Reader lens question

Richard, a frequent reader, asks:

I have been researching the Canon L series lens’ 16-35 F/2.8 vs 24-70 F/2.8. I have my daughter’s graduation in May, which combines an indoor ceremony with an outside function. I expect I will be further away for most shots, but want sharpness, quality and a fast lens in either case. I also have my Canon 50mm F/1.4 for the real nice inside close-ups, where speed/blur is important. I am leaning towards the 24-70 F/2.8 as I think I will get more long-term use for the various kids events, sport shots, family gatherings etc.

And I agree, Richard.

First: an f/2.8 lens is going to be much better than a f/5.6 “consumer grade” lens – two stops more light, and two stops more blurred background, whenever you like them. Get fast lenses and you will never regret it. Nothing beats low f-numbers.

I actually own both those lenses, so I can tell you about them – they are great lenses both. Both those “luxury” lenses (that is what “L” stands for in Canon-speak) are very sharp, focus quickly, and have good build quality.

What do you use them for?

  • If you own a full frame camera, 16-35 is very wide, and 24-70 is a “wide to almost longish” general purpose lens.
  • If on the other hand you own a crop camera, 16-35 is “wide to standard” and 24-70 is “a bit wide to a somewhat long”.

Wide is great for landscapes, architecture, parties, perspective. The 24-70 range, on the other hand, is a general purpose workhorse lens. Some pros only own this one lens. Yes, 16-35 is fantastic, but not general purpose: 24-70, on the other hand, is general purpose, from weddings to parties to portraits.

So on the whole, I would say 24-70 first, and 16-35 later. For a graduation, 70mm may not be long enough if you cannot get close to the stage, but you can, in that case, always rent a 70-200mm lens for a day. Renting is good!

Another of Richard’s questions concerned extenders – I shall address this at a later point.

1 thought on “Reader lens question

  1. Last year we attended a high school graduation. We were in the centre section about 6 rows from the front. I took a 24-70 L and a Sigma 18-250. The 24-70 was too short for the awards ceremony. For landscape from the waist up, receiving the diploma, 120 mm; for a fairly tight shot standing in the line waiting her turn, 250 mm. The body had an APS-C sensor. I left the big white lenses at home because I did not want to be conspicuous.
    If you want to use L lenses, a 24-70 for some shots of a student waiting in the hall and a 70-200 for the actual ceremony if you can get into the front half of the seats would probably work well. The 100-400 would work better from the back of the room but it is not as fast.

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