Panasonic Gh4

Feb 252015

I lied, the list has more than 10 lenses on it. Anyway, this is a subjective list, don’t get pissed at me! You won’t find any super expensive lenses on this list simply because the performance per dollar diminishes the higher you go. Also, to get the best bang for your buck, you gotta buy used! So, I am basing the “value” on used prices, not MSRP.

10. (Tie) Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM and EF-S Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Cost: under $280 for the 10-18mm, under $85 for the 18-55mm

If you own a crop body, you are in luck. These two little lenses offer extreme value; they are sharp, they have IS, and they don’t cost much. These two lenses are the definition of value, offering image quality that rivals lenses that cost 4x as much. Take for instance the venerable Tokina 11-16mm. It costs almost 1.5x as much as the Canon 10-18mm, and to my eye, actually has inferior image quality (not to mention a narrower focal range and no image stabilization!). Neither of these lenses offer great bokeh, but who cares! They cost next to nothing (particularly if you buy used). I believe I picked up my 18-55mm kit used for under $80.

9. Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM

Cost: under $450 (if you are lucky)

Canon has introduced a series of IS USM lenses recently (24mm, 28, and the 35mm). The 35mm is without a doubt the best of the bunch; offering incredible low light capability, and sharpness. Many owners of the beloved Canon 35mm f/1.4L have ditched it for the 35mm f/2 IS because it costs half as much, is almost as sharp, and has image stabilization. It even arguably has better bokeh; offering rounder bokeh balls when stopped down and a less pronounced onion effect. If you can pick one up for a discount via a Canon sale or on Ebay, you are getting an extremely powerful video and stills lens.

8. 135mm f/2L

Cost: ~$750

Priced at over $1,000 new and over $700 used, “value” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when describing the 135mm. Instead, people use words like amazing, fast, bokehlicious, 3D, sharp, sexy, irreplaceable, and “the best lens Canon makes”. This lens certainly has a cult following. At f/2 it has great bokeh and low light capability. It is the weapon of choice for many portrait and wedding photographers. It has a fast AF system, and puts up an iconic image that screams pro! This lens is incredibly sharp at f/2, but still produces a graceful/cinematic look. It’s expensive because it is worth the price.

7. (Tie) Canon 300mm f/4L USM (non IS), Canon 400mm f/5.6L USM, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Cost: ~$550 for the 300mm, ~$750ish for the 400mm, ~$900 for a nice copy of the 100-400mm

The 300mm is an old lens that has been replaced by the 300mm f/4.0L IS USM. The non IS version of this lens is an extremely sharp telephoto lens that is built like a tank, has an integrated lens hood, features extremely fast auto focusing, and encompasses everything that makes Canon L series lenses truly L series. The best part is; it will only run you about $500 on Ebay. It is not the most versatile lens; at 300mm even head and shoulder portraits are difficult to achieve, in low light f/4 struggles, it is big and requires a tripod collar. But when you are working at 300mm+ you are not usually seeking versatility. If you are going to the beach, your kid’s soccer game, an outdoor wedding, or an African Safari this baby gets the job done for a reasonable price. On a personal note; it smokes the Canon 55-250mm lens in terms of everything except portability (trust me, I own both).

The 400mm f/5.6 is without a doubt the best bang for you buck if you need reach. Don’t do the whole teleconverter thing on a shorter focal length lenses; it affects image quality as well as auto focus speed. If you want sharp photos at a 400mm focal length and you can handle the bulk of this lens, get the 400mm prime. Birders and nature photographers gravitate towards the 400mm f/5.6 because it provides excellent resolution for the dollar. In broad daylight, you would be hard pressed to get better resolution without spending $2,000+. The 400mm f/5.6 is a highly specialized lens, which is why it is not as popular as Canon’s shorter telephoto lenses. It sports an incredibly fast AF; I’m not sure why on B&H people say it is slow… it is faster than the modern 300mm f/4 IS as well as the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS USM.

The Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM is an alternative option but it is more expensive and the autofocusing is sluggish compared to the 400m f/5.6. The zoom range of the 100-400mm is not so valuable because when you shoot long range tele stuff, you gravitate towards 200mm+.  I always felt that this lens should have been 200-400mm not 100-400mm. The push pull focus sucks, and in general its an old clunky lens. The truly useful features on the 100-400 zoom are the minimum focusing distance (much closer than on the 400m prime) and image stabilization. If you shoot birds and other small objects in daylight, I say go for the 400mm prime. If you shoot people, sports, nature, and other odd/unexpected things then definitely go for the 100-400mm. With the modern version of this lens being released this year, the prices are falling and great deals can be had.

All three of the lenses are big and not for the faint of heart. If you are not obsessed with shooting at the telephoto end, just settle for a Canon 55-250mm or a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (didn’t make my list).

6. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Cost: ~$800

Quite possibly Canon’s most reasonable and versatile lens. It is big, but not too big. It is heavy, but not too heavy. Its expensive, but not too expensive. It is a lens that can replace almost all your lenses.. Why drag 10 lenses on a vacation when you can get by with just two.. or one? The 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is an extremely sharp lens. At 200mm it is about as sharp as the Canon 200mm f/2.8L prime! Indoors and in low light is where this lens really shines. F/4 aperture generally sucks, but with the three stop IS you can shoot longer handheld than with the 20mm prime. This lens is good enough for weddings, fashion shows, outdoors, indoors, whatever, anything and everything.  The EF 70-200mm f/4L IS is truly the most versatile lens Canon makes at a reasonable price. It is the closest you will ever get to having a one lens solution for your needs without shelling out for the f/2.8 IS version. So, if you can handle the weight and size just get the 70-200mm f/4 IS and be done with it. It will be a “life long” lens providing you with lots of great photos and videos. Is it a walk-around lens? Personally I’d say it fits the bill; its almost half the weight of the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM! So unless you need to capture fast action in low light, skip the f/2.8 and get this version.

5. (Tie) Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM and Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Cost: ~$260 for the 85mm 1.8, ~$450 for the 24-105mm

Most people choose the 85mm f/1.8 over the Canon 100mm f/2. I don’t know why anyone would own both of these lenses; they are close in focal length and close in performance. They are both sharper than my Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM, even when it is stopped down to f/2. They both offer extremely fast autofocusing speed, about equal to or in some cases faster than the 135mm f/2L. They both feature some purple fringing (chromatic aberration) but the same can be said for the super expensive Canon 85mm f/1.2L. The 85mm f/1.8 has slightly better image quality; it is a tad sharper, faster, is easier to hand hold and has better contrast than the 100mm f/2. The 100mm f/2 is a fine lens but didn’t quite make the cut.

The Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM has a ridiculously low price on the used market. The reason for this is it is a kit lens for many of Canon’s 5D and 6D DSLRs. So people often buy the kit package, keep the body and sell off the lens. If you are lucky you can score this lens for around $500. Basically you get a sharp, compact lens that has good build quality. The only downside is that this lens is a bit slow at f/4. In my opinion Canon’s L series wide angle and medium angle zooms are a bit overpriced, which is why the is the only L series zoom from that focal range. If you need a great general purpose (albeit slow) lens, this is defiantly the ticket.

4. EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II

Cost: ~$120

This humble little lens is a phenomenal value if you own a crop sensor DSLR. It is fairly compact, has a smooth focusing ring, is really sharp all the way from 55mm to 250mm, and has a very serviceable image stabilization system. Why anyone would buy the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 over this lens is beyond me! The downside to the 55-250mm is that it is slow, has a cheap build quality and is not compatible with full frame sensors. If you want a telephoto lens just for the hell of it, get this! Without question the best part of the 55-250mm is its performance on the tele end. You won’t find better performance at 150mm onward without shelling out major cash. The Canon EF 70-300mm IS USM does give it a run for its money. Unfortunately the 70-300mm IS USM’s image quality falls apart beyond 250mm and so it’s not that big of an improevemnt over the 55-250mm. If I had $350 to spend on a zoom, I’d skip the 70-300mm IS USM and try to find a 70-200mm f/4L used on ebay for under $500.

3. Canon 50mm f/1.8

Cost: ~$85

What hasn’t been said about this lens? Nothing. It might be the most talked about lens of all time. Everyone either owns one or has owned one. It is cheap, plastic, flimsy awesomeness. Is it ultra sharp? No. But it is pretty dang sharp for a $100 lens. And it is perfectly suited for low light photography. The reason I favor my 50mm 1.8 over the 40mm STM is because of  the low light performance. If you ever have an itch for spending money on a lens, the 50mm f/1.8 is a fun and worthwhile investment. Don’t need f/1.8? Can afford an extra $50? Get the 40mm STM. Better bokeh, better image quality, smaller form factor, and quieter focus. The 40mm STM is a great lens, but doesn’t quite deliver the same bang for your buck that a used 50mm will (I own both).

2. Canon 200mm f/2.8L USM

Cost: you can find Mark II low $550’s, original Mark I for mid $400’s.

When you factor in cost, image quality, and ergonomics, the 200mm f/2.8 is quite possibly the best value L series lens on the market. I doubt you can find an L series lens that beats it in terms of sharpness per dollar. True, the 135mm f/2 is sharper, but it is also significantly more expensive. And while the 135mm is sharper, the 200mm will resolve more detail due to its large aperture (even though it’s f/2.8 it collects more light than the 13mm f/2). If you need a relatively cheap lens that can do a bit of nature, candid street, portraits, astrophotography, landscape, then the 200mm is an excellent option for the price conscious shopper. It is relatively light and small, and because it is not painted white it does not appear intimidating or inconspicuous. The biggest flaw of the 200mm f/2.8 is that it relies on well lit situations and lacks image stabilization. To get truly sharp photos you must either manually stabilize the lens or keep your shutter speed over 1/300.

1. Canon 70-200mm f/4L USM

Cost: ~$500

This is the ultimate bargain if you really think about it. Excellent image quality, excellent autofocus, excellent build quality and a lens that fills up most peoples’ needs at the long end of things. It is relatively light due to its modest aperture and lack of IS; definitely a lens you can take with you just about anywhere on a sunny day. What really makes the 70-200mm f/4 a bargain is its price: usually around $550-600 new, around $400-550 used. Not much else to say about this lens. If you shoot during the day you don’t need IS or f/2.8. Sure f/2.8 gives a nice shallow depth to your subject, but it is not a huge difference over f/4. So yeah, there you have it; the 70-200 f/4L is the king of value.

Honorable Mentions:

  • 40mm STM: sharp as a mother$&^$#, small, awesome.
  • 24mm STM: cheap as #&^$#, great bokeh, great maximum magnification, fairly sharp, and a very useful focal length for crop sensors.
  • 100mm f/2.8 Macro: the sharpest Canon lens you can get under $1,000, plus it does macro!
  • 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro: same as previous but with IS.
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM: the end all be all lens. When u buy this lens for under $1,500 you know you have a powerful weapon that will do whatever you want it to. Weapon of choice for many professionals.

Summery of Best Value Canon Lenses

Why the absence of wide and normal focal length L series lenses? Basically, the cheaper alternatives are pretty darn good. Virtually all of Canon’s cheap lenses put up a respectable fight against the L competitors: 24mm STM, 24mm IS USM, 28mm IS USM, 35mm IS USM, Canon 50mm 1.4, 40mm STM, etc… All of these lenses are sharp and function. Many of them even have image stabilization. They all provide excellent cheap alternatives to more expensive L series zooms and primes. So while the Canon 50mm 1.2L is an amazing lens, it is most certainly not an amazing value; not when the 50mm 1.4 puts up a halfway decent fight.

In short, the real value is found by purchasing non L series lenses at the lower focal lengths. The 10-18mm, 18-55mm, 55-250mm, and all of the non L series EF primes provide a great bang for your buck. A real sleeper lens is the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. It is somewhat sharp, sports IS, USM, and can be found for under $160 on Ebay. If you want a one lens solution it is a solid choice, as long as you stop it down a bit. The L series alternative is over tripple the price… When you want to venture beyond 85mm, that is when the L series lenses are truly worth their price. But for most casual shooters, I suggest going non L series for the sub 100mm focal lengths.

Feb 102015

We saw huge innovation in terms of prosumer cameras in 2014: GH4, Sony A7s, etc… This year Canon has already announced a T6i, T6s, 5Ds, and 5DsR. Let’s see what the best bang for your buck in 2015 is. The Best Budget DSLRs for Video Excellent video can be had fo super cheap. If you want to roll with Canon, any used rebel series camera will do, starting with the T2i on up to the brand new T6i and T6s.  Honestly, there has not been much innovation since the T3i. The T4i basically only added touch screen, and the T5i only added a fully rotating mode dial. The smart thing to do is to buy a T3i; it features an articulating LCD screen (very useful for video) and basically the same video quality as a T5i. The Brand New Canon T6i and T6s The T6i and T6s only give minor […]

Jan 292015
In Depth Canon 24mm STM Review (Lots of Photos)

Don’t want to read the entire 24mm STM review? Here is the gist: I love it, I love it, I love it, go buy one. So why do people buy pancake lenses from Canon? Four main reasons: They are cheap They are small They are sharp They have better focusing than Canon’s other entry lenses. In other words, for the dollar, you can’t go wrong with a Canon pancake lens. The Canon 40mm STM was a knockout success. Read my review of that lens here. The 24mm STM is, in my opinion, even more freaking amazing. It only costs $150, making it the second cheapest Canon lens available for DSLRs (only the Canon 50mm 1.8 is cheaper). The 24mm STM is the only prime you can get in the wideish/normal focal range for under $400 dollars. So here is the lens… box… It will only fit EF-S cameras. So it […]

Jan 132015

Torrents and 4K video in the title? I know, it is a cheap tactic to get people to read this, but bear with me. How much  is a 1080p Blu-ray rip now a days? 1.5-3 gigs? Maybe 3-4 gigs if it is not compressed as much or if the movie has a long running time? Well imagine 4K content becomes widely available, those 3 gig torrents would balloon up to 8-20GB. Compressing the files to allow for lower file size would result in a sever drop in video quality, defeating the purpose of 4K. Downloading 20GB movies? No thanks. I don’t think the casual web pirates would want to deal with the trouble of downloading a 20GB movie and then trying to play it on their PC (need a good machine to play high bitrate video). If You Buy a 4K Panel, Does Your PC Need to be 4k Ready? […]

Jan 112015

The New Panasonic 4K Blu-ray Player and Cameras Panasonic showed off a 4K Blu-ray player. Its the first native 4K player in the world I think? Panasonic introduces three new camcorders: HC-WX970 (4K video and HDR), HC-VX870 (4K video and HDR), HC-V770 (only HDR, no 4K). The cost for the WX970 is only $1,000. The VX870 is only $900. So, pretty much the days of good 4K video for under $1,000 are no longer a dream. But… its a video camera; the ergonomics are worse than on a DSLR (in my opinion!).  No clue if these cameras can shoot HDR mode and 4K simultaneously. If they can, that is awesome because you get nice dynamic range and great resolution. Sony 4K Cameras: FDR-X1000V action cam, FDR-AX33 Sony has a new $500 action cam: the FDR-X1000V. It shoots 4K as well as high frame rate video. GoPro, you nervous? Sony makes […]

Nov 272014
Canon 70D (and more) Black Friday Deals 2014 - Now Live

Several nice deals are live right now: SanDisk Extreme Plus 32GB $19.99 (80MB/s) SD Memory Card at Amazon. Anyone who shoots photos or video should get this. It is one of the highest quality SD cards you can get. Perfect for 4K video, or burst photos.   Panasonic GH4 is $200 off MSRP at Amazon, which is the lowest price since its release. Tons of decent deals at the Canon Store. From the Canon Refurbished Store, you can get the Canon 70D for $649, 70D with 18-55 IS STM kit for $749 or 70D with 18-135 IS STM kit for $799. Just the item(s) to your cart, and Canon will take off an extra $50 ($50 off $500 promo). Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens (Refurbished) is on sale for a low price of $599.99 with free shipping on Ebay via Adorama. Constant aperture, Image Stabilization, L series build […]

Nov 262014
Canon Black Friday Sale 2014

Canon is offering $10 off $100, $25 off $250, $50 off 500 and $100 of $1,000. Click here to go to Canon’s store. I am kicking myself because I got impatient and ordered some refurbished gear off of Canon last week. Woulda saved me $25. /cry They are also offering lens and DSLR rebates: $50 off the Canon 40mm STM, etc.. Check out the full Canon rebate list here. So, considering many refurbished lenses are %15-%30 off, and that you can get up to an extra 10% off, this Black Friday is not awful. Make sure to keep checking up on Canon’s website for inventory, stuff goes in and out of stock fast. Also, if you live in a place that gets taxed, you might be better off shopping at Amazon, Adorama, or B&H. B&H is running a promo called Deal Zone where they clear out last years inventory. Audio […]

Nov 242014
SanDisk Extreme Plus 32GB (80MB/s) Lowest Price in 1.5 Years

THE SALE COMES AND GOES. WAS LIVE TWO DAYS AGO, THEN DEAD, NOW LIVE AGAIN The 64GB got sold out fast, so get the 32gig version while you can. Reads about 80MB/s and writes about 60MB/s making it a nice card for any photography needs, and most video needs. Sandisk is the #1 card chosen by photographers and videographers, because unlike most cards they don’t inflate their write/read speeds. If you are using a Canon Rebel, EOS-M, or a 60D this card will be fine for Magic Lantern Raw. If you have a 7D, 6D, 5D mkII, 5DmkIII, this card will work, but you may experience dropped frames. This card will also work fine with the GH4 or BlackMagic Pocket. Buy it on Amazon, for only $20. I don’t think you will find a better deal on CF cards than this, even on Black Friday. This card will only lag […]

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