24L or 35L ???

Started Feb 17, 2006 | Discussions thread
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stu warner
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24L or 35L ???
Feb 17, 2006

I need some thoughts on a tricky decision because my head is full of circular arguments, suspicion and doubt

After negotiation with my fantastic wife, it has been decided that it's okay to keep a small percentage of our combined income, split it in half, and each spend our half on whatever we want without having to get clearance from the other partner. Quite obviously I've decided to dedicate my half to photog gear. This is great, as I can save cash over an extended time and buy a small number of really high quality optics, and eventually go full frame (I LOVE wide angle, but the speed is not really available for croppers).

This year's decision is to buy a low-light lens that will work well on a cropper and on full frame. Although I spent several hours looking at the 24-105 f/4L, I do not feel it gives me creative control of DOF, nor the ability to freeze motion in low light. I view IS as a partial substitute for a tripod, but I will probably carry one of those anyway because I enjoy Macro and landscape shots. So, undoubtedly a great lens, but not quite right for me.

Obviously I need a fast prime. I see my choices as the 24/1.4L or the 35/1.4L. It seems that both are very good, but the 24 is reported as being a little softer wide open. This is unfortunate, as it is probably the most desirable focal length for me – nice and wide on FF, but not too wide that it has distortion troubles and includes too many unnecessary compositional elements in the frame without a lot of thought.

FYI, my current lens arsenal:

Tokina 12-24mm f/4. (Beautiful, and wide enough, but slow. CA can be a problem.)

Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro. (Awesome lens. Only really gets used for Macro and portraits on my rebel, but I would like to try using it as a standard lens on a FF.)
Canon 200mm f/2.8L. (Superb in every conceivable way.)

On a cropper, the 24L would be a nice low-light 38mm, and the 35L would be 56mm, so both would see plenty of use until finances permit the transition to FF. I should say that I will be shooting a wedding and some other significant parties this year. Anyway, the crux of the purchase is to distinguish between my options on FF:

1) Canon 24/1.4L + 50 Macro + long tele. Lightweight. Cheaper. Should do everything I want if the lenses perform to spec' as written.

2) CZ 21/2.8 + Canon 35/1.4L + 50(?) Macro + long tele. If the 50 is too close to the 35, I could maybe sell the 50 and buy a 100 Macro – but a big gap & massive differences in perspective between 35 and 100.

3) Canon 16-35/2.8L + 50/1.4 (or new L?) + 100Macro + long tele. More versatile but heavier landscape lens, and still not fast enough max aperture IMHO – so it would need a fast 50mm too –which means buying a 100 Macro…..Expensive and will not really address my current needs of a standard focal length low-light lens for a cropper.

(Just so that you now the extent of the gap from the normal lens to the tele' end, I eventually expect to buy whatever Canon replace the 100-400 with, or a 400/5.6 with IS if they bring one of those out….undoubtedly a question for many years down the road…)

So, now some specific questions:

Focal length - Will the 35L be too close to the 50mm Macro? I realise that I could justify both based on different specialist uses, but I want the 50 Macro to perform double-duty as a standard lens as much as possible. I want to carry around the least number of lenses I can get away with.

Image quality - Is the 24L really that much worse than the Carl Zeis 21mm f/2.8 Distagon? I see the CZ as an outstanding landscape lens, but the Canon would have autofocus and faster max aperture, making it great for interiors and some PJ-style street photog on FF. Is the IQ from the Canon that different from the CZ when stopped down? Would the 24L have too much distortion on a FF for environmental portraits and group shots? Incidentally, the CZ could only be purchased after a minimum of about 2 years saving, and would be after the transition to FF. That's a very long time to go without a wide angle - though the Tokina may still mount and be used as a 20-24mm, I have no idea what the IQ would be like. Does anyone have direct comparison samples of the CZ 21/2.8 and the 24L?

I guess the problem is that I can't see samples of the 24L wide open and stopped down to see if it will meet my expectations. I just read reviews that say something like: yeh, it's okay, but it's not as sharp as the 35L or the 21mm CZ. I try to search somwhere like Pbase and I pull p all the 24-something zooms. The CZ might be absolute best, but is the 24L already more than good enough for all but the biggest prints?

Please help.
(Sorry for this long and involved post).

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Rebel Without a Clue.

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