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First lens - Fixed focal length vs. Zoom
I'm buying my first DSLR - mainly to take pictures of our first baby, and I want to make sure I'm spending my money wisely..

I'm thinking of getting the Canon Digital Rebel XTi (body only), but I'm conflicted as to which "first" lens I should get. I'll be shooting primarily indoors (for starters), and I'd like to learn how to create images without using flash. Now, are there any disadvantages to getting a fixed focal length lens - 50mm f/1.4? As I understand it, the large aperture on this lens would allow me to shoot in low light with a fast shutter, thus eliminating the need for Image Stabilization. Is that correct?.

I've also considered the 17-85mm Canon lens with IS. That lens has a smaller max. aperture - does the IS compensate for that by allowing me to shoot at slower shutter speeds?.

Main question is: What's a good all-around first lens that would allow me to capture images of our baby in natural light?.

Thanks in advance for the advice...

Comments (18)

Minisota wrote:.

I'm buying my first DSLR - mainly to take pictures of our first baby,and I want to make sure I'm spending my money wisely..

I'm thinking of getting the Canon Digital Rebel XTi (body only), butI'm conflicted as to which "first" lens I should get. I'll beshooting primarily indoors (for starters), and I'd like to learn howto create images without using flash..

Why?.

Seriously - get a flash and do it right..

Main question is: What's a good all-around first lens that would allow me to capture > images of our baby in natural light?.

There's absolutely nothing natural about indoor lighting...

Comment #1

Get a flash for indoor shots. if you want a more natural light with flash, use bounce flash or use a diffuser(like stofen's omnibounce. there are others)..

As for lens. the 50mmf1.4 is an excellent available light lens. but like all prime lenses they have one requirement-the subject to camera distance is set at x feet. if you the shooter is closer or further away then the subject either shinks to a small area in the viewfinder so the shot requires cropping later; OR the subject overfills the viewfinder and part of the subject is cut off. to change this the shooter has to physically move back and forth to change the distance. but during this the toddler could move and probably will..

With a zoom from any position in the room you can zoom the subject to give you the proper size desired..

The builtin flash though not very strong is still good for about the 10-15ft range, which should be good enough inside in a normally lit room..

My suggestion to you is to buy your canon dslr then buy the 17-85 zoom. and then see if inside a room do you still need an external flash. the 17-85 lens is also stabilized which will help in dimmer locations than outside...

Comment #2

And now a dissenting opinion. Flash can be useful and you'll be amazed at what you can use as a diffuser to "soften" the light. I have been known to grab two Kleenex's and create three layers to shot through as I drape them around the flash that pops up from your camera; I hold them on with a rubber band. Cut a ping pong ball in half and hold it on to your flash with a rubber band, the possibilities are vast..

Pictures look better without flash; I'm excluding studio set ups in this statement, or pro multiple portable flash units set up on legs and using umbrella's and soft boxes. I'm talking about mom or dad grabbing the camera and getting a decent photo of their incredibly beautiful baby girl or handsome baby boy to show all the folks..

Using the 50 f1.4 prime lens is an excellent choice as you can use it in lower light conditions. In a well lit areas like the kitchen, you can have some one hold the child while standing away from cupboards etc and the 50 lens will have a very shallow depth of field, blurring out the visual noise of the kitchen and isolating the child. There should be enough light in your kitchen to shoot this shot without flash..

I just bought the 50 f1.8 to see how it would work inside, hand held, flashless and it did a good job. I recommend the 50 f1.4 over the f1.8. Try shooting at ISO 400. Set your camera to RAW..

If you don't have an editing program, download Picasa2 as it will accept your RAW shots..

Http://www.picasa2.com/.

After you get this lens, you might want a general zoom for other picture taking and you can use it for the children as well..

Not a great lens but a good lens is the 28 - 135 IS..

A much better lens is the 70 - 200 f4 L. Note this lens doesn't have the IS (image stabilization) but the images are excellent and the price is not too bad. There is another version with IS at double the price..

You are best with two lens, but start with the 50 f1.4..

Comment #3

If you want fixed focal length, Pentax. Get a K100D or K100D Super. 6MP is more than enough. Built in stabilization and a clean ISO 1600 are what you need for low light shooting. For lenses, look at the DA21, FA35 and/or FA43. If you want one lens, I would choose between the 21 and 35.

Anyways, these are some of the best lenses on earth and a bargain for what they are...

Comment #4

Another vote for the 50mm. The shallow DOF will give more appealing "soft" baby shots, flash or otherwise..

I'd also suggest augmenting either lens with a bounce flash, but that wasn't your question. .

I think there is PLENTY "natural" about indoor light...we spend most of our time there, and are used to seeing things in that lighting environment. A window, a lamp, whatever....all can provide an appealing lighting environment with enough lumens for the faster lens..

Greg..

Comment #5

Without stabilization, shorter is easier to hand hold. A 50 is also a decent portrait lens and short tele. A 35, though is a bit more useful overall..

For available light, my vote is still on the K100D Super. Better high ISO performance and stabilization. Better primes are also available for it...

Comment #6

I was recently invited to the hospital to get shots of a 2-day old baby. The baby was in bed with Mom. I prefer not using a flash and some people are not comfortable with a flash for very young babies. I used my 35mm f/2 and got some good shots..

Generally, a zoom wins for convenience. A prime wins for lens size and larger aperture.Patrick T. KellyOaxaca, Mexico..

Comment #7

Hmmm.... lots of conflicting advice here, isn't there. Well here's my take..

Available light photography can be very nice, and there are those who do not want flashes fired off in newborn eyes. But the only way to use available light well is to have a very fast lens. I don't think there are any very fast zooms on the market, so you will be forced to use a fixed focal length, and you will need at least f1.8, preferably f1.4 in order to do any effective photography in dim indoor light. Depth of field becomes a real issue at such apertures, and experience is necessary to use it effectively. Such lenses are also expensive, but there are advantages to using them that can't be ignored..

For much less money, you can get a good flash. Do not use the on camera flash at all. Get a decent zoom lens (the kit lenses are probably adequate for what you describe, but better is always better) and spend real money on a powerful flash that can tilt and pan it's head. A good flash..

Learn to bounce it. With enough power and some bouncing techniques you can get some very acceptable pictures of kids and family, and you can get them in almost any circumstance. The lighting will not be "professional portrait" quality, but you can do very decent stuff with it. You WILL want a good flash sooner or later..

Here is a picture of my niece shot with bounced flash during a visit last Christmas. The ambient light was impossibly weak. See what you think. Virtually all the "family stuff" in that gallery that was not available light was bounced flash..

Http://lcooper.zenfolio.com/p924806388/?photo=h0EDB168A#249239178.

Nothing is enough for the man to whom nothing is enough...

Comment #8

Aletheia wrote:.

Here is a picture of my niece shot with bounced flash during a visitlast Christmas. The ambient light was impossibly weak. See whatyou think. Virtually all the "family stuff" in that gallery that wasnot available light was bounced flash..

Http://lcooper.zenfolio.com/p924806388/?photo=h0EDB168A#249239178.

Good example of a flash pic that doesn't look like a flash was used. I firmly believe that 99% of people who don't like to use flash are either too intimidated to learn it, or think that a flash means harsh shadows and blown highlights. A good bounce flash picture looks more 'natural' than a 'natural light' photo cranked up to ISO 1600...

Comment #9

It is always difficult to recommend as the financial status - more importantly, uncommitted income or investments - is unknown so do your recommend the "best" which will be expensive to me and chump change to Bill Gates..

If I were recommending the best, it would be the 50mm f1.2 L glass, the 70 - 200 f2.8 IS L glass, along with the top canon flash, wireless radio to trigger the one or two flashes, shot through a soft box or reflected from an umbrella, probably on Manfrotto light stands, cushioned of course. Don't forget the wireless light meter, plugged into your lap top providing dynamic range data, flash ratios, etc..

If this poster is like most of us, a new child represents new expenses, hence some compromise is required. I think the argument for a flash, if bounced or diffused is a good one. I would not have been able to purchase a new camera, a new "better" lens and the "best" Canon flash when my child was born. For the first year or two, the kid is relatively stationary so the 50mm will do, after that, better buy a zoom... lol!.

When my son was borm in 1986, I was in the birth room with a Minox camera with 800 ISO film pushed to ISO 1600 - couldn't use flash. Old farts will understand this reference, young farts won't get it. For my indoor shots, I used ISO 400 pushed to 800. The lens on the Minox was "fixed;" in other words a prime; probably a 35mm lens. I also used my Canon 10s with 50mm f1.8 lens for indoor pictures, initially shot at ISO 200 before ISO 400 film had improved..

Fortunately, ISO's are going up and up and up. Here is a favourite of mine taken by some one else, demonstrating the miracle of newer higher ISO's:.

Http://forums.dpreview.com/...forums/read.asp?forum=1029&message=26634026.

You can see this image was taken at ISO 3200 and was hand held: a miracle to us old farts...

Comment #10

The 70-200 is a bit long for babies and close quarters. Stick with a couple short to medium primes until they can walk. Then a Sigma 17-70 would be a good fit..

I have an 80-200 and it is mainly used for picking out individual people on stage at some distance. In fact, I have switched to a 45-125 as my main tele. For a baby, 50 is as long as you want to get. A DA21 or FA35 would actually be better focal lengths..

BTW - I mainly shoot available light with my 6MP Pentax. My main lenses are a Zenitar 16 and a Pentax 28. 50's tend to be a bit long except for portraits. Again, I have to recommend a 6MP pentax because nothing short of full frame or the new 14MP model will get you the high ISO performance...

Comment #11

You could take a closer look at Olympus 510 with very good glass; build in Image Stabilisation and highly affordable!..

Comment #12

Thanks so much to everyone for taking the time to answer my questions. After a lot of research, I finally ordered the XTi with the 50mm f/1.4 and the 28-135mm IS zoom..

Does anyone have any advice on the best way for me to learn how to use this camera to it's full potential? I don't wanna be one of those people who buy a decent camera and then just set everything to AUTO and don't really take the time to learn how to take good pictures. Book recommendations? Websites (in addition to this one)?.

Thanks!..

Comment #13

K1000Photographer wrote:.

Without stabilization, shorter is easier to hand hold. A 50 is also adecent portrait lens and short tele. A 35, though is a bit moreuseful overall..

For available light, my vote is still on the K100D Super. Better highISO performance and stabilization. Better primes are also availablefor it..

"Better high ISO" may not be 100% correct but I am sure there are many threads that will have this arguement...no need to beat the dead horse..

The issue I hear with the Pentax is the focus speed...especially in low light. At this point, the chilld will not move too much so it won't be a problem it the focus stories are true but the problem is that eventually, the child grows and within a few months they start to move sporatically and beyond the photographer's control, this is where some faster focusing could come in handy. I just had a child myself about 5 months ago (okay my wife did most of the work). The way he moves back and forth is quite amazing considering he is just sitting!.

Image stabilization is overrated in my opinion. I have a few lenses with it and it does come in handy from time to time however for taking picture of our little monster, it has very little benefit. it is more an issue of him moving...not the camera..

As for the 50mm 1.4, I haven't used it but based on what I have heard it is a decent lense. I found the 50mm to be a bit long for taking pictures while I am close to the little guy. I would look at something in the 30-35mm range. I hear the sigma 30mm is decent (and I am not a sigma fan but my copy of their 12-24 is great). Also consider looking at the 35 2.0 from Canon. Again I haven't used it so I can't offer anything concrete on it's performance.



Just my two cents worth...

Comment #14

Minisota wrote:.

Thanks so much to everyone for taking the time to answer myquestions. After a lot of research, I finally ordered the XTi withthe 50mm f/1.4 and the 28-135mm IS zoom..

Does anyone have any advice on the best way for me to learn how touse this camera to it's full potential? I don't wanna be one ofthose people who buy a decent camera and then just set everything toAUTO and don't really take the time to learn how to take goodpictures. Book recommendations? Websites (in addition to this one)?.

Thanks!.

Many people recommend Brian Peterson's "understanding exposure" as a good book to start with. I got this book when I got my first DSLR and found it a great starting point. I bought a copy for my neighbor when she got her Nikon and she found it very helpful..

Experience is the best teacher. Digital means you can take picture of anything and everything and see the result almost instantly...I would take lots of pictures, even of the empty crib or other areas you would expect your child to be in regularly at different times of the day to get a feel for how your camera will behave..

While the "green box" mode and "P" modes will do most things for you, I would recommend trying out the "P" mode first, pay attention to the aperature and shutter speed in the view finder, take a shot and see how it looks, mess around with the ISO and repeat. Then move to AV mode and try to duplicate the previous pictures or make them even better. Try different aperature settings and notice how it affects the depth of field (how the items not focused on blur)..

The screen on the back of the camera is a "representation" of your picture, the results are best viewed on your computer..

Shooting RAW (or RAW+JPG) can help you overcome some exposure issues in post processing (the Canon comes with software)..

Mostly, have fun and don't get too discouraged if you don't see the results you want right away...

Comment #15

Gregory King wrote:.

Another vote for the 50mm. The shallow DOF will give more appealing"soft" baby shots, flash or otherwise..

I'd also suggest augmenting either lens with a bounce flash, but thatwasn't your question. .

I think there is PLENTY "natural" about indoor light...we spend mostof our time there, and are used to seeing things in that lightingenvironment. A window, a lamp, whatever....all can provide anappealing lighting environment with enough lumens for the faster lens..

Greg.

Getting a good prime for half the price of a lousy zoom always strikes me as a bargain. And while manual zoom (the legs) is not as useful as a real zoom, it'll work just nicely!.

For a zoom lens to match a prime, be prepared to spend a thousand bucks... .

My favorite lens is such a zoom, the Tamron 28 to 105 at f 2.8. Cost $800, and still not quite as sharp as my 50mm Nikon prime, which cost $90 - And note that the Tamron is still 2.8, not 1.4.

Dave..

Comment #16

Aletheia wrote:.

Hmmm.... lots of conflicting advice here, isn't there. Well here'smy take..

Available light photography can be very nice, and there are those whodo not want flashes fired off in newborn eyes. But the only way touse available light well is to have a very fast lens. I don't thinkthere are any very fast zooms on the market, so you will be forced touse a fixed focal length, and you will need at least f1.8, preferablyf1.4 in order to do any effective photography in dim indoor light.Depth of field becomes a real issue at such apertures, and experienceis necessary to use it effectively. Such lenses are also expensive,but there are advantages to using them that can't be ignored..

For much less money, you can get a good flash. Do not use the oncamera flash at all. Get a decent zoom lens (the kit lenses areprobably adequate for what you describe, but better is always better)and spend real money on a powerful flash that can tilt and pan itshead. A good flash..

Learn to bounce it. With enough power and some bouncing techniquesyou can get some very acceptable pictures of kids and family, and youcan get them in almost any circumstance. The lighting will not be"professional portrait" quality, but you can do very decent stuffwith it. You WILL want a good flash sooner or later..

Here is a picture of my niece shot with bounced flash during a visitlast Christmas. The ambient light was impossibly weak. See whatyou think. Virtually all the "family stuff" in that gallery that wasnot available light was bounced flash..

The narrow depth of field at wide apertures is going to give you problems. You'll be focused on the eyes, the baby will move, and you'll end up with the nose sharp and the eyes OOF..

The best solution is to learn how to use an off-camera flash..

Http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/02/welcome-to-strobist.html.

With a homemade diffuser.

Http://www.abetterbouncecard.com/.

Bounced off a wall or the ceiling to widen the source of light. On-camera flashes aren't recommended because they narrow the source of light, resulting in harsh effects on skin tones and dark shadows contrasting with over-exposed highlights. For a soft non-flash effect, you need to bounce the light off a larger surface..

Since off-camera flash works best (you can't bounce on-camera flash off the wall behind you), add a wireless controller to your cost. Or select a camera manufacturer whose cameras have built-in wireless flash control..

A fixed focal length lens means you'll have to zoom with your feet. Sometimes you just won't have room to do that. You'll be frustrated if you can't get the shot. Get a zoom with something like 16-24mm at the wide end..

Off-camera flash + decent zoom will give you the flexibility that family pictures will demand...

Comment #17

Well, I have shot most of the Canon APS cameras and none are up to the same quality at higher ISO. The Pentax's have lower noise, more detail and a more natural look to the photos. My only complaint against a Pentax would be the slower low light AF...

Comment #18

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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