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Customer Discussions > Photography forum

Best lens for AMATEUR zoom capable on my T2i


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Showing 1-16 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 22, 2012 10:11:49 PM PDT
Rhonda says:
I am not a professional, and photography isn't really a hobby. I have a lot of kids, and a lot of relatives, and I think pictures are important for kids to be able to look back through, so I take pictures. And, my relatives usually love them, and continue to ask me to take more...I have a Canon T2i, with its packaged 18-55 lens. My oldest son graduates from highschool next year, and the ceremony will be inside a 9000 seat auditorium. I know I will need an add-on flash, and have had many people recommend the same one (Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash for Canon Digital SLR Cameras ) . Now, I need some recommendations on a lens that can get good zoom shots indoors in less than ideal lighting, preferably in the <300$ range. I've been looking at the Tamron AF 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro Zoom Lens and the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras. Any other suggestions or pros/cons for one vs the other?
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Posted on May 23, 2012 7:59:17 AM PDT
T. Campbell says:
The Canon will be better than the Tamron. It's the focal ratio range that you need to look at. The Canon is a variable f/4-5.6. That means it's f/4 at 55mm and it graduates up to f/5.6 by the time you're zoomed to 250mm. The Tamron is variable f/3.5-6.3. Which means when the Tamron is at 200mm it's an f/6.3 lens (lower is better.) That means the Tamron let's in 1/3 stop less light when zoomed in.

Now you did ask for a consumer-grade (amateur zoom). They do make lenses that would be f/2.8 at that range... which gets 8 times more light than the f/5.6 lens and 10 times more light than the f/6.3 lens -- but those are very expensive. You can "rent" one for the occasion if you think it's just a one-time-use thing.

As for the flash, the 430EX II has a "guide number" of 43 meters. The guide number is a standardized way of measuring how much light the flash can provide by measuring the distance at which it can illuminate a subject using a STANDARD BASELINE (and that's VERY important to remember.) The "baseline" assumes that the camera is using ISO 100, but it also assumes the lens is f/1.0. Your lens is, of course, NOT f/1.0. But they use f/1.0 anyway because it makes the math VERY easy. You simply divide the guide number by the f-stop you're REALLY using.

43 meters (141') divided by 5.6 (because in the 200-250mm zoom range you'll be using f/5.6) is about 25'. That means if you are farther away than 25', you won't have adequate light for the shot.

But you can increase this by increasing ISO. Each time you double the ISO, you get to multiply the distance by 1.4 and note that if you double the ISO twice you get to double the shooting distance (because 1.4 is the rounded off value for the square root of 2). So your flash will be good for 25' at f/5.6 at ISO 100. But at ISO 400 your flash should be able to handle 50'. At ISO 1600 your flash should actually be able to handle 100' (but at ISO 1600 you'll have a lot of "noise" in the image.)

At a guide number of 43 meters (141') and an aperture of f/5.6, here are the flash distances: ISO 100=25', ISO 200=35', ISO 400=50', ISO 800=70', ISO 1600=100', ISO 3200=140', ISO 6400=200'. Although I doubt you'll like all the "noise" you'll get at the highest ISO levels... so use the lowest ISO you can get away with using.

When using flash, shutter speed should be set to the flash sync speed or slower (for your camera I think that's 1/200th). If you're on a tripod, use a much slower speed because that will allow some of the ambient light to get collected (basically the background won't appear to be really dark or black) because when using a flash your camera can really collect two kinds of light... the "flash" happens in a very quick instant, but the ambient light of the room is continuously giving your camera light as long as the shutter is open. "lagging" the shutter (using a slower speed that you'd think) helps improve the look of the overall scene when shooting flash.

And of course... get this gear and experiment with it well before the graduation so that you're good at shooting with flash when the time comes. There are LOTS of good tutorials available (the strobist.com website is very popular.)

In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2012 8:47:53 AM PDT
"""
But you can increase this by increasing ISO. Each time you double the ISO, you get to multiply the distance by 1.4 and note that if you double the ISO twice you get to double the shooting distance (because 1.4 is the rounded off value for the square root of 2). So your flash will be good for 25' at f/5.6 at ISO 100. But at ISO 400 your flash should be able to handle 50'. At ISO 1600 your flash should actually be able to handle 100' (but at ISO 1600 you'll have a lot of "noise" in the image.)
"""

NOTE: The guide number for the flash applies to the longest focal length (the flash zooms to match the lens) which is (full-frame) 105mm (about 70mm on an APS-C body). With a wider lens, the light has to be spread over a larger area, so the shooting distance will drop some.

"""
When using flash, shutter speed should be set to the flash sync speed or slower (for your camera I think that's 1/200th). If you're on a tripod, use a much slower speed because that will allow some of the ambient light to get collected (basically the background won't appear to be really dark or black) because when using a flash your camera can really collect two kinds of light... the "flash" happens in a very quick instant, but the ambient light of the room is continuously giving your camera light as long as the shutter is open. "lagging" the shutter (using a slower speed that you'd think) helps improve the look of the overall scene when shooting flash.
"""

Canon's E-TTL II actually attempts to balance the flash and ambient under most conditions -- it meters both a test flash and non-flash ambient and tries to set aperture/shutter/flash-duration as much as possible... In most modes it will attempt to operate as a fill-flash, setting an exposure for the ambient/background levels and just using the flash to bring out details of the nearby subject.

cf: http://photonotes.org/articles/eos-flash/
in particular: http://photonotes.org/articles/eos-flash/index2.html#confusion
(note that Program mode is the exception -- in dim light it still goes for fast shutter regardless of background/ambient)

In Manual exposure (still auto-flash) one has full control over the exposure for the background/ambient (since one is setting both shutter and aperture), but the flash will auto-expose the subject details.

In Tv or Av, the camera always adjusts the "free" variable to produce an exposure for the ambient/background level (which could lead to very long shutter when in Av mode, whereas in Tv mode one may get an underexposure warning if the lens aperture can't open wider -- and lead to a black background)

Posted on May 23, 2012 9:14:08 AM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2012 12:23:17 PM PDT
The tamron only goes to 200mm, and is f6.3 at 200mm. The canon goes to 250mm and is f5.6 at that length. Trying to shoot a graduation in a large auditorium, that's not a hard choice, the canon is longer and faster. Depending on how well lit the stage is, and where you get seated, it may not be great, but of the two, the canon is the better answer.

What Campbell is trying to explain is, flash may be entirely useless in this situation, and if it's not, you will need to manually set up your camera to make it work. Dennis is trying to explain some of those settings for you, because the situation you describe is certainly one where you can get good pictures, but in order to do so, you will need to have your gear set up correctly.

My approach would be to talk to the school and try to find out where i would be seated, in advance. That would tell me the shooting distance to plan for, which would tell me if the 250mm lens will be enough. If I know it's not, I would either rent something longer, or get a 1.4x teleconverter to use with the 55-250 lens. If I couldn't get an answer, the 1.4 teleconverter would be a handy thing to have in the bag. I would handle the distance problem with the flash by asking for permission to position my flash closer, with a radio popper. Instead of mounting your flash on your camera, and trying to shoot farther away than the flash is built for, you can connect the flash to a radio device, and put it anywhere you are allowed to, and put the transmitter on your camera. In order to do that, you have to show up early and coordinate with the person in charge of the space for the event.

You specify that you are an amatuer, and that's cool, but you are asking people who are used to getting very good results how to handle a situation where it is very easy to take bad pictures. We want to help, but we are used to taking what may seem like extravagant measures to get good shots in difficult situations. Some of the regular contributors would take the "expensive long lens" approach, I would take the "get permission, get close, and either shoot with off camera flash, high iso, or both" approach, and I am sure there's a few other ways to skin this cat, once some other voices chime in. We will probably get a reccomendation for an entirely new camera as well.

In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2012 12:24:25 PM PDT
EdM says:
"the ceremony will be inside a 9000 seat auditorium. I know I will need an add-on flash"

No, or not for shooting inside an indoor venue, unless you can get quite close. In a place that large, most people will be back quite a ways, and no flash will have the reach. If it did, the people in the row(s) in front of you will be whited out and that will impact any photos you try to shoot.

Instead, consider that you will need to shoot at a higher ISO than normal. Practice this in advance to see how your T2i does as to ISO rating vs. digital noise, especially in the dark areas, or shadows. Also, consider a prime lens that is f2 or wider, to let in more light. One example is the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, another is the Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, and another is the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras.

The thing to note is that as the focal length or reach gets longer, the price goes up. If you are using a zoom lens indoors, then you probably need a f2.8 zoom lens, but they are big and costly. For example, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras. The recent update of this lens is over $2k ...

You can rent expensive lenses for a one off shooting situation.

Bear in mind that if you only want to post photos online, you can use a lens that is not as long, but then crop the photo to enlarge the middle part. Also, sad to say, but when shooting in these conditions, it is often better to shoot raw rather than jpegs, but then you need to know how to work with raw photo files.

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS telezoom lens is a decent consumer lens, BUT when shooting at or near the long end, the aperture will be f5.6, which lets in less light. Compared to a 100mm f2.0 lens, the light will be 3 whole stops dimmer, which would require shooting at the equivalent of say ISO 1600, rather than ISO 200, to let in the same amount of light. But shooting at ISO 1600 can leave you with photos with digital noise especially in the dark areas.

One thing to do is to get there early so you can get as close to the stage as is possible, bearing in mind that the graduating students will likely be in the front of the auditorium. Next, consider that there may be a pro photographer who will be onstage or close, and just buy a photo from the pro.

If all else fails, get a slose up and personal relationship with this book Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera, and learn how to shoot in low light using your camera's spot meter so as to meter the light on the subject - the graduating student.

Bear in mind that it is the photographer who must know how to shoot these kinds of photos in "low light" situations. Actually, the stage may not be so low in light level, but if you are distant, the light does fall off with distance. Also, there are typically areas around the stage that are quite dark, relatively. So, you need to meter just the brighter areas where the degree is being presented, as by spot metering. So, your photos will depend more on your skill as a photographer, rather than your T2i. In that regard, "practice, practice, practice" in advance.

Posted on May 23, 2012 1:19:46 PM PDT
Rhonda says:
Thanks to all so far. I am wanting to purchase in the next month or two, so that I have a full year to get used to how the lens works, and work on things like switching from one lens to another (with a toddler on my lap, without dropping anything). My buddy will also have a few speaking gigs in the arena, which work out well for me to get in and "practice" with the lighting similar to what it will be for next years ceremony.

The ceremony isn't held at the school, its held at the local concert hall, so I can't talk to the school. That said - I do plan to be seated in a prime spot for both stage shots, and overall shots of the graduating class, using the decades old practice of "paying a teenager to go sit in my seat early until I get there"...

I am a geek mom by all accounts, so having the very technical descriptions mixed in doesn't bother me as much as some others. What I don't vaguely understand, I'm sure by next year I will have looked up, read about, and practiced. I strive for perfection in everything I do, but lucky for me, since photography isn't my focus most days, my standards for perfection are much lower than others :) I do appreciate the feedback so far, looks like the canon lens is the way to go.

I do realize the flash may not be entirely helpful for all my shots at this event, I just wanted to throw that in there to avoid getting a lot of unnecessary feedback about needing additional lighting. My primary reason for wanting the flash is because I am beyond annoyed with the rapid flashes of light from the standard flash when trying to use autofocus, and my understanding is that with the extra flash I should be able to fix that, especially for the pictures after the ceremony standing around the hallways with friends/family/etc (when I'm switched back to a standard non-zoom lens) I do have some amateur photo friends who also give me pointers, but their pointers usually run the route of "just shell out the extra $$$ for the BEST" - and in this case, I needed some opinions outside of that. Thanks all!

In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2012 1:38:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 23, 2012 1:41:27 PM PDT
"""
Thanks to all so far. I am wanting to purchase in the next month or two, so that I have a full year to get used to how the lens works, and work on things like switching from one lens to another (with a toddler on my lap, without dropping anything). My buddy will also have a few speaking gigs in the arena, which work out well for me to get in and "practice" with the lighting similar to what it will be for next years ceremony.

The ceremony isn't held at the school, its held at the local concert hall, so I can't talk to the school. That said - I do plan to be seated in a prime spot for both stage shots, and overall shots of the graduating class, using the decades old practice of "paying a teenager to go sit in my seat early until I get there"...
"""

Don't know how difficult this would be to set up, but if /the/ graduation is /next/ year... I'd suggest trying to wrangle a visit to the venue this summer, with somebody to act as the student(s). Take, say, a 100mm lens (you want a nice round number for doing comparisons... 50mm, 100mm).

Take a series of shots from various rows of seating, with your victim on the stage. Do NOT change the lens focal length -- just take note of where and how far back you are in each shot.

If it helps, position the victim in the corner of the frame, not the center.

Now comes the computation part. Examine the frames on a computer. Determine what proportion of the frame the subject occupies. If they come half-way up/half-way across -- then a lens of 2X the length would fill the frame with them. If they only occupy 1/4x1/4 of the frame, a 4X length lens would be needed. If the base line was shot at 100mm, that means a 200mm for the first example, and a 400mm for the second.

Now that you /know/ the range of focal lengths you'll need, you can come back to evaluate what is available (and maybe just rent a fast f2.8 for the weekend <G>).

I'd concur that you likely won't get good results with a flash, unless the seating is very sloped so the people in front of you don't stick their arms into the flash beam.

The Canon 580EX-II (a $500 flash), with a lens at f5.6, is only good for about 33feet at ISO 100; you'd have to shoot at ISO 400 to get to 66feet. An f2.8 lens gets you 130feet at ISO 400!

What the external flash gets you, with regards to focusing, is a red LED beam that projects lines on the subject -- but this focus assist beam is limited to about 20-30 feet at best.

In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2012 2:57:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 23, 2012 3:05:24 PM PDT
One aspect of an external flash that doesn't seem to be mentioned much is that it also has an AF assist beam. Even if you turn the sync off, using the Flash's AF assist will improve AF speed in low light (I've found it to be pretty significant). Though admittedly AF and the Flash's fill light won't be as effective the more telephoto you go (the 580EX II's beam goes from 2-33'...beyond that you're going towards infinity). I would recommend getting an external flash for general low-light/indoor shots for the AF improvement/extra light range: since you mention shooting more then just the stage scenario. One more tip about external flashes is that they have a slower cycle time (because with regular batteries it takes longer for the flash to charge back up). If you want faster cycle times, flashes have an external power input...which accepts a high voltage battery to significantly speed up cycle times. Wedding photographers pretty much rely on these battery packs for indoor events.

Other posters have listed features of a long telephoto you should look for. Longer and wider aperture is more flexible for compositing/ getting fast enough shutter.

Posted on May 23, 2012 3:10:29 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 23, 2012 3:44:58 PM PDT]

Posted on May 23, 2012 3:19:02 PM PDT
JCUKNZ says:
>>>So, after all that, what lens should he buy, or should he buy a slide rule first?<<<
I'm sure Rhonda is a woman's name?

Posted on May 23, 2012 3:55:27 PM PDT
T. Campbell says:
BTW, if you want the lens for multiple uses, I'd go with the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6.

BUT... if you just want a really nice lens that will do a much better job of dealing with poor lighting and it's just for the special event, rent it. An EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS is probably the best option given that you don't know where you'll be seated.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 5:10:51 AM PDT
Ezutguy says:
Totally agree!

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 7:15:57 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 24, 2012 7:17:51 AM PDT
"The ceremony isn't held at the school, its held at the local concert hall, so I can't talk to the school."

The school has booked the concert hall, and should have someone acting as an event coordinator. They may use a different title, but in the end, someone from the school is in charge of the event, and they can get you access. They may refer you to someone from the concert hall, but that's not a problem either, just a different person to work with. Knowing the camera is important, but I find that getting in the right place can reduce the complexity of the photography. If you are half a concert hall away, in the dark, you need a long lens, and something to stabilize that lens. If you are 30 feet away, near the stage lights, you can use a shorter lens, and hand hold it. I always want to get closer, because the problem is easier to solve at that distance.

oh, sorry, and, the other important person to talk to is whoever runs the school yearbook. They will be trying to get someone with a camera in position for graduation, or more than one someone. There has to be a way that you could help them out, and improve your own chance at good pictures at the same time.

In reply to an earlier post on May 26, 2012 10:55:02 AM PDT
Richard Hohn says:
Rhonda:
You have been given a lot of suggestions. Here are my thoughts on your situation.
I owned the 55-250 Canon and found it was not sharp enough on my Canon T2i. I now use the Tamron Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD for Canon Digital SLR Cameras It is very sharp at 300 in fact I have found it to be sharper the Canon 75-300 is lens. It will cost you about 350 as there is a rebate currently in effect. Additionally, I recommend that you use a string monopod http://www.instructables.com/id/String-Tripod/. You should start to practice using the equipment well in advance. The environment for your photo will be highly charged with emotion. You must be able to maintain your cool so practice is important. Good luck.

In reply to an earlier post on May 27, 2012 9:48:11 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
A string monopod might be a good idea for a camera without a viewfinder, but, with a dSLR holding your camera properly will be much more beneficial than using a sting monopod.

http://www.zimbio.com/Digital+Cameras/articles/uFwOb4fHo-0/Tips+How+Hold+DSLR+Camera

On the other hand Canon does have an OK Monopod for not a lot of money. I have a Manfrotto Monopod that I use when shooting sports, but, for travel and leisure photography I bring the Canon.

As for the Canon 75-300 it is an old lens that most people here wouldn't recommend. The Canon 55-250 is a great value for the money. But, you have to keep in mind its price point. There are better lenses, but, you have to spend considerably more to get one.

I haven't tried the new Tamron, if the UCD focus motor addresses my biggest complain with Tamron which was downright pitiful autofocus speed, than it might be worth looking at.
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Initial post:  May 22, 2012
Latest post:  May 27, 2012

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