're a hero. Shoot casually and you'll get many flawed photos/videos.
* 16mm is a true effects lens. Unless you are shooting a flat, perpendicular surface, it makes the world look clearly odd. Any wider than 16mm (or use a fisheye) and the effect becomes even stronger.

Of course, the 16-24 range looks as expected when in tight spaces. It's like, "of course it looks that way when the perspective is from the back seat of a car."

Anyway, given that you already have a 50/1.4, I wonder if the 50/1.2 is the best next step. If your wife finds the 50mm view to be "it" and she'd really like shallower DOF and slightly more light, it could be the right choice. The 35/1.4 would give an alternative low-light view.
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Old February 24th, 2015, 03:48 PM   #8
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Re: Differences in Lenses?

Damn it Jon! I learn something new from every single one of your posts. I need to go back and start reading all your old posts. Amazing stuff man. Thanks for the great advice.

That's a great thought about the 50mm being quite neutral and the 35mm giving just enough of a different look that it becomes interesting. I'll have to mention that to my wife.

I'd like to have that 16-35 but you are right in that it's a special lens and probably not something I need at the moment. I want to sell my 11-16 (and yea it only works at 16 on a FF) but not sure if I'll be able to get myself to do that. I guess you never know when a situation will come up that I will need it. That said, I shot a video recently with the 70-200 and filmed a couple shots with that 11-16 on a steadicam and it just looked sooo soft compared to the 70-200. I almost didn't even include the shot in the final video because I hated the way it looked.

We are kind of in an interesting situation as most of the equipment we purchase works for both my video business and her photography business. As with most people, we can't just buy whatever we want (we just started both companies) and we want to make sure each and every purchase fills a void that we both have or fills a big void in one of the companies. We are just trying to be as efficient as possible with our purchases. Jumping from a T3i with basically a 50 1.8 and thats it to a 6D, 24-70 (tamron) and the 70-200 has changed everything. It's really not about the gear......but sometimes it is haha
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Old February 24th, 2015, 04:14 PM   #9
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Re: Differences in Lenses?

FWIW, there's a new option for ultrawide lenses: the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD.

It's available for pre-order from B&H for about the same that I paid for my used 16-35/2.8L II.
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens (Canon EF) AFA012C-700

If you don't mind f/4 and like IS, there is also the EF 16-35/4L IS to consider at about the same price.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens 9518B002 B&H Photo Video

The Nikon 14-24 gets a lot of praise, but it requires an expensive adapter and doesn't accept front ND filters (helpful for smooth timelapses)

The Tamron provides affordability, f/2.8 speed and IS.

One note about IS and wide lenses... The 16-35/4L IS would be perfect for cathedral interior photos. Stop it down for deep focus and sharpness. Stand back and drag the shutter, since a cathedral is static. No tripod allowed? No problem. But what about video and people/action photos?

The rule of thumb is that you can shoot a shutter interval of 1/focal_length. So at 35mm you can shoot a 1/35 shutter. 16mm gets you down to 1/16th. Video is covered. And if there are people in the shot, you can't drag it out longer than that anyway. A 1/2 second shutter is great inside of Notre Dame. It doesn't do squat when shooting video or squirrelly kids.

And how do I use ultrawides? Far away for establishing shots, but up close for perspective. And here's the rub. Angular IS does nothing for you when you're jittering with the lens six inches from the subject. That's why the 100 Macro has hybrid IS to cover both angle and x-y translation. You can shoot close and keep the image stable. Not so with these long lens IS systems.

Anyway, the Tamron offers BOTH IS and f/2.8, so it's a no lose situation.

Here's a detailed review: DustinAbbott.net

Probably the biggest ding against the lens for video shooting is that it's quite heavy. This matters if the goal is to fly or hand hold it. But the price, quality, fast speed, and IS together make this a nice option.

BTW, the focus throw is 120 degrees for the Tamron and 94 for the 16-35/2.8L II. Focus control isn't all that critical at such a wide view, but it's nice to know that Tamron didn't go small on this. That said, I don't know if the feel or tolerances are any good, but again, this is secondary when shooting wide.

If I didn't already own the 16-35L, the Tamron would be near the top of my wish list.

(Edit: But with the bulbous front element it can't take traditional filters, so I might avoid it. I like smooth timelapses and traveling light, so front ND filters matter to me.)
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