Saturday, December 8, 2007

Camera and Lens Recommendations

Recently, I've had several friends ask me for advice as to what are good SLR cameras and lenses to buy for loved ones for the holidays. Since I mostly have Canon equipment, I can make a few recommendations for digital Canon SLR camera equipment to purchase. Other manufacturers such as Nikon and Olympus make excellent products, but I have very limited experience with them.

The Canon EOS 5D (left) is an amazing digital SLR camera. It features a 12.8 megapixel full frame sensor which produces excellent image quality under low light conditions. You can buy the camera body new for about $2,100 - $2,200. For professionals and serious amateurs, this camera is a good alternative to the Canon EOS1D Mark III which retails for about $4,500. The 5D is my primary camera and I am extremely happy with it. This camera is a favorite among wedding photographers.

The Canon Digital Rebel XTi is a terrific consumer level SLR camera. It features a 10.1 megapixel APS-C sensor. At approximately $550 for the camera body only, the XTi is 4x cheaper than the 5D, but is still a quality camera. I prefer the 5D because the image quality is far superior under low light conditions. However, the XTi is a terrific camera for the price and more than adequate for a hobbyist.

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens (left) is a very impressive, high performing zoom lens. It is widely regarded as one of the best general purpose lenses available. The 24-70 L delivers excellent optical performance and is very sharp for a zoom lens. The fixed f/2.8 minimum aperture makes this lens a very fast zoom lens. In my opinion, the only downside is it's weight. At about 2.1 lbs, it is hefty. On a full frame camera, the focal length of 24mm is reasonably wide, but on an APS-C sensor camera such as the XTi, I find myself wishing it was a bit wider. For APS-C sensor cameras, I recommend the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens which retails for about $950. The 24-70 L retails for about $1,050.

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens provides a very useful focal length range with excellent image quality and image stabilization. Like the 24-70 L, this lens features a fixed f/2.8 minimum aperture. This lens is heavy at 2.9 lbs. However, this high quality lens is a favorite among professionals and serious amateurs. At around $1,600, this is also a very expensive lens, but well worth the money.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens is terrific because it is small, light, inexpensive, sharp and has a fast f/1.4 aperture. At around $300, it is a must buy for both casual and serious photographers. For traveling, this lens is excellent in combination with the XTi because both are very light. Unless you really need the flexibility of a zoom lens, this is a great lens to keep on your camera most of the time. This is my favorite prime lens in the Canon line of consumer lens. The professional line of Canon prime lens are definitely superior, but they are also at least 3 to 4x the price. If you can afford the steep $1,700 price tag, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens produces stunning images.

You can find numerous consumer reviews for these cameras and lenses on the Fred Miranda website. For samples images taken with this equipment, a quick search on Flickr will generate plenty of examples. Have fun shopping.

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