Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?

Started Feb 23, 2013 | Discussions
bruxi
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Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
Feb 23, 2013

As I look at pricing for Canon 70-200L lenses, it looks like the price premium for a 2.8 is about $1,000 (average of IS and non-IS versions).  A thousand bucks seems like a lot for basically one stop when new sensors are bring many more times that through rapid ISO improvements (like the 6D).  There is so much more room now on ISO to crank it up with very little performance drop off.  The notion of "fast lenses" feels more and more like dinosaur film thinking and makes very little sense to me from a value perspective.

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quokka
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 23, 2013

I think this is a very valid question, particularly if your motivation for fast glass is for low(er) light photography.  Obviously fast lenses for subject isolation is a relevant as it has always been.

Q.

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Joachim Gerstl
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 23, 2013

bruxi wrote:

As I look at pricing for Canon 70-200L lenses, it looks like the price premium for a 2.8 is about $1,000 (average of IS and non-IS versions). A thousand bucks seems like a lot for basically one stop when new sensors are bring many more times that through rapid ISO improvements (like the 6D). There is so much more room now on ISO to crank it up with very little performance drop off. The notion of "fast lenses" feels more and more like dinosaur film thinking and makes very little sense to me from a value perspective.

ISO is no substitute for a fast lens. I just exchanged my 4/70-200 IS for a 2.8/70-200 IS. Reason is DOF control and results with 1.4 TC.

Loved the 4/70-200 for it's light weight and size but did not like the busy backgrounds and f5.6 when used with the 1.4 TC.

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davel33
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 23, 2013

Please explain how better ISO helps with DOF control.  I take pictures of people and like the DOF to cover the target no more and no less, that can be very hard to do with an f4 lens.  The faster lens helps in getting the image you see in your head into the camera

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bruxi
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to davel33, Feb 23, 2013

That is a benefit, but the main performance benefit I hear is low light performance, which can be addressed with ISO.  For the cost difference beween a 70-200 F2.8 IS and 70-200 F4 IS, I can go from a Rebel to a 60D and get many more stops on all my lenses (plus everything else this body upgrade would give me!).  Seems like a no-brainer to me, but interested in what others have to say.

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hotdog321
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 23, 2013

Good point. Back in the film days, there was no question that faster was not only better, it was absolutely essential (I was shooting for newspapers). But these days--with ever better sensors--not so much IMO.

A faster lens would allow for a shallower depth of field to eliminate background clutter and, I suspect, the auto focus will lock on a bit faster, especially in crummy light. But the price difference between a 300 f/2.8 and a 300 f/4.0 might not be worth it with a good camera body. But another issue would be if you plan to slap a 2X extender on the slow lens--might cause some real headaches.

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schmegg
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 23, 2013

bruxi wrote:

That is a benefit, but the main performance benefit I hear is low light performance, which can be addressed with ISO. For the cost difference beween a 70-200 F2.8 IS and 70-200 F4 IS, I can go from a Rebel to a 60D and get many more stops on all my lenses (plus everything else this body upgrade would give me!). Seems like a no-brainer to me, but interested in what others have to say.

Which Rebel? You may not gain much, if anything, depending upon how old the Rebel is. But "many" more stops is probably unlikely.

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Donald Duck
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 23, 2013

bruxi wrote:

As I look at pricing for Canon 70-200L lenses, it looks like the price premium for a 2.8 is about $1,000 (average of IS and non-IS versions). A thousand bucks seems like a lot for basically one stop when new sensors are bring many more times that through rapid ISO improvements (like the 6D). There is so much more room now on ISO to crank it up with very little performance drop off. The notion of "fast lenses" feels more and more like dinosaur film thinking and makes very little sense to me from a value perspective.

The 5D3/6D have a bit over 1/2 stop improvement over the 5D2 only at ISO 1600-3200, and it costs more than $1K more. A fast lens can easily give you much more. But that is not the point - why wouldn't you want to have a more efficient sensor and a faster lens? You can get better IQ in lower light and have acceptable IQ in even lower light.

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davel33
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 23, 2013

" I can go from a Rebel to a 60D and get many more stops on all my lenses (plus everything else this body upgrade would give me!). Seems like a no-brainer to me, but interested in what others have to say"

NO NO and NO you cant the past 3 rebels 550d, 600d and the 650d have the same sensor** as the 7d and 60d.  The only way to get 1-2 stops is to go FF as in  5D2, 5D3 ...

Check your facts

** a few small changes

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bruxi
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to Donald Duck, Feb 23, 2013

Donald Duck wrote:

bruxi wrote:

As I look at pricing for Canon 70-200L lenses, it looks like the price premium for a 2.8 is about $1,000 (average of IS and non-IS versions). A thousand bucks seems like a lot for basically one stop when new sensors are bring many more times that through rapid ISO improvements (like the 6D). There is so much more room now on ISO to crank it up with very little performance drop off. The notion of "fast lenses" feels more and more like dinosaur film thinking and makes very little sense to me from a value perspective.

The 5D3/6D have a bit over 1/2 stop improvement over the 5D2 only at ISO 1600-3200, and it costs more than $1K more. A fast lens can easily give you much more. But that is not the point - why wouldn't you want to have a more efficient sensor and a faster lens? You can get better IQ in lower light and have acceptable IQ in even lower light.

I'd love to have both, but I guess the reason I wouldn't have both is that these days I can have the 6D + the 70-200 F4 IS lens + keep a $1,000 just by adjusting the ISO on my amazing new sensor...

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bruxi
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to davel33, Feb 23, 2013

My bad - meant to say 6D....

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Donald Duck
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 23, 2013

bruxi wrote:

Donald Duck wrote:

bruxi wrote:

As I look at pricing for Canon 70-200L lenses, it looks like the price premium for a 2.8 is about $1,000 (average of IS and non-IS versions). A thousand bucks seems like a lot for basically one stop when new sensors are bring many more times that through rapid ISO improvements (like the 6D). There is so much more room now on ISO to crank it up with very little performance drop off. The notion of "fast lenses" feels more and more like dinosaur film thinking and makes very little sense to me from a value perspective.

The 5D3/6D have a bit over 1/2 stop improvement over the 5D2 only at ISO 1600-3200, and it costs more than $1K more. A fast lens can easily give you much more. But that is not the point - why wouldn't you want to have a more efficient sensor and a faster lens? You can get better IQ in lower light and have acceptable IQ in even lower light.

I'd love to have both, but I guess the reason I wouldn't have both is that these days I can have the 6D + the 70-200 F4 IS lens + keep a $1,000 just by adjusting the ISO on my amazing new sensor...

Are you shooting with a Rebel now? If so, do get the 6D. You gain not because of the better sensor (the new Rebels' sensors are only slightly behind in QE) but because of the difference in the formats. Plus you get better resolution.

And then some day, get faster lenses as well.

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gavin
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 24, 2013

Yes when you need it e.g. indoors, evening, sports in lowish light. Also it can get you better isolation. For many situation it is no since there is enough light.

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Lee Jay
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A stop is a stop....and more - much more!
In reply to bruxi, Feb 24, 2013

Just because it's "only" one stop doesn't mean that stop doesn't matter.

Further, it's not just a stop.  It the ability to use a 2x teleconverter versus a 1.4x and still retain autofocus.  So, think of it like this:  70-280/4-5.6 versus 70-400/2.8-5.6.  That's a big difference to me.

It's 40% more diffraction-limited resolving power because of the 40% larger aperture.

And, it's a stop more control over depth of field, even when you aren't light-limited.

So, a stop is more than "just a stop".

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carlk
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 24, 2013

The benefit is still the same for DOF control and brighter VF.  On the other hand you're right, you may not need it as much if your only need is for better light collection.

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PHelton
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to Donald Duck, Feb 24, 2013

No matter how high your cameras ISO can go you all way's want the lowest ISO you can get away with for clarity and fast lens do that for you plus greater DOF.

I say if you can afford fast glass then get fast glass.

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bloosqr
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to bruxi, Feb 24, 2013

bruxi wrote:

As I look at pricing for Canon 70-200L lenses, it looks like the price premium for a 2.8 is about $1,000 (average of IS and non-IS versions). A thousand bucks seems like a lot for basically one stop when new sensors are bring many more times that through rapid ISO improvements (like the 6D). There is so much more room now on ISO to crank it up with very little performance drop off. The notion of "fast lenses" feels more and more like dinosaur film thinking and makes very little sense to me from a value perspective.

Honestly i thought this way even back in the film days which is why i've always liked canon.. One stop you can push print film beyond and modern digitals are improving incredibly quickly to high iso land. I use zooms for convenience and portability and the f/4 70-200 is great for that (and honestly the DOF is thin enough at the longer reaches, to as still make a great portraitish lens) .. For cases where one is playing thin DOF games the fixes play their role better than the /2.8 anyway so along w/ the f/4 zooms and a couple of fixed at your favorite focal lengths (say 135/f2 35/1.4 85/1.2) you basically have the best of both worlds..
-avi

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hedwards
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Re: Do Fast Lenses Matter Anymore?
In reply to Donald Duck, Feb 24, 2013

This is precisely my thought on the matter. It's not an either or proposition. Improved sensors let you get away with using a slower lens in many cases, but they don't effect the DoF in a way that would replace the faster lens.

Plus, I'm often times shooting in a park that's in a narrow ravine and I'm usually shooting relatively wide open to get enough light. The light that my F2.8L gives me over the F4L is significant. Not all the time, but it does mean that I can sometimes get away with going to the next ISO.

Plus, you buy the lens once and chances are good that it's going to last a goodly number of years anways.

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Teila Day
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Fast lenses can be night and day difference.
In reply to bruxi, Feb 24, 2013

bruxi wrote:

As I look at pricing for Canon 70-200L lenses, it looks like the price premium for a 2.8 is about $1,000 (average of IS and non-IS versions). A thousand bucks seems like a lot for basically one stop when new sensors are bring many more times that through rapid ISO improvements (like the 6D). There is so much more room now on ISO to crank it up with very little performance drop off. The notion of "fast lenses" feels more and more like dinosaur film thinking and makes very little sense to me from a value perspective.

When I got a 5d2, I opted for the 24-70 f/2.8 instead of the 24-105 f/4 (typically bundled with the camera). There wasn't a question in my mind that I did not want the slower lens and I gladly gave up having IS for the increased aperture speed.

Testing an f/2.8 lens at a wide angle vs. a the same focal length at f/4 can be the difference between night and day depending on the background, etc. When I photograph someone with foliage in the background or kids on their elbows in green grass... both look less "choppy" when shooting at the faster aperture. The difference is also noticeable between a 300 f/2.8 and 300 f/4 lens.

You can of course experience the same difference with the 70-200 lenses. Whether it makes a difference to you will depend on what you shoot and how much shutter speed you need to coax from your camera... a full stop can make all the difference in the world, especially if you want to stay away from 6400 iso and higher which as far as I'm concerned is still an iso that I'd like to stay away from unless I have to go there.

It's not just about iso either, but also about the lens creating a gaping hole allowing you to focus quicker, see brighter, and lock focus on your subject in low light at times faster than a slower lens no matter what aperture you're using.

Use a 6x neutral density filter on a wide angle lens and try to focus on an f/4 lens vs. f/2.8 lens even though you're shooting at f/8 or so... that one stop difference can heaven to your eyeballs instead of fighting to just try and see your subject matter though the darkness of the filter or having to focus w/out the filter the screwing it back on. I like the luxury of being able to see the subject, quickly focus, and take the shot even with a (practically black) 6x ND filter on the lens.

There are so many uses for faster apertures that have nothing to do with iso

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glokenpop
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Yes... wait no
In reply to bruxi, Feb 24, 2013

bruxi wrote:

As I look at pricing for Canon 70-200L lenses, it looks like the price premium for a 2.8 is about $1,000 (average of IS and non-IS versions). A thousand bucks seems like a lot for basically one stop when new sensors are bring many more times that through rapid ISO improvements (like the 6D). There is so much more room now on ISO to crank it up with very little performance drop off. The notion of "fast lenses" feels more and more like dinosaur film thinking and makes very little sense to me from a value perspective.

For most people using an SLR who don't even know what subject isolation is then no it really doesn't and for a lot of people who don't want subject isolation again not really.

But for those not using SLRs I think this new breed of compacts with fast lenses are brilliant and really give them something that their camera phones can't. I think with the superzoom (yuck I know :P) they are the only form factor that is going to survive the onslaught of the smart phone.

For those of us who use subject isolation, well obviously they're all over fast lenses and you question is pure heresy.

And for folk like me that take pictures of fast moving subjects in poorly lit rooms well nup we're still not there - I need high iso and a stupidly fast lens.

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