17-40L or prime collection

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jani_k, Jul 24, 2006.

  1. Hello, yes I know this kind of postings are very common but I ask this anyway;)

    I have been shooting very little indoors because I usually shoot outdoor sports
    and macro. But now I think I need to upgrade my wide end lens (kit lens 18-55)
    because I need to shoot indoor parties and want to start
    landscape/sightseeing/art shooting.

    I have been thinking alot of 17-40L f4. But slowish f4 aperture is causing me
    to rethink and rethink my purchase.

    Other option is to go with couple primes but problems with primes are that I
    think f2-2.8 is not fast enough for non flash shots in dim light, so you need
    flash anyway. There is not wide enough prime available and L primes are just
    too expensive.

    Do you think I find 17-40L useful in indoor parties, many times in dim light?
    Any comments will be useful.

  2. What's wrong with flash? It works just fine for fill with the 17-40L.

    You won't get much faster than f/2.8 at wider angles anyhow (going with manual focus glass) - you're best bet would probably be the 35L but it aint cheap.

    Personally I'd use flash and the 17-40 (or higher ISO) for parties - it gives you some good flexibility.

    For landscape work, I find the 17-40 to be a bit lacking, you need good primes IMHO, speed is not an issue since you should be using a tripod anyhow.

    I have 5 primes (not all Canon) with focal lengths of 37mm and below, most of them outperform the 17-40 for edge sharpness.
  3. Shoot with primes, for wide angle, there's a wonderful Sigma 20/1.8, there's of course also the 35mm f/2, and a handful of others.

    You would be surprised at how with wide angle you get used to the framing once you use a prime, and just walk around and get close to people, it gives you fantastic photos.

    No need for zooms, esp. the 17-40 which is so dark at f/4. With primes, sure you give up a bit of zooming around but you get to keep all the natural light "look" of the environment you're shooting, plus they are so small, that for shooting parties they are (relatively) unobtrusive compared to the 17-40, which looks big and can scare people away.

    Not to dig up the old prime-vs-zoom nonsense, but primes I found are actually very liberating in that they remove that extra variable in shooting and can become very "second-nature" after you get used to them. This is coming from someone who currently owns a 12-24 zoom, 24-70/2.8, and 70-200. Over 95% (literally) of my shots in the past year have been made of friends/parties/etc. with my cheapest lens of all, the 35/2.0 on a 5D. Before that it was the 20/1.8 on a dRebel which is approximately equivalent after the 1.6 crop.

    Feel free to contact me and I can give you some samples of what I mean.

  4. PS. Flash, unless done very carefully in a studio, is *very very* rarely as good as natural light. It's by definition an intrusion, a point source, an artificial addition, put into the shot. Unless you've got a very controlled environment (read: not at your friend's house or at a party), it is very very difficult to get shots with a flash that look as authentic as natural ambient lighting.

    On-camera flash? Just forget it, it's made for the grandma point-and-shoot crowd and really should be considered only for fill-flash in daylight. And, even if you scale up a bit and spring for a 430/580 flash, you're still at the mercy of available surfaces to bounce flash from (so larger venues are out of the question unless you bring cumbersome bounce cards or diffusers, etc).

    Flash is tricky, it's a pain, but it's a necessary evil (so it's still evil :) ) I found that primes largely allow me to do away with it for most social functions.
  5. For a 1.6 crop camera, shooting parties with a 35mm may often be too long. For a full-frame it would work very well howevever.

    I've been shooting events for years now, and often one can get excellent flash shots despite what has been said here. I have too many awesome indoor flash shots for anyone to think it is very difficult or hard to get good shots.

    I would suggest the 24L F1.4, and for the longer shots the 35L or the 50mm F1.4.

    If you shoot indoor flash, place the camera in M mode, the flash in E-TTL2 mode, and start with ISO 400, then set your aperture for depth-of-field as required. Better to use a flash braket frame, and a diffuser as required. Bounce the flash as required.

    Don't use P. Don't use Av. Use M for 90% of your indoor flash....keep the flash in full E-TTL2 auto however...use flash EC as required too....be mindful of the histogram.

    The Canon 17-40L is too slow...this is a landscape and outdoor good light lens...it's mission is not indoor flash, and definateily not indoor available light.

    I think for indoor events, primes are often the way to go...the downside is the cost....try to stay clear of any and all zooms, as they're all not fast enough, or at least their speed will limit flexability, and opportunities.

    To go the route of Slow Lens + High ISO will give you so-so quality.

    Get there early and take practice shots....learn to drag the shutter.

    Shoot raw so that you can have more wiggle room during post-processing.
  6. if you ask me....and by default, you did.....heh..........get both. Every zoom I own, I have faster primes in the same focal length.

    f/2 is fine if you shoot RAW at ISO 1600 and keep your histogram as far to the right as possible without a flash....for inside the house shots. The 17-40 f/4 kinda dies out once the sun doesn't shine in the windows anymore. Now, ALL of that assumes that you are ok with some of the shots being blurred because you moved or the subject moved right at the time of exposure....we ain't talking action stopping shutterspeeds here, but, you get a lot of really good stuff in the mix. If you want tack sharp, stop the motion shots for every single image.........then flash is it.........the above poster who mentioned learning how to balance flash and ambient in Manual exposure with a flash bracket and diffusor has got it right for good looking flash shots.
  7. "Do you think I find 17-40L useful in indoor parties, many times in dim light?"

    No, not without a flash.

    "Flash, unless done very carefully in a studio, is *very very* rarely as good as natural light."

    Well, this guy don't agree, and I think, he makes a convincing case:


    But if you don't want to use flash, I would recommend the new Canon 17-55mm f2,8 IS. It's perfect for indoor low light shooting, and you will imediately notice how much sharper and contrasty your photos become.

    The problem with primes (I used to have the Sigma 30mm f1,4 and the Canon 50mm f1,4) is, that you get very shallow depht of field, when you shoot at f1,4. With my former 350D and the two primes my pictures were often out of focus.

    But even when I got my 30D the (more precise) AF wouldn't always get the focus right with the primes. Now I got the 30D + 17-55mm combination and I never have problems with unsharp pictures due to focus-issues. So even thoug the Canon 17-55mm f2,8 IS is expensive, to me it's well worth the price.
  8. 17-40 is not to slow for landscape, its my primary for that purpose and its great on my 30D
  9. Just came back from hiking and it was nice to see so many good answers. Thank you all very much for your time and opinions!

    In my question I forgot to mention that I have no problem using flash (430eX). Of course f4 is not fast enough without flash. I have used flash with macro shots and in outdoor sports with fill in flash). And have not used P mode or 'idiot' modes. I use M or Av (sometimes custom function 'flash sync speed in AV mode' enabled).

    So Ben, There is nothing wrong with flash it actually gives some possibilities that is not available without it. That said, sometimes it can ruin the scene (try shooting romantic candle light dinner with flash..)

    Thanks Dan for all that good info, Do you think 17-40L is not useful even if flash is used with it?

    Looks like, good solution could be some fast prime (35/2.0). And 17-40L to use outdoors and inside with flash. (L primes are out because of their cost)

    Henrik, I thought about 17-55 but the price is little high considering it is ef-s lens

  10. My Rebel XT, 17-40 and 580EX Combo is excellent for indoor shots of family and friends. I ALWAYS bounce the flash. It seems a flash bounced off the ceiling is far less annoying than a direct shot!
  11. I have the 17-40 and for your goal I would consider a 2.8 zoom. The extra stop is very useful for balancing flash with ambient and for reducing DOF.

    You mention the 18-55 so you obviously have a recent crop factor camera. I would actually seriously consider one of crop factor clones of the classic 28-70/2.8. Canon makes the nice but pricey 17-55/2.8 IS and there is a Sigma 18-50/2.8 EX DC and a Tamron 17-50/2.8 SP. The Canon 17-55 is cheaper than a 16-35/2.8.

    I am a big fan of flash but not a big fan of the pop up flash. If you don't have a flash already I would suggest you invest in a 430EX and a flash bracket of some description.
  12. The one time I've taken my 20D to a party I used the inexpensive but sharp, small, and light 50mm f/1.8 lens. I know some have advised that on a 1.6 crop camera they consider 35mm too long. However, if you want face shots, or you have some stand-off distance (10-20ft) from your subject, I think the 50mm is great. So if you go with the 17-40 f/4 (great for landscapes!), you could also buy this lens ($80) for natural light party pictures.
  13. Indoors, I tend to shoot 17-40/4L and 50/1.8 these days. I do have the 24/2.8 and 35/2, but I tend not to use them.

    For real "portaits", I invaribly grab the 50 and backup. If I am shooting a "few people", I generally don't want to shoot faster than F4 to keep everyone in focus and I need the "wide" end of the 17-40/4L.

    For shooting people indoors, you need a flash. Bottom line. If you are shooting still life. . .then you want IS.
  14. 1. If you want a lens for landscapes (tripod work) and indoor parties without flash, you need at least f/2.8. It does not matter if it's zoom or prime.

    2. If f/2.8 is not fast enough for you, you can try using flash, or revert to primes. The 28 f/1.8 comes to mind.

    3. If f/1.8 still does not cut it, than you have the faster (f/1.4) L primes.

    4. Really, you have to prioritise your requirements, balance them against money, and decide.
  15. "I thought about 17-55 but the price is little high considering it is ef-s lens"

    The 17-55mm cost about the same as the 17-40mm + the 35mm f2, and for indoor low light shooting you will get much better results.
  16. I agree with Henrick. A 17-40/4L with a 35/2 will produce superior results to the 17-55/IS when shooting *people* indoors.

    The 17-40/4L can be hand held readily at 1/45th. Below this speed, blur both due to photographer and subject becomes an issue. Image stabilization addresses the former, but not the latter. Therefore. . .flash is required.

    While sometimes natural lighting is best, sometimes flash illumination is superior (as the photo above illustrates). The key is understanding limitations.

    I am a "happy snapper". non-pro. I often don't bother taking photos when friends are snapping away with their P&S cameras. They ask "Oh, I can take this shot just fine. Why can't you take the shot with all your fancy gear?".

    Except that my shots generally are good . . .and the P&S shots invariably look like crud. Why? I suspect in many cases the problem (or success) is behind the viewfinder and not in the camera body.

    I think Jani wants a 17-40/4L and a 430EX flash unit. And lots of practice with both bounce flash and FEC. Even with a 2.0 lens, flash is often needed (especially if you want to take the shot at F5.6!).

    Just realize that some fancy dancy low light photography simply requires more expensive equipment. But for 95% of your other shots: a 4L with good flash will get the job done!
  17. If your body is digital and you can readily change ISO, the 17-40 is a very capable lens and would work well. If you are shooting film, you'd be better served getting a fast 50/1.4 and a fast 28.
  18. where o where did you find the 17-55IS ($1150) for as cheap as the 17-40 ($650-680) + 35/2 ($230)?

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