DIARIO DE VIAJES 3:16am, 3 October 2009
Hi all, I'm gonna buy my first SRL, a Canon EOS digital rebel XSI.

My intention is to start learning photography, specially baby portraits and food photography. So I was wondering what is a good lens for close-ups. Should I buy another lens if I want to take wide angle pictures too?

Should I buy just canon lenses or there's another good brand that is compatible with the canon EOS digital rebel XSI and less expensive.

Sorry if the questions are too obvius, but I'm new on this and I don't know where to start.

Bo Eder 9 years ago
I think this would open up the argument of prime lenses versus zoom lenses, and it would be quite a heated debate.

However, if your camera comes with a lens, say, the 18-55 zoom lens, I would say learn as much as you can with that. It's a really good lens for alot of general things, and even today I'll grab for that lens as a walkabout lens.

When I was learning, I had 24, 50, and 105mm prime lenses and learned that way on an old manual Nikon SLR, and that trinity covered everything I needed to do. Then I expanded to zooms and then went back to primes. But I learned what I wanted to get done and then started picking the tools I needed. Now I use a single 28mm f/1.8 prime lens for everything on my 20D's.

At this point, I highly recommend just using the lens that comes with the camera for now.
poppaJ 9 years ago
I agree with Bo Eder , start slow with the kit lens. Read, shoot and learn basic photography and you will soon learn what lenses you need for the type of photos you make.
Mike Murrow 9 years ago
Get a 50mm and don't look back. I still have my first 50mm lens and still use it for headshots, portraits and weddings.

But really, focus on learning photography and forget about gear. When you come to a place where you want to create a certain look and you know how to do it but your gear limits you, then pick up that piece of gear.
Airchinapilot PRO 9 years ago
+1 Mike on both of his points.
Gimel Vav PRO 9 years ago
DIARIO DE VIAJES This is a huge wide open question. I'll give you a very high level overview.

Lenses tend to fall into two large categories: fixed focal length (which some people refer to as "prime") and variable focal length which are also known as "zoom" lenses.

It is easier and cheaper to design a fixed focal length lens for any given focal length because they can fine tune the optics for that focal length and they don't need to worry about the mechanisms for changing the focal length. The absolute top-of-the-line lenses with respect to speed, edge to edge sharpness, lack of distortion, etc. are always fixed focal length lenses. You can get some very good zoom lenses that come close to the performance of a fixed focal length lens, usually in the middle of their range, but they will cost you a lot more. Fixed focal length lenses are also smaller and lighter for any given focal length than zoom lenses of the same quality.

You can put other lenses in front of (usually) fixed focal length lenses to change their effective focal length. Lenses that you add to fixed focal length lens to change it's focal length are called converters. When you add a converter to a fixed focal length lens, the converter is referred to as the auxiliary lens. The lens that you attached it to is called the prime (or primary) lens. That's why some people confuse things by calling fixed focal length lenses "prime" lenses. It's confusing because you can also add a converter to a zoom lens. Now, the zoom lens becomes the prime lens. It can be even more confusing because there are zoom lenses with built-in primary lenses and "zooming" converters. These are called variable prime lenses. They retain their focus as the focal length changes. That's why it's best not to refer to fixed focal length lenses as prime lenses.

Zoom lenses are way more convenient and you can get some that will give you close to the performance of a fixed focal length lens. The shorter the range of focal lengths, the easier it is to design a good zoom lens. Zoom lenses with huge ranges tend to be bad at the extremes.

Zoom lenses are very useful in rapidly changing situations where you won't have time to be changing lenses between shots and in situations where you don't want to carry a lot of gear with you. Fixed focal length lenses are good in situations where you have a lot of time to plan your shot and where your subject is not moving. Think of it this way. If your subject will be moving and you won't, you should consider a zoom lens. If you will be moving and your subject won't, you should consider a fixed focal length lens. With a fixed focal length lens, you zoom with your feet.

Lenses also tend to be categorized by focal length, especially fixed focal length lenses. There are three general categories of lenses by focal length: short, medium, and long. These correspond to angles of view: wide-angle, normal, and telephoto respectively. Each of these creates a different look because of something called perspective and each is useful in it's own way. Each focal length also has its own drawbacks. Two things determine whether a lens of a given focal length is wide-angle, normal, or telephoto: the focal length and the size of the sensor. If the focal length of a lens is close to the diagonal size of the sensor then it's considered "normal". The "sensor" for 35mm film is 43.3mm. A 50mm lens is close to that, so most people consider a 50mm lens "normal" even though it's just a tiny bit on the telephoto side. Most people would consider a 35mm lens wide-angle. And, most people would consider a 75mm lens starting to get into telephoto territory. There aren't any fixed rules about what it wide and what is telephoto, but I would say if the focal length of the lens is half the diagonal size of the sensor or less, it's definitely wide. If the focal length of the lens is twice the diagonal length of the sensor or more, it's definitely telephoto. For a 35mm camera that would be 21.5mm on the wide side 86.5mm on the telephoto side.

The sensor on your camera is smaller than the sensor on a 35mm camera. All digital SLRs have a focal length multiplier. That means that you multiply the stated focal length of the camera by that number to get the equivalent 35mm focal length. Yours has a multiplier of 1.6. That means if you get a 50mm lens, the equivalent 35mm focal length will be 80mm which is starting to get into the telephoto range. If you want a "normal" lens you need somewhere between a 27mm or 31mm lens. You might be noticing that it's easy to get a telephoto lens for a digital camera, but it's hard to get a wide-angle lens because of the multiplier. If you want a 35mm equivalent lens which is just barely into the wide-angle range, you need to get a 21mm lens for your camera.

As I mentioned earlier, each of the different focal length ranges has a its own advantages and disadvantages. Wide angle lenses have a deep focus field meaning that more stuff will be in focus at any given focus setting. You can also get more stuff in the picture without having to step back as far. They can also make the lens faster because the f-number of a lens depends on the focal length as well as the size of the aperture. One problem with wide angle lenses is that they have small working distance. If you want to be able to recognize someones face, you have to get close and that can distort their faces.

Normal lenses are useful because they are closest to what you would see without a camera. It's easiest to design excellent optics in this range. You can get super sharp, super fast lenses with very little geometric or color distortion in this range for a reasonable price. One of the problems with normal lenses is that they're "normal". Indoors, you might find yourself backing up to a wall and not being able to get farther back to fit everyone or everything into the picture. Outdoors, you might find that they don't magnify enough to catch the action.

Telephoto lenses are useful in the same way that telescopes and binoculars are useful. The drawback with telephoto lenses is that they are bigger, heavier, and "slower". "Fast" telephoto lenses with big apertures are huge and expensive.

Now, we can start to answer your question. You specifically mentioned portrait and food photography. Both of those have a fixed subject where you will be able to move relative to the subject. You will have control over the lighting and the set. If you want the highest performing lens you can get for the money, you should invest in a fixed focal length lens.

Now, which focal length? For many years 85mm to 135mm was considered the best range for 35mm camera portrait lenses. Too short a focal length and you have to get to close to the subject and you get unpleasant distortions like big noses. Too long a focal length and you end up too far away from your subject to be able to give them instructions and to easily work with your lighting. 85mm to 135mm (35mm equivalent) seems to be just about right. You'll notice that that is definitely on the telephoto side, so you're in luck! It's easier to do telephoto with a smaller sensor. That means you're looking for a fixed focal length from 53mm to 84mm. A Canon EF 50mm or Canon EF 85mm would be good for what you're interested in doing. They don't make anything in between. If you really want to go with a zoom lens, you will get the best results with one that has a short range of focal lengths. The very best for the specific work you mentioned would be one that goes from 53mm to 84mm, but that's such a narrow range that I don't think anyone makes that. Canon makes a telephoto zoom that goes from 55mm to 250mm. They also make one that goes from 24mm to 70mm. That's a pretty useful range and it's reasonably fast for a zoom lens. That's why the list price is $1,349.

As for your last question, there are other reputable lens manufacturers that make excellent lenses that are compatible with your camera. The Canon lenses are excellent, but they are more expensive. You should definitely consider compatible lenses from other companies. You will find that they might even have some interesting focal lengths or ranges of focal lengths that are missing from the Canon lineup.
ksuwildkat PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by ksuwildkat (member) 9 years ago
I actually a big fan of Kit lenses. If you can get one of the double kits - 18-55mm and 50-200mm you will start with a HUGE range for a reasonable price. I took this with a "kit" lens" and it was good enough to win me an award.
After that, figure out what length you are using the most. One to the great things about flickr is the extended data showing you where on your lens you are shooting. Shoot a couple thousand pictures. Then use the technique here dpoab.blogspot.com/2009/06/go-shopping-without-spending-d... to turn your zoom into a "ghetto" prime.
Im a big fan of cheep lenses. My first lens purchase was a $44 Tamron 28-80mm. Is it "tack sharp" or fast? Nope. But it let me know that some day I want a nice fast lens in the 70mm range. In the mean time, it is good enough. I would rather have a good enough lens in my bag than a perfect lens in my dreams.
The next lens I added was a Sigma 70-300 macro. $150 for a long macro. Again, not sharp or fast but good enough. I took this pic
Day 254
right after I bought it. Again, dream lenses are nice but I would rather have good enough in my bag.
My current favorite is my "fast fifty" - 50mm f/1.4. I love it not because it is fixed or even the 50mm length but because of the way it extends my shooting day. After shooting with kit and other slow lenses, it is AMAZING what a lens that can shoot below f/2 can do.
At the end of the day, it doesnt matter what lens you have if you dont use it. I have seen photographers with a bag full of lenses, each one worth more than my entire collection, that never left their bags. If you never use anything but your 50-200mm why did you buy/bring all those others? Oh, and his pics - they were not all that :)
Good luck!!
DIARIO DE VIAJES 9 years ago
Hey guys, you are just amazing and so nice!, thank you very much for the info!!!

Gimel Vav and Ksuwildkat, thank you very much for giving me such a detailed explanation about lenses.

I just bought the camera with the kit lens 18-55mm. Now I better go to read everything I can starting with the manual and then shoot my 1st thousand pics

Thanks again!
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