Frustrated with travel lenses

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by eugene_ho|1, May 31, 2009.

  1. I own the canon 450d with its kit lens EF-s 18-55mm IS and am looking for a travel lens upgrade.
    EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS - everything seems fantastic but the barrel distortion is my concern for architecture, is it still acceptable?, I don't shoot in RAW
    EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM nice focus scale, IS, but not cheap
    EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM - EF 28mm on 450d, not gd for wide angle shots
    EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM - barrel distortion, how is it compared to EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
    My first choice probably EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, anyone used it before? Thanks for you help.
  2. I guess it depends on where your traveling. If your looking for really good image quality how about a prime to go with your 18-55? That will give you a good indoor/outdoor combo. Everything you mentioned is a compromise in one way or another ( as is a prime ) For general light weight travel I would suggest a Tamron 17-50 2.8 over all of the above.
  3. "I own the canon 450d with its kit lens EF-s 18-55mm IS and am looking for a travel lens upgrade."
    Depends on your reasons for wanting to upgrade. I don't think any of the lenses mentioned wpuld have significantly better IQ than your 18-55 IS. If you're looking for more reach, why not just add the EF-S 55-250mm IS? Or the EF 35mm f2 if you need a 'normal' lens for low light?
  4. Maybe a prime lens is what i need, after all, I think the EF-s 18-55mm IS image quality lacks a lot. Would a wide angle zoom lens alter the image quality a lot compared to prime lens?
  5. "Would a wide angle zoom lens alter the image quality a lot compared to prime lens?"
    I have the Tamron zoom that Tommy suggested. At 50mm, it's as sharp as my 50mm f1.8 prime and has good colour and contrast. But the 50mm prime can be used in very low light or for extremely shallow depth of field.
  6. One thing to keep in mind is the zoom range of the lens and its cost.
    • On your 18-55 the zoom range is 3 (55/18=3). All of the lenses you have listed have a longer zoom range. In general the large the zoom range the more compromises were made in the design. In my personal experience my favorite lenses (in terms of image quality) have had a zoom range of 3 or less. I have also had several zoom lenses with a zoom range of 4 and other than one lens (my Canon 100-400) they have been a disappointment. Lenses with large zoom ranges tend to have more optical issues and or weigh more. Sometimes a lot more.
    • Generally the higher the cost the better the lens. Note I said generally. Sometime cost is not the best indicator of quality. has a search feature in the upper right of the screen. If you type in a lens you will get a long list of forums were the lens was discussed. I have not owned any of the lenses you have listed so I cannot comment on which one is best.
    If you want minimum distortions from a lens I would look at lenses with a zoom range of 3 or less. You might want to look at the Canon 17-55 F2.8 lens. Unfortunately the 17-55 is double the cost of the 18-200mm. Sigma and Tamron also have lenses similar to the 17-55 for about $500 but they don't have IS.
    My personal preference is to have two lenses rather than one. One for telephoto and one for normal. Individually each would probably have better optical performance than the one lens solution. One lens is in a pouch attached to my belt while the other is on the camera. It doesn't take long to switch. However each person is different and your opinion on which lens is best may be different than mine. For that reason I would recommend you find a good camera store and ask to look at the lenses on a camera. And again also use the search function to get others opinions.
  7. EF-S 10-22 is a very good wide angle zoom with pretty low distortion for a zoom. It is a bit more expensive than other lenses you have listed. I use it with a 24-105 f4L as a two lens travel combo. The 24-105 f4L suffers from some distortion, however.
  8. According to photozone, the barreldistortion of the 17-85 is abt. 4% at the wide end, and is about 4.5% at the wide end of the 18-200. See...
    Nevertheless, both of them are quite solid candidates for "one-lens" solutions. (I would personally opt for the 17-85). The barrel distortion at the wide end can be corrected in postprocessing.
    If you wish to have no barrel distortion in the 17-20 range, you shopuld add a lens like the EFS 10-22 ... which has next to no distortion in this range.
  9. Thank you Rainer T for giving such a wonderful site, but I am finding some problems upon the MTF, which was said as quantity of sharpness in the site. According to Tommy DiGiovanni, the Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 should be better in terms of IQ, but according to the results, it merely touches 2150 line, while my EF-s 18-55mm IS touches it more often. The EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS seems to consist great image quality, arround 2350. The EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM with a small zoom range which should be of high quality according to Steven F, but it is far from 2150. Am I reading the scales wrong?
  10. The best lenses to travel would be Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 and Canon 70-200 f/4L IS. Both have high IQ and IS. If you want to go with one lens: then Canon 24-105mm or Canon 28-135mm. But you will not get the wide angle.
  11. Am I reading the scales wrong?​
    Of course. You can look at MTF scales and shots of test patterns all day long, or you can actually take pictures. Worrying about absolute sharpness/resolution is a sure sign of a beginner and has virtually no meaning in real life photography (where other lens characteristics are much more important).
    If you are in the market for a wide-angle zoom, check out the Tokina AT-X 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. But if you just want any super-sharp lens, take a good look at Canon's telephoto L primes (e.g., EF 200mm f/2.8 L USM).
  12. The travel lenses I carry are.....
    16-35L F2.8 USM
    24-105L F4 IS USM
    70-200L F2.8 IS USM
    I've always been very pleased with the results of these lenses. There is some barrel distortion on the 16-35, however I use DXO to process all my photos and it takes care of any distortion.
    Personally, I would avoid the "S" series lenses, if you ever upgrade to a full frame sensor body, you won't be able to use those lenses.
  13. Be carefull with photozones MTF numbers. There are tests done on a 350D, others done on a 50D and others done on a 5DMkII. You can only directly compare those tests that were done on the same camera. (THis doesn't touch the distortion values ... they are the same between 350D and 50D ... not so with the 5D).
  14. If you pixel peep and look at technical reviews like those on, you will discover an interesting fact:
    it is extremely difficult to design a wide range zoom lens without some barrel and pincushion distortion. Even L lenses like the mark 1 16-35mm and the 24-105mm have this "feature".
    If you want to do architectural photography, aside from getting a view camera, your best options are to get prime lenses, especially like the TS-E shift lenses.
    Or you can learn to post process the distortions away--it's relatively simple in Photoshop or other programs, although the results may arguably be somewhat less than getting it right on the sensor plane in the first place.
  15. Don't get all caught up in those numbers and tech reviews, in the right light, even your kit lens can produce very good shots. Maybe your not getting the most of of the lens. Do you use an external flash? If so do you diffuse it?
    The Tamron is a step up mainly because you have 2.8 across the focal range. Again light is a key factor.
  16. Actually, Mike J. is correct, as usual, its just not the answer we want, we want to know now.
  17. Eugene,
    Check out the test on your lens here:
    Take a look at the full review and what is written about the lens and you may appreciate what you already have.
  18. > I think the EF-s 18-55mm IS image quality lacks a lot.
    What are you comparing it too? Knowing that might give us an idea of your expectations. If you just want to 'upgrade' because you heard it's a kit lens and no good, you might not get the improvement you are hoping for by buying another lens, because your problem might not be the lens.
    Just my 2c
  19. If you want to improve IQ, then use a tripod, MLU, and timer, works for a majority of lenses. If you want to shoot buildings and need to control perspective and distortion, and since your worried about quality. I'm wondering if you have the right rig to do what you want in the first place? Thats is, when I'm shooting artitecture I use a modified FD35mm T/S on a full frame sensor 1Ds. That extra 30mm you lose with a crop sensor can make the difference when backing up means going into traffic or over a cliff!
    For my 40d I upgraded the 28-135 kit lens to a 17-55 EFs, which is an apparent step in IQ and useability for a crop frame sensor. I have a 100mm f/2.8 macro and 135 f/2 for those harder to reach places. Otherwise, it's sneaker zoom when I travel light.
  20. A 10-22 efs lens is excellent on a 450D. Its for landscapes and architecture and enviromental portraits. many people who have one would choose if for the only lens. For a long lens look at a 70-200 F4.0 L. wtih that pair you and you kit lens you will have a lot of fun. ( A perfect replacement upgrade on your kit lens is the 17-55 2.8 efs lens.
  21. You have lots of great advice here. I have an optically stabilized 18-200mm Sigma lens that I use when I do not want to bring a whole bag of heavy lenses. It is a versatile one lens solution that produces pretty good results but does not handle low light very well. I am sure the Canon 18-200mm IS is similar as is the Tamron 18-270 with IS. In good light, my Sigma produces very nice results. For me it was a great learning tool also. For low light I added a 50mm f/1.8 since they are also light weight and cheap. In hind sight, something similar around 30mm would have been better due to the crop factor that you and I both face but the 50mm worked pretty good for me anyway.

    Another good combo that worked well for me later on is a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and a Canon 70-200mm. Together they are much heavier and take up more valuable space when traveling but they also bring much better image quality. Both are great lenses. The Canon is pretty expensive.
  22. If your technique is good the 18-55mm IS lens has very decent image quality. People who put it down either haven't used it or haven't used it well. It is a little more work to get good images with than a constant 2.8 zoom because you are at 5.6 on the long end. I still use mine but also use the 17-55mm 2.8 zoom which is special but heavier. I don't think the 17-85mm or the 18-200mm will have better image quality than the 18-55mm IS kit lens though I haven't used them, just read reviews, tests and anecdotes. The Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 lens is a step above any of those lenses. I think for me a great travel kit would be a T1i, Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 and Tokina 50-135mm 2.8 zooms. Here is a sample with the XSi and 18-55mm IS kit lens.
  23. Indeed the 18-55 IS lens is not that bad optically. It is, and it feels, cheap, but it is also light and you hardly notice it when travelling. So, you may swap it for another lens that feels "less kit", but which actually does not give you improved optical quality.
    One other alternative could be the Sigma 30 1.4; this is a very good lens for a crop factor DSLR, I use one with my 1000D when I just want to travel light.
  24. stb


    "I think the EF-s 18-55mm IS image quality lacks a lot. "
    In what way(s) exactly? What is it you want to correct? Any sample image where your lens has let you down?
  25. I have to agree - the 18-55 IS kit lens is capable of very good results. Below is a 100% crop from a portrait of a toddler (40D, shot in RAW, default sharpening)
  26. Wow Ales! I can even see the photogrepher on it's eye!
    I think by travel lens, Eugene means a do it all lens that covers (almost) all necessary focal lengths.
  27. I was in a similar position to this a bit over a year ago. I've got a Canon 350d with the non-IS kit lens and at the time I wanted to get an additional lens or two for travel. The question is, what should you look for in travel lens to complement or replace the kit lens? More wide angle, more telephoto, and faster aperture are all obvious goals. As far as image quality goes, the kit lens (especially the newer IS one you have, I hear) is pretty decent in good light. Some of the best shots I've taken were on a summer hike in Freiburg with the 18-55 and a polarizing filter.
    I ended up taking the following kit to India with me:
    EF-S 18-55 kit lens
    EF-S 55-250 IS
    EF 50/1.8
    Tokina 11-16 f/2.8
    The wide angle lens is superb from an IQ perspective, but isn't that great for travel: it's the opposite of versatile and it weighs a ton compared to the rest of the kit. However, there's simply no other lens that would have allowed me to take natural light shots of Rajasthan palace interiors.
    The 55-250 lens should not be underrated. In good light it's a great zoom that gives pretty decent macros.
    If I had to do it again I'd probably take a higher quality prime. The EF 50/1.8 is so light it's a cinch to take everywhere, but in combination with the 350d body at least the focusing performance isn't what I'd like.
    Given the range you are considering, I would recommend to you the 55-250 and a fast prime, perhaps the Sigma 30/1.4 (which I have and love). To be fair, when I got my 55-250 the 18-200 didn't exist. I'd also recommend a polarizing filter for your kit lens. For travel a good wide angle bears thinking about but there's no perfect lens out there. The Canon 10-22 seems to be the popular compromise. I've heard people are very happy with faster kit replacement lenses, like the Canon 17-55/2.8 or the Tamron 17-50/2.8, but I've never used them. I had planned to get a Tamron at one point but for that range these days I just stick with my Sigma 30 prime.
  28. I think there are a few questions that you need to ask yourself: what is the purpose of your trip? What is the general photographic objects you'll be encountering? If the purpose is for pleasure: take one, maximum 2 lenses. Just enjoy the trip.
    Here is my experience in my trip to Vietnam last year. I took a few guided tours which covered most of Vietnam. The places that I visited ranged from mountain area (Sapa), islands, old capital cities, to modern cities. I took with me Canon 28-135mm, 17-40mm f/4L, and 50mm f/1.8 and Canon Rebel XT (350D). Here are what I learn from it:
    1) On guided tours, you tend to be rushed (by the guide or the other people). So changing lens is not really that great. Besides, in some places that I went to (particularly in the caves), the moisture in the air is so high (you can feel it) that I felt reluctant to expose the inside of the camera to such environment (not that my lenses are air-tight, but I tried to keep it down to a minimum).
    2) The range of the 28-135mm is very good. However, 135mm is too long for the kind of travel I described above. I might have gone to 135mm about 5% of the time (and only in bright daylight, at night forget it).
    3) The 17-40mm f/4L is really great for landscape and has a decent range for people photog on the cropped body. However, you probably only want to use the lens in good lighting condition (i.e. outdoor and sunny).
    Summary: if you have to take only one lens, I'd suggest the 28-135 out of other lenses you listed. The IS really helps.
    Another lens you might consider: Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. It's a bit more expensive than 28-135 though. But I heard many good things about it. So it is a good investment and I'm sure it'll last you longer than your camera. If price is a big factor, another lens to consider is Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5. It's about $370 on
    I didn't use either one, but from what I read online, Tamron 17-50 has better image quality, but the range of the Sigma is so attractive.
    Have fun.

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