Tip Thursday: lenses on the cheap

If any of you new DSLR owners have noticed glass is expensive. I don’t know about you but I can’t afford brand new top of the line OEM glass.

I have had to find other ways to supplement my list of lenses.

used glass: this can be hit or miss. If at all possible try it on your camera before buying. if shopping Ebay make sure of a return policy.

( One note to Canon users. Older Canon FD glass is a pain to try to adapt to the EOS camera systems. also older 3rd party lenses, especially Sigma may not work at anything but theĀ  largest f stop. Anything else will give an ” error 99″ message)

Ok a few tips.

I will talk Canon as that is what I know’

years back Canon made a line of push/pull zoom lenses. They were a 35-135 f5.6, 70-210 f4, and a 100-300 f5.6. They are not USM, made of plastic but are very sharp, especially the 70-210. A new 70-200 f4 will set you back 7-800 dollars. These can be had in the 100-150 range. I have been using the 70-210 for 3 years with not a problem.

I shy away from older Sigmas due to the error 99 message but have had good luck with Tamron and Tokina. They make nice lenses that can be found relatively cheap on Ebay. I have a 20-35 Tokina that is sharp and great on the 5D. it was replaced by a 19-35 in their current line so I got this one for $100

I have a discontinued 28-105 f2.8 Tamron that I picked up for under $200. The Canon 24-105 L is over $1200.

Another great find is the Canon USM 28-105 f3.5-4. Close focus, sharp, quiet and fast focus. It was replaced by the 24-105 L. They can be had for around $150. No IS but very serviceable. Be sure to get the model that has a flower for the macro symbol and not the word macro.

With the advent of cheaper full frame cameras lenses for the APS-C size cameras are being dumped. Sigma made a recent lens I loved the 17-70 f2.8-4. it ran about $400 new but when they came with the OS(stabilized) version I found a very good one for under $200.

For long glass to be used for birds or wildlife it gets a bit harder.

There were many used 70-200 f2.8’s from Tamron and Tokina ans with a 1.4 converter these make a nice 280mm f4 lens.

You can also find 300 f2.8’s from the same companies that make nice 420 f4 or 600 f5.6.

Be aware that these lenses will still cost you 400-600 used.

Sigma makes a 500 f4.5 that will still set you back $2,000 if you can find a used one.

What do you do if you want to take decent bird photos at reasonable prices?

I found two options that work for me.

First after much research I decided on a Sigma 600 f8 mirror lens. I know all the negative talk but under the right conditions and a contrast boost, in post processing it does reasonably well. The trouble is it is manual focus and requires a lot of light. But, for set shots from , say a blind. it works quite well. The good thing is it focuses down quite close.

The second was a used, discontinued Sigma 400 f5.6. yeah i know all the things I said about older Sigmas on a Canon. But since I shoot all my bird photos at f5.6 it works quite well. it can be had fro around $150. Mine was still new in the box. The trouble is they are getting harder to find. Mine is sharp, quiet and can be hand-held.

The bottom line is do your research, take your time and be patient. The glass is out there.


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