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Photography Question 
Brandi N. 

Selecting a lens

I need professional help selecting a lens. I have been doing photography about 6 years, 5 of those have been in a large chain portrait studio with their company built camera. Now I'm doing it own my own. I have done a few weddings and need a new lens beside what I have been using 35mm-80mm. I am looking at these 28-200mm or 28-300mm ef lenses. Will these be fast enough for wedding jobs and such work? What do you recommend? Oh by the I am workin with a Canon Rebel-film.

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7/13/2004 10:51:49 AM


BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  Get the fastest lenses possible. You'll need them. I use a 28-70 2.8 and a 70-200 2.8. And a bevy of others. The only non-fast one I have is a 24-135 4.5-5.6. It's a great lens, but is a little slow when it gets dark. But, if you have sufficient, it shouldn't matter much really. I use fast lenses more for the DOF control than the light issue. My 85mm f/1.2 lens can literally focus on the eyes of the bride, and have everything else out of the range for DOF. It's a cool effect, that, if it's done properly, really blows people away.


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7/13/2004 12:32:37 PM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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  In today's technological world, what's a fast lens? My brother's first 35 mm camera, a Kodak 35, had a built in f/3.5 lens. In those days, the Dark Ages of the middle 1950's, we marveled when Praktica first introduced the SLR.

My first SLR had a f/1.7, 50 mm [normal] lens provided at no extra cost. Of course, for Canon cameras and a few extra bucks, f/1.0 lens were available.

Enter zoom lenses, say farewell to fast lenses. In fact, today, fast is f/2.8, for zooms or fixed focal length cameras.

Enter high speed film and their constant improvements to eliminate grain.

I use a f/3.8 -5.6 Tamron 28-200 mm and a f/3.8-5.6 Tamron 200-400 zoom lens with my Canon EOS 620 and EOS 3. I've shot weddings with the 28-200 and had marvelous results. And, one of the best portraits I ever shot was done with the 200-400 [believe it or not.]

I've standardized on FUJI Superia 400 but, if I shoot flash, I drop to Superia 200. I find the 400 speed tends to produce prints where skin tones are too ruddy. I've had no graininess problems with either film.

When I shoot a wedding, I try to remember two things. The day is very important. 1) Many pictures, candids as well as formals, group as well as portraits, are the important things to recall. 2) You want well composed, sharp images - but, you know, some of the "pictures" are taken at individual tables with throw-away camras. That'as because you, if you're the designated photographer, can't be everywhere.

Enjoy your zoom; the 28-200 is more than adequste for a wedding, the 28-300 might be better if you want to go to Africa on a safari sometime. The zoom allows you to avoid the "changing of the lens," which will sometimes means you'll miss a picture.

I'm no pro, but for seven of the weddings I've shot, the Bride and the Bride's mother will only show my pictures - even though they paid for a Pro. Remember, if you're the designated photographer, you can ruin a lot of memories if you miss a picture because it wasn't just right. Better to have an off centered bride being tossed from her chair, than to have no picture at all.

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9/27/2004 10:59:09 AM


BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  I don't get your point? You ask what's a fast lens, then you go on to talk about how great your slow lenses are.

Fast is f/1.2. Fixed focal length lenses are certainly not a thing of the past. I use mine all the time. Sometimes, I want to use 400 speed film in a dark room, and at f/1.2, I can pull it off. It's moody, and looks fantastic, especially in BW.

Sometimes, I might shoot a portrait session with one. Or I might do a headshot session with my 135mm. Since my legs work pretty well, I have no problem moving back and forth to get the shot right. My fixed lenses show a better quality than my zooms. Is it super noticable, no. But, it's enough where I am even beginning to question using zooms at all. I can really tell a difference. I've been comparing lately between fixed and zoom, and just from looking with my naked eye, the fixed shots just look nicer, cleaner, sharper, and better. It's just a better lens, when the zoom and fixed are of similar quality.

Also, there are many different ways to approach weddings. People don't always want formal shots. Things that are important to one couple are not always important to another. You have to sit down and talk a while with the couple and figure out what they want.

BTW, people don't put disposable cameras on the tables to replace the pro photographer. They do it for fun. One wedding, the bride paid all this money to have all those cameras on all the tables. Turns out the two of the little boys thought it would be funny to go around to all the tables and fire them all off. After the newlyweds spent around $400 getting all that processed, guess what they got back? Pictures of shoes, the floor, nothing, ...

People put those on the table for the guests to take candids of eachother. Not to replace what the pro can't do. Otherwise, why have a pro there?

Back to the point...with flash, you can use slower lenses. I have a slow lens, and I love it. But, when I want to not use the flash, and try to use existing light in a dark reception room (I like to do this for the first dance, as an example), I need a really fast lens that will allow enough light to get the shot. Even using 1600 speed film, if your lens only goes to 4.5, you probably wont be able to get the shot wihtout flash.


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9/27/2004 11:37:04 AM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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  I repeat - what's fast? If I wanted to spend thousands for a f/1.0 to f/2.0 lens, that's fine. but I'd rather buy film, a good flash gun, a good tripod, a good whatever. Using faster film allows one to use today's "fast lenses" [3.5-5.6 in zooms]and have great results.

There's an old debate Canon/Nikon/Minolta lenses versus aftermarket manufacturers. It's continues with that over fixed focus versus zooms.

Frankly, unless one is trying to place a picture in National Geographic, or planning on a 16X20 blow-up, most folks can't tell the diference. And, now that digital is muddying the waters with the new series of cameras, like Canon's Pro-1 with its minimum aperture of f/8, where does the intrepid photogrpaher go? With digital, thank goodness for the Unsharp Mask - proving again that film might still be the best way to go.

As for your comment on kids ruining the throwaways, there were no kids at the weddings I've recently attended - in part to avoid the discourtesy you described. My point remains - since I am roaming the floor, these throwaways can produce some really terrific candids that mean more to the bride than the shots I plan so hard.

And,I'm not a Pro. But, for many of the shoots I've done, my images[not the Pro's] are the ones the Bride and the Bride's mother shows off. Luck, yes. Point of view, yes.

But, just maybe - Pro's think they know it all and take the best pictures. That's what happened at my wedding 40 years ago. My wife NEVER shows the images we paid for; rather she shows the few shots she pleaded with her Uncle to take with an Argus Twin Lens Reflex. Of course, he was Primary Portrait Photographer for the New York News Coloroto Magazine.

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9/27/2004 12:42:39 PM


BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  You and I differ tremendously. I don't shoot at the point where "most folks can't tell a difference". I shoot to make that distinct difference. And that is the difference between a pro and an amatuer.

If my client can't tell, then fine. But, I can. And I don't feel comfortable selling less than my best.

The slower the film the sharper the image. Therefore, the faster the lens, the slower the film, the sharper the image. It's a fact that is not arguable.
Are films better than they used to be? Of course they are. I often use TMAX 3200 and although a bit grainy, it is surprisingly clear for what it is.

You may have an eye, or you may have a style that people like. If you have shot weddings of your friends or relatives, often you have an upper hand, because you know the combinations of people that will make the photos special. Where the pro photographer is relying on someone to tell him who's who. It is also known that not every "pro" photographer at a wedding is necessarily good, pro, or even knows what they are doing. Many "pros" start out shooting weddings. This is amplified by the fact that many people don't want to pay the appropriate price for great photos, although they want them. So, they wind up bidding out the project to the lowest bidder. And, that's usually the result they get - the lowest. In fact, weddings seem to be the entry-level position for photographers. That isn't to say that it demeans the pros who do it for a living. But, many seem to think it's easy until they quickly realize that it's not.

Additionally, every photographer has a different style and a different approach. There is no right or wrong, it's just different. I trained under a very formal, traditional photographer. I would do things like have the couple light up cigarettes, grab a beer, sit on some cement steps in front of the church, and I'd shoot that. She used to get so mad at me because she didn't think it was nice. But, I thought it was the bomb! The couple smokes, the couple drinks, and they were tired and wanted to sit. I just captured the reality of the situation. Different strokes, and all that.

Because we're all so different, I think there is room for everybody in this business. I will end this by saying if what you do works, then by all means, keep it up. If your photographs rival those of the pros, then keep doing it.

The other thing I like about f/1.0 lenses is DOF. Weddings are mostly ugly, reception halls, churches, etc., So having the ability to put the focus on what you want and blur out the rest is a nice featue of wide apertures. But, not everyone likes that style.

It's funny, I had a couple in my studio the other day looking at some pic's and the guy kept commenting that everything was out of focus. He kept looking at all the out of focus stuff around the main subject. I finally asked him, why do you keep looking at everything but the main thing in focus? He said that the blurry stuff bothered him so much that his eye just went right to it. He was polite, and we laughed about it. And, when he left, we both knew that I would not be his wedding photographer. No biggie. Someone else, like maybe you, will shoot the whole wedding at f/8.


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9/27/2004 1:08:58 PM

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