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Old 09-07-2012, 10:23 AM   #1
BirdsOfPreyDave


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Canon EF vs. EF-S

I have the Canon 60D, which is a crop camera.

I've recently purchased the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, which I'm now using as my walk-around lens instead of the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens. As I look at images that are in the common focal range between these two lenses, though, I'm not seeing any big improvements on the "L" glass shots I took on my most recent trip over photos from past trips when I was using the EF-S kit lens. I thought I'd be seeing better sharpness than I am.

It's very possible it's a misperception on my part that the 28-105 f/4L isn't outperforming the old 16-135 f3.5-5.6. My expectations for getting my first piece of "L" glass may simply have been set too high. One of the things I've been thinking about doing, but haven't gotten around to yet, is setting up a series of tripod shots to shoot the exact same object with each lens at the same focal length and under the exact same conditions. That will give me the perfect way to truly comapre the relative performance of the two lenses.

It's also possible that I'm just not experienced enough to be getting the best shots out of the lens. I'll be the first to admit that this is a distinct possibility.

It has me wondering, though... is "better" glass always better for all cameras, or does an EF-S lens on a crop camera have some benefits over a nicer (aka more expensive) EF lens with a similar focal range?

I understand the concept of the EF-S over the EF. A crop camera has a smaller sensor, so only a portion of what the lens is seeing is captured. The edges are "cropped" from the image that's saved. At a 1.6 crop factor, the 60D is losing about 38% of the image that a full frame camera would capture with the same lens at the same focal length. The EF-S lenses are designed to bring the glass closer to the sensor and better optimize the way the lens and the smaller sensor work together. The question is, how much optimization does the EF-S lens design have over an EF lens on a crop camera, and does this advantage possibly outweigh other factors such as the quality/speed of the glass?

I see myself graduating to a full frame camera sometime in the future, so I won't be investing in any new EF-S lenses -- the 28-105 f/4L will most certainly be of use to me when I do, even if I prove to myself that I should go back to the EF-S lens on the 60D. That's the question. Which lens should I have on my camera now? Guess I need to go do some of those test shots this weekend.
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:33 AM   #2
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So the question it seems like you're asking is will L series glass yield me noticeably better images. My opinion... not as much as most people think. Yes, you'll see gains in image quality. But ultimately a big part of your image quality comes down to skill. A skilled photographer can make amazing images with cheap glass and a novice photographer might not even be able to get an in focus shot with high end glass.

I'm not saying L series isn't worth it. If you plan on honing your craft then eventually you really will start to notice the subtle details that make L series lenses so great. And then there's the functionality of a constant aperture on zooms and faster primes. Also, compare apples to apples. You have to compare the 24-105 to it's mid priced counterpart the 28-135, or even the 28-105 f/3.5-4/5. You'll notice the difference more. But when you compare a zoom with a huge focal range to a zoom with a short focal range it's more difficult because that shorter focal range has an advantage right from the start regardless of glass quality.

I prefer EF glass on my crop camera. Using just the center of the image is an advantage when it comes to sharpness since you're cutting off the corners where sharpness tends to fall off.

Does the way EF-S lenses are designed affect other factors... To be honest I've never really thought much about it. Focal length is still measured exactly the same way, from the front of the lens to the node. And aperture is still calculated the same way based on focal length and the diameter of the opening. But you're not projecting the image as far with an EF-S lens as you are with an EF lens. and that does make me wonder if f/4 on an EF-S lens might be just a little faster than f/4 on an EF lens. And I think you've given me something to investigate because now I really want to know the answer.
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Old 09-07-2012, 12:03 PM   #3
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I had the exact same experience when moving from the kit on my t2i to the 17-55mm f/2.8 (which isn't an L glass but most say it sorta kinda is. should be for the price they charge!). Perhaps my experience was for the same reasons you articulated (expectations, user error, etc).

I sold the 17-55mm and have been rolling with the 18-135mm and have been perfectly satisfied. It's really a great lens.
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Old 09-07-2012, 04:55 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BirdsOfPreyDave View Post
I have the Canon 60D, which is a crop camera.

I've recently purchased the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, which I'm now using as my walk-around lens instead of the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens. As I look at images that are in the common focal range between these two lenses, though, I'm not seeing any big improvements on the "L" glass shots I took on my most recent trip over photos from past trips when I was using the EF-S kit lens. I thought I'd be seeing better sharpness than I am.

It's very possible it's a misperception on my part that the 28-105 f/4L isn't outperforming the old 16-135 f3.5-5.6. My expectations for getting my first piece of "L" glass may simply have been set too high. One of the things I've been thinking about doing, but haven't gotten around to yet, is setting up a series of tripod shots to shoot the exact same object with each lens at the same focal length and under the exact same conditions. That will give me the perfect way to truly comapre the relative performance of the two lenses.

It's also possible that I'm just not experienced enough to be getting the best shots out of the lens. I'll be the first to admit that this is a distinct possibility.

It has me wondering, though... is "better" glass always better for all cameras, or does an EF-S lens on a crop camera have some benefits over a nicer (aka more expensive) EF lens with a similar focal range?

I understand the concept of the EF-S over the EF. A crop camera has a smaller sensor, so only a portion of what the lens is seeing is captured. The edges are "cropped" from the image that's saved. At a 1.6 crop factor, the 60D is losing about 38% of the image that a full frame camera would capture with the same lens at the same focal length. The EF-S lenses are designed to bring the glass closer to the sensor and better optimize the way the lens and the smaller sensor work together. The question is, how much optimization does the EF-S lens design have over an EF lens on a crop camera, and does this advantage possibly outweigh other factors such as the quality/speed of the glass?

I see myself graduating to a full frame camera sometime in the future, so I won't be investing in any new EF-S lenses -- the 28-105 f/4L will most certainly be of use to me when I do, even if I prove to myself that I should go back to the EF-S lens on the 60D. That's the question. Which lens should I have on my camera now? Guess I need to go do some of those test shots this weekend.
they don't "outweigh" the advantages of speed (aperture) but generally on a crop many of the EF-S lens will be sharper than EF lens at the same focal length and aperture, all other things equal. Do some comparison test shots, many prefer the color and IQ of the L lens but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be sharper in the center (on a crop model). You can see this looking at MTF resolution data at www.photozone.de and other sites. For more info on the differences in EF-S and EF lens go to the lens section at
http://photography-on-the.net/forum/
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Old 09-12-2012, 08:24 AM   #5
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Two things being discussed - 'EF' versus 'EF-S' and 'L' versus 'non-L'.

Speaking to the 'L' versus 'non-L' question :

Keep in mind there is more to 'L' lenses than just better/sharper glass. I have the ever-popular 50mm f1.8 EF lense that at many aperture settings will rival an 'L' lense in sharpness, BUT it's focusing system is slower (and louder :-). In addition to the improved focusing system, 'L' lenses will take more physical abuse, are water-resistant, include a lens hood and some even come in that nifty white color that makes you look like an NFL photographer. The 17-55mm f2.8 EF-S is a good example, I love mine for it's glass and fast focusing but it has a reputation for being a dust magnet and will never be mistaken for an L lense construction-wise.

I imagine there are also 'good' L lenses and 'so-so' L lenses and the same with non-L lenses so the comparison between any 2 lenses might show the non-L in the lead in some regards.

I have one L lense - the 70-200 F4L IS and I expect (if I stop dropping it) that I will keep it in my bag for as long as Canon keeps making bodies that it fits.
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Old 09-12-2012, 04:31 PM   #6
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I know exactly what you're saying. The 24-105mm "L" lens does not make magic photos because it is an "L." It is very good for what it does - it provides a good telephoto range for a "full frame" camera. It is well built and has some weather-proofing. It has IS and constant f/4.0 throughout the zoom range. It is relatively compact for its zoom range, and makes an excellent all around lens. It is the one that stays on my 5DMIII 80% of the time. That said, it isn't my favorite lens. I prefer the images with the 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens - but that isn't practical to carry around all the time (for me).

I also preferred the images and performance of the 17-55mm f/2.8 EF-S lens on a crop-sensor camera.
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Old 02-01-2013, 09:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BirdsOfPreyDave View Post
I've recently purchased the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, which I'm now using as my walk-around lens instead of the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens. As I look at images that are in the common focal range between these two lenses, though, I'm not seeing any big improvements on the "L" glass shots I took on my most recent trip over photos from past trips when I was using the EF-S kit lens. I thought I'd be seeing better sharpness than I am.

I see myself graduating to a full frame camera sometime in the future, so I won't be investing in any new EF-S lenses -- the 28-105 f/4L will most certainly be of use to me when I do, even if I prove to myself that I should go back to the EF-S lens on the 60D. That's the question. Which lens should I have on my camera now? Guess I need to go do some of those test shots this weekend.
Any update on this?

I'm embarking on the exact same upgrade now.
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Old 02-01-2013, 09:45 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by MikeandReneePlus5 View Post
Any update on this?

I'm embarking on the exact same upgrade now.
I'd love to hear his take on this as well. Not 30 minutes ago I checked the EXIF on one of his shots to see what lens he had used and it was the 24-105. I thought the bokeh on that pinecone shot was gorgeous.
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Old 02-01-2013, 10:54 AM   #9
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Thanks for starting this thread. As an avid amateur photographer I am always trying to learn the tricks of the trade and practice as much as I can. I think I would be in the same ballpark as you and not see the major differences in a higher priced lens. I would love to see some of the shots you got with your L lens.
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Old 02-01-2013, 01:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2rtk View Post
I'd love to hear his take on this as well. Not 30 minutes ago I checked the EXIF on one of his shots to see what lens he had used and it was the 24-105. I thought the bokeh on that pinecone shot was gorgeous.
That's one place you will notice a difference with L glass if you shoot a lot of shallow depth of field stuff. The number of aperture blades as well as the slight curve that's not often there on lower end glass really makes a difference in those OOF highlights to make for good bokeh. That's my biggest gripe on my 50mm f/1.8, I hate those hard edged pentagonal highlights.
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Old 02-01-2013, 03:06 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by MikeandReneePlus5 View Post
Any update on this?

I'm embarking on the exact same upgrade now.
LOL, you've all exposed me as a procrastinator. I've never actually set up the side-by-side comparison I spoke of. I have pretty much adopted the 24-105 as my go-to lens, though, without really looking back. I don't even keep the EF-S in my bag anymore because I was never using it. I'll be the first to admit, however, that this decision to remove the EF-S from my bag was because, other than the focal range (which was an overlap with the 24-105), I had no idea when one lens would be more appropriate than the other. I therefore decided to make some room in the bag.

A lot of the decision to carry the 24-105 as my walk-around lens was based on the comments here about the build quality and better weather proofing of the "L" lens. I'll admit that another part of it was a "darn it, I paid a lot for this lens and I'm going to learn to love it" attitude. Once I got past the "hey, this lens didn't make my photos instantly 100% more wonderful" attitude adjustment, I'm very happy with the results I've been getting with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KCmike View Post
Thanks for starting this thread. As an avid amateur photographer I am always trying to learn the tricks of the trade and practice as much as I can. I think I would be in the same ballpark as you and not see the major differences in a higher priced lens. I would love to see some of the shots you got with your L lens.
Check out my flickr photostream. Almost all of the recent photos were taken with the 24-105. I couldn't tell you if they'd have turned out any better or worse if I'd still been using the EF-S 18-135.

I know this lens would have wound up in my bag eventually, and I don't regret buying it. With that said, though, knowing it's now offered as one of the options for the kit lens for the 6D and 5D Mark III, if I'd known everything I know now back then, I may have waited and not purchased this lens until I made the leap to full frame; and would have then purchased as part of the kit with whichever camera will be my follow-on to the 60D.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2rtk View Post
I'd love to hear his take on this as well. Not 30 minutes ago I checked the EXIF on one of his shots to see what lens he had used and it was the 24-105. I thought the bokeh on that pinecone shot was gorgeous.
Quote:
Originally Posted by photo_chick View Post
That's one place you will notice a difference with L glass if you shoot a lot of shallow depth of field stuff. The number of aperture blades as well as the slight curve that's not often there on lower end glass really makes a difference in those OOF highlights to make for good bokeh. That's my biggest gripe on my 50mm f/1.8, I hate those hard edged pentagonal highlights.
As a personal preference, I do like to shoot things with a very shallow depth of field, and the 24-105 serves me well in that regard.

Danielle, just before reading this post I was over on POTN looking at the nifty fifty thread and thinking, "Wow, look at all the wonderful shots folks are getting with this lens." The only time I usually think about it is when I'm about to head into Pirates of the Caribbean. The ones that really caught my eye were the ones that had the most dramatic separation between subject and background. Now I'm going to have to go back through and look more closely at the shape of the bokeh.
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Old 02-01-2013, 03:55 PM   #12
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I thought the bokeh on that pinecone shot was gorgeous.
Oh, I forgot to say... Thanks!
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Old 02-01-2013, 04:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BirdsOfPreyDave View Post
I've recently purchased the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, which I'm now using as my walk-around lens instead of the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens. As I look at images that are in the common focal range between these two lenses, though, I'm not seeing any big improvements on the "L" glass shots I took on my most recent trip over photos from past trips when I was using the EF-S kit lens. I thought I'd be seeing better sharpness than I am.
Without going into all the numbers Canon's 24-105 shows much better resolution specifications than their 18-135. So what could be behind the lack of improvement?
There is a good possibility that camera motion is one of the main causes. The 18-135 is a good lens, the 24-105 is a very good lens. It doesn't take much camera shake to get back to just "good" no matter what lens we use. It may take a good tripod and a fast shutter speed to see much difference. Don't forget the mirror lockup too.

Small apertures reduce sharpness through diffraction, if we use f/11 or smaller the diffraction starts to become the main limit to resolution. At f/16 on a crop sensor there is probably no difference in sharpness between these (and any other) lenses. There is a small possibility that your camera is well matched (for focus) to your 18-135 but less well matched to your 24-105. I had to send my 24-105 to Canon to get it tweaked for focus, the result was a nice improvement at f/4.

Canon has made some "not so good" L lenses, their 28-300 and 100-400 come to mind. A 4x zoom range is ambitious, most high quality zooms limit the range to about 3:1. Canon may have made more compromises than usual to get the wider range but it is still really good.
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Old 02-01-2013, 06:00 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by MikeandReneePlus5
I had the exact same experience when moving from the kit on my t2i to the 17-55mm f/2.8 (which isn't an L glass but most say it sorta kinda is. should be for the price they charge!). Perhaps my experience was for the same reasons you articulated (expectations, user error, etc).

I sold the 17-55mm and have been rolling with the 18-135mm and have been perfectly satisfied. It's really a great lens.
I have both lens. Well the 18-135 is on my wife's rebel for everyday use. My everyday lens is the 17-55. I think both produce very good shots. Yes I see increased sharpness with my 17 but the 18 is very good also. I find the 18 way faster for locking onto focus vs the 17. That is the one place I think the 18 lacks but I feel it's still a great lens.

I will say the 17-55 is very very sharp so if others are not getting good results its prob user error or its not calibrated properly. I used to think the same but from my skill getting better over the past few years I don't think that at all anymore.

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Old 02-01-2013, 06:03 PM   #15
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I have both lens. Well the 18-135 is on my wife's rebel for everyday use. My everyday lens is the 17-55 on a 7d. I think both produce very good shots. Yes I see increased sharpness with my 17 but the 18 is very good also. I find the 18 way faster for locking onto focus vs the 17. That is the one place I think the 18 lacks but I feel it's still a great lens.

I will say the 17-55 is very very sharp so if others are not getting good results its prob user error or its not calibrated properly. I used to think the same but from my skill getting better over the past few years I don't think that at all anymore.

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