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Thread: prime 35mm or 50mm for dslr?

  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by ST1100
    i'd prefer the 50/1.4 over the two lenses, despite the steeper price, bcoz of the extra speed and much better build quality.
    Hi I noticed you like the 50mm f1.4 a lot. The f1.4 is only about 1/2 a stop faster and while build quality is much better, does it warrant paying $500 more?

    From what I have read, optical quality between the two lenses are almost equal. As for speed, it's only slightly faster - and wide open photodo's rating is not too good. As for USM, it's also not the ring USM. For build quality, while it's much better, for the f1.8, if it spoils, can easily get another one.

    Given these considerations, would you still recommend the f1.4? Would it be better to save the $500 for another lens? Just curious

    As for the poster's original question, for group shots, the 35f2 does a better job. the 50f1.8 is a little too narrow I find. however, the 50f1.8 is useful as a backup low light lens

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by goering
    Hi I noticed you like the 50mm f1.4 a lot. The f1.4 is only about 1/2 a stop faster and while build quality is much better, does it warrant paying $500 more?
    i love my 50/1.4.

    When i first started shopping for a 50mm lens, the 1.8 version was out of stock at most places. The only place where it was available was TCW, going at a rip-off price of $180. So i got a new 1.4 instead, at slightly lower than market rate. (At that time, i haven't met Clubsnap.)

    The 2 main reasons why i prefer the faster lens:

    1. Bokeh. Much better bokeh. This is subject to personal taste, but most will agree the 8-bladed 1.4 gives much better background blur than the 1.8's 5 blades. If it's portraiture we're talking about, this makes a world of a diff.

    Keng Hor did a side-by-side comparison of the 2 lenses on photo.net, with a lot of sample pictures. You might want to check out the bokeh samples, as well as his article.

    Maybe it's just me - i'm willing to pay for better bokeh.

    If it's sharpness we're talking about, they are both essentially too sharp for portraits. When put on a tripod with proper technique, they should be practically indistinguishable wrt sharpness.

    (The photodo rating is pretty irrelevant in this case. IIRC, both are in the 4.x range, way beyond the resolution of the typical handheld photo. The rating is also higher than most/all (?!?) of the L zooms.)



    2. Speed.

    Canon's high speed primes come in L's and non-L's. The L's are typically sharp wide open, the non-L's are not. The 1.4 is not sharp wide open, and i don't believe the 1.8 is either.

    Meaning that if i want to get an enlargeable print in low light, i need to stop down. For my 1.4, the 'useable speed' is around f1.8 or slower. i suspect for the 1.8, it might be f2.5 or f2.8. In low light, that's a *huge* difference. YMMV.



    Other minor considerations:

    3. Construction.

    It is true that you can buy 4 pieces of the 1.8 for the price of a 1.4. It is also true that you will NOT be carrying a spare 1.8 with you all the time. Most people will not even bother to buy 2 copies of the 1.8.

    i don't baby my gear, and will not hesitate to shoot in adverse conditions - slight rain, dusty countries, cold places, etc. i've handled the 1.8 a few times. i don't think the construction is really as bad as most people say, but i've certainly read horror stories of the lens coming apart after a few years of use. Let's just say i don't want to take that risk.

    Of course, if you take really good care of your stuff, this point is irrelevant.


    4. Recessed front element.

    i believe the 1.4 has a more deeply recessed front element than the 1.8. This acts as a permanent lens hood, generally giving better protection from stray light in situations where the 1.8 would be affected. i don't have the 1.8, so i might be wrong here. But i did notice my 1.4 seldom gets the 'lowered contrast' pictures caused by the missing len hood on my other lenses.

    Again, if you're religious about using the lens hood, this point is moot. However, i doubt many 1.8 users even bother to buy the hood.


    5. Price

    i don't feel the 1.4 is expensive for the performance it gives. It's just that the 1.8 is really dirt cheap, and makes the 1.4 look like a rip-off.

    Someone said the 50/1.4 is the best value for money in Canon's entire lens lineup. i feel this is somewhat true. Considering the price/performance of the 14/2.8L, 24/1.4L, 35/1.4L and 85/1.2L, this lens is dirt cheap by comparison.


    i only realised the above points after a few years of use with my 1.4, not before i bought it. i'm glad i got the 1.4 instead of the 1.8. Hope the above considerations will help someone in deciding between the two.

    (i'm still looking for the 50/1.8 Mk I.)

    In case anyone's going to flame me on this: i'm not saying anything bad about the 1.8. i just prefer my 1.4.



    Apologies to thread starter for the OT.

  3. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by ST1100
    i love my 50/1.4.
    The photodo rating is pretty irrelevant in this case. IIRC, both are in the 4.x range, way beyond the resolution of the typical handheld photo. The rating is also higher than most/all (?!?) of the L zooms.)
    Thanks for your detailed reasonings. I was actually considering getting the 50mm F1.4 mainly for the USM and the F1.4 and hence my question

    Regarding the photodo ratings, http://www.photodo.com/prod/lens/canon.shtml#Canon i was actually referring to the performance wide open. Weighted MTF for 50 mm: f1,4 0,58, f2 0,73, f2,8 0,78, f4 0,84, f8 0,86

    Wide open the mtf@1.4 is only 0.58 which isn't too good. stopped down to f2.0, it's pretty decent at 0.73. the 50mmf1.8's mtf wide open at f1.8 is 0.67 - which is pretty decent

    well, these are just numbers and cannot compare to user experiences - but since i do not have the lens to play with, these numbers do play a part in my decision.

    As for the bokeh, I do agree with you

  4. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by goering
    Thanks for your detailed reasonings. I was actually considering getting the 50mm F1.4 mainly for the USM and the F1.4 and hence my question

    Regarding the photodo ratings, http://www.photodo.com/prod/lens/canon.shtml#Canon i was actually referring to the performance wide open. Weighted MTF for 50 mm: f1,4 0,58, f2 0,73, f2,8 0,78, f4 0,84, f8 0,86

    Wide open the mtf@1.4 is only 0.58 which isn't too good. stopped down to f2.0, it's pretty decent at 0.73. the 50mmf1.8's mtf wide open at f1.8 is 0.67 - which is pretty decent

    well, these are just numbers and cannot compare to user experiences - but since i do not have the lens to play with, these numbers do play a part in my decision.

    As for the bokeh, I do agree with you
    I think the 50 f/1.4 is a love it or "can't afford it" lens. I seldom use it now, but given a choice all over again, I have no regrets choosing it over the f/1.8. Only bcos I think I can afford it! For students and those on lower budget, the choice is clearer that you might want to go for the cheaper f/1.8.

    The reason why I don't choose the f/1.8 is that it feels too plastic in its contrsuction and when I shoot, handling is an important factor. It's not really that I shoot in low light that often. Focusing is also more "alive" and robust with the f/1.4. For MF, the f/1.8 is just awkward to handle too.

    As for sharpness, I wouldn't care too much about all those MTF numbers cos I'm a photographer, not a technician taking pictures of lines in the lab. Most people judge a prime lens in what I feel to be an unjustified manner by looking at the performance wide open and comparing it with another slower lens. For eg, you can't compare the 50 f/1.4 at f/1.4 with 50mm at f/1.8. Cos the f/1.8 is not even capable that wide! In other words, if you REALLY need to shoot at f/1.4, that IS it. You get the shot with the 50mm f/1.4, not the f/1.8. If you compare side-by-side a cheap $200 consumer zoom lens wide open, heck, I swear it performs better than the 50 f/1.4 wide open! But you're not comapring apples with apples in terms of aperture. At f/1.8, I should think the f/1.4 lens is a tad sharper than its smaller f/1.8 brother.

    Other prime lenses people tend to misrepresent are the 20mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2, 85 f/1.8 just to name a few. They claim these lenses don't perform well wide open. Some even go so far to say erroneously they are not useable wide open! Of cos, based on lens design, lenses generally don't perfrom as well wide open. But like I said, if you need an f/2 at 35mm, all else remains constant, only that lens can get the job done. Even your giant 24-70 f/2.8L is pretty much useless in that strictest sense.

    Another point to remember also is that if you shoot wide open, depending on the subject at hand and camera-subject distance , your DOF can be very shallow, maybe a couple of inches. Focusing has to be precise, else the mistaken view that the lens is hopeless wide open.

    From my observation, generally L lenses perform well across all apertures wide open or stopped down. But of course, a few stops from its max aperture always tend to give better resolution. However, I stress again, if you need an f/1.8 to get the job done, no L lens at f/2.8 can do it. But the prime can. Heck who cares what the MTF number says. 0.58, 0.68, 0.78..does it matter??? Just shoot and enjoy the end result!

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by firstmoon
    i m using 300d and m thinking of getting a fast lens. choose prime instead of zoom, for optical quality.

    shld i get 35mm f/2 or 50mm f/1.8? fyi, i typically shoot photos of my family at home and their activities (eg annual concert, in the park, etc.)

    with 1.6x, 35mm becomes 56mm (like normal lens), but the price is rather steep (3 times) compared to the cheap venerable 50mm.

    w the 50mm (or 80mm w dslr), i am afraid to be rather limited (especially when i shoot photos at home, as need to take photos from a distance).

    28mm f/2.8 is cheaper, but it is 1 stop higher and i find it not much different from my existing kit zoom, so i think it is not here not there.

    appreciate your comment.
    It is no longer true that primes are that much sharper than zooms. This may be so say 20 years ago but lens designs these days are very sophisticated.

    The reasons I can think of about using primes on a DSLR are:

    1. You shoot comfortably or use frequently that particular focal length.

    2. Your budget is somewhat limited and you can't afford an L lens.

    3. You want lightweight and compactness.

    4. You shoot wide open often and do low light photography.

    If your are shooting a wide variety of scenes, a zoom is highly recommended. Try getting a wide angle one if possible bcos of the pesky 1.6x multiplier.

  6. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi2
    It is no longer true that primes are that much sharper than zooms. This may be so say 20 years ago but lens designs these days are very sophisticated.

    :
    :

    If your are shooting a wide variety of scenes, a zoom is highly recommended. Try getting a wide angle one if possible bcos of the pesky 1.6x multiplier.
    kiwi2, you brought up important topic: zoom vs prime.

    i have been using slr for 10+ years and always have been using zoom. i have heard that prime is optically superior (sharpnest, colour, etc) than zoom, given a same setting.

    for example, is a prime 28 f/2.8 lens set at f/4 superior than a zoom 24-70mm f/2.8 set at 28mm f/4? assume that the prime and zoom are of comparable quality.

    is that correct? how far superior is it? any sample photos that can show how prime is better than zoom?

    thanks.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by firstmoon
    for example, is a prime 28 f/2.8 lens set at f/4 superior than a zoom 24-70mm f/2.8 set at 28mm f/4? assume that the prime and zoom are of comparable quality.
    The primes will definitely beat the consumer zooms. On A4 size prints and above, or at 100% viewing for resolution, the difference is easy to spot when put side by side, same shooting conditions, same camera settings.

    If you're talking about the better zooms (ie L-stuff), then it depends on which zoom you're talking about. The 16-35, 17-40 and 24-70 are definitely on par with the cheaper primes in the range, while some of the older L zooms are, well, not so hot.

    The 24-70 also has an astounding weight and price tag, compared to primes in the range. (Of course, if you're comparing L with L, then the replacement set of 24/1.4L, 35/1.4L, 50/1.0L and 85/1.2L make the 24-70 an absolute bargain at only $2k.)

    To add one more reason for using primes:

    A prime imposes it's viewpoint on you. The shooting mentality is different - if there's a prime stuck on your camera, it actually forces you to frame (in your mind) BEFORE you pick up the camera, unlike a zoom, where you can 'look-see-look-see' through the viewfinder and zoom to compose. Of course, this may be a minus point for some. Mike Johnson (photo.net) wrote an article, "The Case Against Zooms"; quite an interesting read.

  8. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by firstmoon
    kiwi2, you brought up important topic: zoom vs prime.

    i have been using slr for 10+ years and always have been using zoom. i have heard that prime is optically superior (sharpnest, colour, etc) than zoom, given a same setting.

    for example, is a prime 28 f/2.8 lens set at f/4 superior than a zoom 24-70mm f/2.8 set at 28mm f/4? assume that the prime and zoom are of comparable quality.

    is that correct? how far superior is it? any sample photos that can show how prime is better than zoom?

    thanks.
    Hi firstmoon,

    When you talk about zoom lenses, it depends on what kind. If you're referring to an L zoom, say 24-70mm f/2.8L vs a 28mm f/2.8, then I must say they probably perform pretty much similarly. (I'm a Canon user but I suppose the argument can be extended to other brands too.) The 28mm f/2.8 is never quite a popular lens, cos it's not particularly fast or exceptional, except for cases where you know you will use the 28mm focal length very often and want the compactness/lightweight/low budget.

    However if you compare the 28mm f/2.8 with the cheap zooms such as 28-90mm provided as kit lenses, then the difference in quality may be obvious even for 4x6 prints, in terms of colour, sharpness and contrast.

    The goodness of the non-L primes is that they are compact/lightweight, gives you the comparable quality of the more expensive L zooms without the hefty price tag or weight and for those who do a lot of low light stuffs at f/1.4-f/2.0.
    Compared to the consumer mid-priced zooms, primes have much better control of distortion and flare too.

    In particular, if you are comparing a prime such as the 85mm f/1.8 with a 70-200mm f/2.8L or f/4L zoom, theoretically they are both closely matched at f/2.8. Specs or MTFs might show one to have a slight edge over the other, but I'm never one to take those numbers too seriously. I know some will! On a scale of 0-5, 0 for craps and 5 for excellent, they'll say stuffs like Oh, lens A has a 4.2 rating while lens B has a 3.8 rating. Lens A is better! Duh! How much practically "better"?

    What you cannot get from the zoom is the wide f/1.8, much closer focusing distance, compactness and lightweight (which can matter a lot depending on the kind of photography you're doing) and not to mention, much cheaper price tag. The downside is you're painfully stuck with a single focal length. You have to decide which is best for you. But what I want to stress is that if you are comparing sharpness between different lenses, you got to do it at the same aperture. You shouldn't compare the 85mm shot at f/1.8 with the 70-200mm shot at f/2.8. Though both lenses are shot at their widest apertures, it is clear from lens design that the 85mm will not perform as well. But hey, it's f/1.8 we're talking about! It makes a shot possible where the 70-200mm can only whimper in the same scenario.

    Sometimes, you consider a prime because say you've already got something like 28-135mm. You need a wide angle but don't wish to get a consumer 20-35mm due to the focal length overlap and less than desired distortion and flare. Then the 20mm f/2.8 prime is a good consideration. It's fast, sharp and distortion is well-controlled.

    For those on a low budget (eg students) and only own cheap zoom lenses, often a cheap prime like the 50mm f/1.8 is an attraction cos they get a fast lens capable of sharp images to play around with and possible learn good composition.
    Last edited by kiwi2; 15th December 2003 at 05:57 PM.

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