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As an adjunct to the Tangents blog, the intention with this forum is to answer any questions, and allow a diverse discussion of topics related photography. With that, see it as an open invitation to just climb in and start threads and to respond to any threads.

Portrait lenses for Canon 50D

xenonxenon Member
edited September 2012 in portraits & people
I have a Canon 50D with a battery grip (which I upgraded from a Rebel XT (350D) and am trying to figure out which lenses (for portrait/people/group photography) to get. I hope to upgrade further to a fullframe body at some stage so they should be suitable for both types of camera bodies. My current lens lineup is: Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5DC, Canon 70-200 f/4L and Canon 35 f/2.

Would it be better to invest in second hand/refurbished EF-S (crop only) lenses for now, which I can hopefully sell for around the same price when I get a FF body, or invest in "L" lenses for both body types right now, optimized for FF use and a compromise solution for my crop body? And which lenses in specific would be best for people/portrait photography? Oh, and I aim to become proficient in using flash (hence reading the Tangents blog and forum) which I assume could affect the lens choice.

By the way, Neil mentioned (comment no. 9 here: http://neilvn.com/tangents/my-gear/cameras/) that the 50D was a awkward choice -why is that? I've found it a huge upgrade from my Rebel XT with much more pro type controls and features, not being able to afford a 7D or 5D Mark II and coming across a barely used 50D for a very good price the choice didn't seem hard for me. I did consider a used 5D (original version, not Mark II/III) but decided that a newer camera with updated and added features would be a better choice despite not being FF.


  • tumpaltumpal Member
    edited September 2012
    xenon said: Would it be better to invest in second hand/refurbished EF-S (crop only) lenses for now, which I can hopefully sell for around the same price when I get a FF body, or invest in "L" lenses for both body types right now, optimized for FF use and a compromise solution for my crop body?
    It's up to you, you can be in the "buy cheap, sell freely" camp, or you can be in "invest (buy) once, and last long" camp.

    Which lens? It's also up to you and your style of working when doing portraits. The 50mm range (on 35 mm equivalent, not on crop) the so called classic standard range is usable for some, but not for some other people. There is still a trace of barrel distortion there that according to some people is just unacceptable for portraits, but some others are quite happy about it, and you can see from their pictures (google it).

    Some people won't accept anything less then 85mm range (again 35mm equivalent) for portraiture, some would go the "extreme" with 300mm primes, some have done it with fisheyes.

    I've used 24-105 f/4 L on Canon 550D, and "I" think it's just fine on the longer ranges of it. If i were you I'd find solace on the 70-200 f/4 that you have. I think it is in Canon's interest to make people think that "investing" in L series is the best thing to do, well I can't say that's wrong, but I don't think that the sole purpose of the camera companies is to make us happy. So pick your tools to your needs (and eyes, and pocket) not theirs, crop or full frame.

    No, I don't think skills on flashes will affect your lens selections, it will affect how you do things.

    Do your stuffs studiously, you'll find what you really need, then you'll see about this entire questions about crop and full frame... there are some photographers who do not move to full frame, not because they can't afford it, but because crop is what they need.

    I think you your current line up is just fine for your intended usage, especially if you can setup your lightings, though certainly not for something like indoor or low light weddings.

    As for Neil's comment, you have to ask him, but these days, 50D sensor technology is just behind what "lower" series bodies can provide, and it will affect the freedom you might otherwise have when applying some of the techniques that Neil has describe in his blog. So there...

    happy shooting...
  • I use a 50mm prime. Since my studio is very controlled I dont have to zoom. As far as L glass, if you dont need it dont buy it. I bought a 'nifty fifty' from canon and love it. Equipment is only as good as the photographer using it. Sure you can buy L glass once and it will last he lifetime of your equipment. Or you can buy cheaper stuff and save money in the short run. Im on the fence with it myself but I always lean toward quality and sharpness.

    Joshua Westbrook
    Pixelus Photography
  • sovaphotossovaphotos Member
    edited November 2012
    One lens under the radar for portraits is the Rokinon 85mm 1.4. Very sharp lens used wide open with nice creamy bokeh. The downside is it is manual focus only. I installed a focus chip for 8 bucks and found it to be spot on 90% of the time. With live view focus is not an issue. EF mount for Canon. Sells around $250.
  • That 85mm 1.4 on a crop sensor 50D will require you to put more distance between camera and subject. That added distance will increase compression of facial features, possibly giving unpleasing results. (People sometimes think they look fat when the camera is too far from the subject).

    50mm (which your Sigma 17-55 already covers) is a bit short for portraiture, but on a cropped sensor it works fine. People's ears will actually appear smaller, and their noses and eyes somewhat bigger, giving the impression of a thinner neck, less fat. Technically, this is distortion, but people actually seem to like it.

    I attribute this to people using smart phones and compact cameras to take pictures of themselves from a high angle, leading to people visualizing themselves as having thin or small body features and prominent brow/nose T shapes.
  • I think this comes as a matter of preference as many full framers use 135mm as a go portrait lens and desire the working distance. The 85mm on a crop sensor comes out to 136mm and I find it to be very flattering for portraiture. That being said, it's just my opinion, but I do like the results from this lens.
  • Thanks for your comments.
    Mgarber: that's very useful and relevant information -how a lens can distort from not only too close but also too far away. I'd like to learn more about those things; are there any good sites/books on the subject?
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