Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Buying Body or Lens?

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Whether or not, you own a DSLR or considering buying one, this is one of the things you must consider. Good body with a lousy lens or lousy body with a good lens? Let me take you through and help you make the decision.

Image Quality

If you're looking for image quality, then a good lens must be in your shopping list. Light itself is rather difficult to manage. Lenses often suffer from various forms of optical degradation, such as vignetting, barrel distortion, Chromatic Aberration, flare. You see, even the best and most expensive lens may not fully resolve these issues, but merely reduce the effects.

Let's bring out an example. I used 2 different lens on the same camera body to shoot the same subject. On the left is shot with a EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, selling for about $900 online. On the right is shot with a EF-S17-85mm lens, selling for about $660 online. Both pictures are shot with Canon EOS 7D.

My first impression is that the 15-85mm lens has a better contrast than the 17-85mm. Zooming in, you can clearly see the difference in sharpness. If you own a 18-55mm kit lens, the results are worse than the 17-85mm lens.

Comparing 15-85mm vs 17-85mm (click to enlarge)

So you see a better lens does give an additional advantage in image quality. But does it mean that more expensive lens have better image quality? In fact, no.

Generally, prime (fixed focal length) lens have a higher image quality over a zoom lens at the same price range. The reason is because zoom lenses have more moving parts, and as mentioned above, light is difficult to control and manage, and with moving glass inside the lens, it becomes much harder to align everything to give a equal optical quality like a prime lens. It takes much more engineering or better glass to construction a lens of similar optical quality compared to a prime lens, and to maintain the low price, some things have to give.

For example, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens offer a much better image quality than the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. Both are in the same price range of $100 to $150, yet one performs much better than the other. That's because the 50mm lens is a prime lens. The same is true other lenses in different price ranges.


A camera body plays a big part when it comes to taking the picture. After all, it houses the sensor which is used to take the photo. Advances in technology made cameras have bigger and sharper LCD screens, video capabilities, higher megapixels, better sensors, just to name a few. However, if you already own a DSLR or planning to get one, it may not be the best to get the latest model.

Take for example, the EOS 600D and 550D. Both cameras have 18 megapixels and run on DIGIC 4 sensor. The few difference is an improved video recording system and a flip out screen. The rest of the changes are minor.

My suggestion would be to own a decent DSLR and stick to it. I still use my EOS 500D, and I know of friends who still use their EOS 450D even though it's a rather old camera. If you're planning an upgrade, try not to upgrade to a similar series, but a higher series if you have the budget. Because even an old higher series camera would normally have much better functions than a basic model (but not too old please).

For lenses, an upgrade would normally bring about better control of those optical degradation as mentioned above, a new or better image stabilization, or better auto focusing. Because lenses don't get upgraded often, they don't have to be replaced for a long time.


When it comes to buying a camera or lens, you are spending big bucks on it, and you won't want to change every few years, don't you? Yes, good lenses can really cost a lot, and they only operate within a limited focal length, but they are well worth the money. Camera bodies don't cost as much and they can be used in all kinds of shots, so are they really worth putting all the money into?

Let's first bring our attention to the basic DSLR series, the Canon EOS rebel series. Almost every year, Canon releases a new rebel camera (latest is 600D, but due for a upgrade at time of writing), introducing more and more technological advances into that same sized body.

For example, in 2004, Canon releases the EOS 350D camera. It has 8 megapixels and DIGIC II processor. Now in 2012, the EOS 600D has 18 megapixels and DIGIC 4 processor. On the other hand, Canon released the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 lens also in 2004, and now in 2012, the same EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5mm lens is still in use.

You may not have upgraded your camera body since 2004, but you are now using some old technology 8 years old. However, if you are still using the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5mm lens, you would still be using the "latest" technology.

Lenses do receive updates like camera bodies, however, not so frequently. maybe once in many years. So if you're looking for a cost effective equipment, investing your money in the right lens is the way to go!


All equipment depreciates. Camera equipments are one of the few things that depreciates very slowly. If you're looking to upgrade your equipment from time to time and not want to lose too much money, then this is for you.

Firstly, all equipments depreciates faster when there is a upgrade to it. This goes the same for both camera bodies and lenses. But considering camera bodies get a more frequent update, you would have guessed that camera bodies depreciate faster than lenses.

For this example, we see how a lens upgrade will cause it's resale value to drop. The EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 is an upgrade for the older EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6. The price for the 17-85mm used to be selling in the $900 range, and now, it goes for about $300. Comparing the lens to EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5, both lens are sold from 2004, within the same price range, but the 10-22mm still goes for $700. Now for lenses such as the 10-22mm, it depreciates very slowly, and probably you can get back over half of what you paid for after many years.

For the next example, we will see how camera bodies depreciates. Because all camera bodies made in 2004 have gotten at least an upgrade, so we won't be comparing the depreciation after an upgrade. The EOS 350D used to retail for about $1000 back in 2004, but now, you would be glad if someone decides to pay $200 for that camera.

So if you owned an EOS 350D and a 10-22mm from it's inception till now, you would have lost much more on that camera body than the lens.


In conclusion, if you have the cash and you're looking for an upgrade or buying a new camera, always remember to get a better lens!

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