I've been on quite the lens research kick these last few weeks. When I started doing my Atlanta real estate photography business in earnest I only had a Wide-Angle lens. I choose the Canon 10-22mm EF-S and honestly I couldn't have made a better decision. I love this lens and use it for about 60% of my real estate photography. But this post isn't about wide angle lenses. Nope, for all the great things about the Canon 10-22mm there is still one glaring weakness: all it can do is wide angle.
While most of those that will read this did choose their camera and lens for the purpose of photographing real estate, I'm assuming that they would also like to use that new camera for something other than real estate. Why not, right? I want to tell you about a very inexpensive lens that I have found to be an incredible value for those looking for another lens to add to your collection. Enter the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II.
There are several things I like about this lens and really only a couple of reasons why there is still room for improvement. First and foremost is the price. At less than $100, this is actually one of the cheapest quality lenses Canon offers. Anyone that has shopped around for lenses for DLSR cameras have discovered that a high quality lens can sometimes cost as much if not more than the camera itself. This shouldn't come as a surprise as the lens is the part of the camera that is directly responsible for "how" the camera captures the image. Sure, the sensor, the megapixels, noise ratio, etc. are all important, but rarely can the camera or its functions correct or compensate for a poor quality lens. Conversely, a good lens means that those other functions don't have to be cutting edge technology for you to get a good photo.
The second reason I really like this lens is because it is very fast. It has a aperture value of f1.8 which betters most of Canon's other lens, including the coveted "L" lens by at least half a stop. What does this mean exactly? Well a fast lens will allow the camera to take in more light at a faster rate. If you are shooting in low light or you want to capture images in which action is frozen in time, a fast lens is a huge asset. A wide aperture of f1.8 lets you use lower ISO settings which in turn decrease the amount of noise commonly associated with digital images taken in low-light conditions. It also allows you to use a faster shutter speed which assists in freezing subjects that may be moving very fast or just moving at all in low light.
Another reason a fast lens comes in handy is that it makes it easier to get a shallow deep of field. For those not familiar with this term, a shallow depth of field is where a foreground image is sharp and in focus whereas the background is smooth and blurry. There is a very appealing look for portraits and detail shots as you are able to isolate your subject and effectievely make it jump out from the background.
Finally, this lens also features a very accurate auto-focus feature. One of the last things we want to worry about when taking photos is manually focusing on our subject for every single shot. Those that are used to using point and shoot cameras almost take this feature for granted as there are lens still being sold in which you have to manually adjust the focus.
Now at the starting of this post I did mention there was room for improvement. Actually, this lens is perfect as is, what a lot of people find is that they have to adjust their shooting technique in order to get the most out of this lens. Most notably, this is not a zoom lens. If you want to zoom in on something you have to move the camera closer to it. If you want to show more of a scene you have to back farther away from it. In other words, your feet are the zoom feature. This is the primary reason why this lens is limited for real estate purposes. Not that you can't get some great shots with it, it's just that its limited especially for interiors.
Another shortcoming is that the housing is made of plastic. If you treat your equipment with care, this may never be an issue but there have been some claims that it doesn't hold up well with strenuous use. I will also add that on an APS-C sensor camera, like Canon's EOS line, the effective focal length of this lens is approximately 81mm, just a little short for making it idea for portraits and a little too long to approximate the focal length of the human eye. Nevertheless, these are all acceptable compromises for what you do get, strong contrast, excellent color and a sharp image even at close to wide open apertures.
If you are looking for a new lens for yourself or another Canon shooter, I highly recommend this lens. Of course don't just take my word for it. Amazon.com currently has close to 1300 reviews and it has maintained a solid 4.5 star rating. See for yourself here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R33I38JXD0L23N/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R33I38JXD0L23N
Here are a few examples of the shots I took with this lens and a Canon Xti: