What should be my first prime lens?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by morten_jespersen, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. Hi all,
    I am looking for my first prime for my 1.6 crop camera (EOS 60d). I would like a speedy all-round lens, and my upper price limit is around the canon 28 mm 1.8. Among the candidates are:
    • Canon 28 1.8
    • Canon 28 2.8
    • Canon 35 2.0
    • Canon 50 1.4
    • Canon 50 1.8
    • Sigma 30 1.4
    Specification-wise, I find the 28 1.8 one of the more interesting, but I am a bit nervous about some bad reviews – Photozone.de being the most negative. Both the 50mm have close to spotless reputation, but are they too tele-lens-like on my crop cam to go? 35 seems to have a very good rep too, and cheap too, but it is the slowest and also old and noisy. Please don’t say “buy the L lens” because I can’t – I would love to, but I just can’t.
    I hope you can help me.
  2. it


    Can't go wrong with the fifty one four.
  3. Hi Morten 50mm i.8 Save the rest for an l lens ?
  4. Morten, I'm afraid you hit a raw spot with the crop camera bodies. There are no normal or moderately wide prime lenses for crop cameras that would be good and affordable like in the film days. There are only poor substitutes and awkward matches.
    You'll have to go full frame to get a decent prime set.
    Yes, the 50mm f/1.8 is good but just not that useful on a crop body. I'd probably recommend the 35mm f/2 but it doesn't offer a lot more than a good f/2.8 zoom.
  5. @Mike,
    Naughty You! I told you no L lenses ;o) L primes are way down my list. First upgrades to my zooms (17-85 and 70-200 f4 Non-IS), then ultra wide like tokina 11-16, then more primes, then flash, then a full frame and thin I finally might consider L primes. We are talking years of photography. Should I still take the 50 1.8, given this priority?
  6. @Daniel,
    So you are saying that upgrading my 17-85 to the 17-55 2.8 would give me more quality than any of the available primes?
  7. What are you using it for? a 50mm on a 60d is a bit long for my taste to be, say, a walk around lens...
  8. @Leslie,
    As I said all-round, which means in-door low-light, outside night shots, walkaround with narrow DOF.I am also thinking that 50mm is maybe too long, but I don't know.
  9. Sorry,didnt realise you were aiming at other lens as well,agree with Daniel, but the 1.8 is a giveaway price Wish you well ,notice the two ll s in well !
  10. I have long hesitated before getting the 28mm f1.8 myself because of the not-so-enthusiatic reviews. I finally took the risk and bought a second hand copy. As it turns out, it has been perhaps my most used lens for the year or so since I got it. I take it everywhere. I also bought the 50mm f1.4 at the same occasion and I rarely use it because I often find it too long, but of course this is all a matter of taste and style.
    I find the 28mm f1.8 to be a fine and very useful lens, specially mounted on a crop sensor. I am very pleased with the results. I think it is more useful to look at image galleries to see what results are achievable in real life rather than looking at MTF charts. For the anecdote, I bought this lens from a professional photographer who has done some exquisite work for the likes of the Royal Opera House and Shakespeare's Globe and who seemed to amuse himself as I shot a focus test chart as he never had took the trouble to perform such test and actually seemed unaware of the procedure.
    Finally, I'd suggest that If you think a lens (or any other thing for that matter) is for you, then don't be put off by online technical reviews. Get yourself a copy from a reputable dealer with a decent return policy and try it for a few days to form your own first-hand opinion. Then if you don't like it, return it. It's no big deal.
  11. @Mike,
    I'll pretend that I didn't see those L's :eek:) But yes, I have made quite a detailed plan for the expansion of my equipment bag, I should probably have let you in on that. Damn, forgot new equipment bag -- the L primes just got pushed another 6 months back!
  12. Perhaps you can have a look at the focal length you use most with your present lenses. That may show a preference for shorter or longer focal lengths. Apart from that the 35/2.0 would be my choice as a general walk around lens. It's lightweight and small. Another option is the 50/2.5 macro because of the close focus possibilities.
  13. I would suggest a 50/1.8 & a 35/2 as both can be had for the price (or less) than a 28/1.8. I wouldn't say their IQ is better, as they are about the same (or worse) on the crop.

    Remember, even though the 28/1.8 does have edge sharpness issues WO, those mostly impact the IQ on full frame units. The APS-C sized sensor eliminates most of the troublesome edge area for that lens. By f2.2 on the crop, you are already getting near 'L' level image quality. By f2.8, you're there.

    Of course you already stated that 50mm is too long for you, so perhaps bothering w/ a 50/1.8 isn't necessary, but at ~$100, it's a bargain hard to ignore.
  14. So you are saying that upgrading my 17-85 to the 17-55 2.8 would give me more quality than any of the available primes?​
    I wouldn't say more quality, but quite close - and with 3 to 4 stop IS it does allow for shots even some primes can't take. The Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 is also an alternative, without IS but cheaper.
    If you need f/1.4 or f/1.8 however, then a prime is the way to go. Except there are no such affordable primes in the convenient focal lenghts for crop factor. Have I said that before? :)
  15. Without any doubt 50 mm f1.8
    Cheap price, light weight, superb IQ & finally it is the perfect match to natural look
  16. Since you have a zoom I'd say just experiment to find your preferred focal length.

    After that's chosen look at the options.

    Note: if you're not sure about why you want a prime you might enjoy a fast zoom.

    On a personal note: I like primes and zooms both. Prefer primes for "art" and zooms for events. In your range I have
    28/2.8, 50/1.8 and 50/1.4. They're all fun to use and yield good results. (for perfection wide open I'm afraid you'll have to
    save for more expensive lenses)
    The field of view a photographer prefers is entirely personal. Some nitpick each millimeter others just shoot with what's
    mounted. (Within limits I'm more of the latter kind.)

    Hope this helps,

  17. The 28mm is softer in the corners but if it is for low light use
    this is generally not that important.

    Having said that it will be fine for 10X8 prints.

    It is sharp in the centre with fast and accurate AF.

    The other weak area is chromatic aberation, however this is
    easy to correct for, DPP does this for you for more recent

    The important thing is how you will use the lens and what sort of quality do you need.

    I find it is a great lens for ambient light people shots of half to full body, one of the 50mm lenses would be better for closer head shots.

    Note the 50/1.4 and 28/1.8 have USM and FTMF which some of the other lenses do not, this may be significant to you.
  18. If compact carry is as important to you as it is to me, consider the semi-wide crop sensor coverage of the EF 24 f 2.8. See
    http://www.16-9.net/lens_tests/24mmcup/pentax/24mm_groupc1.html to see how it stacks up against some other 24's. It's not a bad lens; it's just that some others are better. This test measures full-frame corner performance. Crop-sensor should be considerably better at the edges and corners. Or, consider, eventually a prime kit of an EF 24, an EF 35 f2, and a 50 macro. Shopping carefully, you might get all three for $700.
  19. What zooms are you currently using? If you look at your EXIF data, what focal length do you typically shoot at?
    50mm ends up being a portrait length lens on a 1.6 crop. if you "must" have a prime, then go for something in the 28mm-35mm range to get closer to the approximation of a "normal" lens.
    Next, question your own motives for a prime lens. Would you be better off with an L-series zoom. Remember, competent softares, like Lightroom, DxO's Optics Pro and others, compensate for most of Canon's zoom lenses' geometric, chromatic aberration, edge softness, etc. at every possible focal lenght and aperture combination. If you're not availing yourself of those capabilities, then you should look into your software's capacities first.
    These days, with error correction and the improved quality of zoom lenses, the reasons to by primes are for focal length, reduced size or increased speed. My kit is a 24-105mm, 70-200mm and a 500mm prime. If I were a street shooter that wanted to reduce my profile, I might buy a 35mm. If I shot buildings a lot, then I might go for a 17mm TS-E lens. Don't buy a lens simply to "get a prime", but have a well considered reason. Your shooting digital now, so don't get caught up in "rules" that were applicable back when we shot Kodachrome 64.
  20. I started out with a 40D. My first prime was a 50mm (f1.4). I loved that combo. Later on I found a 85mm (f1.8) which was easily the best $$$ spent for image quality - but it was just too tight. Then I tried a 35mm which pretty much lived on the camera for a couple of years! When I switched to FF the 35mm focal length was even better (for me) - way more versatile (if restricted to primes). If I could go back and do it over again, I would have purchased a 35mm first and then something around 20-24mm. Nowadays the 50mm or 85mm are used all the time for any shots of people but the 35mm is almost always on the 5D2!
    Given your statment:
    As I said all-round, which means in-door low-light, outside night shots, walkaround with narrow DOF.I am also thinking that 50mm is maybe too long, but I don't know.​
    ...I would recommend starting with something a bit wider than 35mm - if you can. Since 28mm is equivalent to 45mm, I think you will still find that a bit tight especially for general purpose indoor use. You said no 'L's so the 24L is out (bummer). So, perhaps you should research the 24mm and 20mm offerings a bit more before making your decision. However they tend to be f/2.8 and in that case you might as well get the wonderful non-VC Tamrom 17-50 f/2.8!
    I think it is very important to see where you use your 17-85mm lens the most. If you never go below 28mm then start with the 28mm f1.8 - a nice lens. If you are going below 28mm quite often then the question is whether you need something faster than f2.8? If you can live with f2.8 then you might as well get the Tamrom 17-50 and sell your 17-85. If you must have glass faster than f2.8 (below 28mm) then your options are quite limited - especially if you want auto aperture and auto focus.
  21. What are you going to use it for? If it's for taking portraits of little kids/people or single flowers, 50/1.8 is incredible value for money or rather incredible bokeh for money. If you are more of a purist and more interested in getting better at composition, you want to get the 28/1.8 since it is so close to being a normal lens. If you are a gear head like me, you will get both :) I enjoy them immensely, even though my results are nothing great.
  22. The prime lenses that work fine on a so-called "full frame" camera are just as good, often a little better on the "crop" bodies (example: the 50mm f/1.8). The only thing is that they function differently. You are quite right that the 50mm will be a short telephoto on your 60D. That's not necessarily a drawback, however.
    In your list are two of the great bargains of the Canon EOS EF lineup- the 50mm f/1.8 and the 28mm f/2.8. You can get both of them for just about the same as one EF 50mm f/1.4. Used are cheaper.
    Then you will have a nice prime normal lens (the 28mm) and a nice 'portrait' short telephoto prime - and f/1.8 is not much slower than f/1.4 (however, the 'bokeh' is not so fine,)
  23. 35mm 2.0 is a fine lens. Sharp, simple, reliable. I use mine on full frame, but should be swell on a crop frame as a
    normal lens. Noisy focus? Nah...don't worry about it.
  24. We used to put 50mm lenses on 35mm film cameras and shoot Kodachrome 25 or 64. That was to achieve a "normal" in-camera view, similar to the eyes' perspective. Digital crop-sensor users need to realize that the tide has risen and if they want to buy a lens that more closely emulates what their eye sees, then go with something around a 35mm.
    17mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm 100mm, 500mm, etc., etc. lenses all have their purposes, but a 50mm lens is NOT a "normal" lens on a crop-sensor camera.
  25. Without knowing what you like to shoot, what distances, etc, it's impossible to make a good

    When I shoot with a full frame dSLR (which has been awhile), for *me*, and for what/how I like to shoot, it's a 35mm.

    For you? No way of knowing without more information.
  26. I must say that when I had both the 35mm f/2 and the 28mm f/2.8, the one I kept was the 35mm lens, but it is a trifle more expensive and also beginning to range into 'portrait lens' length.
    Burt Keppler at Modern (and later Popular) Photography was a big fan of his 58mm Biotars on regular 35mm film cameras, and that is roughly where the 35mm lens comes in on APS_C sensors.
    If you only buy one lens, then the 35mm is worth consideration.
  27. it


    What the hell, just buy em all.
  28. So many lenses, so little time...
  29. Might help if you consider & share relative priority of what you're trying to improve -
    a) size/weight
    b) optical performance
    c) max aperture
    If f/2.8 is fast enough, you might get a steadier (well rounded) performance from a modern zoom or also consider Tokina 35/2.8 macro. Also, Canon 28/2.8 is cheap, simple & light, and while it doesn't offer peak center performance as high as the 28/1.8 or Sigma 30/1.4 its corners are closer to its center performance.
    As others suggested, focal length/angle-of-view are perhaps the most significant attribute, so consider (perhaps with your current zoom) whether you're willing to use something as narrow as a 35mm (on Canon 1.6x crop, it's a little long, like 56mm equivalent) while 28mm is more 'normal', 44.8-equiv. I can even imagine using a 24/2.8 (38.4mm equiv) or 20/2.8 (32mm) as a single walkaround lens.
  30. Crop-sensor camera user here.
    Whenever I want a prime for a small, light, kit, and I'm not sure exactly what I'll be seeing, I bring the 24mm f/2.8. It's my go-to lens for things like museums with my children as well. Otherwise, I personally quite like 50mm f/1.8 as a walk around. I spend time in a metropolitan area and don't photograph people too often.
    The 35mm f/2 I own but keep struggling to find a good spot for it in my photography. It's either not wide enough nor is it long enough. I guess I just "see" better with the 24 or the 50. Seems like that would be a good challenge for me to tackle in 2012...
  31. I agree with Rob, I have fun with the 24mm f/2.8 when out and about at the fair or a park. I use the 50mm f/1.8 for portraits, although I've seen better results with the 50mm f/1.4 (although I have to admit that is in the hands of someone else!)
    The f/1.8 or f/1.4 might be handy, too if you already have the 24mm focal range on a zoom. It would give you a little bit more low light or shallow depth of field.
  32. The 28mm focal length will accomplish many tasks superbly. Whether f2.8 or f2 you can expect to get workhorse usage from it. Easy to handhold at 15th sec or less. The lens is great for night and street work and proven in documentary images by decades photojournalists. On a crop sensor you will have a slightly broader view that 50mm. The modest size is stealthy unlike some zooms and light weight on camera. You will find it affordable used or new.
  33. All around lens on crop sensor? 28 or 30mm. Enjoy.
  34. Zeiss 50/2 Makro
  35. 28mm or so sounds like a good advice. Only time brings answers if it's the right focal length, or if you can make it work.
    2 primes, if you get them used could do well too, something like a 24mm + 35mm, or 28mm + 50mm.
    I used borrowed 35mm and 24mm side by side and preferred the 24mm on either full-frame or 1.3 sensor, and I didn't expect that beforehand, it's just the subjects I picked (2 bridges, several times) made me want to use the 24mm because of the view it provided.
    Ideally I would like them both, but if I just had to pick one, then the 24mm (on full-frame or 1.3 crop sensor 1D).
    Sometimes I shoot with a 17-40mm and purposely set it to 24mm or 35mm to see which focal length I favor, to make my prime selection easier - ever tried that?
    L lenses are not always the answer, but it's hard to turn them down :), but weight of them can get to you. If you have sharp copies of non-L 24mm, 35mm and 50mm, and all 3 of them, and you don't shoot wide open but go down to f/8, f/11, then you can do quite a lot for landscapes. Even just 1 stop closed down can look real great.
  36. For my 20D I got a 50/1.8. Almost never used it as it was too long for my general photography. Got a 24-105/4 instead, then later changed to full frame. I found a program on the net that makes statistics on what focal lengths I have used in all of my shots. Turns out that around 40 mm (on full-frame) was used most. So, in my case a 40/1.6=25 mm lens would be a good choice. All other things being equal I'd go for the previously mentioned 24/2.8!
  37. Hi Morten,
    Just some remarks from my experiences as an amateur photographer with some of the lenses you suggest. I own a 40D (crop camera 1.6x), a 50mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/2.0 lens. I really like them. However, the 50mm on a crop sensor is a telephoto lens and ,therefore, not very suitable as an allround lens. The 35mm is a better option. However, I (very) often would have liked a wider field of view. The photozone.de website seems to be a good source of information about lenses. The 24mm f/2.8 has previously been suggested and gets good marks by photozone. Therefore, albeit not extremely speedy, I would choose this lens.
    I understand your sequence of upgrades/additions if you do most of your photography outdoors . If however, you usually/often work indoors I would give more priority to a flash.
    Good luck making a decision,
  38. It might be a good idea to try out primes at different focal lengths to see which one suits you best. One way of doing this is by acquiring used lenses. That way, you can sell those lenses that you do end up fancying for the price you paid for them, with the only expenditure being your time.
    I have typically used 50mm and 85mm primes (on FF) for low light, indoor shooting, but lately have been using my 35/1.4 alot in this regard. Since perspective preferences can change over time and with the shooting situation, I personally find that its best not to get too hung up on optimal focal lengths.
  39. Interesting thread! I just wanted to ask a very similar question so I continue here instead of starting a new thread...
    I am considering buying a `normal' (50 equivalent) prime lens for a 7D body. I would like to have a light kit to walk around - I find walking around with just my 50/1.8 very relaxing and now I am thinking of something similar in the 28-35 focal range.
    I am considering mainly the 35/2. Alternatively 28/2.8 (perhaps too slow?), 30/1.4 (a bit more expensive). Any other good options?
    My specific question is how do those lenses compare (on a 7D so with a quite high pixel density) to the 17-55/2.8IS at these focal length. I also have this zoom so the answer would give me a point of reference about the quality...
  40. The "plastic fantastic", aka the "nifty fifty" EF 50mm f/1.8 mk ii is a wonder. Despite its cheap look, it seems to be at least as durable as the EF 50mm f/1.4 lens. As a short tele prime on the APS-C it is a wonderful street shooter. It does have a little angularity to the 'bokeh' (out-of-focus highlights), but I don't find it unpleasant, myself. On an APS-C body it and the 35mm f/2 are wonderfully light to carry and fast enough to be happy without IS. Some time back, I wrote an eBay guide to these Canon cheapies ( http://reviews.ebay.com/A-Guide-to-Inexpensive-Canon-EF-Primes?ugid=10000000004546950 )
  41. The 7D has good high-ISO performance, so a 28/2.8 will not be too slow in most circumstances.
    Here's a shot taken with my 24-105mm f/4L IS on my 7D at ISO 6400. I'd normally use my 5D MkII for this, but I wanted the built in flash of the 7D (not on for this shot, obviously) so I pushed the 7D and it stood up well:
  42. "My specific question is how do those lenses compare (on a 7D so with a quite high pixel density) to the 17-55/2.8IS at these focal length. I also have this zoom so the answer would give me a point of reference about the quality..."
    Photozone.de with 15pm Canon EOS 50D:
    You can form your own conclusion...but it looks to me like the 35/2 (vs. the 17-55/2.8 @35mm) is slightly better in terms of corner resolution, distortion, and vignetting but slightly worse (though still not bad) for CA.
  43. The BIG problem of so many lens comparisons today is that they do not factor in the corrections that programs such as Lightroom and DxO Optics Pro make in RAW conversion. An unprocessed RAW file is meaningless in today's world of lens/camera/software peformance. Each body interfaces with each lens differently and almost nobody that shoots in RAW fails to correct for errors introduced by the physical design of the lens and the interface with the camera body. Optics Pro corrects for geometric distortions, chormatic aberration, vignetting, edge softness, etc. at every focal length, every aperture and every body combination that I use with my L-series lenses.
    As a practical matter, lens reviewer/testers elect to leave software out of the formula because we don't all use the same software. The often do offer comparisons with different bodies, but that's only address 2/3s of the variables.
    Now, when I consider buying a lens, I check to see if my software has correction tables for the lenses under consideration, combined with the bodies that I use. For wide angle and zoom lenses this is particularly important.
    We're no longer shooting slide film in SLRs and need to factor in all elements of IQ when considering various options.
  44. Thanks for the info.. How do you compare 28/2.8 and 35/2 (as I wrote earlier on a high pixel crop body)? Does anyone has both and has any reason to prefer one for the other?
  45. Hi all,
    I went to the local lens pusher yesterday armed with all your input. After careful consideration I took a deep breath, swiped the creditcard and......(drumroll)...... left the shop with my new canon 35 mm f/2. The reasons were:

    - "Normal" lens on my crop cam (60d)
    - Since it is my only prime (so far), I would like it to be a good walkaround lens.
    - Good reviews.
    - 40% cheaper than Sigma 30 1.4 and Canon 28 1.8 (saving for my zoom upgrade).
    - Portraits are not that important. I have used my 70-200 f/4 L non-IS for this with some amazing results (in daylight).
    - Good-old-fashioned gut feeling.

    I am amazed of the amount of really great input you have provided me with. I'll be sure to include you in my future thoughts on gear requisition. Thanks for all your help. Regards, Morten
  46. Just the shots on that lens to show us then Morten regards miken
  47. Thanks for the follow up Morten. It's interesting to see how someone responds to the "help."
  48. My favorite and most used lens on my Canon 5D II is by far the 28 1.8. This lens stays on my camera when I am not using that I am shooting with my Tamron 28-70 F2.8. I also use Canon 17-40 F4L, Canon 50 1.8, and Canon 85 1.2L, Sigma 70-200 F2.8.
    I absolutely enjoy the 28 1.8 the most because it is great for outdoors night shots because it it so fast, light, quite, focuses really well in low light and is by far my best lens for shooting HD video in low light.
    I really don't care so much about edge sharpness because when I am shooting video I need that super shallow DOF which no other lens can give me at that wide of an angle for than low of a price. The center sharpness and to me is great and does exactly what I want it to do. Also, it has full time auto-focus override like L -lenses distance meter and is built much more solid than the 50 1.8 which is also very good in terms of image quality.
    A sample video shot with the 28 1.8 can be seen at http://tenminutesewin.com
  49. Morten, I'm afraid you hit a raw spot with the crop camera bodies. There are no normal or moderately wide prime lenses for crop cameras that would be good and affordable like in the film days. There are only poor substitutes and awkward matches.
    You'll have to go full frame to get a decent prime set.​
    Unfortunately, that's true.

    There aren't any affordable wide angle lenses of good quality for crop. If you want quality, it's cheaper to jump straight to full frame rather than start with a crop camera and build up.

    For general purpose and indoor use, you need something wider than 35mm, close to 20 - 24mm. Lenses in that range aren't cheap, nor very fast (unless you pick the 24/1.4). Consider the 17-55/2.8. I think that lens is more useful on crop than most budget primes. Add a 50/1.4 or 85/1.8 if you want shallow dof for portraits.

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