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Author Topic: How to build your own lens lineup  (Read 48848 times)

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Offline caterpillar

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How to build your own lens lineup
« on: June 21, 2011, 01:49:18 PM »
In another thread, I posted on the Guide for Upgrading for the Intermediate or serious hobbyiest. What was mentioned there is the need to build your system on lenses rather than bodies. This series, hopes to guide the user into the process of how to go about building your own lens lineup.  ;D

 First let's get the ground rules clear first.

  1. To build a lens lineup, you must be clear and sure already of the type of photography you want to be involved with.

  2. If you are not sure,  best dip into the different types of photography for at least 1-2 years, till you start getting serious about a certain direction of photography you want. This has it's own strategy so that you won't be spending too much only to find out that it's not your cup of tea.

  3. If you are independently wealthy or have money to burn, then you may skip this article. Still you are welcome to read on.  ;D




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How to build your own lens lineup
« on: June 21, 2011, 01:49:18 PM »

Offline caterpillar

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Types of Photography
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2011, 02:07:38 PM »
There are many types of photography and it is important one is aware of them. The reason is that the lenses you need for events shooting may not be good enough for the wildlife shooter. So, I'll rattle some types of photography off the top of my head:

  - General/Casual
  - Portraiture
  - Events
  - wildlife/birding
  - Sports/action (indoor and outdoor)
  - macro, still life, insect photography
  - Glamour/modelling
  - Product, Advertising photography
  - PJ or Journalism, candid,  street, historical, documentary
  - Travel, landscape, nature
  - Art, contest/competition

  You can subdivide them some more  or have other categories.  Maybe I may even have omitted some areas. But that is not the point though. The point is, each segment has their own lenses and gear needed to perform well in those areas.  What is obvious though is that some categories overlap. Events shooters for example, may have equipment that portraiture shooters also use. This overlapping is basically good because it allows the photographer to use the same piece of equipment in another area of photography. But in some cases, it is not possible. For example, a Birder's 400m or 500m lens will have little, if no use, to a wedding/events shooter. A travel or documentarian, OTOH, may find some of the equipment of the wedding shooters useful, though they may skip others because they are too heavy and too bulky.

  It is thus important that YOU know what type of photography you will spend a lot of time in. This determines the type of body you will need and more importantly, the lenses and other accessories you will need.  Unless you have lots of money, you can't just jump into an area with guns a-blazing or pockets are full and ready to empty out for the new gear.  Some gear are not usable in one area of photography. A 100mm f2.8 macro lens is expensive and it does not translates well into portraiture (even if you can) with a true 100 f2.0 or 85 1.8 of faster lens and vice-versa. So, at the sound of being repetitious - KNOW AND BE SURE OF YOUR CHOSEN FIELD OF PHOTOGRAPHY FIRST!




 
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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2011, 02:25:21 PM »
But what if you are still not sure? What if you are new and still groping and finding out what you LIKE or what you will devote your time and equipment on?

  Well, what you can go is first go into GENERAL photography. This is an all around photography from casual around the home shooting. Quite amazingly, if you bought a body with the kit lens, that kit lens is exactly what you need to get you going!  :)

  Yes, that 18-55 with IS (hopefully with VR and IS) will get you started. With that you can experiment on portraiture, group shots, street shooting, events, even macro!  I suggest you dip into this area for at least a year or two. In two year's time, assuming you are a regular weekend shooter, you'll eventually be pulled to the area of photography that will interest you most!

  One of the first 2 things you will learn early are the ff:

  - You will lack light as the buil-in flash is not strong enough or fast enough to re-cycle for the next shot.
  - You will lack reach, hence you will want a longer reach lens

 For those falling for landscape, they will notice their need for a wider lens first.

  So for sure, your first add-ons or upgrades will be an external flash and a longer lens. Now, 3rd party flashes can be affordable nowadays and need not go P12-20K, so that's good news for you. And in case you want to do macro, there are attachments that can modify that light for macro shooting. So, those are good developments. Thus, in most situations, getting a flash first is the most well trodden path most take.

  Now, most tend to go for a longish lens first before a wider lens. As one reaches the limit of one's 18-55mm at the 55mm, one craves for longer FL to get that compression of the background and isolation. A 70-200/300 or 55-200/250/280 goes a long way in introducing one into portraiture, sports, action, landscape (long),

 Don't laugh or pooh-pooh those with the slow 55-xxx or 70-300 lenses! They can have their place. Also remember, that we are talking of exploratory here. You don't really want to spend too much till you get he hand of what you really like! So, using a 70-300 at f5.6 on 200mm is not the greatest compared to a 70-200 f2.8L IS at 200mm and f2.8 or f4. But still it is a start as one learns the limits of one's equipment or what one can do.

 Same for macro shooting. Don't buy a macro lens yet. Try getting a diopter lens first in the +1  to +5 or where you can stack. Or get a reversing ring, or extension tubes (ET). Don't blow out your wallet for a P28k 100 f2.8 macro lens yet. Go for the P1k-6k solutions first or 2nd hand items on sale. In fact, mos 18-55's have good macro's that let you explore the field in the beginning so that you don't have to commit too much into a field.

  The trick is, MAKE DO FIRST WITH WHAT YOU HAVE. If that field piqued you, explore more with ETs or whatever is needed. You can borrow or rent lenses for that area. The thing is, don't commit yet, unless  you are absolutely sure.

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2011, 03:05:10 PM »
Let me jump the gun here and assume that you already know what type of photography you want. And you know what gear you need. The next question is, how do I go about getting them?

 Before that, let me say this, regardless of photography you decide to go into, never let go of a 18-55 or 17-50/55 FL. Why? Because even if you love birding and those 400mm and 500mm and 4 x TC's you have are your bread and butter, one way or the other, you are still going to shoot General photography or some other types. It would be a shame to have that U$6,000 lens and in a friends party you can't whip up an 18-55 lens for a group picture!  :P  This is one thing that you are not going to run away from!  :D

   Back on topic, the trick is to find out from the pros or those in the field what they use. Instead of buying the gear outright, join groups whose members have those type of gears and then see if they let you try out their gear. You'll get an accurate feel and see if those types suits you.

  Now once you know what you NEED and want, the no. 1 problem for most of us is budget. Some lenses are way far ahead of what we have in our wallets. One might be tempted to compromise or use "lesser" spec'd lenses or gear. That can work. But 50-60% of the time, it won't. Let's illustrate this problem. I'll use my own experience as an example.

   I knew when I started I wanted sports and action shooting. Love it. There's no money in it. I also love documentary and real life shooting of people. That's semi-PJ and street, etc.  But there's no money in them. I am clear on that. That means, I have to finance the upgrade by saving up for it, or doing sidelines in other areas (weddings/events).

  I listed the lenses that would do the job. So with the bodies and accessories. At that time, the 10d was the most affordable (at P87k!), so I can't reach that. A 1D is right but it's around P240k! Unreachable even in 10 years! Even after 10 years, I can' afford P200k+ for a body! The good thing is technology moved on and now there is a 7d w/c can do 8fps like the 1d mk1 or 2, and even has a higher pixel count and I can save up for.

 As for lenses, I knew that the 70-200 f2.8L IS is the lens that is the main stumbling block. Together with the body, it's going to as expensive, even more expensive. In the early 2000's, a 70-200 f2.8L IS is P95k used and around P100k brand new. You can't even find a used one as hardly anyone sells it. It is that good and prized! So, as one can see, I knew I had to make do for the meantime with something lesser. It was either the 70-200 f4L (non-IS) or the 70-300 f4-5.6 IS. I chose the latter even if it is not an L because I knew that without IS, a sharp lens would be a blur. I can live with the compromise of a lesser optic, but a usable picture. They cost about the same at that time. BTW, this 70-300 is not the same as today's sharp 70-300!

  So, with a 300d, 18-55 kit lens (no IS then), 50 f1.8 mk-2, I got my range covered. Within the limits of the technology of the time, and budget, I compromised. Of course, I knew I could do a lot of things I wanted to do. But I also knew that there is no point in crying over that. I must MAKE DO WITH WHAT I HAD!  :)  And I did. It was tough to shoot with the 300d and the d60 (even slower) and a 70-300 w/c was slow in aperture but also in focus, but I got memorable pics in those! :)

  Fast forward to 7-8 years, revamped by lineup and got a 20d and 400d. I got me a 100 f2.0 usm, a 55-250 IS, 50 f1.4 (incl the 1.8 mk2) and even a 100 f2.8 macro. Sold that one eventually but I did took the ET route to experiment on macro and I knew I will get a good resale value on the lens (and I did) without too much loss.

  Eventually, I was able to get a 70-200 f2.8L IS mk-1 w/c was the dream lens for most of us. Amongst friends in our group, we targetted the lenses and gear needed and best suited for the job. Many still have the 20d with the appropriate lenses. Look at it this way here is the typical lens our group has as event shooters.

 == Friend no. 1 (2x 20d body)
    - 17-40 f4L
    - 24-70 f2.8L
    - 70-200 f2.8L IS mk1

 == Friend no. 2 (2x 20d and a 5d)
    - 16-35 f2.8L mk-1
    - 70-200 f2.8L IS mk1
    - 50 f1.4 usm

 == Me (20d and 400d)
    - Tamron 17-50 f2.8
    - 50 f1.4 usm and 50 f1.8 mk2 (might let go of the f1.4)
    - 70-200 f2.8L IS mk1
    - 100 f2.0 usm
    - efs 10-22 usm
    - ETs

  As one can see, as events shooters our gear is basically the same. Any variance is due to personal preference. One likes the speed so he got a 16-35 f2.8L rather than a 17-40L.  One can also see that friend no. 2 loves fast lenses so he has a 50 f1.4 usm. Friend no. 1 does not need speed but versatility. He has no need for primes.

  As for me, I have need for primes due to sports and low light shooting. The 50 f1.4 and 100 f2 usm's allows me to shoot indoor sports or actions. No IS and f2.8 will do. Since I do both action and events these lenses can be used as well. The 100 f2 usm is less versatile than the 70-200 f2.8L IS and that IS is a big help when even f2 can't handle things in weddings.

 I also have the 10-22 for really wide stuff on a crop body. I have ET's in case I have to make my 50mm's or 100mm's into macro lenses. I have a 1.4x TC to get me more reach in case I need to (for mild birding and wildlife). In short, my line-up is optimized for sports, events and can be modfied/exteded to do a bit of other types of photography just in case.

  I also had a 55-250 IS w/c I sold but might get again. It is very sharp and on par with my 70-200L on the same FL and aperture but a lighter cost, smaller size and lower weight. Great for travelling. But I am bending more to getting a decent P&S instead of lugging a 400d with a 17-50 f2.8, 55-250 IS.  Today's P&S are getting better and though they will never be as good, an LX5 or canon SX220/230 can be very good for a much smaller package!

   Personally, if I were to follow my own tips, my 20d and 400d also needs upgrading. They don't have video and today's 600d and 60d have very good high ISO a 18mp and fast and accurate AF too. What's holding me back are:

  - money (I am rebuilding our own ancestral house in Sorsogon)
  - and Canon's bad AF in video in DSLRs.

  So, no rush there. Again, I will have to make do with what I have. :)  I do admit I am lagging now in the body dept. I will have to upgrade my bodies next in the immediate future.

  

« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 03:08:42 PM by caterpillar »
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Offline caterpillar

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2011, 03:17:43 PM »
In Summary:

   What some of us has done is build our system on lenses. One can even see that we are holding 6-7 year old bodies. But our lenses are solid as the philosophy goes. The disadvantage of our system is that they are:

 - heavy
 - mostly large
 - expensive

To finance it, Friend no. 1 built his from a 20d and a 17-40L lens. In 2.5-3 years he got a 24-70 f2.8L financed by shooting weddings. Eventually, in 7-8 years he also was able to get a 70-200 f2.8L IS bought in the USA (as it is cheaper there).

Friend no. 2 first used a kit lens, got 50 1.4 usm, then a 16-35 f2.8L. Again, it took about 7 years before he got a 70-200 f2.8L IS. He isn't fond of this FL but since he is in the USA now, he needs it when shooting events as the altar is often off limits to shooters, unlike here.

  Another thing one will notice is we hardly compromised with the lenses.  We could have and some of us did in the beginning. But in the end, based on our experience, we knew some things cannot be compromised. Best to work and save for it than opting for the lesser model. Thus a 70-200 f4L IS, excellent as the lens is, was not chosen, even if the price is half of that of a f2.8L IS. The point is, once you know what is NEEDED to get the job done, you don' compromise. You work towards getting the gear. Any compromise gear is only temporary especially if it will take a long time to get it. But one does not lose sight of the long term goal!

  One can also notice that the main lenses revolve around 3-4 lenses. And once you get them, the feeling is peace. Unless you have a persistent GAS problem, what you have is stability. Reliability. We keep an 18-55 in there as backup just in case he main conks out. But I don't consider that as our main core lenses. Some may require maybe 5-6. That depends on you. But the thing is, especially for those of us who are budget limited, you do have to pick your lenses. The more budget limited, the more picky you should be.

  Now you can choose to go this method or create your own way to go about things. All I can say is that if you build your system on lenses and other accessories to support your type of photography, then you'll see your money go longer. Bodies are accessories to the lenses. Not the other way around. Seen this way, you won't be trapped in he perennial update of bodies w/c become obsolete really fast.

   BTW, some 3rd party lenses can be very good. I am a fan of Tamron and their optics is pretty good. Their weakness in the past was lack of IS and USM. Now they have those technology too. I am just waiting for them to issue them in their popular models. A 17-50 f2.8 VC USD at half he price of a ef-s 17-55 IS delivers the same optical and other performance for half the cost. And they don't break easily too (unlike the 17-55 IS). So, consider 3rd party lenses as alternatives. But do your research because some brands and models can be bad. If only Tamron made a 70-200 f2.8L IS version at 2/3 the cost, I'll sell my 70-200 f2.8L IS and go for a black tamron lens. Unfortunately, or fortunately, they still have to come up with one. They still have to come up with a 24-70 or 28-70 f2.8 with VC and USD. If they do that, no doubt they'd have a champion cash cow like their 17-50 f2.8.


« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 03:29:29 PM by caterpillar »
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Offline Jagner

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2011, 10:54:18 AM »
It's long but a great read :)  Thanks for sharing sir caterpillar :)
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Offline malmon

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2011, 11:21:18 AM »
another "sticky" worthy thread.

Offline archdust

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2011, 12:26:26 PM »
Nice topic sir, a great help for a starter like me. :)

Offline wasted_brain

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2011, 01:07:39 PM »
Just wanted to add that another thing to consider is your dslr body upgrade path. If you decide to upgrade from a crop sensor (DX) to a full sensor (FX) body, this will affect your lens line-up. So, if you know at this point that you will be getting an FX body, try to avoid buying DX only lenses (unless you're going to go the 2-body route).

Personally, I've chosen to stay within the DX-type bodies (Nikon d40, d90, d7000). So my lens line-up is almost all DX-only lenses:
Tamron 17-50 2.8 non-VC
Tokina 50-135 2.8
Nikkor 35 1.8g

If I were to choose an FX-type body. I'd have to change my line-up to 24-70 + 70-200.

Offline NormanABates

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2011, 01:58:05 PM »
i vote this thread for 'sticky'

this is worth reading/sharing. Thanks a lot.


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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2011, 02:15:08 PM »
Interesting article mel. Are you a pro photographer?

1. My take on lenses is buy the best you can afford. Bodies can be the most basic.

2. Prioritize zooms first before primes.

3. Full frame lenses before DX or crop lenses if you have any plans in getting a FX or full frame body.

Don't get stuck in conventional thinking when it comes to focal lengths. Like say landscapes "only" use wide angle lenses while birds are only super telephoto lenses. Rather you should put emphasis on your framing and how distant you are from the subject.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2011, 02:38:18 PM by dolina »
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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2011, 02:35:22 PM »
Nice. Thanks for sharing
;) :) :D ;D

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2011, 04:20:43 PM »
Nice share sir! Must read for the beginners like me! :)


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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #13 on: June 22, 2011, 05:46:32 PM »
very informative for newbie like me...thanks for sharing sir...
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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #14 on: June 22, 2011, 05:55:58 PM »
+1 for sticky..sana noon pa meron nito..

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2011, 09:02:50 PM »
Sir, bookmarked na po ang thread na to para sa akin. Great article and very timely for me.  ;D
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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2011, 09:53:13 PM »
I think this is more subjective. It depends on your shooting style.
I am very comfortable shooting with primes  :)

2. Prioritize zooms first before primes.

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2011, 10:00:01 PM »
Yes... i just sold my nikkor 35mm 1.8f for a 24mm 2.8f
35mm has better optics than 24mm 2.8 but considering an fx upgrade made me switch ;)
going for 24mm 2.8d, 50mm 1.4g, 85mm 1.8d lens line up.

cheap but very good quality

Just wanted to add that another thing to consider is your dslr body upgrade path. If you decide to upgrade from a crop sensor (DX) to a full sensor (FX) body, this will affect your lens line-up. So, if you know at this point that you will be getting an FX body, try to avoid buying DX only lenses (unless you're going to go the 2-body route).

Personally, I've chosen to stay within the DX-type bodies (Nikon d40, d90, d7000). So my lens line-up is almost all DX-only lenses:
Tamron 17-50 2.8 non-VC
Tokina 50-135 2.8
Nikkor 35 1.8g

If I were to choose an FX-type body. I'd have to change my line-up to 24-70 + 70-200.
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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2011, 10:41:57 PM »
Topic made sticky. ;)

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Re: How to build your own lens lineup
« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2011, 12:33:07 AM »
Just wanted to add that another thing to consider is your dslr body upgrade path. If you decide to upgrade from a crop sensor (DX) to a full sensor (FX) body, this will affect your lens line-up. So, if you know at this point that you will be getting an FX body, try to avoid buying DX only lenses (unless you're going to go the 2-body route).

Personally, I've chosen to stay within the DX-type bodies (Nikon d40, d90, d7000). So my lens line-up is almost all DX-only lenses:
Tamron 17-50 2.8 non-VC
Tokina 50-135 2.8
Nikkor 35 1.8g

If I were to choose an FX-type body. I'd have to change my line-up to 24-70 + 70-200.

  A good and interesting point. Thank you for mentioning it. :)

  The reason I didn't bring this out is that this can cause complications and may compromise the proper lens selection. This has been debated years ago in Dpreview. And it was a heated one!

  For me, the bottom line is, if you try to select a lens  that will work for both 35FF and aps-c, it may or may not be good for one format. To illustrate, getting the excellent 50 f1.4 usm can substitute for an 80mm equivalent portrait lens in a crop body. However, on a 35FF, you aren't really thinking of a portrait lens when you mount that same 50mm. If you do move, you will still get an 85mm or equivalent if portrait is your thing. Your 50mm now, may not get play time!

  Or take the excellent 24-105 f4L IS. Great for a 35FF body. But it's not wide enough for a crop body. And this is why the 17-55/50 and 18-105/135 are so popular. They are the equivalent 28-80/90 or 28-135 in the 35FF format.

  There are exceptions of course, like the 70-200 f2.8L's. Even with the extra reach on a crop body, they seem to work well in both formats. Ask any wedding photographer and most will have no qualms whether it's used in a 35FF body or crop body.   


  The thing is, even if your lens will work in both formats, if you really aim for how you will use it based on the type of photography you will do, that same lens will likely be best on one format only, and mediocre or useless on the other, no matter how optically good it is.  So, might as well, design your lineup on a particular format. There is no point in planning for a body you don't have or might have in the future. Not getting an 17-50 f2.8 or a 10-22 because it will not work with a 35FF in a future date is limiting your performance today. And today is what your gear is. Not tomorrow.

   Trust me, I've tried planning on that and I gave up because it's just screwing up the lineup. I got a 28 f1.8 usm, 100 f2.0 usm, 50 f1.4 usm for a future 35FF body. Trouble is, the 28mm is not getting air time. So with the 100 f2.0 (and the 100 f2.8 macro). So, I sold the 100 f2.8 macro and the 28mm f1.8 even if they were good copies. Now, the 100 f2.0, I kept because, on a crop, it was a good low light sports lens and I have something when I really want uber sharp than my 70-200 f2.78L IS. Or when I want a really shallow DOF at f2.0. Or need a pseudo macro if I use ET's. :)

   I'm not saying you should not try to work on both formats. But it can be a pain. It will give you headaches. In the end you will compromise one format. To illustrate, on a crop, what will you substitute for a 10-22 that will work on a 35FF? Or where will you get a good 17-55/17-50 f2.8 crop to work on a 35FF later?

  So, my take is, don't try so hard to bridge both formats. Just work on the format you will be using most. IF it happens that it will work well on both, then well and good. But experience has shown, that some FLs don't translate well into the other, particularly from 50mm and down. The best approach is still to build on a single format and worry about the other format when you have the body.

   
--- Caterpillar ---

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