I’ve narrowed down my hunt for a new prime lens to two. Neither are 50mm. The reason for that is that I find the 50mm lens to be too constricting. You need to be a good distance away from someone to capture more than just half their face with that. This is not helped by the fact that my camera, the Canon XTi, is not a full frame camera. It has a 1.6x crop factor, so the 50mm acts like an 80mm lens. That’s great for portraits in studio or outdoor situations where you have lots of breathing room. It’s awful when you’re in the same room of a house with the subject, or in a bar with them, or anywhere relatively close.
50mm is something of a sweet spot in photography, though. It’s close to the way the eye actually works. So to get to 50mm with my non-full frame camera, I need to get a lens closer to 35mm.
Thankfully, there are two viable options, both well reviewed.
The first is the Canon 35mm f/2 lens. It’s a hair slower at f/2 instead of f/1.8 (less than a third of a stop, I believe), but I don’t think I’ll ever notice. It’s the equivalent lens for a crop sensor camera, and I’m surprised it’s not talked about more often. The reviews at FredMiranda.com are pretty good, with an average 8.8 rating.
There IS a better lens — the Canon 35mm f/1.4L. It’s a professional lens, earning the “L” ranking for Canon’s system. This also means the price is nearly quadruple that of the f/2. So nevermind that.
Sigma makes a 30mm f/1.4 lens that is also getting good reviews at FredMiranda.com, which is where I go to start any lens purchase hunt. It has great reviews from a variety of Real World users for every lens.
In any case, the Sigma is an extra $100 over the Canon, but it’s also a touch wider and a half stop faster. It’d be the fastest lens I’ve ever used. And it’s still about the same price as the Canon 50mm f/1.4. I considered that lens, too, but I’m shying away from 50mm.
Both lenses have had complaints about being soft when wide open, and both have had some auto focus difficulty, according to some voices on the ‘net.
So it’s a toss-up. I can actually get the Canon at the local camera store for a hair under $300, while the Sigma is over $400. If they’re roughly equivalent lenses, then Canon wins handily. But the Sigma does let in more light, which might be a great thing to have in some situations. And it includes a lens hood! (OK, so that’s a $10 advantage. No big whoop.)
The more reviews I read, the more confusing the whole situation becomes. I’m not averse to third party lenses. My Tamron lens is my work horse. So which to go with? I don’t know just yet. I’m just thinking out loud today.