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.

Nice day

Today, I shot some pictures at Comic Con 2011 in Toronto.

Comic Con Toronto (Photo: Michael Willems)

Comic Con Toronto

What lens did I  use for that?

Wide. 21mm (actually 16mm, but on a 1.3 crop factor camera, so that is equivalent to a “real” 21mm). That is how you get this feeling of depth. We call this technique “close-far”. The wide angle lens is greatly under-appreciated. But not by me.

Comic Con Toronto (Photo: Michael Willems)


Comic Con 2011, Toronto

Are those Klingons? (Comic Con 2011, Toronto)

At Comic Con, I met up with photojournalist David Honl and Hollywood actress Claudia Christian, who was signing autographs. Claudia is best known for her role in “Babylon 5”, but she has appeared, and today appears, in many, many movies, TV movies and TV series (including appearances in classics such as “Dallas”, “Columbo”, Quantum Leap, Matlock,  and “Murder, she wrote”).

(If you are near the UK: go meet her. Claudia is organizing a big event August 13-14 in London: see )

Techie photo details: All I used today was my 1D MkIV with the 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. Manual is the mode to use of course. I used available light, and also used some fill flash on several of the shots – namely on the portraits.

Le Chat, etc: Montréal ce soir

A quick walk through Montréal. 32-12800 ISO and Lightroom noise reduction.. Wow. Wow. And wow. Both Montreal and the low noise performance:

Montreal church, by Michael Willems

Montreal church, by Michael Willems

Montreal Wall, by Michael Willems

Montreal Wall, by Michael Willems

Montreal, by Michael Willems


And my favourite:

Le Chat, photographed by Michael Willems

Le Chat (en Montréal)

All this shot handheld with a 1D Mark IV and a 16-35 f/2.8 lens. At ISOs up to 12,800, and with Lightroom 3 noise reduction applied.