Help please, 'should I invest in a new camera, or a new lens'?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by ron_brown|6, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. I have a Canon 400D, that I have had since brand new, and I am ready to move up to something newer/more advanced. I am not a professional, but I do shoot as often as possible, so I am pretty fair for an amateur. I mostly shoot people, but also do general photography, inside in a studio and outside on location.
    My question is this; "If I can afford one or the other, should I invest in a new camera, or a new lens"? I'm wanting either a Canon 5D Mark II, or a premium lens, like a 50 or 85mm 1.2. I have a 24-105mm IS USM that I use for a general walk-around lens, so that is why I'm wanting a new prime lens.
    I'm wanting a good fast lens that will take good crisp shots of people, and even though my 400D takes good photos, and I know I can put a new lens on it, I don't want to spend that much on a new lens, and end up having more lens then I should for a camera of the size I have. I hope that makes sense.
    Any help or advice would truly be appreciated.
  2. Leaving aside the issues about "what is it about your current gear that doesn't meet your needs", and assuming that you have been through that exercise, my feeling is that, if it were me, I'd have more fun putting a 24-105 on a 5DII while saving for a 85/1.2, than I would with the 85 on a 400D. The 400D is a pretty venerable camera now.

    My opinion only, of course, and I should say that I am still using a 350D with a 24-105 as my general lens! Maybe the 7DII/70D will be my watershed...
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I have a 24 to 105 and a 5DMKII and I also use a 400D.
    I also can categorically state that would have more fun with the 24 to 105 on the 5DMkII than either a 50/1.2 or an 85/1.2 (and the 24 to 105) on a 400D – (although I own neither of those Prime Lenses but do have both the 50/1.4 and 85/1.8).
    So, I would vote for a new camera body – for many reasons including in no particular order and not limited to: smaller effective DoF; greater access to wider FL’s; higher, better ISO; video; better AF; nicer menu; better ergonomics; . . .
    But (and I understand your funds are not unlimited) – I would question the "value add" you will get if you buy either the 50/1.2 and the 85/1.2 when compared to using the 50/1.4 and the 85/1.8, respectively - shown in those links - used on the earlier model 5D (original). - - - view them 'large'

    So I would suggest you consider a 5DMkII – AND maybe one of those other two Primes Lenses.
    Also, when choosing the FL of a Prime Lens and depending upon whether you keep the 400D or not (and I suggest you do) – note your use of each particular FL of the Primes, on BOTH bodies.
  4. It always amases me use of the word "invest" in context of photography equipmnet purchase.
    Perhaps it means that someone does not need it right away, but has some cash to spend.
    Usually investment means some monetary gains, or loses.
    With photography, pure pleasure of taking and seeing pictures is not measurable in $$$.
    Based on history of Nikon sticking to their lens mount, Nikkor lenses are better investments. Cameras change much more often, and loose value drastically.
    But who can masure your pleasure? Your investment in a camera could possibly give you greater pleasure then a lens.
    All depends what you understand as an investment. I would get photo gear when needed, and not as a true investment, and seek other areas for investment.
  5. I think you are liable to get very inconsistent advice unless you are more specific about the question Geoff decided not to ask "what is it about your current gear that doesn't meet your needs"? The question is not just whether body or lens, but WHICH body or lens. For example, the 50 f/1.2 will behave very differently on your current body than on a FF--it's a "normal" lens on a FF and a standard portrait length on crop sensor. Also, that lens currently costs (with rebate) $1439 at B&H. If you are going to spend (not invest) $1400 on one or more lenses, does it make sense to spend the entire wad on a single 50mm lens, rather than spending, say, $339 on the Canon 1.4 or $449 on the Sigma 1.4 and spending the rest on another lens or two? Similarly, with your shooting, are you better off with the 5dMkII (narrower DOF, better low-light performance, a bit more detail) or with the 7D (worse on those counts, much better in terms of AF)? The answers will be different for different folks.
    That said, my first foray into digital SLRs was the camera you bought. I moved from there to a 50D. The quality of my prints is not clearly different, but I found the better ergonomics and controls of the 50D to be a big help. For image quality, however, the improvements I have had (mostly pretty small) have been from buying glass. On the other hand, you already have very good glass, but only one lens. So the issue is less quality than buying a lens that does something that your current lens does not do well.
  6. When I compare my D60 DSLR with its 1000 ISO maximum and my current M4/3 with 12800 ISO I guess I come down on the side of a new body. That the right lens can be used with any body is the usual reason offered to buy glass ahead of body but when the body is old and limited I think the reverse is true. I don't know your body so I'm guessing it is like my D60 :)
    There is another argument that one can push a DSLR file a couple of stops in editing without much loss to compensate for the smaller aperture. The fast lense becomes desirable not so much for its extra light gathering power but for its smaller depth of field when working wide open, if that is what grabs you in photos you have seen? That argument also affects the choice between the f/1.2 and f/1.4 lenses
  7. A new camera body with the old lens probably won't get you very much much unless your current camera body barks at strangers. Why not buy a couple of great but less expensive lenses rather one you can mainly brag about how much it cost?
  8. I've greatly benefitted from both new bodies and new lenses before now, but as others have said, what you shoot and how your current equipment is limiting you now, are both crucial questions if you want a useful, meaningful answer, Ron.
  9. In my opinion its not the camera its how you use it. I would buy the 50mm prime first (you can get a Canon one pretty cheap maybe $100). See how you like it on your current camera and play around with it, go out and experiment. I absolutley love love love my 50mm prime, and generally it is the lens I use the most. Plus if money is an issue (for me it is because school gets most of my money) the 50mm is very versatile, if you are clever. A reversing ring and a 50mm prime, boom- new macro lens. Most if not all of my shots on this site are using the 50mm prime, including the bubble macros (the lens and a reversing ring and lots of light!) and all of the street stuff. I am an avid amature myself and use a 40d; I would love an upgrade, but I do just fine with what I have now. Besides if the lens isn't right for you its only $100 wasted, as opposed to $1500+ for a new camera that may give you more features but may not be what you need to get the images you want. Try the lens, if you still feel inhibited by your equipment then get the camera; if money is not a factor get both. Again just my opinion, but I will suggest a good 50mm prime to anyone who will listen; its great for street, studio, portraits even landscapes. SO 50mm prime!!
  10. In my opinion its not the camera its how you use it.​
    Whether that's true or not depends to a huge extent on the kind of photography being undertaken - it's certainly not a reliable general rule of thumb.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I would buy the 50mm prime first (you can get a Canon one pretty cheap maybe $100). . . Besides if the lens isn't right for you its only $100 wasted, as opposed to $1500+ for a new camera that may give you more features but may not be what you need to get the images you want.​
    The comparison is flawed.
    The OP is considering the EF50F/1.2L USM - OR – the EOS5DMkII
    These are purchases of (about) (US) $1400.00 – OR - $1800.00, respectively.
    IF Ron wants to ‘test out’ how a 50mm focal length would suit him: then it is cheaper and easier to set the zoom at 50mm and use the zoom, stuck at that 50mm Focal Length for a week or two.
    Ron - you might find this interesting re the 50/1.2L (and the 85/1.2LMkII also)

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