I’m by no means an expert in lenses or photography for that matter, but for the last few months I’ve been chopping and changing between a few lenses of different focal range and speeds. Reading a wealth of information on the web, from experts, amateurs and beginners like myself I decided that I needed to work out what type of photographs I mainly shoot then find the best lens that suits that category and my budget. I hate to admit it but I’m an impulse buyer and when I see something that I like, I want it and I want it yesterday.
My experience with DSLR’s are limited to three Canon bodies, the 450D, 550D and most recently the Canon 60D. The 450D wasn’t mine and I borrowed it from my father in law quite often. Donna saw how much I enjoyed it so she gave me the Canon 550D last April as an anniversary present, a single lens kit and with a camera bag. I shot mostly on “Auto” or “P” mode using the kit lens but I knew that I needed an upgrade to a much better lens once I get enough practice on full manual mode. My idea of “better” lens however was all about focal range, the closer I can zoom in, the better the photos I can take I thought. I skimmed though pages of pages of recommendations on the net for a beginner like myself and with a limited budget, I thought the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM was the one for me. I was impressed by it because compared to the kit lens, it was bigger, auto focusing was faster, it was quiet and as dumb as it sounds – it looked GOOD on the 550D! I had that for short period of time before I went back to my search for more range. Then came the Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC, with such a wide range I thought I was covered but that didn’t last long. I was disappointed that my shots were not as sharp and I couldn’t produce the same bokeh as I’ve seen in many other photographs.
By then I started to get an idea of the type of photos I liked to shoot, unfortunately most of them have been in low light situations and I found that a lot of the shots were too warm or blurry therefore it’s not worth keeping. I read up a bit more and my attention was drawn to the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, it’s a damn expensive lens but most have claimed that it’s king of the non “L” lenses. Some online stores are advertising it for as high as $1,999 and $900+ for a grey import.
I asked myself serious questions whether I need this lens and more importantly can I afford this lens.
I needed convincing and I needed alternatives from Tamron & Sigma. Back to the Internet for me for a bit more research where I came across the fantastic bang for buck Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. I picked one up from eBay for $330 shipped with a Hoya UV & CPL filters. Bargain. I won’t go too much into the Tamron in this article but if you’re looking for a sharp lens and not bothered with the lack of IS (image stabilization) feature, this is the lens for you. On the performance/dollar ratio this is head above the competition. A friend suggested to also have a look at the Sigma 17-50 DC EX OS HSM which sits between the Tamron & the Canon offering, very attractive indeed with f/2.8 and it’s own version of IS. Grey import brand new, it can be had for approximately $700. Thought about it long and hard, I decided that if I’m going to spend that much money I might as well try to find a used Canon 17-55mm for around the same price.
I found one eventually on eBay and the seller agreed on a buy it now price of $750 although it didnt come with any filters. It wasn’t in mint condition but can’t complain for that price. I’ve just recently ordered a Kenko Pro1D 77mm UV + CPL filters for $107 delivered so I’m waiting for that to arrive. First impressions, the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 is huge when sat side by side with the kit lens 18-55mm, the build quality is also quite good, a very nice feel to it and balances the Canon 60D quite well. I can’t comment on CA or barrel distortion since I’m not experienced enough to know exactly what I’m actually looking for. Since I’ve only had it for a week and a half, I haven’t had the chance to let it shine but I definitely would love to spend more time with it and get creative. I want this lens to justify it’s high price tag and reputation. I know what this lens is capable of, I’ve seen it. What frustrates me is that I haven’t been able to spend more time with it. That needs to change.