Canon "L" Lenses vs. Standard EOS

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by alec, Dec 27, 2003.

  1. Hey All! I'm sure there's multiple threads about this very subject,
    but it'll take me a year and a day to find them. And besides,
    perhaps this'll be a good time to churn up all your feelings on this

    I've been working with all standard Canon lenses for some time now:
    the 50mm f1.4, 100mm f2.8 Macro, 135mm f2.8 soft focus. I've been
    happy with all of them so far, and now I'm looking for a super-wide
    angle lens (zoom or other) to round out what I have.

    At first, I was looking at the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 until I
    learned that Sigma's elements were held together by tape. (Found
    that on another thread). So that's out.

    So I'm going with Canon. Question is, is there REALLY a significant
    difference between the "L" lenses and the standard ones? Be SERIOUS,
    now -- have you fallen in love with the fancy case and the
    aestheticly pleasing red line, or is it really worth so SO much
    more? For the kinda money they charge, I'd expect never to take a
    bad photo again.

    Since the cost is truly that much more significant, I'd really
    appreciate some candid opinions.

    --Alec Simonson
  2. If you're talking about optical quality there are non-L's which are as good as L's, eg., the 100/2.9 USM macro, the 85/1.8, etc. However when you're looking at zooms, yes, there is a definite difference. All the L zooms I have used (and owned) so far are optically superior to non-L zooms. The contrast, edge to edge sharpness and lack of flare are definitely better, as is the build quality and ruggedness. If I'm going on a vacation, I'd choose my 70-200/4L over one of the 75-300 zooms any day because I know that this lens can cope with anything I throw at it.
  3. You are used to prime lenses though. Canon regular primes are much better than zoom L's. So if there is a specific wideangle lens that you feel you would use most often then you may find that you are happier with another prime. The 24 f2.8, 28 f2.8, and 35 f2 are supposed to be quite good with the 20mm f2.8 not quite as good. Unfortunately Canon does not think there is a market for a decent 17 f4 or 18 f4 which would make the digital folks or super wideangle nuts a little happier. Someone is likely to tell you that the newest L zooms are better than the primes, but from a logical standpoint I truly doubt that, but I have absolutely no proof! Good luck!
  4. now I'm looking for a super-wide angle lens (zoom or other) to round out what I have
    Alec, you will get better advice if you provide more information about your goals.
    • What subjects will you be shooting (action, landscapes, etc.)?
    • Under what lighting and weather conditions?
    • Will you be using a film body, or a DSLR with a crop?
    • Are you shooting for money, or fun?
      In general, if you shoot in low light without flash, "L" primes will give you faster maximum apertures than their Canon consumer equivalents, and will be faster than any Canon zoom, "L" or consumer.
      If you use your equipment day in, day out, under tough conditions, "L" lenses will be more rugged and reliable.
      The Canon primes are all solid lenses, and some perform as well optically as their "L" equivalents. The Canon "L" zooms are all better than their consumer counterparts, but cost much more.
      IMO, choose the most affordable lens(es) that will do the job you need done. Happy shopping!
  5. Hey Brent, you have a good point. Here's a better definition of what I need (ok...want) this wide angle lense to do:

    --The subjects I would be using this for would be mostly landscapes and architecture, interiors, and maybe some funky portraits.
    --Generally speaking, I was interested in getting an ultrawide lense because it would be good for night photography. (Again, architecture, landscapes) But it would be used in daytime too.
    --Using a Canon Elan II... I only shoot film, never digital.
    --Shooting for fun, but am willing to pay $$$ for noticeable quality differences.

    I want something truly ULTRAwide. I was looking at the 14mm, and the 16-35mm. I would mostly prefer to have something that is (or can go) wider than 20mm.

    Wow you guys are fast. Thanks for all the quick feedback!
  6. I'm an amatuer, but I take several hundred rolls a year of family photos (wife is a scrapbook addict) and general hobby shots for my own self-development as a learning photographer. I always used non-L glass and still will for the most part as most of my work is not to critical and seldom reaches 8x10.

    I do now own and greatly use a 70-200 2.8L. While my subject matter has not changed, I can now get the shots of the kids in plays, concerts, ball games etc. The speed/zoom is too sweet with fast glass, L or otherwise.
  7. You should see the comparisons of the 16-35 f/2.8L and 17-35L at :

    By Michael Reichmann:

    By Fred Miranda:

    Actual pictures, 100% crops, MTF curves, etc., and conclusions by 2 well known professionals.
  8. Alec -
    I'm not sure why you're asking about L vs non-L lenses. if my memory is correct, given your "wider than 20mm" requirement and that you want a lens for architecture - ie. the 15mm fisheye is not an option - you MUST get an L lens. Canon has no non-L lenses to fit that bill.

    Owning this lens is either worth it to you or it's not. Based on your posts it sounds like your mind is made up. Just get one and enjoy it. :)

  9. I definitely concur with Vincent. I have been very happy with my two newest zooms, the 24-70L and 70-200L. The 50 1.4, 20 2.8 and 100 2.8 macro are equally awesome, and I will not part with them. When going into the field for landscape photography, I don't believe any of the high quality Canon zooms can be beat.
  10. The "L" designation traditionally means one of three things:

    1. A ground-glass aspheric element (the front element of lenses like the 14/2.8 or the wide-angle 2.8 L zooms).

    2. UD glass (ultra-low dispersion) used mostly in telephoto zooms like the 70-200/2.8L or certain specialty fixed focal-length teles.

    3. A fluorite element such as is found in all the super-teles from 300/2.8 to 1200/5.6.

    That's all, folks. Non-L lenses like the 100/2.8 original macro (which I own, I've not kept up to date on the USM models to see if they're "L" or not), or the 85/1.8, 100/2 etc are among the sharpest and best lenses Canon has ever made.

    You can paint a red stripe on those that don't have it, though I've never bothered. I have enough genuine "L" glass but don't turn my nose up at the very excellent non-L lenses I own. The TS-E lenses are a great example of the definition I give above being applied. Each has the same tilt/shift construction ... but the 24 TS-E has an aspherical front element, thus gets the "L" designation. The 45 and 90 TS-E's don't require aspherical front elements (of course, because they're not wide-angle lenses) and are short enough to not require UD glass so they're not "L", either. Yet all three lenses are of equivalent build quality and equivalent optical performance.
  11. <p>Alec, judging by what you said in your second post, the Canon 17-40mm f/4L would be well worth a look.
    If it's too much money at $700, the Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 at about $480 would be worth checking.
    It would be useful to compare them side-by-side if you live near a dealer who would let you do it. If not, there have been several threads on this site and comparing these two zooms.
    FWIW, I own the Sigma and like it quite well, but after trying a friend's Canon 17-40mm I hope to switch as soon as the Christmas deficit is erased. My reasons are: <p>
    <li>less flare
    <li>the ability to use regular 77mm filters, including a polarizer
    <li>the ability to leave a protection filter on the lens
    <li>faster, quieter autofocus
    <li>the Canon's extra 10mm on the long end is more useful to me than the Sigma's extra 2mm on the short end.<p>
    IMO, either of these lenses would handle the kind of shooting you wish to do.
  12. Don's point is well made, I use all three tilt and shift lenses (they were one of the main reasons I switched from Nikon to Canon) and they are equally superb and equally well made. Likewise the 50mm 1.4, as I'm sure you'd agree, is an outstanding optic, "L" or not.

    I don't think Canon's "L" designation is particularly helpful to a prospective buyer, it signifies features rather than benefits, technology rather than applications.
  13. The best lens suited for architecture is the 24/3.5 TSE. It has no AF, it is heavy, it is expensive, it is not comfortable for easy shooting (first you meter, then you shift/tilt), the list goes on and on. However, if you want to take good architecture pictures, this is your ONLY choice.

    Foe landscape you have many good options detailed above. However, as your widest lens is a 50mm one, I just wonder if you REALLY need such a wide lens. I once had the 17-35/2.8 USM L and rarely found myself at wider angles than 24mm. I ended up selling it and buying the primes (24/2.8 and 35/2). I suggest you rent a 17-40/4 or 16-35/2.8 and see how you like these wide extremes.

    Happy shooting ,
  14. As noted above, your question doesn't actually make any sense, because everything that goes wider than 20mm is an L.

    *** Be SERIOUS, now -- have you fallen in love with the fancy case and the aestheticly pleasing red line, or is it really worth so SO much more? ***

    If the extra speed of an L lens is worth it to you, then it's worth it. If it isn't, then it isn't. How is somebody else supposed to tell you how to spend your money?

    *** For the kinda money they charge, I'd expect never to take a bad photo again. ***

    Then you've answered your own question: L's aren't worth the money to you.
  15. Thank you all so much for so much great advice. Your responses were candid, and extremely helpful. Here is what I have considered my "take-aways" from this:
    • "L" Lenses aren't really all that much better optically then standard, fixed length lenses. If I'm ever buying zoom, though, "L" may be the way to go.
    • The new Canon 17-40mm f/4L may be worth a look, since $700 isn't such a bank-breaker. A good thing to try by renting.
    • As some have pointed out, maybe I'm wrong about thinking I need something wider than 20mm, and the 24mm Tilt/Shift Lens may be an strong option, especially since I do love architecture photography. Another good one to try renting.
    • If 20mm isn't wide enough, the technology added to the fixed wide angle "L" lenses such as the ground-glass aspheric element on the 14mm f2.8L could indeed be worth the extra $$$. After your posts, I think now that I would consider that over the standard 20mm f2.8 lens.
    • So I've got some renting to do, now. My last take-away is that I should earn more money so this isn't a problem in the future... =)
    • Thanks again all, for your invaluable help!
  16. The other thing to keep in mind is that the Canon non-L wide primes generally lack USM motors and FTM focusing. I have the 24/2.8, 35/2, and 50/1.8 and personally do not miss these features.
  17. Good point. I think it's the age of those lenses as much as anything - the 80-200/2.8L (which I own and love) also lacks a USM motor or FTM, and the primes are from that era of Canon lens design. Originally they only had the ring USM motor, which was of a certain size that happens to fit the throat of, say, a 50/1.0 or 85/1.2 but not a 20/2.8 ...

    Anyway ... USM vs. non-USM hasn't been an "L" vs. "non-L" attribute but some folks might miss it so it is very much worth pointing out ...
  18. Thanks for all these great answers as I too am thinking over similar questions
  19. Depends if you consider as well build quality (looks like yes) and aperture. At f/4 - yes, there is a LOT of difference between consumer zooms and "L" zooms, especially looking at corners. Primes tends to be sharper at this aperture than "L" zooms (some exceptions applies), while having somewhat less pleasant colour reproduction (don't ask me why :). This is up-to about 200mm of focal length. Than primes are the best glass you can get, no discussion.
  20. I have a 10D and a few L zooms (17-40/4L, 24-70/2.8L, 70-200/2.8L IS and 100-400L) and one thing I like about these lenses (among many other things) is their capacity to give a good image wide open, and their shallow depth of field when used wide open... while other zoom lenses have to be used at f/8 to give a good image.

  21. Canon primes and L Zooms are better optically and mechanically than Sigma's. All of my current optics are Canon. Sigma makes some very good lenses optically an mechanically. Sigma's are not held together by tape, grow up!

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