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Newbie needs lens advice

I have a Canon 80D and I love taking pictures of bees and dogs and people. I had the 70-200mm lens the big fancy 2000$ one and I hated how far away from the subject I had to be to get the picture. I want good image quality and possibly lower light ability (not too picky here) but I would like to zoom between up close and farther away to track the randomness of my subjects. Is there lens out there like this? Help
Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 3,048
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: Newbie needs lens advice

Do you own more than the one lens?

 

The primary purpose for being able to swap lenses on any camera that allows for interchangeable lenses is that it allows you to change your "angle of view" and this creates some interesting capabilities.  There is no single-best lens ... part of the point of being able to change lenses is that you can select a lens that is more suited for the type of shooting you plan to do next.

 

So there is no one single lens that will do everything you want.  But that's ok... your camera is designed to let you swap lenses anytime you want.  

 

The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is probably a lens you should be looking at if you want shorter focal length zoom range (so you don't have to be as far away) but still retain a low focal ratio (f/2.8 is about as low as it goes for any zoom lens ... but non-zoom lenses can go even lower).  

 

More about lenses:

 

It's common for new users to think that the reason for the zoom is so that you don't have to move in closer or back away -- the photographer can stay put.   While you certainly can use a zoom for that reason, and in some cases you are shooting in situations where you can't move (or at least you are limited in how far you can move), the real reason is because it allows you to change your angle of view and this has a significant impact on the results.

 

The general purpose standard zoom for an 80D (or any Canon EOS DSLR with an APS-C size sensor) is the Canon EF 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM.  It's not a cheap lens (but then neither is the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II).  

 

The EF-S 17-55 isn't going to provide a narrow angle of view ... it's great for indoor photography.  It's great for general photography.  It is not a "macro" lens (it's not for taking detail photos of bees.)  But you can either add close-up diopters (a filter that screws on to the front of the lens) or extension tubes (more on these later) ... or just get a true macro lens.

 

I shot this image with the 70-200 (but using a full-frame camera body):

 

Monarch Butterfly

 

A standard zoom (or "working zoom") is one which offers a bit of wide angle as well as a bit of narrow angle in the zoom range.  In other words if you're going out for a day of random shooting... probably it has a focal length that will work for many/most subjects (but it's not meant to work for every situation... just for the most common situations).

 

The 70-200 is providing a zoom range that goes from a moderately narrow angle of view... to a very narrow angle of view.

 

These angles of zoom change many attributes of the photos you can achieve.  

 

Narrow angles of view don't just make things look closer than they really are... they also have an attribute called "compression" which means that the distances between objects don't seem to be as much as they are in real life.  If I'm shooting a subject ... say 20' away... and there are some background objects that are 30 or 40' away... the background subjects will acually seem closer than they really are.

 

Wide angle lenses do the opposite.  The angle of view isn't just wider... it's also deeper.  It "stretches" your sense of depth.  If I take an architectural photo of a room ... or a vehicle interior ... the room or interior will seem more spacious than it really is because the lens stretches your sense of distance so that the far side of the room looks much farther away.   Photographers tend to avoid these focal lengths for portraits beause this distortion (the stretched sense of depth) causes faces and body proportions to change (and usually not in a flattering way).  

 

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II is literally my favorite and most used lens (by far).  Even when I could photograph a subject with a shorter focal length lens and a more common subject-to-camera distance... I generally prefer the look I get when I use a longer lens and shoot from farther away.

 

The 70-200mm is a FANTASTIC portrait lens (and for many photographers it is their favorite) ... and that usually is because the Canon 70-200 is extremely sharp, delivers a beatuiful background, and it doesn't have the extreme "breathing" problem which is common in nearly all competing 70-200mm lenses.

 

"Breathing" btw, is something that all lenses do... it means that when you adjust the focus and ONLY the focus (don't touch the zoom adjustment) that you'll notice the angle of view is slightly changing ... just by focus alone.  So when you zoom to 200mm and focus to infinity, the lens probably really is 200mm ... or close to it.  But when you adjust focus inward to a minimum focus distance (for closer subjects) the focal length drops a little and maybe the true focal length is only 190mm (even though the zoom ring is set to 200mm).  That's normal.  But some lenses are pretty bad (extreme breathers).  Most competing lenses in the 70-200mm range (or close to it) will drop to focal lengths as short as 140mm ... or maybe even less!  (Canon's 70-200 doesn't have this issue.)

 

While the 70-200 is a fantastic portrait lens (I highly recommend you try taking some outdoor/environmental portraits using the 70-200mm... at the 200mm end... and use low focal ratios such as f/4 or even f/2.8 (warning that f/2.8 has a very shallow depth of field so it's not appropriate for groups.)   You'll probably be very happy with the results.  And if you try to replicate the result with shorter focal length lenses (such as the 17-55mm f/2.8) you'll find that it isn't possible to get a similar result.

 

So while the 70-200 is great for portraits... it really does require a big open space (such as outdoor/environmental portraits and not indoor use).  For indoors it's great for larger room sizes -- but it's probably too narrow for use in a normal sized room (such as your living room at home.)

 

Note that the butterfly image above as a fairly strong background blur... that's intentional and it's something that you can do when you have a long focal length, a relatively close subject, and a low focal ratio (e.g. I used 200mm and f/2.8 and the butterfly was reasonably close) and this results in a background with a pleasantly soft blur.  You wont get that much blur with a lens such as the 17-55mm no matter what settings you use.  

 

  • Landscape photography tends to use wide to moderately wide angles of view with narrow focal ratios.
  • Portrait photography tends to use "normal" to long focal lengths (narrow angles of view)  (but usually not extremely long)
  • Wildlife / Nature photography tends to use moderately long to very long focal lengths.
  • Sports photography usually uses moderately to very long focal lengths ... but usually with low focal ratios (very expensive lenses) to deal with the need for shooting at very high shutter speeds ... and usually in rather poor lighting conditions.

These are all generalizations ... you'll occasionally find a photography who takes a landscape photo with a long lens (I've done it myself).

 

But you did mention the bees and that's a special case.  This calls for "close-up" photography.

 

The ideal way to capture close-up photography is with a macro lens such as the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM... or one of the two Canon 100mm Macro lenses... or even the Canon 180mm macro (many macro photographers prefer the longer focal length because it puts more distance between them and their subjects ... handy for subjects that are shy and easily scared off if you get too close.  (Bees harvesting pollen on flowers usually will let you get fairly close.)

 

True macro lenses for a purist offer a 1:1 image scale which means that the size of the subject as recorded on the camera sensor will be as large as the subject is in real life.  A penny has a diameter of about 19mm.  Your sensor has dimensions of roughly 22mm wide by about 15mm tall.  If you were to try to photograph a penny using a true 1:1 scale macro lens at closest focus distance, then the penny would just barely fit in width (19mm wide penny... but a 22mm wide frame).  But the penny would not fit in the heighth (19m tall penny ... but a 15mm tall frame.)   So that's pretty close.

 

Some macro lenses are only 1:2 scale.  Some zoom lenses have a "macro" range but that's usually 1:3 or 1:4 scale.

 

Canon makes one extreme-macro lens which offers 5:1 through 1:1 scale (object can be 5x larger on the sensor than it is in real life.)

 

Other ways to shoot macro are to use one of Canon's close-up diopters (250D or 500D) these are diopters that thread onto the filter threads on the front of the camera lens.  It's sort of like having the lens look through a magnifying glass.  Most 3rd party close-up diopters only have a single element (like a common magnifying glass) but Canon's has two elements to help reduce chromatic aberrations (color separation) around the edges of the frame which are common when using these close-up diopters.  Close-up diopters are usually not particularly expensive... but since the image quality is best in center and degrades as you get toward the edges of the frame... they don't have optics than can compete with a true macro lens.

 

The other option is to use "extension tubes".  This is a hollow tube that is attached between camera & lens ... it simply lets you position the lens a bit farther away.  Doing this completely changes the focus range of your lens and you'll find that the lens is able to achieve focus on much closer subjects than would otherwise be possible (also subjects will appear a little larger) but the downside is that the lens wont be able to focus all the way out to "infinity" when an extension tube is attached.  There is no glass in the tube (it is a hollow tube) so there's no optical degradation.  The extension tube does have some electronics so that it can (a) pass through the communication between camera body & your real lens.

 

In the end, I think you're going to want at least TWO lenses in your camera bag... and maybe 3.

 

The 70-200mm is a fantastic lens.  If this is the only zoom you've used, you probably don't realize how nice it is because you've not experienced using something else.

 

You need something with a shorter zoom range.  IF you also want low-light then the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is the lens to get.  It's spendy.... the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM is less expensive (a lot less expensive) but it doesn't have the low focal ratio (the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 lens literally collects FOUR TIMES more light at the 55mm focal length end as compared to the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM.)

 

If you find yourself just occasionally doing macro (close-up) photography, then pick up a close-up diopter such as the Canon 250D or 500D diopter.  The 250D is designed for lenses in the 30mm to 135mm range.  The 500D is designed for longer lenses in the 70-300mm range.   Also note these diopters do thread onto the front of your existing lens so Canon makes these in a few different thread diameters (you have to get the version that has the correct thread size).  You can also optionally use "extension tubes".

 

But if you do a lot of macro photography... you'll probably apprecaite having a dedicated macro lens (and if you do a LOT of macro photography, you'll appreciate having macro flash such as a "macro twin light" or "macro ring light".  These flashes attach to the front of the lens so you don't get lens-shadow on your subjects and they do a better job creating soft all-around light for very close subjects ... and they help you freeze action for subjects that don't sit still (when the available light isn't bright enough to support fast shutter speeds.)

 

 

 

Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
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Posts: 8,019
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: Newbie needs lens advice

[ Edited ]

I don't know if you made it through all that but without doubt the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens is what you want.  It and your current 70-200mil are a nice combo.  Both are constant or fixed aperture.  This is good!  I will bet if you buy a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens it will live on your camera most of the time.

 

However, the beauty of a DSLR is you can have several to many (like me Smiley Happy) lenses.  There are more specialized lenses for various subjects, well, like bees.  This makes the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens a good choice later on.  Why not just get them both?  It's only money.

 

But definitely get the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens,... today.  You will love it.

A lot of Canon stuff. Along with, a lot of other stuff.
Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,713
Registered: ‎12-02-2012

Re: Newbie needs lens advice

So-called all in one lenses are generally garbage. The lens design has to compromise image quality in order to be "meh" at so many focal lengths that it is not great at any of them.  Get multiple lenses with different specialties. 

 

If you want to shoot macro get a macro lens or extension tubes. For dogs and people that 70-200 should be outstanding. For general walk around use I agree with Ernie on the 17-55 f/2.8. 

Scott

Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?
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Honored Contributor
Posts: 5,228
Registered: ‎08-13-2015

Re: Newbie needs lens advice

[ Edited ]

Morticia4RGomez wrote:
I have a Canon 80D and I love taking pictures of bees and dogs and people. I had the 70-200mm lens the big fancy 2000$ one and I hated how far away from the subject I had to be to get the picture. I want good image quality and possibly lower light ability (not too picky here) but I would like to zoom between up close and farther away to track the randomness of my subjects. Is there lens out there like this? Help

You're not going to find one lens to do it all.  Under most scenarios, your 70-200mm can do a LOT of it.  But, it is a little long for  a "walk around" lens on your APS-C sensor 80D.  It is almost a little tough on full frame body.

 

BEES.  Get a good macro lens.  A 100mm would do nicely.  Macro photography can be tricky, because of the narrow depths of field, DOF, that result when you are as close to a subject that a macro lens allows.  There is no need to always be at the MFD, minimum focusing distance, where the DOF can be at its' narrowest, which can make handheld shots difficult.  Backing up on bees can be good.

DOGS.  Depending upon their size and distance from you, your 70-200mm should be adequate to capture a dog running in the yard.  Again, your APS-C sensor will increase the effective focal length.  This is where a lens like the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 could be a good choice, because it is roughly equivalent to using a 24-70mm on a full frame sensor body.  This is what is known as a "standard zoom" because it covers a focal range from moderate wide angle, through the standard 50mm focal length, to moderate telephoto.  For many outdoor action shots, you may not want to shoot wide open at f/2.8.  Shooting at f5.6 to f/8 will allow a deeper DOF, and the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM will give a more zoom range at the top end.  Use a faster shutter speeds will give you sharper looking photos because it freezes subject motion.  Try 1/800, at a minimum, and do not fear ISO 3200.

PEOPLE.  The best lens to photograph people is your favorite lens, the one you're most familiar with.  But, of course, there is a caveat.  Many times you want to get a creative portrait with your shots of people, typically a narrow DOF.  There are a couple of ways to get narrow DOF in a shot.  Use a wide aperture lens, or use moderate telephoto lens close up to the subject.  Your 70-200mm can do an impressive job of this outdoors, as can the standard zoom lenses.  A focal length of 85mm is generally considered to be "portrait" length, which would be equivalent to 50mm on your APS-C sensor body..  

 

Indoors, you may want a shorter lens than 70-200mm, one that is wider than f/2.8, like f/1.8 or faster.  Using an external flash is needed with all of the suggested lenses, so far.  But, I like to capture the actual room light whenever possible, which I think looks much better.  On my full frame camera I like using 50mm f/1.4, which would be roughly equivalent to 35mm f/1.4 on your 80D.  I also like using my EF 16-35mm f/2.8L IS II USM, which has a focal length that is equivalent to its' cousin, the excellent EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM on your 80D, which would need an external flash for most indoor use.

If you do not have a fast prime in your camera kit, then I recommend that you get one, preferrably on in the 24mm to 50mm range.  My first choice with an APS-C sensor body would be 35mm.  Check out the Sigma Art series of lenses for fast primes, or invest in one of Canon's "L" Series primes.  I use a EF 35mm f/2, EF 50mm f/1.4, and a EF 85mm f 1.8.  Out of those three lenses, the only one that I really like is the EF 35mm f/2.  The others have decent image quality, but the Canon hoods are a joke, especially with the 85mm.  Seriously, Canon?

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