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Customer Discussions > Photography forum

Best Lens for Canon 60d Portrait

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Showing 1-25 of 52 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 10, 2012 7:14:27 AM PDT
A says:
I have been looking at the 50mm f/1.4 and the sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5
I have the 18-200 kit lens so which one out of the 2 above would be the better buy? Willing to spend the $400
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Posted on Jun 10, 2012 7:43:44 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
Get a prime lens, not a zoom like the Sigma.
For a head and shoulder portrait the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens is an amazing lens.
The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is a nice portrait lens, but, given the rock bottom price and awesome sharpness of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens it's hard to justify without heavy usage.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 7:47:32 AM PDT
VSG says:
Do not go for the Canon 85mm lens. It is super sharp but it effectively becomes 136 mm on the 60D. Stick with the Canon 50mm F/1.8 or the Sigma 50 mm F/1.4.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 7:52:11 AM PDT
A says:
Well i looked at the Sigma just because i do alot of low light party photography. I've heard that the Sigma is pretty good for that, is that true?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 8:02:07 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:

Canon Portrait Lens Recommendations: Conventional teaching is that the 85-135mm focal length range is ideal for portrait photography (field of view crop factor included). I generally agree with this teaching. I will often use a wider focal length for full body portraits and group pictures and a longer focal length range for tighter-framed portraits such as head shots.

The 50mm on a Canon 60D and the 85mm as mentioned puts you at 135mm. The longer the focal length the more flattering the portrait. Which lens works for you depends on what kind of portraits you want to do and how much room you have to work with.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 8:06:04 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
Most of my zoom lenses are Sigmas and all my prime lenses are Canons.

The Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5 just doesn't have a wide enough aperture to be a good portrait lens.

The Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens would be a good choice, but, is more than you were looking to spend.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 8:08:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 26, 2012 12:33:00 PM PDT
Well... f2.8-4.5 is better than f3.5-5.6... But only by about half a stop.

For ambient low-light a /constant aperture/ f2.8 zoom will beat any variable aperture consumer zoom... And most prime lenses never get worse than f2.8, the 50mm f1.4 is TWO stops faster than an f2.8 lens.

You have to remember that variable aperture zooms tend to reach their worst aperture between half and 2/3rds of the zoom range. The Sigma is likely f4 maximum at 50mm, which makes it THREE stops slower than the f1.4 prime. Applying the (updated for APS-C) rule about hand-holding a lens; The Sigma at f4 would require 1/80s for a low-light hand-held situation -- the f1.4 could be used in the same light at 1/640s (f4@1/80 => f2.8@1/160 => f2@1/320 => f1.4@1/640). IOW -- the f1.4 could shoot fast enough to stop subject motion! (granted, the depth of field will be quite shallow).

{edit: spelling correction -- be => by}

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 8:26:39 AM PDT
A says:
Wow thats really helpful thanks!
So with a 50mm f1.4 i should be good for low light party situations (havent bought a flash yet) and daytime use right? again as a supplement for the 18-200 kit lens

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 8:49:03 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
In that case you might consider the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens and the Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 9:13:27 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
The same subject with focal lengths ranging from 19mm to 350mm.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 9:59:37 AM PDT
EdM says:
While the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 is a real bargain and fine for general shooting, I would choose something else for the usual kinds of portraits with OOF [out of focus] backgrounds, because the bokeh of the "nifty fifty" is particularly harsh IMO. If you look at all the recommended portrait lenses at the digital picture, a very good place for Canon info, the EF 50 f1.8 is not among those listed.

The type of portrait desired and the distance from the camera to the subject, as well as portrait style, affect what lenses are most suitable.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 2:48:23 PM PDT
Tom Martin says:
The impact of the 5 aperture blades on the bokeh only comes into play when the lens is stopped down. Wide open at f/1.8 the Canon 50mm f/1.8 has a smooth round aperture and a bokeh to match. Given that the combined cost of the lenses on that list is probably well north of $30,000 it is not a surprise that the $120 50mm f/1.8 didn't make the cut.

Here's a tool that lets you compare the sharpness of the two lenses.
Both lenses are set to f/1.8 and scale follows the rainbow (ROYGBIV) with the red end being least sharp and the getting sharper as you go right.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 7:40:29 PM PDT
EdM says:
What the??? Bokeh is neither sharpness nor diffraction nor CA. What you say makes no sense as regards bokeh. There is a photo illustrating the bokeh issue in the following review of the lens:

"With an f/1.8 maximum aperture, this is a fast lens. Unfortunately, only five non-rounded aperture blades are used in this lens. This design leads to sometimes-poor bokeh (image quality of out of focus areas)."

"... probably well north of $30,000 it is not a surprise that the $120 50mm f/1.8 didn't make the cut."

This suggests that you are not familiar with that excellent web site. They certainly recommend lenses that are inexpensive when the results for the stated purpose warrant. Near the end of the review of the lens, there are good uses it is mentioned for, and that it is a bargain. However, with bokeh containing, wide open shots, the harsh bokeh is a consideration for head shot type portraits with OOF backgrounds.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 4:07:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 11, 2012 4:11:28 AM PDT
Tom Martin says:
It is interesting that someone who doesn't even own a Canon dSLR, much less the Canon 50mm f/1.8 says I don't know what I am talking about, when it comes to this Canon lens.

I just confirmed with the lens on my camera by pressing the depth of field preview button and looking at the lens. At f/1.8 the aperture blades remain fully retracted. The only aperture is the smooth circle of the lens opening itself. So, at f/1.8 it would matter if the lens had 1 blade, or 100 blades the bokeh would be the same, because the aperture blades are fully retracted. It is only when the lens is stopped down that the aperture blades start to impact the bokeh.

The link showed even at f/1.8 fully open, the 50mm f/1.4 is sharper than the 50mm f/1.4 stopped down to f/1.8. No the sharpness has nothing to do with the bokeh. The point of the link was to show, that even wide open at f/1.8 the 50mm f/1.8 was still sharper than the 50mm f/1.4.

Sorry your Google expertise on Canon doesn't match a real world users. Again at f/1.8 the 50mm f/1.8's aperture blades are fully retracted. Stop the lens down to even f/2 and the number of blades does impact the bokeh, but, at f/1.8 the aperture is the smooth round circle of the lens opening and a bokeh to match.

That the 50mm f/1.8 ALWAYS has a rough bokeh, is one of those falsehoods that the Nikon Fanboy Propaganda Machine loves to incorrectly perpetuate because the Nikon version has more aperture blades.

Here's a video that illustrates how the bokeh is nice and round when fully open and doesn't start to take on the shape of the blades until it is stopped down.

Posted on Jun 12, 2012 9:33:39 AM PDT
S. Owens says:
I've also got a crop body Canon (a lower end one but still) and am also looking for a good short length lens as I figure I have the 70-200 covered. I'm looking at the Sigma 17-70 OS f/2.8-4.0 to fill the short end but am looking at either of the Canon 50s for a high speed/low light lens. Now I may not find a lot about the Sigma but when looking at the 50s it seems that the build quality of the two lenses (1.8 vs 1.4) is what varys the most to justify the cost difference; this also leads me to believe that the 1.4 will hold its value a little more if you ever decide to get rid of it if that is a factor. From what I have read the optical quality of the Sigma isn't going to compare to the 50s which is a price you pay for a zoom but while it doesn't have the "stop action" ability as a f4 50mm that the primes do its Optical (Image) Stabilizer should help close the hand-holding gap in low light.

Posted on Jun 24, 2012 8:55:10 PM PDT
Donovan X says:
@S. Owen: For a solid performing lens in the range you indicate, check out Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 SP XR Di II VC (Vibration Compensation) Zoom Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras. It has a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range. The non-VC (or IS) model runs about 150 less.

Posted on Jun 24, 2012 9:36:52 PM PDT
Donovan X says:
@Tom Martin: Input from a Canon purist... The Canon 50mm f/1.8 is cheap for a reason. It feels and handles like disposable plastic. Outside of f/1.8 that horrid pentagonal bokeh becomes a real eye sore especially with concerns to spectral highlights. The focus ring is renowned for less than ergonomic handling. Auto focus is very noisy and misses as much as it hits. Further, focus cannot be adjusted manually unless the AF is turned off. Indeed it is a venerable lens with a lot of ardent fans and a reputation for sharpness. My experience with it lasted for a one week borrow from a relative several years ago. Soon after the return, I ordered the 50mm f/1.4. I have found it to have much quieter and precise AF plus full time manual focus (allowed by the micro-USM motor). Yes, the f/1.8 is sharper at 1.8, but that is not always a plus. The dreamier/softer look on the f/1.4 at wide apertures is awesome for persons like myself who a several years beyond baby smooth skin. The 1.4 also has a much sturdier build including a metal mount versus the 1.8's plastic mount. But, it also costs more money. So there are pros and cons for either. I'm not here to dispute your data, just pointing out some details that a new buyer might want to consider. For professional work, my choice is the 50mm f/1.2L. But that is a whole other thread.... ;) Happy shooting everyone!

Posted on Jun 26, 2012 11:40:44 AM PDT
T. Campbell says:
Sounds like A has made his/her decision, but just to add to what Tom & Dennis already pointed out.

Most "zoom" lenses are "variable" focal ratio lenses. The Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 is ONLY f/2.8 when it's at the 17mm end of the range. When you zoom to the 70mm end of the range it drops to an f/4.5 lens ... which isn't so efficient in low light. Each "full" f-stop either doubles or halves the amount of light collected (but full f-stops are based on powers of the square root of 2. So these are 1.0, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, & 32. Not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) At f/4.5 the lens is collect about 1/3 as much light (that's a rough round-off) as it is at f/2.8.

If you really want a lens that works well in low light in a zoom, then you'd need a lens that offers a constant f/2.8 aperture all through the zoom range. They do make them, but they are expensive. It's less expensive to get a non-zoom lens with a low focal ratio and, as a generalization, lenses that don't zoom can usually render more detail and resolution in the image. The only downside is that you have to "zoom with your feet."

While we all think that three things control exposure: aperture size, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity, we often forget that there's a fourth thing: change or control the lighting in the room (and one of the easiest ways is to use a quality flash (not the built-in pop-up flash.) Supplemental lighting is usually less expensive than the cost of "fast" lenses.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 2:04:33 PM PDT
Hogans Hero says:
If you can Afford a few hundred more the Ziess 50 mm 1.4 and don't mind manuall shooting. this lens can match the IQ of any L lens.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 2:37:32 PM PDT
Donovan X says:
Alas the Zeiss 50mm 1.4 is not known for image quality wide open. Stepped down around 5.6 and at infinity it is awesome and has that lovely Zeiss 3D look. Great for landscapes, but not portraiture or action. The Zeiss 50mm f/2 MP will give superb quality wide open (as expected from a macro lens). Unfortunately it cannot hit that f/1.2 bokeh magic of the Canon, is not as great with longer distances and costs about the same with no AF. For a manual focus 50mm it is, IMHO, still hard to beat the price/performance ratio of a Asahi Takumar 50mm f/1.4 SMC with 8 blades (not the earlier 6 blade varieties); Sharp, smooth, solid build and can be had with adapter for less than the Canon nifty fifty. Just be aware of the yellowing issue that can appear on some varieties.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:20:18 PM PDT
Michael C says:
Tom- As someone who used the 50mm 1.8 for years before upgrading to the 50mm 1.4 please allow me to offer my input.

If the OP plans on frequently using a 50mm as one of his "go to" lenses, he needs the 50mm 1.4. It is much more durable and sturdy than the 50mm 1.8. It has a metal mount vs. plastic and much tighter fit and finish. It has a real focus ring and a rudimentary distance scale. The 50mm 1.8 has no distance scale and is manually focused using the tapered front end of the lens after switching off the auto focus. There is no comparison between the two lenses as far as speed and accuracy of auto focus goes. In terms of ease of focus whether manual or auto the 50mm 1.4 wins hands down.

Can you get excellent results with the 50mm 1.8? Absolutely! But with superior focus abilities and better bokeh when stopped down I think you can get even better results with the 50mm 1.4 and can probably use it more than 3x as long as the 1.8 before it breaks. Since it only costs about 3x as much which is the better long term value?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:41:27 PM PDT
Michael C says:
The only non-Canon lens currently in my bag is the Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 SP XR Di II (non-VC). It sits right next to my EF 24-105mm f/4L. For my crop body it is wider and faster than the "L" with just as good image quality as the "L". The 24-105mm f/4L is my "walk around" lens of choice on my full frame body. I've never missed the VC in a lens 50mm or below, and that version is both lighter and sharper as well as cheaper than the VC version.
But having said that, neither the Tamron 17-55 f/2.8 nor the Canon 24-105 f/4L has as good image quality, not to mention the speed, of the Canon 50mm f/1.4. The only zoom I've ever used that gives prime lens quality across the entire focal length and aperture range is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

Posted on Jun 26, 2012 4:21:10 PM PDT
Donovan X says:
@Michael C: Great input! The Tamron 17-50 non-VC is excellent, especially considering the price. If only it worked full frame! I end up using the 17-40 f/4L for a general lightweight crop body lens just because it serves as an excellent UWA on my 5D Mk II as well. No doubt about though, the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II sets the standard for zoom lens performance.

Posted on Jun 27, 2012 5:48:58 AM PDT
Edgar Osuna says:
Why not a Canon 24-70 2.8L ? He can later buy a 70-200 2.8L II and a 580EX or 600EX Flash and complete a nice performance ensamble ?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2012 11:45:15 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 27, 2012 11:46:36 AM PDT
Whoa... there's a 600EX now?! <google...><browse...>

Ah... $200 extra for a small power increase* and radio transmitter functions; can't justify it as none of my other gear has the radio receiver function.

* at f4, the 600 is good for 15 meters, the 580 is good for 14.5 meters... I doubt if 20 inches in distance is going to be noticeable... [I used f4 as that's about average for consumer lenses... at f8 the difference is down to ~10 inches; 7.5m vs 7.25m... You'd need an f2 telephoto to produce a 40" difference; 30m vs 29m]
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Initial post:  Jun 10, 2012
Latest post:  Oct 17, 2014

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