Sigma 35mm 1.4 or... what?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by natalya|1, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. REALLY need your advice.
    My gear: 5D Mark II, 85mm 1.8, 70-200 f/4 IS.
    I mostly use it to shoot my own children. I also occasionally do photo shoots of families, so would like a lens that can allow me to do a nice GROUP portrait. When traveling, I enjoy architectural photography and landscape photography.
    Added to it Sigma 35mm 1.4. Seemed like a good idea (someone once told me that increments of 2 were a good rule of thumb: i.e., if you have a 70mm, 35mm would offer a nice change of perspective, whereas 50mm may be a bit too close).
    But now I'm considering returning the 35mm: I find that 35mm distorts the faces a bit too much for my liking and I can't always step further back indoors. Unfortunately, I didn't really have a chance to test it outside much, maybe I would have changed my mind then.
    However, if I return it, I need to replace it with some other wide-angle/normal lens. WHICH ONE? Can't seem to decide.
    It seems that all zooms are out - not fast enough.
    Is Canon's 35L worth trying? Is there a chance there will be less distortion with it, or if I don't like the focal length, I don't like it, period?
    Naturally, I'm thinking about 50mm. I used to have 50mm 1.8, sold it when I got 85mm 1.8, not looking to buy it again. A friend loaned me his 50mm 1.4, and I have to say, I feel its quality is inferior to Sigma 35mm... Of course, its price is, too, so I'm not necessarily dissing it, but for my budget, I'd like something a little nicer.
    I also bought and returned Sigma's 50mm - it was waaaay back-focused, couldn't get any sharp images with it at all.
    So, I have a couple of questions:
    1) Given that currently, my widest length is 70mm, what would those of you who have experience with both 35mm and 50mm recommend? Which one is more versatile? Which one is better for my needs all around?
    2) Is 50L really worth it? What about back-focus? Should I try it? I really want a lens that would blow me away.
    3) Would you advise to give Canon's 35L a try? Even though Canon's coming out with a new one soon? I feel like it'd be wiser to wait, even if the new one is more expensive, the prices on the old one are likely to drop, right? Problem is - I have a baby, so I really need something that would allow me to document his rapid growth RIGHT NOW, and not when Canon decides to make the 35L II.
    4) Should I try Sigma's 50 again?
    5) Or really, any thoughts on my predicament are welcome, especially if you have experience with different lenses in that range. Just please, don't say "get both 35mm and 50mm", I do hope to get both eventually, but right now it's not exactly doable.
    My window for returning the Sigma is running out quickly, I will try to return tomorrow, so any responses I can get tonight, overnight (from European posters) or tomorrow morning would be GREATLY appreciated, as I am at a loss. THANK YOU!
  2. According to reviews I've read, the Sigma has almost no distortion. I suspect what you're seeing is just a wide angle lens being a wide angle lens. All of them stretch things near the edge of the frame. On a 35mm the effect is fairly mild.
    Also, all lenses, not just wide angles, show faces oddly if focused too close. If you stay at least 4 or 5 feet away from the subject you won't see that much.
    Based on your lens collection, you have nothing wider than 70mm? If that's the case, I'd say you just need more practice with the 35mm. If it's focusing properly and acceptably sharp I'd keep it and keep using it.
    If you're nervous about keeping such an expensive lens that you're not sure you want, you could return it and get something cheaper, like a Canon 28mm f/1.8, 40mm f/2.8, or 50mm f/1.8. The 40mm and 50mm are crazy cheap for how good they are.
  3. Alan, yes, I'm certain that the distortion is normal, I just can't always put 4-5 feet between me and the baby, so, I feel that 50mm is more forgiving than 35mm, which immediately renders faces a bit oddly.
    And yes, you got it exactly right: I think there's a good chance that as I play more with 35mm, I'd learn to use it, but if I DO NOT, I'll be stuck with an expensive lens I don't like, and no budget to buy a different one.
    I actually should have mentioned that I used to own 28mm, I just gave it away. I don't know if I got a bad copy, but I hated that lens, all about it - very little bokeh, not very sharp. And I mentioned above - I used to own 50mm 1.8. I sold it. It's a very nice lens for the money, but I want a VERY GOOD lens, not just good for the money.
  4. Natalya, I have (and love) the EF 35/1.4 L, but the Sigma 35/1.4 is reportedly better, so I wouldn't "swap" it for the L if I were you. Alan is right about wide angle distortion. When you're doing wide angle portraiture, it's best to step back a bit. Wide angle lenses are eminently suited for environmental portraiture, but don't work very well for head shots.
    Another lens you might want to consider is the new EF 24-70/2.8 L. It delivers prime level image quality, and would complement your 70-200 perfectly. While it's not quite as fast as your 35/1.4, it focuses fairly closely and has a very versatile focal length range for portraiture.
  5. Mark,
    yes, I hear Sigma is better, but without ever trying 35L, it's hard for me to feel like "yes, it's a great lens", there's always this lingering doubt (especially if you take the copy-to-copy differences into account).
    And I have been drooling over the new 24-70 2.8, but I'm afraid it's a bit out of my price range. My price range really is more $1000, I'm willing to stretch it to $1200 if need be, for 35L or a used 50L, but can't stretch it all the way to $2000+... I even looked at the old one, but with all the reviews telling how much better the new one is, it's hard to feel motivated to spend $1200 on an outdated zoom, I'd rather buy a nice prime, then.
  6. The 35L is one of Canon's best, but the Sigma is attracting stellar reviews too. I don't think you can go wrong with either. The only thing I can think of that may weigh in the Canon's favor is its longevity. This means its qualities have been proven over time. The Sigma is new and may have yet undetermined issues. There are always rumors about new lenses, but the rumor of a new 35L is just a rumor. There is a new 35/2 IS though - which you might want to consider. You're not going to use a 35 at f1.4 for a group shot, so you don't need a particularly fast lens in my opinion. f2 is quite enough for the vast majority of shots such as you are taking. I only rarely use my 35L wide open.
  7. A 35 will distort faces if you get too close. This may not matter for people you don't know, but for family, they may object. A 50 is better for more natural perspective "waist up". Having said this, a 35 is excellent for groups and portraits showing the environment.
  8. And I have been drooling over the new 24-70 2.8, but I'm afraid it's a bit out of my price range. My price range really is more $1000,​
    Then how about the often maligned, but still excellent 24-105/4, which you can pick up for well under $1000? Sharpness is very similar to the 24-70/2.8, but with less curvature of field. You'll be missing one stop, but you'll have a bit more reach and will have IS.
    Here's the thing: You might find yourself missing for as shallow a depth of field with this lens (i.e. at f/2.8), but f/2.8 doesn't really get you that shallow anyway. You can always have an inexpensive prime for that anyway. And really, when the DoF is so shallow as to blur out the background, you only need a few focal lengths to get you the perspective you want anyway. So I would think your 85/1.8 (for shallow DoF head/shoulder shots), in combination with a 24-105 (for shots that require greater depth of field anyway) would be a great combination -- of course with your 70-200 to pick up the longer range with a bit of overlap in between.
  9. The Canon 35mm f2.0 is good too, though the price has been sneaking up, for a lens that's been around for ages. Also the Canon 17-40 is worth considering, a very cheap L, lightweight, compact.
    With the 50mm's, you could buy the f1.8 for very little..., didn't you just sell one, LOL. I wouldn't bother with the 1.2, way to expensive/heavy. The 1.4 is what I have, and it's ok, but overpriced for the build quality imho.
    The Digital Picture is a good site to read up on lens.
    (I'd also second the 24-105 f4.0. I have both that lens and orig 24-70 f2.8, and while the sharpness of my 24-70 is better, the IS and flare resistance of the '105 has won me over of late, don't use the 24-70 to speak of.)
  10. The new Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS or the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens. Both are excellent.
  11. I'm a fan of the Sigma 50/1.4 and I've tried the Sigma 35/1.4, which I thought pretty good other than lacking in closest focusing distance. If that's focal length you want, then all well and good.
    I would also second Sarah, there's the excellent 24-105, which is my everyday lens.
  12. At that distance from the baby (4 to 5 feet), go with a 50mm lens.
  13. If you cannot step back, so you are up close to the face, then it will be distorted no matter what lens you use. The perspective distortion depends on how close you are to the subject, not on the focal length of the lens. If you kept at the same distance from the baby but used a longer lens, you would just get a narrower angle of view.
    So not being able to take a step backwards is not a reason to get a longer lens - though it may sometimes suggest getting a wider one, if you can't get everything you want in shot.
    That said the Sigma 35/1.4 is an expensive lens and you might realize some cash by replacing it with something cheaper. If your home is reasonably well lit (or it's sunny where you live and there are plenty of windows), you do not need a f/1.4 lens even for indoor use. Sigma make a good and inexpensive 50mm f/2.8 macro lens, as do Canon (f/2.5). This is often good for use with babies because you can get as close as you want.
  14. As far as the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is concerned, it is a fantastic lens *if* you manage to get the focus set up properly on it. I also bought one for my 5D MkII and the focus was so far off I could not take up the slack with the AF micro-adjust on camera. I sent it to Sigma for calibration under warranty and now it's perfect. I think the glass is on a par with the Canon 50mm f/1.2L. Even when calibrated properly, care is needed to ensure sharp focusing at f/1.4 but that's the same story for any lens.
  15. Robin - you're absolutely right, a big advantage of 35L for me is that it's been around forever, and I know it resells well if I decide later that 35mm is really not my cup of tea. Thus I'm wondering if $300 more is not a bad price to pay for that.
    And you're also right on distortion: I love photos with 35L that I see on the web, but when I photograph my own children, I KNOW that it distorts their faces and that bothers me a bit because "it's not how they really are".
    Sarah - I am, indeed, considering 24-105, I have a few friends lobbying for it. I just have always been more of a prime girl, it took a LOT of convincing to get me to buy the 70-200 (I wanted 135), so I'm having an even harder time committing to another zoom instead of a prime. AND I really need something very fast for indoors, and f/4 will most likely not cut it for a room on a rainy day.
    Mendel, Ellis - really? I read the reviews of the new 35 f/2 and walked away thinking it left much to be desired...
  16. Sarah - I am, indeed, considering 24-105, I have a few friends lobbying for it. I just have always been more of a prime girl, it took a LOT of convincing to get me to buy the 70-200 (I wanted 135), so I'm having an even harder time committing to another zoom instead of a prime. AND I really need something very fast for indoors, and f/4 will most likely not cut it for a room on a rainy day.​
    I think you miss my point, which is that it's not necessary to get your new lens to do everything. It will do well what it does well. If you are really struggling with finding enough light indoors, that's when you pull out an inexpensive prime, like your 85/1.8. An f/1.4 lens isn't really going to do THAT much better for you. Of course if you're wanting to do a group photo by dim light indoors at f/1.4 or f/1.8, almost everyone is going to be out of focus, so that doesn't really work anyway.
    Besides that, an even better solution, if you are lacking that much in light (and still can't shoot at a smaller aperture, even with the high ISO capabilities of your 5DII, and even with the assistance of IS, if you have it on your lens -- we're talking REALLY dark), is to pull out a flash! I'm not suggesting you put the thing on the hot shoe and nuke anything in front of the camera. Rather, you put a radio slave on the hot shoe, set your flash somewhere on a table, aimed at a wall, and create what looks absolutely convincingly like soft daylight through a window. It's easy, it looks great, and you won't have to fiddle with razor thin depths of field and slow shutter speeds.
    One last note: Zooms really take a bashing on this forum, but do you really dislike your 70-200 that much or feel that a prime is so superior that you shouldn't consider another zoom? I admit the 24-105 isn't quite as stellar a lens as the 70-200/4IS (which I also own), but it's still a very, very nice lens, and its greatest strength is its versatility. It's the one you'll usually find on my camera.
    And a final last note: If you are particular about perspective and composition, a prime can actually be the inferior lens, because if you need a certain perspective that doesn't fill the frame with the focal length of lens on your camera, you either have to crop your image (thereby losing whatever sharpness advantage you thought you were getting) or move to the next longer lens, which might not be wide enough to give you the perspective you want. Primes will do some things zooms won't (divorce perspective from framing), and primes will do some things primes won't (extremely large apertures and very slightly sharper at large apertures). If you want to do everything possible, you can only get there with BOTH primes and zooms in your collection. But right now it sounds like you need versatility, and the 24-105 is hands-down your most versatile sub-$1k option as a normal zoom designed for general use on full frame digital camera.
  17. Er... That sentence should start, "Zooms will do some things primes won't (divorce perspective from framing)..."
  18. I don't think I miss your point, the problem is that 85mm is more often than not too tele- for indoors. It's not that 1.4 is going to be that much better than 1.8, it's that 50mm or 35mm will be that much better than 85mm for inside a small townhouse.
    And yes, I would get both 35 and 50 in 24-105, but f4 will make it all but irrelevant for indoors.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that I need 50mm or less and at least a 2.8 aperture (1.8 even better) to take successful indoors pictures. Or, of course, a flash, but then I have to invest in a some flash equipment (don't have a radio slave), which then should be factored into the cost of 24-105... But I really HATE using the flash indoors in my house: we have colored walls in every room, and our living room has peach-colored walls, which I love, but they give a hue to all my photos, and if a flash bounces off one of those walls - the hue is horrendous.
    And I love my 70-200, however, I think that a telephoto zoom and a normal zoom are 2 different stories: telephoto zooms still provide very pleasing background blur thanks to compression. Wide angle and normal zooms don't compress as much, so I'm suspecting that a prime would provide a much more pleasing bokeh than a zoom. I could be wrong - I never owned a normal zoom.
  19. Another vote for 40/2.8
  20. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that I need 50mm or less and at least a 2.8 aperture (1.8 even better) to take successful indoors pictures.​
    The focal length depends on what you're shooting. If you're shooting young children and have the space, your 70-200 makes an excellent lens for candid portraits, because you can back off far enough that the kids will forget you're there (yes, even with a flash occasionally popping off!). As for the aperture, I have to disagree. I shoot with a 5D (original) and mostly f/4 optics. I've never felt limited by the f/4 optics, except when I want a thinner depth of field and/or a heavier background blur. If blur is what you want, you should keep in mind that this style of photography is the most recent fashion, and it's already starting to get a bit tired. A very mild blur is all that is required for good subject separation, and it maintains the context of the background. Anyway, the aperture is a matter of individual preference, and depending on your preferences, no, f/4 won't limit you.
    Or, of course, a flash, but then I have to invest in a some flash equipment (don't have a radio slave), which then should be factored into the cost of 24-105...​
    Yongnuo flash, $70. Yongnuo radio slave kit from Ebay, maybe $30 (e.g. RF-602). Their stuff works fine.
    But I really HATE using the flash indoors in my house: we have colored walls in every room, and our living room has peach-colored walls, which I love, but they give a hue to all my photos, and if a flash bounces off one of those walls - the hue is horrendous.​
    Colored walls -- the bane of modern indoor photography! Rest assured the wall color screws up your colors even without bounce flash! Solution: Bounce the flash off of a piece of white foam-core board (which becomes your "window"). Then be aware that additional bounces off of walls color the light. Of course you could just embrace the color and use a custom WB (or adjust appropriately in post), but of course each additional wall bounce colors the light even more. Again, this happens with or without a flash. I personally prefer introducing as rich a spectrum as possible into the room, which would come ideally from daylight or xenon flash (very similar spectrum), or failing that, from tungsten (incandescent) lighting. This will give you the best colors.

    And I love my 70-200, however, I think that a telephoto zoom and a normal zoom are 2 different stories: telephoto zooms still provide very pleasing background blur thanks to compression. Wide angle and normal zooms don't compress as much, so I'm suspecting that a prime would provide a much more pleasing bokeh than a zoom. I could be wrong - I never owned a normal zoom.​
    Most upper-tier zooms and moderate-to-upper tier primes these days have roughly the same fairly "neutral" bokeh, which results from optimal correction for spherical aberration, which is necessary to optimize lens sharpness. So honestly, there are few differences, enthusiastic claims to the contrary. If you want to soften the bokeh, you really need to do it with a soft focus lens, which lets you adjust the level of correction for spherical aberration, hence the softness of the blur. The original 24-70/2.8 may also give you a bit softer bokeh because of its field curvature.
    You are of course correct that the field compression of a longer lens results in a "bigger" (more magnified) background blur. I generally don't like background blur in a wide angle shot, because it's hard to get enough of it that it doesn't just look poorly focused. Anyway, bokeh doesn't matter at all for any shot that is substantially all in focus, which for me is the vast majority of my wide angle shots.
    BTW, I think you might be confusing bokeh (the pattern of background blur) with the magnitude of background blur. A faster lens gets you a larger blur, and field compression magnifies the blurred background, so to speak, assuming you maintain the same framing of the subject. However, this has nothing to do with bokeh. For almost all "better" lenses (with substantially "neutral" bokeh), aperture and focal length tell the whole story of how your background blur will appear. (Many people on this forum will disagree with me strongly on this point, but then again, many people will show a totally, 100% in-focus shot and rave about the bokeh, which of course makes absolutely no sense.)
  21. Oh, and I should correct myself that you CAN get substantial background blur with a large aperture on a wide angle lens, but it really takes a lot of physical separation between subject and background, perhaps more than you'll have indoors, unless you're right in the subject's face. But then you get the distortion you don't like, etc.
  22. Sarah:
    I have a basic grasp of how focal length works, since I already have 70-200 and 85, I most certainly tried them inside first. If I'm looking for a wider angle, it stands to reason it's because I found 70 and 85 do not work. I did once shoot at a house where 200 was doable, but that would set me back 4 million dollars, a fast prime seems like a cheaper option at this junction. :)
    I am impressed that f4 never held you back, but my guess is that you're a lot more comfortable with a flash than I am.
    Solution: Bounce the flash off of a piece of white foam-core board (which becomes your "window").​
    And 10 seconds later the baby will crawl away and I'll have to move my board, and my flash that I set up nicely on the table. :) I admire people who're skilled with flash, I really do, but I'm not one of them, and I find that for candids, a fast lens is better than flash gear.
    And I'm not sure why you think I'm confusing bokeh and blur. I'm fairly certain I know them apart.
  23. If I'm looking for a wider angle, it stands to reason it's because I found 70 and 85 do not work.​
    Sorry... I'm not arguing! As I said it depends on what you're photographing. I just mentioned an example when one might shoot with a longer lens. Just addressing your point ("correct me if I'm wrong...") that indoor photography requires <50mm and a large aperture.
    And 10 seconds later the baby will crawl away and I'll have to move my board, and my flash that I set up nicely on the table. :)
    No, not at all. You leave the board and flash where they are, and you tweak your aperture up or down a bit (shooting manually). Either that, or you have a more expensive slave and speedlite, so that you can shoot with ETTL and not have to make the adjustments manually.
    And I'm not sure why you think I'm confusing bokeh and blur. I'm fairly certain I know them apart.​
    It's a common confusion. I don't really know what you do and don't know. I'm just trying to be helpful.
  24. And I really appreciate your advice, I do!
    In fact, I am almost wondering if you could help me set up a nice inexpensive flash outfit for indoors and outdoor fill (for sunny locations and days, where shadows are strong and no shade to be found, such as on a beach at noon). But that is probably a conversation for another thread.
  25. Sarah's advice and perspective, as always, is thoughtful and spot-on. I think she already suggested a Yongnuo wireless outfit, which will run around a fourth of the price of similar Canon gear. I'd recommend going the Am@&*n route rather than Ebay though, as the only knock against Yongnuo is "DOA" that is higher than what we expect from the major manufacturers.
    Background blur notwithstanding, I'm curious why f/4 doesn't work for you. The 5dMk2 is so clean at ISO 2,000-3,200 you should be able to shoot confidently in most ambient light settings, I would think. Unless you live in Alaska and it's winter, I suppose (or Russia!) ;-)
  26. Hmm, now I'm wondering if I got a bad copy of 5D Mark II... While it can definitely take decent shots at 2000-3200 (I imagine), I try to never hike the ISO up above 640, and even at 640, at 100% the noise is visible. Granted, how often do you use an image at 100%, but I definitely would not qualify that as "clean".
  27. [E]ven at 640, at 100% the noise is visible.​
    This indicates underexposure rather than inherent sensor noise. My 5DII is clean up to at least 1600.
  28. How does it indicate underexposure? A correctly exposed image can have shadows where noise will be apparent... What am I missing?
    and 1600 is half of 3200, so you seem to be in agreement with me that saying that 5DMII is clean at 3200 is a bit too much
  29. In fact, I am almost wondering if you could help me set up a nice inexpensive flash outfit for indoors and outdoor fill (for sunny locations and days, where shadows are strong and no shade to be found, such as on a beach at noon). But that is probably a conversation for another thread.​
    Frankly I'd approach that situation with light modifiers, rather than flashes -- translucent screen overhead, large reflector to the side.
    The sort of flash outfit you would want to put together would depend GREATLY on your individual style, strengths, and weaknesses. I don't mind building equipment and delving into manual kludgery, so I've assembled my lighting out of Vivitar 285hv units, which I've greatly modified and have adapted to light modifiers like umbrellas and softboxes. Not many people would take this direction, and in fact most people have no patience for manual shooting, while I greatly prefer it. If you want to see what I do for lighting, I've written about some of it here:
    To find your style really starts with a bit of learning and experimenting. For that, I'd refer you to the strobist lighting 101 blog, here:
    The blog is oriented towards small strobe lighting. I guarantee you will enjoy working through the exercises and learning these techniques. After a bit of reading and learning, you should develop some idea what you would like to buy. And don't forget there's a lighting forum on PhotoNet! I don't frequent that board, but I do know there are lots of helpful people there.
    Regarding the ISO and noise, it's natural to see noise in the shadows. That's not necessarily a problem, though. What is problematic is banding in the shadows, which only shows up when shadow regions are boosted in contrast. This form of banding makes the image look a bit like burlap at 100%. That said, it's only important how the image looks at the size you're going to print. I wouldn't hesitate to crank the ISO a bit on that 5DII, at least as an experiment. The worst that can happen is you decide you don't like it. See if you can get a decent result at f/4 or smaller and at a reasonable shutter speed in your typical shooting environment. If I can turn out nice images at ISO 800 with my 5D, surely you can do more than 640 with your 5DII! ;-)
  30. I'm one of many who's interest in DSLR's conveniently began just prior to the birth of our child. Now, almost 5 years later I have used
    some of the lenses you asked about. For the first year or so I was shooting a canon 50mm f1.4 on a crop. I was always happy with
    the photos and have many shallow dof images that we particularly like. The 50 f1.4 bokeh gets kinda ho-hum around f2.8 or so but
    it's okay. Then at year 1 I found a beat up old 35L. That on the crop camera was awesome. But the 35L is really a f2 lens if you ask
    me, the edges are pretty soft from f1.4 to f1.8. But I didn't really notice that until I upgraded to a 5D2. As our daughter got more active,
    I found the 35L was always on the camera. It really is a great lens and I can't really imagine parting with it.

    Now at her age 4, I find myself using the 50mm and 85mm more often than 35mm. As my daughter gets older, I just really like the
    look thru those lenses on a full frame. If I want more of the environment in the photo, then the 35mm comes out.

    Over the holidays I picked up the 40mm f2.8. What a great little lens! You only need to stop it down once and it is really sharp

    I also have the 17-40 and have used it for larger group photos but just don't care for it for solo portraits.

    My vote, given all your comments would be to first try and find a 50mm that you really like. You will use it a lot. I think the Canon
    50mm f1.4 might be a good place to start (mine died the all too common death - but I like it enoigh that I may buy another). That will
    leave you money to go towards another lens. Then reevaluate.

    If you are on a crop body then I would recommend the 35mm instead.

    Oh yeah +1 for an off camera flash. And get a expo disc and then the color casts won't be that big of a deal. A kiss of flash and a catch light in their eyes is a whole different photo.

    And don't forget, your 5d2 has micro focus adjustment capabiity. Sometimes a lens just needs a few steps here and it's crazy sharp before you know it!

    FYI I usually try and shoot the 5d2 at iso 1600 or lower. But raw photos @ iso 3200 generally clean up very nicely in adobe camera raw with just slider here and a click there.
  31. Sarah, you've been my inspiration and a much needed kick in my behind to start figuring out the light! :) And yes, I already tried bumping my ISO and shooting at 2000 last night, have not looked at the results on my computer screen yet, but on camera, they actually didn't look as bad as I remembered from my previous forays into high ISO.
    I did read the strobist blog for a while, but felt overwhelmed and gave up. But that was 2 years ago, until I had a brief intro class on studio lighting, where I got to work through the most basic set-ups, so maybe I'll be better equipped to understand the blog now.
  32. Brad,
    thank you for your response! I think you and I come from very similar places in our photographic needs, so I really appreciate you sharing your experience.
    Interesting that you liked 40mm, I played with it a bit (a friend has one) on my full frame and absolutely hated it - compared to my 70-200 and 85, it lacked contrast, colors were dull, and I couldn't seem to get a very sharp portrait out of it. But I only played with it for maybe 40 minutes, I kinda feel like some lenses need to be tamed before they perform.
    And I actually DO have a flash - 430EX. I do use it, but only when I have no other way.
    And yes, I did play with MFA on my camera when I got Sigma's 50 (which I'm going to try again, I think), but it did not help. :-( I don't rule out the possibility that I just didn't do the adjustment right, though, I wish there was a shop that I could take my camera to that would calibrate it for me around where I live. Haven't found one yet...
  33. What I don't like about the new 40mm f2.8 lens is that there's not much of a manual focus ring and isn't a very fast focuser (although its quiet!). Other than that I definitely prefer it over the 50mm f1.8 for another $40.
    I'm starting to wonder if what you really want is the Canon 50L?
    Re: micro focus adjustment. Go to the following link, print a chart and you'll know your Sigma 50mm's fate in about 15 minutes :)
  34. I've been wondering the same thing about 50L... However, it is perhaps Canon's most controversial prime, with reviews not nearly as univocally positive as for 35, 85 or 135... I actually ordered 50L from Amazon a few days ago, thinking I'd return my Sigma 35, but then I had a change of heart, got scared that 50L is too tricky and expensive, and cancelled order before they shipped it. Now I regret it a bit, because the price has gone up again (it dropped from 1400+ to 1229 when I ordered it).
    However, many people think that Sigma 50 is a very close approximation to 50L at 1/3 of the cost, so I'm just tempted to keep exchanging Sigmas until I get a sharp one, or using my warranty to calibrate it (paranoid about sending my gear in, though).
    What really messes me up with 50 is that I DID have a 50 for a long time - 2 years, I think, it was my walk-around lens, and I know its limitations as far as focal length is concerned very well, BUT that was on a 450D... And I think that screws me up a bit: like, I know taking pictures with 50mm on 450D inside the house was hard, sometimes impossible, especially if you want more than a head. Which makes me freak out a bit and go for 35mm. Even though I KNOW that on my cropped sensor, 50 was really 80, and it won't be as tight on a full-frame, but it's hard to overcome that panicky feel, I'm tempted to err on the side of wide.
    Thanks for the chart, I have already returned the Sigma 50 (it was within 30 days of purchase and I couldn't get a SINGLE sharp photo with it, not even outside in great light)... But I will use it to test my other lenses, they may all need a little tweaking!
  35. Sarah, see if I got this right, for inside, you'd recommend:
    - a flash (you recommended Yongnuo, but I already have 430EX, that will do, right?)
    - my flash doesn't come with it, so I presume I'll need to buy a hot shoe stand to use the flash off my camera
    - a radio slave kit, such as RF-602 (I checked Amazon, they have RF-603, is it an upgrade?)
    - a foam core white board - to bounce the flash, can it also serve as a reflector - I mean, for filling shadows? Or would I need 2, then?
    - translucent screen overhead - any particular brand/size? How would that hold overhead - do I need a stand for it?
    If you could recommend 1 strobe light to compliment my 430EX to allow for more lighting options, is there a particular one you'd recommend to start with?
  36. Natalya, I think you might be getting ahead of yourself. However...
    With regard to the shooting at high noon query, the best solution is DON'T. Sometimes you might not have a choice. This is sometimes the situation pros are in, where a time and place is dictated to them, and they have to perform brilliantly under adverse circumstances. But for you, I'd suggest picking a better time of day. If you MUST shoot in that situation, have a couple of friends improvise a scrim by standing on step ladders and stretching a white bed sheet over the subject's head. A better material would be parachute stock. A big, white golf umbrella can also be used. (Umbrellas for rain are somewhat rare in white, but if you keep your eye peeled, you'll find some.)
    Reflectors: You can buy a set of pop-open fabric reflectors (with springy wire frames) that will work brilliantly. They're very cheap. My reflectors are dual-sided, and a set has silver, gold, white, and black. (Black is used to absorb light where you want shadow.) Foam core also works, both black and white. It's cheap. Buy a pack of white and a pack of black. I find the black is great for making snoots, flags, etc.
    Your 430EX is fine; however, just be aware that some slaves will not trigger Canon speedlites. I know this is true of the Sonia optical slaves. I think the Yongnuo units are OK with Canon flashes, though. Check first!
    I'd suggest CHEAP flashes for additional units, although you can find the older Canon speedlites very cheaply now on the used market. I'm not too familiar with the Yongnuo flashes, but I can tell you the light from the Vivitars is very strong and consistent. My 285hv units pack just as much punch as my 550EX. The nice thing about the Vivitars is that they have a big, rectangular lip you can use for hanging stuff, and they're very easy to modify by hacking the little light sensor unit on the front. However, the Yongnuos sound like much better units. I've had some quality control issues with the Vivitars. (One failed catastrophically. Another became unreliable.) Yongnuo is also cheaper and is more continuously variable. (The vivitars have a big gap in the low power end -- full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/16, as I recall.)
    The cheapest and most versatile softening modifier is going to be a medium to small umbrella. I suggest white shoot-through umbrellas. The reason is that these small strobes aren't as powerful as the studio flashes, and you might have to move them in close. You can vary their apparent size by zooming the flash in and out, BTW! You could also use soft boxes by cobbling up some method to mount the flash ring directly to the stand and then holding the strobe in the hole. However, this will take some construction skills, which you may or may not have. (I did it with basic tools -- a hack saw, a drill, a rivet kit, and aluminum stock.) However, for most purposes where light spillage is an issue an umbrella is just easier.
    I haven't followed developments in the Yongnuo product line. I have the 602 units, and they're fine. I'm sure 603 is an upgrade. Buy by the features and price. You can sync quite a long way with these units (e.g. a hundred feet), but don't be surprised if you get an occasional runt that's only good for 20'. Plan on a maximum sync speed of 1/160s.
  37. Sarah,
    Why am I getting ahead of myself?
    You wouldn't believe how hard it is when you're mostly doing shoots for 1) friends 2) babies and kids. Babies go to bed early, they nap during the day... 99% of the time when I'm asked to take pictures of a kid, I have to do it between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm - while this isn't high noon, in the spring/summer, when the sun rises as early as 6 am and sets as late as 8 pm, on a shadeless beach (we live near the coast, so the beach is immensely popular for portraits) - it's still tough.
  38. Hi Natalya,
    Sorry I'm late to this discussion--you probably already had to keep or return your Sigma 35 1.4. But, you asked originally if it's worth trying the Canon 35L.
    It is.
    I bought one a couple weeks ago, and so far it's amazing. I find it adds a luminous quality to every-day pictures that would could seem flat with a lesser lens (given that I am still a novice photographer).
    But, I'm nervous about spending so much money on it ($1229)--and have wondered if I should return it for the Sigma, given the good reviews the Sigma is getting. Any thoughts on that?!
  39. Hi Natalya:
    I think Mark's point is that it is GENERALLY appropriate to dial in overexposure when shooting at high ISOs with FF Canon bodies. In fact, that may be extrapolated to all low light shooting, at least it seems so in my experience, but more seasoned shooters may feel differently. It will be easy enough to figure out on you own. Shoot some interior, low light, ambient photos at 0 then at +1/3 to +2/3 and if necessary, pull back a bit PP. I really think you'll be amazed what your 5dmk2 is capable of.
    I wouldn't worry about the 50mm f/1.2L. I suspect you'll really like it, unless fast focus is your bag. Most complaints I've read are indicative of folks who amazingly fail to grasp how narrow DOF is at f/1.2 to f/1.4 and feel it is the lens rather than technique. I've never owned the lens, I admit, but I borrowed one and thought it was terrific.
    Happy shooting,
  40. If you happen to be leaning towards 50mm, perhaps some of these links will help.
    Lens Rentals "The Great 50mm Shootout"
    Samples Photos From Photography-On-The-Net:
    Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 :
    Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 :
    Sigma 50mm f/1.4 :
    Zeiss 50mm 2.0 :
  41. +1 for you appearing to actually want/need a 50mm.
    Yes, the Canon 50L is a controversial lens. However, my personal belief is that at least half the people with gripes are suffering from a bit of user error. Yes, it is a quirky lens. But if you understand those quirks, they are not difficult to work around.
    For some background, I am a 50ish mm lover/hoarder.
    The three I use most currently are the 50L, the Zeiss 50/2 Makro and a Contax Zeiss 50mm 1.4 modded by Conurus to maintain AF on my EF body. I've also owned the Canon 1.4, 1.8 mkI and Sigma 1.4.
    Considering your budget, I would say to not bother with the cheaper three mentioned above (no need to get into why as it has already mostly been mentioned above). If you are looking for the most all-around useful and consistent one, the 50L is the only way to go. It is not the fastest focusing 50. But it is no slouch and isn't slow enough to the point where you will be complaining about it a whole lot. None of the other lenses render the way the 50L does (color, contrast, bokeh) for obvious reasons. A previous poster also posted a link for the Zeiss 50 Makro. It has a very unique overall look and has the highest resolution of any 50 for EF mount. However, it is an F2 and manual focus. It is difficult to use for portraiture as getting critical focus in the normal part of the focusing range is troublesome. The focus throw is long, but only because of the macro end.
    If you are into the "look" of Zeiss but want to retain AF, I would suggest looking into modding a Contax 50. Lens will run you 500-600 and the mod will be about 600. Only issue is that since the lens has to go to Canada and there is a line, you might expect to have the modded lens returned to you in about 6 months. A great lens to have, but a pain to get. Which is why I would say your best bet ultimately would be the 50L (alleviates your issue with distortion and it is a normal FL you can use for general purpose).
  42. John, I'm utterly intrigues by the modding of Zeiss and the Contax lens - never even heard of the latter. I'll definitely look into it, thanks! I ended up trading my 28mm 1.4 that I never warmed up to for the 50mm 1.4 with a friend, so I'm making do with that for now (I returned the Sigma in question). Since I no longer have the urgent need of a wider lens, maybe the Contax thing you mention is not a bad idea.
  43. Contax Zeiss is actually the full name.

    You would need to find a Contax N 50mm. There is a very short list of lenses they are willing to mod. That is the only 50. It is actually a
    rather impressive mod as not only does it retain AF, but the chip on the mount is also able to store microfocus adjustments for three
    separate shooting distances.

    Bear in mind though, it is not a short process.

    You might be able to find someone selling one that is already modded. But it is pretty rare and they still run around 1100-1200 at least.
    Since Contax lenses are no longer in production, there is only a finite number of them floating around. Let me know if you need more info
    or would like to see samples. There are a couple people out there that have done pretty extensive reviews (pebbleplace) I believe has the
    most enlightening one along with some sample shots as well.
  44. I'm finding Contax lenses (used) on ebay for about $250-300, does that sound about right for a used one? They are Contax mount, though... They do mod that, right, not just the AF? Amazon has one (also used) for $450, which sounds more along the lines of what you mentioned. Should I beware of ebay?
    Amazon actually DOES have a modded one for Canon! For a whopping $2700! And $4.49 shipping and handling, of course. :)
    Looking for reviews/sample images on it right now.
  45. Specifically, it needs to be Contax N. Looks like they are getting more scarce. Only saw three on eBay ranging between
    588-1400. There were way more just a few months ago. eBay is fine. Might be about your only option at this point unless
    you comb the other forums for people selling.

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