A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences

Started Dec 9, 2012 | Discussions
whyamihere
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A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
Dec 9, 2012

I've seen this question asked a few times on DPR, though answers were rather particular to the camera system being discussed (Nikon DSLR, Sony NEX, Micro Four Thirds, etc.) or the particular event (wedding, landscape, etc.). I didn't see anything for Canon, so without further ado:

I'm looking to get my first full frame DSLR, and it's likely to be a Canon. I'm not a pro, and I have no intention of selling my services as a photographer anytime soon. Right now, photography is an artistic hobby/pastime/interest/endeavor. The rationale for going full frame is the light gathering capability of the format, especially in indoor and other low-light situations. I'd highly doubt that I'd be walking around and taking 'in the moment' photos with a DSLR, but I could see myself taking cityscape photos at night where deliberation and composition matter more than being able to shoot from the hip. It would also be nice to get low ISO images in the row homes and apartment buildings in my city where there isn't a lot of natural light available.

With that said, what do you use: Constant aperture zooms or primes?

To me, there are obvious temptations and caveats in both cases. Zooms obviously give you the convenience of carrying around one or two lenses to cover a number of focal lengths, but even the fastest available L zoom lenses are only f/2.8. That's not bad, but considering even cheap-ish primes will give you f/1.8 or better, I feel it dulls the value of a ~$2,000 lens. (To be clear, in no way am I saying something like, "The 24-70mm f/2.8 L is a bad lens." That's just silly.) A handful of prime lenses give you the speed and the opportunity of really shallow depth of field, and decent lenses can be had for a wallet-sparing amount of money (I hear the 50mm f/1.4 can be had for a mere $300 these days). The obvious problem with primes is you'd have to carry the whole lot of them with you to cover different focal lengths and change them out depending on the situation. There's also no odd 'in-between' focal lengths with primes: A zoom can hit anything within it's focal length, but with primes you're pretty much settling for 'close enough' even if you have a lot of them on hand at any given time.

So, what say you? Are fast zooms good enough for you, or do you opt for primes? If you have any specific suggestions (or, better, samples) that you would like to share, that would be most helpful.

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MAC
MAC
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

whyamihere wrote:

I've seen this question asked a few times on DPR, though answers were rather particular to the camera system being discussed (Nikon DSLR, Sony NEX, Micro Four Thirds, etc.) or the particular event (wedding, landscape, etc.). I didn't see anything for Canon, so without further ado:

I'm looking to get my first full frame DSLR, and it's likely to be a Canon. I'm not a pro, and I have no intention of selling my services as a photographer anytime soon. Right now, photography is an artistic hobby/pastime/interest/endeavor. The rationale for going full frame is the light gathering capability of the format, especially in indoor and other low-light situations. I'd highly doubt that I'd be walking around and taking 'in the moment' photos with a DSLR, but I could see myself taking cityscape photos at night where deliberation and composition matter more than being able to shoot from the hip. It would also be nice to get low ISO images in the row homes and apartment buildings in my city where there isn't a lot of natural light available.

With that said, what do you use: Constant aperture zooms or primes?

To me, there are obvious temptations and caveats in both cases. Zooms obviously give you the convenience of carrying around one or two lenses to cover a number of focal lengths, but even the fastest available L zoom lenses are only f/2.8. That's not bad, but considering even cheap-ish primes will give you f/1.8 or better, I feel it dulls the value of a ~$2,000 lens. (To be clear, in no way am I saying something like, "The 24-70mm f/2.8 L is a bad lens." That's just silly.) A handful of prime lenses give you the speed and the opportunity of really shallow depth of field, and decent lenses can be had for a wallet-sparing amount of money (I hear the 50mm f/1.4 can be had for a mere $300 these days). The obvious problem with primes is you'd have to carry the whole lot of them with you to cover different focal lengths and change them out depending on the situation. There's also no odd 'in-between' focal lengths with primes: A zoom can hit anything within it's focal length, but with primes you're pretty much settling for 'close enough' even if you have a lot of them on hand at any given time.

So, what say you? Are fast zooms good enough for you, or do you opt for primes? If you have any specific suggestions (or, better, samples) that you would like to share, that would be most helpful.

pj shooting, where people are moving, zooms rule, but fast primes can work on multiple bodies.

if photog can move their feet and take the time then primes

I find that zooms on FF don't have much over zooms on crop.

The primes though sing on FF.

so 6d + 35 f2IS + 50 f1.4 + 100L would be a good start for FF.

but a second camera T4i + 15-85 IS can handle a bunch of flexible shooting

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whyamihere
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to MAC, Dec 9, 2012

MAC wrote:

pj shooting, where people are moving, zooms rule, but fast primes can work on multiple bodies.

if photog can move their feet and take the time then primes

I find that zooms on FF don't have much over zooms on crop.

The primes though sing on FF.

so 6d + 35 f2IS + 50 f1.4 + 100L would be a good start for FF.

but a second camera T4i + 15-85 IS can handle a bunch of flexible shooting

MAC: Thank you for your response and suggestions. I do have a Panasonic GX1 with a pair of zooms that I will continue to hold on to, as they span an effective 24-400mm range and produce decent-enough results with good light. (At one point I did some portraits with the 45-200mm Panasonic at 45mm f/4 - 90mm effective - and the subject sharpness and background blur were better than I thought anyone should expect out of a Micro Four Thirds camera and a relatively cheap tele zoom lens.) I figured at the very least I'd be getting a nifty fifty, something wide for cityscapes, and short telephoto for taking indoor 'people pictures' that allowed for some physical distance between me and a subject.

Thanks again!

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rebel99
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

whyamihere wrote:

I've seen this question asked a few times on DPR, though answers were rather particular to the camera system being discussed (Nikon DSLR, Sony NEX, Micro Four Thirds, etc.) or the particular event (wedding, landscape, etc.). I didn't see anything for Canon, so without further ado:

I'm looking to get my first full frame DSLR, and it's likely to be a Canon. I'm not a pro, and I have no intention of selling my services as a photographer anytime soon. Right now, photography is an artistic hobby/pastime/interest/endeavor. The rationale for going full frame is the light gathering capability of the format, especially in indoor and other low-light situations. I'd highly doubt that I'd be walking around and taking 'in the moment' photos with a DSLR, but I could see myself taking cityscape photos at night where deliberation and composition matter more than being able to shoot from the hip. It would also be nice to get low ISO images in the row homes and apartment buildings in my city where there isn't a lot of natural light available.

With that said, what do you use: Constant aperture zooms or primes?

To me, there are obvious temptations and caveats in both cases. Zooms obviously give you the convenience of carrying around one or two lenses to cover a number of focal lengths, but even the fastest available L zoom lenses are only f/2.8. That's not bad, but considering even cheap-ish primes will give you f/1.8 or better, I feel it dulls the value of a ~$2,000 lens. (To be clear, in no way am I saying something like, "The 24-70mm f/2.8 L is a bad lens." That's just silly.) A handful of prime lenses give you the speed and the opportunity of really shallow depth of field, and decent lenses can be had for a wallet-sparing amount of money (I hear the 50mm f/1.4 can be had for a mere $300 these days). The obvious problem with primes is you'd have to carry the whole lot of them with you to cover different focal lengths and change them out depending on the situation. There's also no odd 'in-between' focal lengths with primes: A zoom can hit anything within it's focal length, but with primes you're pretty much settling for 'close enough' even if you have a lot of them on hand at any given time.

So, what say you? Are fast zooms good enough for you, or do you opt for primes? If you have any specific suggestions (or, better, samples) that you would like to share, that would be most helpful.

it seems like you are saying you are not a pro and then you are hang up on prime and fast F stops,  and it seems like you have the answer for most of your questions! i am not sure what kind of budget you have for photog equipment but if it was me, i'd start with 5D3 (or even with a 6D), the new 24-70mm f2.8 mkII, and a 70-200mm f4IS and a good solid tri-pod, go out and start shooting and less talk! those 2 teles will give you a good indication of what focal range you are using the most and then over time you may want to invest in a nice prime in the future. but then again, that is what i'd do, your mileage me differ

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MASTERPPA
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to rebel99, Dec 9, 2012

Simple, if you do not need faster then 2.8 or F4, get a 24-70 2.8 or 24-105 F4.

If you need faster then a get primes.. I will say this, if you can get your shot at 2.8, get the 24-70 2.8v2, it is 90-95% as sharp as most primes and the zoom will save you in a few shots..

If you do more portraits, primes are fine..

rebel99 wrote:

whyamihere wrote:

I've seen this question asked a few times on DPR, though answers were rather particular to the camera system being discussed (Nikon DSLR, Sony NEX, Micro Four Thirds, etc.) or the particular event (wedding, landscape, etc.). I didn't see anything for Canon, so without further ado:

I'm looking to get my first full frame DSLR, and it's likely to be a Canon. I'm not a pro, and I have no intention of selling my services as a photographer anytime soon. Right now, photography is an artistic hobby/pastime/interest/endeavor. The rationale for going full frame is the light gathering capability of the format, especially in indoor and other low-light situations. I'd highly doubt that I'd be walking around and taking 'in the moment' photos with a DSLR, but I could see myself taking cityscape photos at night where deliberation and composition matter more than being able to shoot from the hip. It would also be nice to get low ISO images in the row homes and apartment buildings in my city where there isn't a lot of natural light available.

With that said, what do you use: Constant aperture zooms or primes?

To me, there are obvious temptations and caveats in both cases. Zooms obviously give you the convenience of carrying around one or two lenses to cover a number of focal lengths, but even the fastest available L zoom lenses are only f/2.8. That's not bad, but considering even cheap-ish primes will give you f/1.8 or better, I feel it dulls the value of a ~$2,000 lens. (To be clear, in no way am I saying something like, "The 24-70mm f/2.8 L is a bad lens." That's just silly.) A handful of prime lenses give you the speed and the opportunity of really shallow depth of field, and decent lenses can be had for a wallet-sparing amount of money (I hear the 50mm f/1.4 can be had for a mere $300 these days). The obvious problem with primes is you'd have to carry the whole lot of them with you to cover different focal lengths and change them out depending on the situation. There's also no odd 'in-between' focal lengths with primes: A zoom can hit anything within it's focal length, but with primes you're pretty much settling for 'close enough' even if you have a lot of them on hand at any given time.

So, what say you? Are fast zooms good enough for you, or do you opt for primes? If you have any specific suggestions (or, better, samples) that you would like to share, that would be most helpful.

it seems like you are saying you are not a pro and then you are hang up on prime and fast F stops, and it seems like you have the answer for most of your questions! i am not sure what kind of budget you have for photog equipment but if it was me, i'd start with 5D3 (or even with a 6D), the new 24-70mm f2.8 mkII, and a 70-200mm f4IS and a good solid tri-pod, go out and start shooting and less talk! those 2 teles will give you a good indication of what focal range you are using the most and then over time you may want to invest in a nice prime in the future. but then again, that is what i'd do, your mileage me differ

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whyamihere
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to rebel99, Dec 9, 2012

rebel99 wrote:

it seems like you are saying you are not a pro and then you are hang up on prime and fast F stops, and it seems like you have the answer for most of your questions! i am not sure what kind of budget you have for photog equipment but if it was me, i'd start with 5D3 (or even with a 6D), the new 24-70mm f2.8 mkII, and a 70-200mm f4IS and a good solid tri-pod, go out and start shooting and less talk! those 2 teles will give you a good indication of what focal range you are using the most and then over time you may want to invest in a nice prime in the future. but then again, that is what i'd do, your mileage me differ

Thanks for your reply, rebel99. As already mentioned, no, I'm not a pro, but I do have a Panasonic GX1 and a pair of zooms that cover 24-400mm effectively. I also have a prime for that camera, and I have already invested in a solid tripod. I shoot as frequently as my spare time allows, but thank you for the encouragement!

I don't have a lot of money to spend, and I'd likely go for a 6D or a 5D Mark II. I can't imagine I'd have much use for the improved AF system of the Mark III even if I did splurge. Though I have free range across the frame for focusing with a Micro Four Thirds camera, I still use a center focal point most frequently. Call me weird, but it works for me.

I don't see myself going for a 70-200mm lens because I don't think I'll be that far away from my subjects to require the longer end of the zoom. I was thinking if I were buying zooms, I would invest in one that does wide angles (probably 17-40mm f/4) for cityscapes, and one that does wide through medium telephoto (24-70mm f/2.8 or f/4 L or a 3rd party, or the 24-105mm f/4) for indoors.

I probably will wind up with a 50mm one way or another.

Thanks again!

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BAK
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Is there a point?
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

So what?

And shallow depth of field is usually a way of harming a photo, trendy hipsters with no taste not withstanding.

Buy a lens that frames a subject they way you want, at a price you can afford.

BAK

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whyamihere
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to MASTERPPA, Dec 9, 2012

MASTERPPA wrote:

Simple, if you do not need faster then 2.8 or F4, get a 24-70 2.8 or 24-105 F4.

If you need faster then a get primes.. I will say this, if you can get your shot at 2.8, get the 24-70 2.8v2, it is 90-95% as sharp as most primes and the zoom will save you in a few shots..

If you do more portraits, primes are fine...

Masterppa, therein lies the rub...

Based on my experiences with the Micro Four Thirds system, a 14mm f/2.5 (28mm equivalent) in low light indoors situations still requires a rather slow shutter speed to get a good shot. In my apartment just now, I flipped my camera into Aperture Priority, aimed it at my cat sitting on the couch in somewhat low but decent artificial light, and it suggested a shutter speed of 1/20 second. (My experiences in manual mode suggest this is fairly accurate.) In situations with a tripod, I'm okay with that so long as nothing moves. Handheld, not so much, and there may be times where a tripod just doesn't work (standing in a corner, for example). I'd imagine things will be better with the larger surface area of a full frame sensor, but I'd like to give the camera its best opportunity to get a shot in poor light.

If you have experienced a full frame camera with a constant aperture lens in dim indoor lighting and been happy with the results, please let me know. If you have an example, that would be helpful.

Thanks!

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whyamihere
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Re: Is there a point?
In reply to BAK, Dec 9, 2012

BAK wrote:

So what?

And shallow depth of field is usually a way of harming a photo, trendy hipsters with no taste not withstanding.

Buy a lens that frames a subject they way you want, at a price you can afford.

BAK

You're a cheerful person, aren't you? Where did you read that I like shallow depth of field? Or that I'm a hipster? And who in this bloody world told anyone that I thought I had taste

Is there a point? Sure. But it doesn't involve you getting all "HULK SMASH PUNY AMATEUR PHOTO MAN WITH MY NARROW WORLD VIEW!!" on me. (PS: I've read your responses elsewhere. You don't scare me. I've been dealing with salty people like you since before the internet was an 'information superhighway'. Also, I do read your words like you're the Hulk. It makes me giggle... though as a hipster, it makes me giggle in that 'ironic' way.)

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Alastair Norcross
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

If I were you, I would start with the 24-105. It's got a very useful range on full frame, and is quite sharp. The IS is very effective, even though not the latest generation. I can handhold down to about 1/5 at 24mm on my 7D. On full frame, you could go even slower. With the low-light capabilities of the 6D, or 5DII or III, F4 shouldn't be too much of a limitation. I would then think about the new 35 F2IS (I'm considering replacing my 35L with that, if it's sharp wide open). With 4 stop IS, you could shoot in near darkness, if you wanted to. This is just my opinion. One of these days, I'll actually get a full frame DSLR, and will then be able to give a more informed opinion.

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Great Bustard
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Re: Is there a point?
In reply to BAK, Dec 9, 2012

BAK wrote:

So what?

And shallow depth of field is usually a way of harming a photo, trendy hipsters with no taste not withstanding.

Except it's not what "trendy hipsters with no taste" do with shallow DOF, but what this particular photographer does with shallow DOF that matters, right?

Buy a lens that frames a subject they way you want, at a price you can afford.

Kinda thought there was more to a lens than it's angle of view, no?

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Great Bustard
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Re: Is there a point?
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

whyamihere wrote:

BAK wrote:

So what?

And shallow depth of field is usually a way of harming a photo, trendy hipsters with no taste not withstanding.

Buy a lens that frames a subject they way you want, at a price you can afford.

BAK

You're a cheerful person, aren't you?

Seems.

Where did you read that I like shallow depth of field?

Wide apertures will usually result in shallow DOF.

Is there a point? Sure. But it doesn't involve you getting all "HULK SMASH PUNY AMATEUR PHOTO MAN WITH MY NARROW WORLD VIEW!!" on me. (PS: I've read your responses elsewhere. You don't scare me. I've been dealing with salty people like you since before the internet was an 'information superhighway'. Also, I do read your words like you're the Hulk. It makes me giggle... though as a hipster, it makes me giggle in that 'ironic' way.)

Take it for what it is -- bitter entertainment. 

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foggy
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

The 24-105 is a very nice lens but at F4 not low light or indoors. The 50 1.4 will give you a standard view on a full frame. How about select the zooms you mentioned then 1 fast prime for indoor low light The 50 1.4 is soft wide open more so on a full frame. You need to go to F 2.8 for sharp also with a 5 blade design Bokeh is so so. An option a little past the far end of your 24 to 70 would be the 85 1.8 It's sharper wide open then the 50 with a 8 blade design for bokeh with a USM AF motor and easy on the budget at $359.00 at B&H. If your going to pony up for a 6D that might help. With ether the 50 or 85 in your kit you have your fast low light lens. If you use it allot it will tell you if you need to think about more primes. 35mm 1.4 or 135mm F2 Or stick with quallity fast zooms.

Foggy

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MirekE
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

Zooms obviously give you the convenience of carrying around one or two lenses to cover a number of focal lengths, but even the fastest available L zoom lenses are only f/2.8. That's not bad, but considering even cheap-ish primes will give you f/1.8 or better, I feel it dulls the value of a ~$2,000 lens. (To be clear, in no way am I saying something like, "The 24-70mm f/2.8 L is a bad lens." That's just silly.)

The cheap primes give you f/1.8, but some of them will need to stop down to get results comparable with the expensive zooms.

A handful of prime lenses give you the speed and the opportunity of really shallow depth of field, and decent lenses can be had for a wallet-sparing amount of money (I hear the 50mm f/1.4 can be had for a mere $300 these days). The obvious problem with primes is you'd have to carry the whole lot of them with you to cover different focal lengths and change them out depending on the situation.

I don't carry a whole lot of them. Often only one or two.

There's also no odd 'in-between' focal lengths with primes: A zoom can hit anything within it's focal length, but with primes you're pretty much settling for 'close enough' even if you have a lot of them on hand at any given time.

You may or may not miss them, depending on your style and way of thinking. For example, my favorite National Geographic photographer only uses 28 and 90mm lenses.

So, what say you? Are fast zooms good enough for you, or do you opt for primes? If you have any specific suggestions (or, better, samples) that you would like to share, that would be most helpful.

You choose between freedom of framing and freedom of light. Different photographers have different preferences and needs. You can't replicate the look of 35L or 85L with a zoom, but with these lenses you can miss some shots you would not miss with 24-70 and 70-200.

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joger
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Re: A few good primes or constant-aperture zooms... your thoughts/experiences
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

whyamihere wrote:

. . . I don't have a lot of money to spend, and I'd likely go for a 6D or a 5D Mark II. I can't imagine I'd have much use for the improved AF system of the Mark III even if I did splurge. Though I have free range across the frame for focusing with a Micro Four Thirds camera, I still use a center focal point most frequently. Call me weird, but it works for me.

Good choice to skip the 5D III - since it mainly brings some extra boost in AF but not extra image quality in my tests.

On a budget the 5D II is a very good choice - maybe a better one then the 6D if you don't need WiFi and GPS.

On the lenses it gets much harder to stay within a tight budget since most of the really good lenses are a kind of expensive.

Let me try to list a few (IMHO) extremely good and relatively affordable lenses - you might choose the suitable focal lengths for your style

  • TS-E 17 f/4.0 L - extremely sharp and maybe the best wide angle lens on this planet - no AF though
  • STM 40 f/2.8 - extremely sharp at f/4.0 and good and quick AF on a budget - nice little candid lens
  • EF 85 f/1.8 - very nice bokeh and small price - a no-brainer if you have to work on a budget
  • EF 135 f/2.0 L - for me the "killer" lens in the Canon program - shallow DOF on a budget and extremely sharp - don't show this lens to others - they might call you a hipster
  • EF 70-200 f/4.0 l IS USM - good all-round lens and maybe the best price / value buy at Canon - also a no-brainer to get this lens - on FF f/4.0 is really good enough and the lens performs extremely well wide open
If you can spend a bit more a 300 f/2.8 might be a wise decision - but as you are on a tight budget the above mentioned lenses give you an extremely wide range of focal lengths and probably the best possible bokeh and image quality. 
The rest is up to you and your skill level - I personally don't like the 24-70 zoom range and I highly dislike the price of the II version - I'd rather spend the money for a 35 f/1.4 - but that 's maybe just me
just my 2 CT
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Schwany
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good primes or constant-aperture zooms...
In reply to whyamihere, Dec 9, 2012

You can get by with constant aperture zooms for sure. Canon makes some nice zooms. Large aperture primes are hard to beat and nifty in low light. Long telephoto primes are indispensable for the things I use them for. But that's just me. Everyone has a different story.

I only have one Canon zoom I wouldn't give up for full frame use and that's the 70-200f/2.8L II.

My experience says if one wants to shoot primes, they really ought to buy more than one body. Well unless their goal is to emulate Cartier Bresson. Then all you need is one body and a 50mm lens.

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