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Lenses for my HDLSR


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#1 James Burns

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 07:51 PM

Forgive me if this has already been answered. I posted this on another forum and didn't get an answer.

I think I'm going to buy a Canon rebel t2i. But I'm wondering where to get some prime manual focus lenses on a budget. I know the best ones are the Zeiss compact primes but they are really expensive.

So my question is: where can I get some good but cheap manual focus primes that fit the rebel t2i and what sizes should i get.

Also if I'm buying lenses should I save money by getting the body only or should I get the one with the lens. Thank you in advance from a noob.
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#2 Hal Smith

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 09:45 AM

Forgive me if this has already been answered. I posted this on another forum and didn't get an answer.

I think I'm going to buy a Canon rebel t2i. But I'm wondering where to get some prime manual focus lenses on a budget. I know the best ones are the Zeiss compact primes but they are really expensive.

So my question is: where can I get some good but cheap manual focus primes that fit the rebel t2i and what sizes should i get.

Also if I'm buying lenses should I save money by getting the body only or should I get the one with the lens. Thank you in advance from a noob.


"Good" and "Cheap" are two words that never go together when talking about camera lenses. About the only economical option is to use older still camera lenses in EOS adapters but they only work manually, you lose many of the camera's automatic functions. Search for EOS adapters on eBay to see what's available. Any quality motion picture lens from Cooke, Angenieux, and Zeiss is going to be expensive plus most of them require radical modification to the camera body.

The Canon lenses that come with camera kits are never their best lenses. When I bought my 7D, I chose to spend $1,000 and get a Canon EF-S 17mm-55mm F2.8 IS lens with it. It's a very high quality zoom and I use it 90% of the time.
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#3 John Holland

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 01:11 PM

I have just bought a Sigma 1.4 30mm lens for my 550d/T21 cost about £300 its a great lens.
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#4 M Joel W

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 01:39 PM

I've actually found my bad lenses perform better on the t2i than on older, lower res cameras (in still mode), and that in video mode a really sharp lens results in aliasing more than it does a great image. Buying compact primes or the like seems like a waste to me for such a technically poor camera as the t2i, except to the extent they will be arguably more "future proof" compared with worse lenses.

I also disagree with Hal to the extent that most of the automatic features are worthless in the t2i's video mode: autofocus is mostly useless; no one uses autoexposure, really; and beyond that it's simply a matter of rotating a physical aperture ring versus manipulating aperture via a dial. For stills the difference between lenses with adapters and EF-mount lenses is tremendous (and you will want a good adapter if you go that route; the cheap ones get stuck on lenses and don't have infinity focus calibrated correctly and that's a killer if you're using wide angle primes with floating elements or want to pull focus to infinity adroitly), but for video, using an adapter is fine.

Otherwise, I agree entirely. The Canon zoom is a great choice if you can afford it. But I would add an 85mm lens for CUs and some inserts. I also like the Tamron 17-50mm IS for half the price, but it has poor bokeh and a frustratingly small focus throw (I believe so too does the Canon). IS is absolutely crucial for handheld work, especially for 50mm and above, when skew gets horrible, so don't get a zoom or telephoto lens without IS if you can help it, as it will limit what you can shoot a bit.

For $1000, a Tamron 17-50mm IS and 85mm f1.8 Canon (be careful with skew on that one; it lacks IS) makes a strong kit. In this case the kit lens is redundant. The Canon 17-55mm IS zoom is superior if you can afford it.

For cheaper, the kit lens (mostly useful as an 18mm f3.5 IS prime), a 28mm f2.8 nikkor, a 50mm f1.8 nikkor, and an 85mm f2.8 nikkor (plus adapter) would make a good kit for much less money. I actually prefer mf primes for their long focus throw but for a documentary-like situation I'd rather have the fast zoom. Check keh.com or ebay for used mf nikkor primes. Also invest in ND filters, an ND grad, a polarizer, and whatever else you like. The Cokin P system is nice.

What matters MOST is covering a good range of focal lengths with acceptable (f2.8 or faster, imo) speed. I use 17mm-85mm for 90% of shots, maybe, and occasionally up to 200mm, maybe. A nature videographer in Africa would go much tighter. Terry Gilliam would go much wider. Above all else, get the focal lengths you know you'll use.

Edited by M Joel Wauhkonen, 25 March 2011 - 01:44 PM.

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#5 James Burns

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 02:00 PM

Thanks guys for the great answers! I think I'm going to go wit the cheaper mf primes from nikkor. That seems ideal for what I'm doing.
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#6 M Joel W

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 04:39 PM

Thanks guys for the great answers! I think I'm going to go wit the cheaper mf primes from nikkor. That seems ideal for what I'm doing.


Nikon's old lenses are really great so I think you will be pleased. If you go that route keep the kit lens. It's surprisingly good and has IS. f3.5 is close enough to f2.8 that you can get away with it even if your scene is lit to f2.8 and 18mm is a focal length I find I use a lot. I can intercut between it and nikon lenses and the difference in color rendering/contrast is so trivial. Also recognize that you can't really do on-camera zooms effectively without a constant aperture zoom...so if that's important to you go for the zoom.

I used to recommend buying from keh.com and getting BGN lenses, but their prices have risen so shop around. Even eBay or craigslist can be okay and some local camera stores have good selections; old nikkors are durable and plentiful. If you shoot stills I think you will find the t2i to be a very nice camera for that, too. Liveview makes manual focus primes usable for stills--and the screen on the t2i is great.

Edited by M Joel Wauhkonen, 28 March 2011 - 04:40 PM.

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