Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Awesome Outdoor Coverage: 17mm-350mm (35mm full-frame) with Two Lenses

If you follow this blog at all, you know I recently purchased a Canon 35-350 L zoom lens for use with my full-frame Canon 5D. The 35-350 L is no longer manufactured by Canon; it's been replaced by the 28-300 IS L. But you can still get a 35-350 L in great condition (around $1100), and they're only about half the cost of the 28-300 IS L (around $2200).

The 35-350 has turned out to be a great lens for me on a full-frame camera. I'm still blown away by the fact that this lens has the farthest reach of any of my lenses, yet includes a respectable wide angle focal length of 35mm. It would be nice if it had a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout the zoom range (rather than f/3.5 - f/5.6), but then it would be unbelievably heavy, I'm sure!

Anyway, 35mm on a full-frame DSLR meets, probably, 90% of my wide angle needs. But every once in a while, I want to be able to reach 28mm, 24mm, or even a little wider. Now, granted, my desire for 28mm or wider is usually an indoor phenomenon. However, there are situations outdoors (e.g., next to a tall waterfall) or semi-outdoors (e.g., on a open boat for a cocktail cruise) where I could use some "serious" wide angle capability.

Well, it turns out I own a Canon 17-40 f/4 L lens which gives me true wide angle coverage to 17mm on my 5D. I don't use this lens a lot; but when I need it, it *really* comes in handy. (New 17-40 f/4 L lenses can be purchased for around $700.)

I've got a *mostly* outdoor wedding coming up (some of the reception will take place inside an actual building; otherwise--weather permitting--everything else is going to be outdoors), and it occurred to me that with my 35-350 on one 5D and my 17-40 on the other 5D, I've got an awesome focal range of 17-350mm using professional Canon L zoom lenses! Total lens cost: $1800.

Now, matching the Canon 16-35 f/2.8 L with the 35-350 would also work (and pick up another 1mm on the wide end), but a new 16-35 f/2.8 L is about twice the cost of the 17-40 (about $1400). The total lens cost of uniting the 35-350 with the 16-35 f/2.8 would be $2500.

Of course, you could buy just the 28-300 IS L for $2200 and only have to deal with one camera and lens. However, you would be cutting off some of your coverage range at *both* the wide and telephoto ends (you would lose 16-28mm or 17-28mm and 300-350mm). You'd also miss out on the nice added capabilities of having an ultra wide-angle zoom, which can really come in handy.

Because the 35-350 is a bit slow aperture-wise (f/3.5 - f/5.6) and reaches 350mm (total overkill for most indoor situations), I would never recommend it as a good indoor lens for weddings. However, combined with the 17-40 f/4 L, you've really got an amazing outdoor wedding lens combo for $1800 or less (if you can get some good used lens deals), that could capture practically any shot you could throw at it! (Note: For you bokeh lovers...even with the relatively small maximum apertures of the 35-350, you can get some really nice bokeh in a large portion of the telephoto range: 150-350mm.)

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography. His main website is:

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