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Old 10 Nov 2003, 15:46 (Ref:778937)   #1
PaulSands
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Lenses

A bit of straight up advice...am I being unreasonable on myself by comparing the pictures I manage to obtain from circuits using my Sigma 135-400mm F4.5-5.6 APO against those the pro's get?
I was looking at the price of the huge Canon lenses that I've seen around me and, after picking myself up from the floor (most cost more than I paid for my car) can only conclude that they are that expensive because they are that much better.
I've been getting really disheartened recently
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Old 10 Nov 2003, 16:18 (Ref:778963)   #2
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Yes Paul, you are correct. Fixed Telephotos will always give better pics. The clarity of their glass optics just isn't the same when it comes to zooms. The big lenses are expensive but thet're also very good. Of course, using CAnon CPS is a way to use the lens without buying them...

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Old 10 Nov 2003, 16:20 (Ref:778965)   #3
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CAnon CPS ?
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Old 10 Nov 2003, 16:30 (Ref:778974)   #4
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At least I think it's CPS... having a bit of a senility moment. Canon's program that lets professional 'rent' out equipment from them...

Still haven't sent in my paper work yet for it, as it's buried somewhere at home... I'll look for it tonight and will send you an email.

BTW- your slides and a couple of CDs should arrive next week...

martin
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Old 10 Nov 2003, 21:34 (Ref:779214)   #5
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We have an ancient and very battered old Canon at work which is so shot at that it usually manages to take pretty poor quality photos. One time we had a few of the local newspapers down and the photographer from the Manchester Evening News let me borrow one of his lens. A Canon lens, something like 17-35. The results from it were absolutely incredible. I would never have believed we could get such good results from our old camera.
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Old 10 Nov 2003, 22:21 (Ref:779259)   #6
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The camera body has so little to do with the photos as long as it doesn't scratch the film or expose it to errant light. The lens definitely makers the picture sharp and clear.
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Old 10 Nov 2003, 23:13 (Ref:779303)   #7
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you're also paying for the maximum aperture. i'm not sure why amateurs insist on looking at these mad 24-500mm zooms with f.8 maximum apertures. you'd be better off buying a second hand manual focus 400/500mm. imho of course.
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Old 11 Nov 2003, 09:10 (Ref:779592)   #8
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soooo how much do these things cost to rent?
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Old 11 Nov 2003, 14:36 (Ref:779872)   #9
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You don't need to be a pro to rent out lenses from photo hire companies - even some of the bigger high street shops offer a hire service. However, cost is usually a significant proportion of the price of the lens. For a lens worth £1000, I've seen hire prices of £150 for two days. Hire it three or four times and you'll have spent almost as much.

Just like most things, you get what you pay for. I've been guilty of comparing my previous results with pros using (insert camera brand here) optics costing thousands. Tighter optical controls, more elements, multi-coatings and more solid construction impose financial burdens on the manufacturer and, surprise surprise, the consumer has to pay more for this equipment kit.

You don't need to pay thousands to get pretty good results, and as long as you're happy with your pictures, it doesn't matter whether you're using a manky, mould-ridden chunk of someone's windscreen or a white-bodied wonder of Japanese origin. Indeed, the greatest Zeiss optics won't take a good picture without you pointing it at something interesting.

However, there are certainly sharp optics out there in the pro-sumer class (between £300 - 800) if you believe they would give you some form of gain - be it a faster shutter speed, smoother backgrounds, shallower depth of field, gizmos or improved contrast. I started my more serious photographic phase by deciding to buy nothing but f/2.8 lenses as I enjoy selective focussing, the subjects I shoot benefit from faster shutter speeds and shallower DOF and they help me focus in lower light.

You must remember, though, that 2.8 lenses (that don't cost £5k) are seldom their sharpest at such a wide aperture, and require 'stopping down' to f/4-5.6 before becoming critically sharp enough for the most demanding photographers. I can live with a slight softening at f/2.8, but whether you could is for you to decide.

Your 135-400 is actually a pretty good lens for the money and compares reasonably well to the other lenses in its class. There are several nature photographers who use that lens for wonderful wildlife images. It is a good zoom range and acceptably sharp up to about 370mm. There is no way at all it could compare to a prime such as the Canon 400 f/5.6 which is extremely sharp (and quite affordable used) but then it doesn't pretend to be. It's just a good consumer lens that got a lot of people into more serious photography, and that benefits both them and those that enjoy their images.

I have 3 Tokina lenses (20-35 2.8, 28-70 2.8 and 300 2.8), plus two Sigmas (70-300 that I no longer use!, and a 70-200 2.8), which I researched thoroughly before purchase and I am in no way sorry that I bought them.
The 28-70 in particular is stunningly sharp and contrasty and cost me £245 used from a reputable dealer. A lot of the new pictures I'm going to be putting on my website have been taken with this lens. See the Mk2 Jag pics on my homepage for an example :

www.british-motorsport.co.uk

The most expensive lens I have is the 300 2.8 @ £1100. I thought long and hard about this purchase and finally decided that, allied with two convertors, it would give me the reach and shutter speeds I had always missed while out in the fields, or standing beside a track. Therefore I bought it to fill an outlined need, not because I thought it would make me look like a pro.
It's heavy but solid, very sharp, has beautiful colour rendition and actually has fast focussing, even without USM or HSM technology. And compared to other 300 2.8s out there, quite a bargain.

In conclusion
I think the key to good pictures in descending order is this :

1. Luck
2. You
3. Light
4. Subject
5. Time
6. Lens
7. Film
8. Camera
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Old 14 Nov 2003, 20:47 (Ref:783617)   #10
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This is an interesting thread because it brings up more than just lens quality, but also photographer quality and certain limitations that cannot be worked around no matter how good you are without the proper lens.

Sure, you can always say that a better lens will not make you a better photographer, but that only goes so far. If you are using your lenses to their maximum use, there is not much more you can do.

For instance if you only have a 300mm as you longest lens, you are not going to be able to get the same shots that someone with a 600 can, no matter how good you are, its just not possible. Now, you can add a tele, but unless it is a f/2.8 lens to start with you will be at a serious disadvantage over a true 600 f/4. You simply cannot get the same shot with the same sharpness and the same dof that you can with a prime 600 f/4. Its just not possible.

Now of course if you cant create a good image with that 600 f/4 then it does no good to have and it wont make you a better photog.

So lenses can make you a better photog if you have the knowlege to know how to use them, but if you dont, they wont help.

Now, are they worth the money? Well, if you NEED those kinds of shots, then they are worth every penny you pay for them. A magazine is not going to but a soft image to put in a magazine, they want the sharpest thing out there, and that means using a 400 f/2.8 lens instead of a 80-400 zoom of some kind that is not as sharp. But if you are doing it for fun and you like your shots, its probably not worth the extra thousands of dollars. Its all relative and based on need.

One last thing. Martin talked about CPS or Canon Professional Services. There is also NPS for Nikon users. These guys do not just rent out lenses. They have them available to use for free under certain circumstances. They are not for photogs to just use whenever they need them. They loan them out when your lens is in for repair (that means you already have to have one) or they are there for loan when you are considering buying one. That means its only a one time or two time thing, its not for whenever you want to use it. So its a great thing and is hard to become a member. You must be a full time working photog to be considered, but it is great if you can get in. But its not to take advantage of loaners when ever you feel like it. Just wanted to clarify that.
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Old 14 Nov 2003, 21:09 (Ref:783635)   #11
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I know I can get the shots but am getting mighty frustrated that the end result isn't matching my expectation...I also accept that, at the moment, I'm not the best photographer in the world but am better than some of the results suggest
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Old 14 Nov 2003, 21:32 (Ref:783668)   #12
G_Ilott
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vwpilot,

That's a good point about lenses fulfilling their potential only if you have the experience and talent to use them. I could buy a 600 f/4 tomorrow (if I robbed a bank) but I wouldn't suddenly turn into 'UberPhotographer', superhero with grass-stained elbows. You need good long lens technique to make the most of such magnification as the longer you go, the more camera shake from you, the camera and the elements are injected into your pictures. Physically bigger lenses catch the wind like an orange sock and without some form of support, be it a beanbag, post or expensive carbon tripod, you're looking through a hazy mirage, dancing about in front of your eyes like a big fat out-of-focus belly dancer who's too near the camera.

Oh, and professionals (i.e. people who make a living from photography, not people who are necessarily better at photography than you) offset the cost of a £4000 lens against additional revenue from the results they will achieve with it.

However, I am a believer, as an amateur, in buying a lens which gives you a sense of satisfaction. It is only by surprising yourself with the odd sharp, well-exposed that the photographic fire is continually fed with fuel. If all your shots are soft and lack contrast because of a cheap £100 lens, you can't possibly improve your technique. It'll always smother your own technical improvements. And that results in disappointment and the camera being resigned to a drawer.

A less well-known fact among amateur wannahaves is that these big, expensive lenses can actually be a pain in the neck, not least physically. It takes mental effort to take the 300 2.8 out with me. It's bloody heavy. And you find yourself thinking about security much more. A big black shiny light bucket is a worry when you're squatting in a remote field and a bloke hops over a stile and comes striding towards you.
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