Best Main Prime Lens?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by vincent_deschamps, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. Hello everyone,
    I'm been getting more and more into photography, thanks to my girlfriend, and I am looking to buy a wide prime lens that would become my main lens. My gf has a 35mm f/2.0 with which I played for a week and I loved it, except that I would love to have a bit more angle to capture more. I have a Canon Rebel XSi, so cropped body.
    I've been looking at several lenses (all Canon): 20mm f/2.8, 24mm f/2.8 and 28mm f/1.8. I believe that the 20mm would be a bit too wide to be my main lens, and I'm leaning toward the 28mm because it appears to be a good all-around lens, and the f-stop is quite seducing.
    I like to take pictures of...mostly everything that grabs my attention. Groups of people, portraits, close ups, landscapes, architecture, indoor....
    So my question today is: what lens would you recommend to be my main lens? Of course, I have a basic zoom lens (20mm-90mm I believe) and my gf is getting the 17-40mm L f/4.0.
    Thanks in advance for your advices!

  2. Why does it need to be a prime?

    For my crop-body XSi I use a Canon 10-22 and a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. Both have served me well allowing me to
    take loads of nice photos.
  3. SCL


    It looks like you've narrowed down the range to between 20-35mm with each end not meeting your needs, which leaves you with 24 or 28mm. Since you already have a kit lens covering 20-90mm, the answer should be easy. Look over your saved photos and see how many were taken at either of these focal lengths, and whichever the winner is, go with that for your prime.
  4. Given the wide variety of subjects you listed and the relative inflexibility of a single wide angle prime, why a prime? A zoom would provide a great deal more utility, and unless you are shooting with a tripod, MLU, manual focus, and printing very large... you'll never see the small differences in resolution.
    As to which of the primes you mention might be "better," that is entirely a personal decision that you would make after becoming thoroughly familiar with the different focal lengths you mentioned... which is a task most easily accomplished by, you guessed it, shooting with a zoom first.
  5. apology - double posted.
  6. I assume you're shooting crop frame? You might have a look at the Sigma 30mm f/1.4.
    The Canon 24mm f/1.4 L is very nice, though expensive.
  7. Thanks for your answers.
    I would like to go for a prime because I like how I shoot with a prime compared to how I shoot with the zoom ones (I shot with my GF's 17-40 and my own basic zoom lens and preferred shooting with the 35 all the time). Some of my friends who are professional photographers advised me to go with a prime lens as a main I'm confused now!
    I like doing artsy-blurry types of pictures most of the time which is also one of the reason why I want to go with a prime that has a high f-stop.
  8. I have just got both the 28/1.8 and 50/1.4 for my 7d. I think they make a great combination on a crop sensor. I find the 28 to be great as a walkabout lens, for indoor shots at available light and for group portraits. It is not really wide though. The 50 is fabulous for half-body to close-up portraits with shallow DOF. I am discovering the joy of photography with fast primes... and loving it.
    • EF 20mm f/2.8 USM -- Optically so-so (very flare-prone!), but renders a very nice moderate wide angle perspective on APS-C. My favorite.
    • EF 24mm f/2.8 -- Very decent lens, but no FTM/USM and not really wide on APS-C. My current favorite on full-frame, but not that useful on crop-factor dSLRs.
    • EF 28mm f/1.8 USM -- I would rather go for the faster and better Sigma 30mm f/1.4 HSM.
    If you really want wide angle photography on APS-C, you need a dedicated wide angle zoom. Tokina's 11-16mm f/2.8 and 12-24mm f/4 are my favorites, but pretty much every lens maker has a very good super-wide zoom in their line-up.
  9. "I have a basic zoom lens (20mm-90mm I believe)..."
    i) Is that a 28-90mm lens?
    ii) Re: the choice between a fast zoom and a prime, you may find this thread helpful ... I settled on the Tamron at the time and added the 35 f2 later.
  10. If you want to shoot primes, then shoot primes. If you want/need an aperture faster than f/2.8, primes are the only option anyway.
  11. I'm going to second the recommendation of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. I have this lens and I think it's great. But definitely check out the length on your zoom lens and see if it's wide enough for you...if not, and the 20 is too wide, you may prefer the 24mm. 28 mm is so close to 30 that the difference is negligible.
  12. Thanks for the additional answers!
    My zoom lens is not wide enough for me...and yes I believe it is 28-90mm, I don't have the lens in front of me to check :)
  13. My zoom lens is not wide enough for me...and yes I believe it is 28-90mm​
    Even the 20mm prime is not really wide on APS-C... It is only 32mm equivalent. I don't understand how people can say that is too wide -- it is even "longer" than the 18-55mm kit zoom. As I said before, for real wide angle photos you need a super-wide zoom. Unfortunately, wide crop-factor primes are not a forte of the Canon EOS/EF system. Now, Pentax on the other hand...
  14. I looked at the 50mm 1.4 and it seems to be quite a good lens...probably something I will add to my kit very soon :)
  15. I'd add one other 'normal' lens for APS-C to Bueh's list. The nice, but cheap, EF 28mm f/2.8. The 35mm f/2 is one of my personal favorites for a prime on APS-C bodies, but 28 is fraction more 'normal'.
    As pretty much everybody has already said, to get anything that by 35mm-film standards was "wide" you need to go to 18mm and shorter -- there are very few primes in that territory, so one of the 10-something to 20-something zooms is more practical than a prime.
  16. If I want to go very wide I'd add a 20mm 2.8 to my kit one day, tho the 10-22 mm zoom lens seems pretty cool too although I am looking for a high f-stop, hence the wide angle primes.
  17. it


  18. If I want to go very wide I'd add a 20mm...
    But on crop, the angle of view of the 20mm lens is equivalent to the angle of view of a 32mm lens on 35mm film SLRs or full frame DSLRs.
    I know that some of you will, with justification, point out that this point has already been made. Several times. But it seems to bear repeating since people keep suggesting that such focal lengths are "very wide" on APS-C cameras.
    They are not.
  19. although I am looking for a high f-stop, hence the wide angle primes.​
    For wider angles get the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. No prime with an equivalent angle-of-view (even on full-frame) is faster, except for the very expensive EF 24mm f/1.4 L USM.
  20. As long as we're in the "very expensive" territory, I would simply note that there is a very nice EF 14mm f/2.8 L lens that would serve nicely. (ca. €/$ 2000).
    Not to mention the even more expensive heart of my own desire, the MF TS-E 17mm lens.
  21. "Groups of people, portraits, close ups, landscapes, architecture, indoor.... I would like to go for a prime because I like how I shoot with a prime... My zoom lens is not wide enough for me...and yes I believe it is 28-90mm..."
    So you're looking for a prime that is wider than 28mm. Canon has two general-purpose 24mm lenses (the third is a tilt-shift lens). The 24L is f1.4 and expensive ($1574). The 24 2.8 is small (67x48mm, 270g) and affordable ($319) but has the same aperture as the Tamron (or Sigma) 17-50mm zoom lenses and restricts you to a single focal length.
    The Tamron is surprisingly compact (74x81mm, 430g), inexpensive for a fast zoom ($459) and gets good reviews:
    There's also a VC version which is larger (79x94mm, 570g) and costlier ($649) but has the advantage of image stabilization.
  22. Hi Songsten,

    I looked more closely at the 14-22mm suggested earlier by a couple of people. It seems to be taking pretty sharp
    pictures but the f/stop being 3.5 at 14mm and 4.5 at 22mm, I wouldn't be able to do the blurry effects that I really like
    to do. Even tho I am shooting different kinds of things, I like to do close ups and blur the background.

    I've been using the 35mm f/2.0 for a while and I love how I can play with the backgrounds to focus on the subject and
    do close ups, but I am lacking the possibility to have a wider point of view on the subject to give it more substance.

    The 24mm 2.8 seems seems interesting too. Tho the f-stop is not that high, but the angle would be better. I was
    interested in the 28mm because of the high f/stop, which would make the lens more versatile because I could make
    low light pictures without having to use the flash.

    I don't know if I'm making any sense anymore....:)
  23. Vincent -- you will not really be able to "do the blurry effects" that much on regular photos with any wide lens on APS-C (smaller background magnification means more details visible even in out-of-focus areas). Close-ups and Macro is different, even with slow apertures the depth-of-field will be very shallow. So don't disregard a lens because it is one stop or so slower when the focal length range is much more useful (again, I am talking about super-wide zoom vs wide prime on APS-C). If you lust after a super-wide prime, you have to switch to Pentax where they have an (excellent) DA 14mm f/2.8 lens with incredible close-up capabilities. Or get a full-frame camera where all the wide primes show their original, uncropped angle-of-view.
  24. Hi Buch,

    So basically you are saying that a super wide zoom lens even with an f/stop of 3.5 will make the background shallow?

    I don't lust for a super-wide prime, I want some flexibility in close-ups and wide angles all in once, if that's even
    possible. For example I'd be interested to see close-ups made with the 10-22mm at 22mm with f/stop of 4.5. I looked
    online on different forums and I could only find group shots of landscape which is why I would think that this lens
    wouldn't be the best for close-ups with shallow effects.

    Of course the ideal would be to have different lenses in my kit but I can only afford one at this time and that would
    have to be under $1,000.

    I greatly appreciate your help :)
  25. One problem is few camera makers are producing up to date, state of the art primes. Most the efforts are on the latest, greatest fat zoom.
    Nikon makes the wonderful little $200 AFS 35 1.8. For me it's the perfect APS replacement for the 50 1.8's folks always rave about on film or full frame. Makes any DSLR a more compact package and is fast enough for most situations. Wish they would make a modern affordable 24mm AFS 2.8 prime.
  26. Vincent, it might make it easier for us if you could provide a link to an example of the sort of picture you have in mind when you say that you would like to "do close ups and blur the background".
    By the way, an ultra wide angle lens may not be the best single choice for "Groups of people, portraits, close ups, landscapes, architecture, indoor."
  27. Alas I don't have access to my pics to show you but below you can find an example of what I like to do (thee are not

    Most of the time I like to focus on a part of the body or an object and have a wide background to place that person or
    object into a context and not crowd the subject. And, of course, blurry the background...
  28. I forgot to ask you what focal length would provide me with how my eye perceive the subject on a half body? (Meaning a more natural angle of view) Seems the ideal would be that I have two prime lenses...glurp...
  29. One of those shots was taken with a 50mm, the other with a zoom at 68mm. So maybe the 50mm f/1.8 is the lens for you. That's good news, because that lens is inexpensive, only about $100.
  30. Alas I don't have access to my pics to show you but below you can find an example of what I like to do (thee are not mine).​
    Neither of them was taken with a wide angle or normal lens -- both were shot with short to medium teles. Which are generally the better lenses if you want strong bokeh. So I don't understand your fixation with wide angle lenses.
    So basically you are saying that a super wide zoom lens even with an f/stop of 3.5 will make the background shallow?​
    Vincent, with the right technique many things are possible. Actually it pretty hard to get everything in focus on dSLRs. But it all depends on how much blur you want and so on. Here an example, taken on APS-C at 12mm (super-wide!) and f/5. And another one at f/5.6. And here a shot taken on APS-C with a 24mm lens at f/3.5. However, if compared to a 50mm lens or 200mm telephoto this background blur is nothing.
  31. how my eye perceive the subject on a half body? (Meaning a more natural angle of view​
    Our vision has an angle-of-view equivalent of about 15mm (full-frame) or 10mm on crop factor cameras. But the apparent perspective of things -- the spatial rendering of 3D relations -- is interpreted by our human perception apparatus like with a normal lens (e.g., ~28-30mm on APS-C, around 45mm on full-frame). However, our center of attention -- what we really see clearly -- is more like the angle-of-view of a telephoto... 200mm or even 300mm.
  32. Hey Bueh,
    Thanks for the answer. I looked at several pictures made with a 50mm 1.4 (in addition to the ones you linked), and I really like the very high f-stop and the fact that one can take apparently many different kinds of pictures with it (tho not that wide of an angle).
  33. As a normal lens for everyday use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 HSM is better suited than the 50mm on crop-factor cameras. I can't show photos from me with this lens because I only discovered it after I went full-frame. But you can find tons of examples here.
  34. Compromises, compromises!
    Vincent I see that you have two conflicting goals that nobody seems to point out. The blur effect you are talking about goes down with the wider angle lenses. Most people go with wide angle lenses so that they can get more of the background in and that makes the background sharp(er).

    Because of the laws of physics, the wider the angle and larger the f stop you need to make blurry pictures, the amount of glass required goes up and consequently the price.

    Also playing with the crop sensor means you are stuck with the 1.6 factor which puts you in even worse position with wide angle views.

    In effect you have to make some compromises. For me the cost was the easy compromise. I spent more and went full frame so that i could get the looks i wanted. If that is not possible, then i would suggest a 20mm or 24 mm lens. While it wont have the great blur of F2.0, you are getting a marginally/much wider lens from your 28mm/35mm.
    The other option which people seem not to mention is the Tilt shifts. These actually can be wider than what you have, and even though the aperture is not that much bigger, the tilt can help you focus the attention on the subject.

    The name of the game is compromises!
  35. Hi Sravan,
    Thanks for your comments. Price is also a factor in my future purchase :)
    I guess my options are 24mm 2.8 or 28mm 1.8. I believe the blur effect with the 24mm f-stop might be good enough for me..I don't like over-blurred backgrounds.
    The 28mm is seducing because of the high f-stop which would make it easier for me to take pictures without using the flash in low light settings.
  36. Hi Bueh, those are some nice examples. Can you tell me what accesorries you use with the flash, since it looks pretty well difussed. I especially liked this one:
    Thank you in advance...cheers
  37. Can you tell me what accesorries you use with the flash, since it looks pretty well difussed.​
    The flash is usually pointed straight up and I use an about large postcard-sized DIY reflector card fixed to the flash head with elastic tape. The reflector card is actually... erm... a curved piece of white plastic that... originally... was oart of a broken lampshade... that I picked up on the street (for this purpose). Since the 430EX has a curved back, my regular approach of simply using a piece of white cardboard or glossy white photo paper didn't work with this strobe.
    It is a bit unwieldy though, and although I have used it for a couple of years now, I am planning to replace it by new card I am going to make from foam rubber in the near future. Really! I look like a dork with it.
  38. The Sig-30f1.4 should be suitable. Someone early on in the posts has already suggeted this lens and I agree. Rent one and see if you like it before you buy.
  39. I would question what I would intend to shoot most with this lens. If you find you need more wide angle for groups close in or lanscapes, you may have to get a wide one if you want just one for now. Otherwise, I think 24mm crops pretty good for most journalism done while zooming with your feet if that's your bag (although, most pros will carry a wider lens just in case). As people pointed out a longer focal length will generally give more appearance of blur. 50mm f1.4 for example is a cheap lens but gives me what I need in the blurry bokeh department (if you are not bothered by bokey is more ovular).
  40. Vincent,
    Another consideration about going too wide on a prime is that when you get a wide angle in really close to the persons face you can distort their nose and other features. I have not had much problem with this using my 24 2.8 on a crop body, but I don't really do close-ups with it either. I don't have any examples to show you of this effect. Perhaps someone else can address this concern better and maybe even post an example. I usually use the 55 end of my 55-250 IS for close in shots that maintain some background, though the backgrounds are probably not as blurred as you're looking for at around f/4-5.6.
    DS Meador
  41. Vincent, I just had a look at the Flickr examples you provided. As others have suggested, you would probably be quite happy with a Sigma 30 f1.4 (or Canon 28 f1.8) although those pictures don't really require a fast prime. However, it sounds like your only other lens is the Canon 28-90mm which is a bit long for a standard zoom on a crop body.
    I think you may find a 17-50mm zoom lens more useful than a 'normal' prime as you could then experiment with wider angles than your 28-90mm lens provides. It would also be sharper and less prone to flare than your 28-90mm lens. You could even tape it to a different focal length every day to simulate a bag full of primes. :)
  42. I am going to buy the 28mm, and later on buy the 50mm 1.4...and later on maybe the 10-22mm zoom lens for landscape and group pictures.
    Thank you all for your advices! You have been very helpful.
  43. What your reasoning for buying the EF 28mm instead of the Sigma 30mm?
  44. I know how that might sound, and correct me if this is not true, but I've been told by several photographers that Canon lenses were of better quality than third-party ones.
  45. Not in this case. The Sigma is better in every aspect (2/3 stops faster, better build, better sharpness...), the only advantage of the Canon is that it is usable on full-frame cameras.
  46. Hopefully I will be able to move up to full frame soon :)
  47. I use a Canon 28mm f1.8 (equivalent to 44mm in full frame) when I need a single prime. Gives a slightly wider normal with good speed and nice image quality.

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