Canon 5D Mark II — Best Cheap / Value For Money Lenses

First published on: Monday, 21 June 2010

“ismith” posed an interesting question on DPReview requesting for feedback on good, budget Canon and Canon-compatible lenses which are easy on the wallet and priced in the 250 to 400 GBP(£) range (about 370 to 594 U.S. dollars). This price range means that the kit Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens isn’t eligible for consideration.

The following is a curated and edited summary of the forum discussion.

Jan Madsen started with the Canon 50mm F1.8 Mk. I which is mechanically a good lens (and built much better than the Mark 2 version), Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 (surprisingly good, but of course limited by aperture) and Sigma 70mm f2.8 macro (60 lenses later, it’s still his sharpest lens). Later, he quickly added a Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6.

Jan adds:

Buy used, you can get a lot for the money. Later you can add better lenses from new, when finances catch up. With almost any lens you are the limitation, not the equipment.

The Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM standard zoom lens received numerous recommendations in the thread:

  1. digitaldog” found that although this lens was rather mediocre on Canon DSLR cameras with crop (APS-C 1.6x) sensors (the FOV / Field of View on lens was not wide enough, and images were soft), it performed extremely well on the 5DII, approaching the quality of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L. On a full frame camera such as the 5D Mark 2, this lens had sufficient flexibility in the zoom range to function as walk-around lens.

  2. In addition to the 28-135 lens, “Guv” has the Canon 28/1.8 and Canon 85/1.8 for this 5D Mark 1 camera. Guv adds:
    I’m saving for an all L collection other than the 85/1.8, but that day’s a long way off. The upgrade to a 5D (Mark 1) was a much more versatile way of making all my EF lenses look much better than they did on my 40D. The “glass first” argument only holds within a format, in my opinion. If you jump from a crop format to FF (full frame), the argument goes off track.

    Guv also makes a recommendation for the Sigma 50mm f/1.4:
    That’s a powerful combo that gives really stunning results for not much money in the lens. I covet my friend’s combo of these two.

  3. “Skip M” comments on the 28-135:
    Even though I have a 24-70L, I do still occasionally use my old 28-135 IS. It was the first EF lens I bought, and I’ve kept it. It’s light, versatile, with more reach than either the 24-70 or 24-105, although it does give up a little at the wide end.
    It’s as sharp or sharper than any other non L zoom.

        It is prone to zoom creep, though.</blockquote></li>

Redteg94” lists a couple of standard zoom lenses, Canon 28-135IS, Tamron 28-75/2.8 or maybe the Canon 28-105/3.5-4.5 USM, and wrote that they give good image quality on FF bodies for the money. Recommended prime lenses are 28/1.8, 35/2, 50/1.8 or EF 50mm f/1.4, 85/1.8, 100/2 or 200/2.8L — “all excellent and not too expensive”.

For long zoom lenses, the 70-300mm IS is quite good, but the EF 70-200mm f/4 is “quite a bit nicer to use” and similarly priced.

Jim Cassatt adds the following points to Redteg94’s post:

I have used both the Tamron 28-75 f2.8 and the Canon 28-105 f3.5-4.5 on my 5D. As stated both offer excellent value. Even though I own the 24-105 f4, I still use the 28-105 when I am just walking around and don’t to carry the extra weight.

For folks who prefer to focus on using prime / fixed lenses for their photography with the 5D Mark II, “Legion5” suggested to seriously consider the Canon 28mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8. Later on, one could add a Kenko Teleplus DGX MC4 1.4X AF (Autofocus) teleconverter and a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens to expand on the creative options available.

masak” finds that the Canon 50/1.8 lens works well on the 5D2, but suggested that one adds a Canon 17-40mm lens in order to be able to go wider.

sssanti” recommends the Tamron 28-75mm, plus a few other good options such as 28/1.8, 35/f2, 50/1.4 (Canon or Sigma), 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 100/2 and 70-300 IS, and notes:

For the same EF lens a FF camera typically gives you significantly higher center resolution (line pairs per picture height) than what you’d get with a crop sensor DSLR.

Border resolution is typically also a little better. In my experience, the improved resolution I observed in my lenses when going from crop to a 5D was more significant than the differences you may see between economical non-L primes and L lenses.

You may want to look at this comparison between FF and crop for a 50/1.8 lens as an example.

localghost” agrees with “sssanti“‘s recommendation of the the Canon 35mm f/2 lens, while “BAK” suggests to start off with a Canon 35mm f/2 and 50mm f/1.8 lens, and then acquire a Canon 85mm f/1.8 later.

“mattr” lists the following as the “Three of Canon’s optically absolute top “cheap” lenses for a 5D2”:

  1. 35/2

  2. 50/1.8

  3. 85/1.8 (or 100/2)

KCampbell” agrees with “mattr”, and wrote:

The 35mm f2 is a cracking performer and will give you very good results, and the field of view feels very natural for general purpose photography. If your budget runs to that plus the 85mm f1.8 you’d be in pretty good shape.

R1chardM” recommends owning the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 or Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens instead of the plastic Canon 50mm f/1.8, which doesn’t take advantage of the resolution on FF bodies unless its aperture is stopped down to f/4. For a bit more money, consider purchasing the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8, at about USD$800, is less than half the price of the Canon equivalent (Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Mark 1 and Mark 2), but certainly comes close in terms of quality.

Summary of lenses discussed in this post:

  1. Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 EX DG IF HSM Aspherical Ultra Wide Angle Zoom

  2. Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom (see related posts)

  3. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

  4. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM (see related posts)

  5. Tamron SP Autofocus 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AD Aspherical (IF)

  6. Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

  7. Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 SP XR ZL Di LD Aspherical (IF) (see related posts)

  8. Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM (the older version doesn’t have good reviews).

  9. Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

  10. Canon EF 35mm f/2 (see related posts)

  11. Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM (see related posts)

  12. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM

  13. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

  14. Sigma 70mm F/2.8 EX DG Macro

  15. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM (Mark 1) (see related posts)

  16. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM (Mark 2) (see related posts)

  17. Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG HSM II Macro Zoom

  18. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM (see related posts)

  19. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (see related posts)

  20. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM (see related posts)

  21. Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM

  22. Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM (see related posts)

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