Choosing Your 17-50mm F2.8 Lens
Not unlike choosing other things, selecting a good 17-50mm f2.8 lens requires some research. Hopefully you’re doing that right now, and if you are, you will find this article fairly helpful.
So, without further ado…
Choosing your 17-50 f2.8 Lens: Canon/Nikon, Tamron, and Sigma
Brand name optics are good stuff. They usually receive ample attention from the same company that manufactured your camera, and as such, will offer fantastic results. Canon offers the 17-55 f2.8 IS USM, while Nikon offers the 17-55 f2.8 G ED-IF AF-S. These lenses feature great ergonomics, superior optics, and a price point to match. In Canon’s case, you receive some banging IS while in the case of Nikon, you pay a lot of money for some fantastic optics and the ability to switch to manual focus at anytime by simply using the manual focus ring. Brand Name 17-50mm f2.8 lenses – both Canon and Nikon – are reasonably sharper and less prone to chromatic aberration than less-expensive models.
The Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS USM lens.
If you are a Canon photographer, purchase the Canon 17-55mm f2.8 if you are an event photographer, or shoot in low light. If you shoot in response to your environment – for example, if you are doing photojournalism, documentary work, or event photography where a flash is not preferred, the IS will save your bacon time and time again.
The Nikon 17-55 f2.8 G DX AF-S lens.
If you are a Nikon photographer, invest in the Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 G lens if you want the very best image quality (sharpness, contrast) out of your cropped-sensor DSLR. A wide range of photographers will benefit from this lens, but the lack of Nikon’s VR will not lend it to the exact same applications as the Canon lens listed above. Instead, this lens is all about raw quality and ease-of-use in regard to manual focusing. The cost of this lens may actually prohibit many photographers from buying it.
Sharper than the junk that Sigma makes, but not as sharp as Nikon or Canon, these bad boys are the runners-up in terms of quality. In terms of bang-for your-buck, though, they cannot be beat. Image quality is adequate or excellent for amateurs and pros alike, but the most exacting of pixel peepers may find them sub-par. These lenses also come in two flavors: those with stabilization (Tamron calls it VC), and those without.
The Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 (with VC).
Buy the Tamron VC version if you shoot in low light, and don’t use a flash. Don’t expect whisper-like auto focus, but don’t expect a coffee grinder, either. Suffice to say, it should be seen as a budget option offering moderate sharpness, some stabilization, and a lower price point than brand-name competitors.
The Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 (without VC).
Buy the non-VC version if you shoot primarily in daylight, use a tripod (for longer exposures) or a flash, or shoot at ungodly-high ISO. Don’t buy the non-VC version because you need the VC version but don’t want to spend the money, because you can’t really make up for the lack of stabilization short of changing your shooting style.
Buy this lens if you absolutely must have a 17-50mm f2.8 equivalent. Otherwise, meh.
The Sigma 17-50mm f2.8mm lens.
For those on a budget, she can’t be beat. Offering stabilization in the form of Sigma’s OS, this lens provides all the specs needed to woo those who aren’t familiar with back-focus issues on older Sigma lenses.
Other Options (from Sigma)
Sigma also makes a decent 18-35mm f1.8 lens that will provide phenomenal results for most photographers. Hallmarks of this lens include that rare 1.8 constant aperture, improved image sharpness, and generally fantastic build quality. The down side? Lower zoom range.
A Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens.
Buy this lens if you shoot events or environmental portraits. Photographers who prefer to work at a longer distance may not appreciate the benefits of this lens. However, sliver-thin depth of field at a wide range of focal lengths may just win them over.
If less expensive lenses are your cup of tea, you could also consider the 17-70mm (also from Sigma), offering an f2.8-4 variable aperture that may not be as sweet or as expensive as a constant f2.8. Image quality is still good though, and should not be dismissed solely on the basis of the Sigma Brand.
The Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 Contemporary lens.
Who should look into this lens? Those who want a better lens than the one that came with their camera. This lens is a great option for people who want longer zoom range, a faster aperture, and maybe some slightly sharper images to boot.
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