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Nino Film Blog | July 24, 2024

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Essential accessories: Basic Lenses

Essential accessories: Basic Lenses
Nino Leitner

Essential kit for your Canon T2i/550D if you’re on a budget:
Part 2: Batteries, Memory Cards & Bags
Part 3: Depth of Field, Aperture & ND filters

After posting my early review of the new Canon EOS T2i / 550D and the test short “FEBRUARY“ and the overwhelming response (50.000 views of the clip so far on Vimeo and YouTube combined!) I keep getting asked for tips on all sorts of accessories for the camera: which lenses to use, which memory cards, which tripod …

To give all of you a central starting point on your quest to make your brand-new T2i / 550D a very usable movie machine, I put together this list of accessories aimed at an audience that is very price-conscious – that’s why you ordered that T2i / 550D after all, isn’t it!

Canon EOS 550D as it’s called in Europe and Asia …

As I said before, I’m relatively new to DSLR filming myself, but I have been a full-time cameraman and part-time photographer for years now, and I know what is needed for one and the other.
And that’s the problem with these new crop of “HDSLRs”: They are essentially still photo cameras which “happen to have” a gorgeously-looking video image if used right. But the problem is that everything else about these cameras is totally different from what a professional is used to on a proper camcorder like e.g. the EX3. So you have to “pimp it up” with quite a bit of gear in order to transform it into a really usable video workhorse.
If you’re completely new to DSLRs or filming in general, you should definitely invest in:

  • lenses,
  • batteries,
  • memory cards,
  • sound recording gear,
  • a tripod / monopod,
  • a magnification tool to enable you to really judge the focus on the screen,
  • a variable ND filter and
  • a handheld shoulder rig.

To me, this is the chronological order in which I recommend getting these accessories, with the most important ones at the top. They are really all important, but you don’t need to buy them all at once. If you are serious about your filmmaking with DSLRs, you will quickly realize what else you need, and I bet most of it is on that list.

I will go through this list in the coming days and weeks, and recommend specific products in each and every field.
I have filmed with DSLRs only a bit before, but I know much of the kit from photography and people I work with (and sometimes employ as cameramen when I direct/produce). Furthermore, for many valuable tips on these lists I have to thank a range of fellow filmmakers who I know mainly from Twitter, most notably Mario Feil, Micha Schmidt and Sebastian Wiegärtner.

… or Canon Rebel T2i, its US name.



First of all: This is most certainly the part of your kit that is going to stay with you the longest time. You will be able to use 35mm lenses on future cameras possibly for a very, very long time – that is, of course, if you treat them well. Therefore, buy good lenses! They are an investment and will enable you to shoot in ways you aren’t able to with cheap ones.

Apart from crisp sharpness or little distortion, the main key feature of a good lens is speed. Speed equals wide apertures – the wider the maximum aperture of a lens is, the better. Good, fast lenses typically show maximum f-stop values like f/2.8, f/1.8, f/1.4 or even f/1.2.

Why is a wide aperture = fast lens so important? The more light gets through a lens, the darker the environment you shoot in can be. One of the great strengths of shooting with DSLRs is that they have a large sensor, which also means the are very light sensitive, but only if used with a fast lens! That’s why it simply makes no sense in buying the slow stock lens if you don’t absolutely have to. Better save a bit longer for the real deal and go out and buy it then!

Aperture is also key in achieving that shallow depth of field look that we’re all striving for. The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field will be. To utilize a wide aperture even in bright sunlight without overexposing, you need a Neutral Density (ND) filter – which I will cover on a later post.

50mm (APS-C; 80mm equivalent on Canon EOS Rebel T2i/550D or 7D)

When shopping for lenses, don’t forget that the advertised focal lengths on all 35mm lenses relate to full frame cameras like the 5Dmk2. The 7D and the 550D employ a smaller sensor (APS-C standard), which leads to a magnification factor of 1.6. This effectively means, for instance, that a 50mm lens (considered a “standard” lens) effectively becomes a 80mm lens. As a consequence, you can end up paying a lot more to get the same wide angle for a 7D or 550D. But it also means that long lenses become even longer, which is often great for sports or shooting from afar in general.
This is one point that speaks against the kit lens: it is a EF-S lens, which means it is designed specifically for cameras with APS-C-sized sensors. If you ever want to move to a full-frame camera, you will not be able to use it with this lens! (Using it on a full-frame camera would cause heavy vignetting around all the edges.) I know there are affordable EF-S lenses out there, but for the sake of your professional future, I won’t cover to many of them. You’re better off buying the camera without the kit lens – invest $200-300 more and get something proper that will stay with you!

If you consider buying a zoom lens, be sure to get lenses that have the same aperture all the way through. Zoom lenses are typically not as fast as many primes, and fast zooms are far more expensive – but then again, you are much more flexible with them and you don’t have to buy several primes to cover the same range of focal lengths.

Here’s the list of very good basic lenses with my suggestions:

Wide Angle:

Tokina 11-16MM F/2.8 ATX 116 (APS-C size)
A wide angle with a moderate zoom, exceptional for the price and very fast. Effectively is a 18-26mm on the T2i / 550D, which is still very wide.

Standard lenses:

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM
Is affordable as a basic prime lens, equals a field of view of 48mm on the T2i / 550D – Be aware that this is an APS-C lens which cannot be used on a full frame body like the 5D Mark II. (The Canon EF 50mm would be its closest match on a full frame body.)

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
A very cheap but really fast lens considering the low price tag. Becomes a 80mm on the T2i / 550D, which is effectively a moderate telephoto lens then.

Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM
Faster, sharper and more robust than the 1.8 II. Bit more pricey but still great bang for the buck. Becomes a 80mm on the T2i / 550D as well.

Standard Zooms:

Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 SP XR Di II VC (Vibration Compensation) (APS-C size!)
Was told by several people that this is a great alternative to the Canon below, but haven’t tried it myself. It’s really fast, seems to be very sharp according to reviews, and even offers stabilization (called “Vibration Compensation” or VC by Tamron). An even cheaper non-stabilized version is also available, although I really recommend getting stabilized lenses whenever possible.
Thanks especially to Chris Male for the tip!

– Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM (APS-C size!)
Got mixed feedback on that one, but most said it’s good – though it is much more expensive than the Tamron. This is an IS (stabilized) lens. I personally wouldn’t want to spend that amount of money on an APS-C lens, for reasons stated above.
Thanks to Benjamin Eckstein and Jay Friesen for the final tip on this one.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
You’ll probably laugh out loud seeing this not-so-cheap lens here at the basics, but it’s THE always-on lens to get. It’s superfast, built like a tank and will last with you forever. (Don’t drop it.) It doesn’t have IS (stabilization) like some other fast Canon zooms, but they are mostly far more expensive.


Canon EF 2X II Extender Telephoto (Review herecompatibility chart here)
Canon EF 1.4X II Extender Telephoto (Review herecompatibility chart here)
One of the cheapest ways of getting extra length is using these extenders. Make sure first that they work with your lens first!
EDIT: Unfortunately, NONE of the lenses listed here seems to be compatible with these adapters (thanks to Kin Lau for noticing here in the comments section!). Check out the reviews linked above and the compatibility charts by B&H. Generally, they seem to extend the length of already longer lenses. I will cover these longer lenses in a later part of this series, ADVANCED LENSES.

With this whole set, you’d already be very good to go – but you sure don’t have to have them all!

If you have very little money, buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. If you have a bit more, get the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM and/or Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM. And if you can afford it, definitely get the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM standard zoom.

EDIT on March 5, 2010:
Check out this great site, Photodo, to find out all specs and reviews of lenses you can possibly think of! Thanks for Tomasso Roberto via Twitter for this great tip. Also be sure to check out this comprehensive list of all Canon lenses available.




Check back here in a few days for Part 2 in this series of essential affordable accessories for the Canon EOS T2i / 550D!



  1. Great recommendations! Very helpful for those looking at their first lenses.

  2. hey mate very nice! … ( thx btw for mention me )
    so now i have to say i got the kit lens (18-55mm) the 50mm 1.8 an a cheep 28-90mm Canon (better not to say aperture values here 😉 so i guess there will be a contest (kinda) how good shots are gonne look like with this ensemble… 😉

    looking fowart to it … and to the next “pimp-your-550D-blog-post”


    • Caleb


      I, like the rest of the DSLR world, have been agonizing over which lens to buy…losing sleep, not eating, etc. Here is my story:

      Got the kit lens with my T2i, wisely bought the infamous “Nifty-Fifty” (Canon 50mm f1.8) for the money I sold the kit lens for. Now I realize how god-awful the focus barrel is on the (not so) nifty-fifty, but instead of upgrading to the 50mm f1.4(like most people) I have realized the truth, that I need a correct focal length for my 1.6x crop-sensor: the Sigma 30mm f1.4. But before I make this move, I have one final question…

      “Should I buy Sigma’s new 17-50mm f2.8?”

      Although I lose the DOF the Sigma f1.4 provides, I gain the versatility of a zoom & all it’s key focal lengths (17mm, 30mm, & 50mm) for C-Sensors. Not sure if you’ve gotten to play with this zoom lens, or if you can even recommend this for a 1st lens, but if you could help me in my evolution, I would be deeply indebted to you…

      • Hey Caleb,

        Yep, you should have something around 30mm as a “standard lens” for your T2i … the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is great, but I honestly don’t know the 17-50mm f/2.8 – haven’t used it yet, that’s why I really can’t say anything about it. But the Amazon comments sound quite positive, so I’d give it a shot – also don’t forget that Amazon has quite a nice return policy and you can return anything within a certain amount of time, so it’s not really a risk you’re taking there!

      • Caleb

        wow thanks for the quick reply. Nino, I also wanted to comment that I’m quite impressed with your ability to reply back to everyone’s comments. I’m sure that they are just busy, but other cinematographers will only reply here & there in their threads, if your lucky.

        One final question: Would you deem the Tokina 11-16mm (18-26 on C-sensor) too wide to be an appropriate 1st lens, or would it better compliment the above-mentioned 17-50mm as a 2nd lens?

        Thanks again,

      • Thanks Caleb. I reply whenever I can and I usually do it immediately if I see a new comment, because otherwise I will just forget.

        The Tokina is a great, great wide angle, but not a good choice as a first lens. It is VERY wide. I love mine, but you can’t use it as a standard lens. It’s the best affordable wide angle lens out there, if you ask me.

        If you buy one, any purchases through my links are much appreciated! Helps me keep being focused on the blog:

  3. Mike Berry

    Looking forward to the rest of this series. I’m still waiting to get my T2i, but the first lens I’ll be picking up is the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and then hoping to get the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. It’s funny that I came to that conclusion before reading your article, but your article didn’t exist before I did my research. I’m glad you’re doing this series as it will help me with all of the other equipment.

    The last time I shot with an SLR it used film, and it was a Nikon. I never really jumped on the DSLR bandwagon, but now it has become irresistible.

    I’m also hoping to pick up a Zoom H4n to use as an external mic attached to the camera’s hot shoe for run and gun filming. Not sure how well it will pick up sound when mounted on the camera, but I don’t think an external mic plugged into the camera would work very well with the AGC.

    I also want to get a Z-finder and a Zacuto Rapid Fire gunstock kit, but probably after a Fader ND.

    There are so many things to get, and I haven’t even mentioned software. I’m hoping to get FCP and one of the Magic Bullet products.

    The first thing I’ll probably get after the camera is the 50mm lens. After that I don’t know when I’ll be able to afford the other stuff.

    BTW, what about lens hoods? Are they needed? I’ve noticed that none of the lenses come with one. Also, do you need to get a specific hood for a specific lens?

    Also, will the T2i be able to use class 10 SD cards? Haven’t found any documentation on that yet.

    Thanks for your great article!


    • Hey Mike,

      Thanks for your comments. You’re right, by external microphone I also meant external recording options, but forgot to add that to the list – it’s on it now. I will cover this as well. There are options now to trick the AGC and really make use of the microphone jack and internal recording.

      The 50mm lens is a great place to start. If you can afford it definitely get the 1.4 Canon though, it’s better built.

      Lens hoods are good to have, but only if you don’t plan on getting a mattebox. The problem with lens hoods is that you need a different one for almost every lens. This can become cumbersome when you own a bunch of lenses, and I tend to mix them up and then have to try which one fits.

      Not sure yet if Class 10 SD cards work with the T2i, I hope somebody can let us know soon! I’m also waiting for my ordered camera, it hasn’t been released yet here in Europe.

      • goldbauch

        The 1.4 might be better build, but astonishingly enough the cheap 1.8 features the better resolution (more lines). Might just be important for photography, but.

      • VFX-Anomaly

        re: Class 10 SD cards

        I believe they do??
        but there are not worth the money…
        I was just doing my research
        the other day on the Class 10
        cards, My thoughts are…
        They may work better for the next Gen Cameras and you are better off just using class 6, I’m actually using class 4
        on my t2i, and have yet to have any issues, but not I do not recommend it for a paying job!


  4. Very helpful…our photo department at the college will have students looking for this information – well done! I’m about to invest in video/dslrs…getting the 7d and a few L lenses – looking forward to the rest of your series.

  5. Lebowski

    That’s nice! Very useful for me!

  6. goldbauch

    Also think of getting the Tamron 17-50 2.8 instead of the Canon 24-70 – it’s a real low-budget option, and when it comes to “built like a tank”, this one got the full-metal-jacket to wear. =)

    24-70 L is a nice choice, but if you’re not so addicted to low-light shootings, you might prefer the 24-105 4.0 L IS – it comes image-stabilized and with a nice tele on the upper end. Prices (USED!) should be the same, more or less.

    • Thanks goldbauch, will have a look at it!

    • Updated the blog post with the Tamron! Seems like a great lens indeed.

  7. Kin Lau

    The 2x TC listed doesn’t work with any of the basic lenses listed above. None of them will physicaly even fit due to the way the front element of the 2x sticks out.

    The 1.4x might work with the 50’s, but even that is questionable.

    • Thanks for noticing, Kin! I updated the blog post with this information and links to compatibility charts.

  8. Hector Landaeta

    Kudos on this article and it’s intent. I’m surprised you didn’t consider a lens I gather rounds up most of the focal lenghts a budget oriented video user would like to use, a kinda “always on” lens. By no coincidence it’s the same Canon bundles on all of their mid line of DSLR’s. The Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS as it’s biggest con is one stop slower than the 2.8 I’ve read in many forums is the faster aperture you’d want for nice video, but budget-wise it’s hard to beat.

    • Hi Hector, thanks for your comments.

      I forgot to include why I won’t cover EF-S lenses. I just updated the blog, please check above for my reasons!

  9. Excellent article. Thanks for the insight!

    Chris W

  10. Izzy

    Great article Nino. I’m new to DSLR recording and got my new 550D with a kit lens (I know silly me). But as i’m on quie a budget, i’d like one good lens which is affordable/cheap which gives me pretty good DOF for video?

    I got some noise with the kit lens in low ligh indoor recording, so a lens which could help in low light too.


    • well maybe for starters 50mm 1.8 or Sigma 30mm 1.4 have seen many good shots with these lenses … but i have to test these by may own/ self too 😉

      one link for sigma:
      and Canon 50mm

    • I agree with Michael, those two lenses are probably the most affordable fast lenses (for people with a DoF fetish) you can get. Especially the 30mm Sigma (48mm on 550D) is the perfect standard lens.
      If you want to go extremely cheap, get the 1.8 Canon 50mm!

      • Izzy

        Thanks Michael & Nino!

        Will checkout the videos!

  11. I had one of the 50mm 1.8 lenses and it fell victim to a girl who’d had one too many beers and decided to smack my camera – since the main barrel is only moulded plastic the front element cracked internally and came off. Since I was shooting stills on a 400d and a lot of the time in dark loungey locations it made sense to get the 1.4 – the flare from it is prettier than the 1.8, the extra stop gives me enough to shoot in really dark places at 1600 on the 400d and as stated it’s a far more solid build. That’s going to be my portrait / in close lens so I’m going for the tokina 11 – 16 next!

    • Thanks for the insight, John!

      Yes, all the people here with sometimes probably little experience with lenses have to realize that the difference between f-stops 1.4, 1.8, 2.8 etc. can make sooo much difference!! It just makes your camera so much more useful when you use fast glass.

      As I said before, to me the main advantage of DSLRs is shooting in very low light and having great DoF – both of which you can really only get with a fast lens and a wide aperture!

  12. Really great article Nino! I’m looking forward to read your audio gear article 🙂

  13. Jay Newfarm

    Hmm… I was thinking of the Sigma 20mm f1.8 EX DG, when I saw the recommendation for the 30mm f1.4 here. Would you say the latter is still a better choice, if you were to choose between these two?

    (Ok, I would love 1.4 rather than 1.8 of course, but also the 20mm vs. 30mm is a bit tempting for me.)


    • I understand it’s a hard choice … but I think the Sigma 20mm f1.8 would be great on a full-frame body like the 5Dmk2 because the super-wide-angle is what’s really attractive about it. It becomes a 32mm equivalent on the 550D / T2i / 7D. But they are different lenses and the extra wide angle might be what you need … if you want a really wide lens you could also go with the Tokina mentioned above, but be aware that this is an APS-C-only lens. If speed is more important to you than the wide angle, go with the 30mm 1.4 though. The extra f-stop is worth it. And always considering budget here, it’s $200 cheaper.

      • Jay

        Thanks for the reply! I wasn’t aware of the 20mm being not specifically for APS-C… don’t know how I could have missed that. (Maybe because it’s designated “DG”, which apparently means “optimized for digital” and not “only for digital”…) Guess that (partly) explains the price difference. And you’re right, budget thinking comes into play, and one wouldn’t like to spend money on a feature not needed… will have to think a bit more about this…

  14. Jason Xuereb

    Hey guys,

    I just purchased the T2i. Out of the lenses suggested which would you recommend purchasing first? I know it depends on what your filming but I have no idea and I am just getting into DSLR.

    Would the zoom lenses give me more flexibility so I don’t have to physically move the position of the camera?

    I can then buy my prime lenses later once I work out what I like shooting best?

    • Hey Jason,

      Thanks for your question. Yes, zoom lenses of course give you more flexibility and you are able to cover more from the same position, if you want to see it this way – although of course there is of course a change in perspective when physically moving the camera.

      I would definitely recommend getting a zoom lens as a first lens. If you can afford it, get the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM. You are right, you can still get prime lenses after that when you know what you prefer shooting! But get a good zoom like this one instead of the cheap kit glass – you will not regret it!

      • Mike Berry

        I wish I could afford a lens like that. After picking up the camera and all of the accessories you need like the memory cards, camera case, NLE software, etc. I have little budget for glass. 🙁 Which is why I’ll end up with the kit lens and the 50mm f/1.8 for this year. Maybe I can pick up that nice zoom lens next year.

      • Jason Xuereb

        Thanks nino. My T2i is on its way. I’ll order the lense too. Can’t wait for your next post.

      • Hi Nino:

        I read many opinions about the Canon 24-70mm but I tend to disagree abased on my own experience. I comparec the footage taken with a Canon Prime 24mm and the zoom. If you have the chance try doing the same. There is a huge difference which I think is due to the fact of the lens zooming “in reverse” meaning the it gives 24mm extended and 70 mm not extended. This makes the 24mm end very week. Also I think that on a 1.6 crop factor camera like the 550D I prefer using the 17-55mm 2.8 IS ( the IS is very very important on the 550, and then getting a 70-200mm 2.8 or at least the 85mm or 135mm. Again this is my personal experience and my problems also in choosing lenses for APS cameras. Somehow I don´t think the APS sized sensors will be abandoned bearing in mind that APS is about the same size as a S35 one and people still use the film and will keep using for quite some time.

        Thanks for your tips

  15. Hi Nino Thanks for starting this blog. I am a still photographer hoping to branch out into video production with my GH 1 and my recently purchased 550D. If possible can you talk about your editing set up. I just ordered Phillip Blooms 7d Workflow DVD which I know is Mac intensive. I am buying a new computer in the next couple of weeks and I am trying to choose between PC and Mac. Ideally I would get a Mac but the price is ridiculous considering you have to spend $1000 to add Final Cut Pro to the system. I can get a new I-7 Quad core PC for $1100. For $1100 in Mac World you get ancient sluggish technology. Do you have any thoughts? Thanks.

    • Hi Kent,

      Thanks for your question. I know, the hardware price difference is a tough one for anybody who’s thinking about switching to Mac. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t ever owned a PC – I started with Mac when I was 12 and haven’t changed ever since. I can’t think of using a PC for creative work, although of course this is only my personal preference – lots of my friends and colleagues work on PCs as editors or 3D artists.
      So yes, the hardware is more expensive and not always is the higher price tag justified. On the other hand, Macs generally are better built (aluminum enclosures etc.), and the resale value is MUCH higher than PCs. So don’t forget that – I can get $400 on eBay for my 4-year-old MacBook any day.

      But here’s the reason why I think a Mac is worth the purchase if you are venturing into video editing: $1000 might sound a lot to you for Final Cut Studio, but in fact, it’s the cheapest and most versatile package you will find for that amount of money. Adobe Production Premium is $1.699, and Premiere is still not an industry standard (as opposed to Final Cut Pro and of course Avid). Also, as a stills guy, you have the option of using (or at least trying) Apple Aperture on a Mac (I think the new version is a big step up from Lightroom).

      You will also find that especially MacBook Pros are not that much more expensive than the equivalent PC laptops (with the same configuration). The new iMac line also offers a lot of bang (and speed) for the buck. I agree the rest of Apple’s desktop line has to become more competitive again.


      • Mike Berry


        I went with the lowest end 13″ MacBook Pro since I wanted to get a laptop and also be able to run both OS X and Windows software. I upgraded the RAM to 4GB and the HD to 500GB myself which made it fairly inexpensive compared to Apple’s charges for those components. I have my hard drive partitioned to 250GB each for OS X and Windows 7. I mainly use Windows to play games and use OS X for “work.”

        If I were you, and could afford it, I’d get the 13″ MacBook Pro and Final Cut Studio. Otherwise you could go for a PC and Sony’s Vegas which I hear is really good NLE software for the Windows side (I’ve never used it so don’t take my word for it).

        Too bad Apple doesn’t sell the components of FCS individually. It would be cool to be able to pick up FCP by itself then purchase each other component as you need it. Oh well.

        • I agree, DON’T buy the overpriced additional components like RAM or HDDs from Apple directly! Their prices are insane and you can easily install them by yourself.

      • Nino Thank you so much for taking the time. I will be reading your blog with much interest. You have confirmed for me the notion that Macs are the way to go. Hopefully your blog will take off the way PB’s has. He’s a good guy and I think you are too. Good luck!

  16. Daniel Allemann

    Hi Nino

    Thanks for this very helpful guide. Apparently, your recommendations on lenses don’t emphasise the use for taking footage.

    In your clip “February” you obviously used both the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens and the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II Lens (kit lens).

    Is that kit lens suitable to achieve shallow DOF cinema-like footage? Are there other affordable lenses especially for this purpose – the EF 70-200 is way too much for beginners like me.

    Thanks for your answers!

    • Yes, I know this is a very expensive lens, that’s why I just didn’t include it in this guide (it will be in the “advanced lenses” posting later on).

      So to answer your questions: Can you take nice shallow DOF cinema-like footage with the kit lens? In a limited way, yes. BUT you will not be able to shoot in low light as I did for “February” and the depth of field can never be as shallow with the kit lens as with a lens that has a wider aperture. If the 70-200mm lens is too expensive, get a fast prime lens with a wide aperture instead. They are not always much more expensive, as you can see above (although especially fast telephoto lenses definitely are, that’s why I left them out for now).

  17. Izzy

    Hey Nino and guys.

    Would the following lens be good in low light and DOF for the 550D.

    Canon EOS Zoom lens EF 35-80mm 1:4-5.6 mk III


    • Izzy

      Woops ignore my comment. Just realized it’s 4.0 not 1.4. Lol, sorry!

  18. jeremy denief

    hello, i’m a noob film student and am getting the t2i but i had a question. do u think that it would be best just to get the body and then get the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens u recommended instead of the kit lens? my main concern is that i’m worried about the kit lens’ performance in low light. would the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens be an improvement or should i just stick with the kit? i’m new at all this, especially the idea of shooting video on a photo camera so i’d be very grateful for your advice on the matter if you find the time. thank you.
    p.s. i’m more concerned w/video quality than photo. Thanks!

    jeremy denief

    • Hey Jeremy,

      There’s no doubt about it: If you want to get great performance in low light, you should definitely ditch the kit lens and get the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II instead! It’s probably the cheapest fast standard lens out there!! (Though you should be aware of the fact that you only have one focal length with it – so you should think about getting primes with longer focal lengths later, or a fast zoom instead.)

      • jeremy denief

        thanks for the advice!

  19. Thom

    Looking at buying one of these. Really helpful stuff. “February” is great as well.

  20. James

    Nice video

    I have one questions, what about the sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM, do you think this would be a good lens for the 550d for still’s and video.

    thanks in advance

    • Hey James,

      I just checked it out – I don’t know this lens, so I have to rely on reviews and other people’s opinion too. But it seems like a really good lens considering the price (Amazon seems to have a great deal for this one currently). It doesn’t offer constant aperture but it starts at f/2.8, which is really great, and 4.0 at the long end isn’t too bad either. So you will get lots of shallow DoF out of it. It also seems very versatile because you can use it as a macro lens (22 cm minimum distance), and that is something most lenses offering these focal lengths just aren’t able of. In fact, I find myself thinking about this lens right now 🙂 So thanks for the tip …

    • andy

      I read reviews that were glowing and then a few OOF comments. This sounds like a great all purpose lense but now I’m concerned. Front of focus point issues from what I read.
      Need one great lense and haven’t been down this road since my ae1 + program.
      Your thoughts.

      • Haven’t heard about this issue yet. Can you elaborate it a bit more?

      • andy

        3 front of focus complaints in customer reviews of this lense on US
        I’m leaning towards the Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 SP XR Di II VC although I like the price and added flexability of the 70 on the Sigma.

  21. KK

    Nice article! Looks like I cant zoom in/out on an object of interest while keeping AF. Even if I could w/o AF, I could do so only up to 3x. Is that true? Isn’t this a serious setback for video shooting?

    • AF is something I would never consider using when shooting video. It’s much too inaccurate and AF on these cameras is also optimized for stills shooting. You can however use it to focus on a subject BEFORE you start rolling, by the push of the AF button. Also, it depends on the lens if it’s possible to zoom in while shooting and keeping focus at the same time (it’s true, this is possible with video lenses of course, but still camera lenses are often not fitted for this).
      Zooming while shooting is also not a very professional way of working, especially in the film world, where it’s hardly ever done. (Of course I do it sometimes when shooting doco- or news-style with my EX3 or other broadcast cameras – but you have to think of HDSLRs as movie cameras and use them as such. That’s where their advantages are.)

      • Dan


        Could you expand on your advice that “zooming while shooting is not a professional way of working”.

        I am new to video and I guess that I assumed that while watching movies (at the movies) I would see zooming used in all kinds of situations. But maybe I just imagined that I’ve seen it often.

        Why is zooming not used while shooting and what makes it non professional?

        Thanks in advance.


        • Hi Dan,

          I said that purely from a “cinematic” point of view. It is true, in motion pictures, usually one doesn’t make use of the zoom. Having said that, it is sometimes used (by me too) in broadcast situations, e.g. event or news programmes. BUT I mainly see the T2i / 550D and all the other DSLRs shooting video mainly as an additional tool that delivers very cinematic images (due to the shallow depth of field), and also the whole ergonomics and way of working is much closer to working with a motion picture camera than a “proper” broadcast camcorder. Therefore, zooming is – to me at least! – out of the question when shooting with the T2i / 550D.


      • Hi Dan,

        I said that purely from a “cinematic” point of view. It is true, in motion pictures, usually one doesn’t make use of the zoom. Having said that, it is sometimes used (by me too) in broadcast situations, e.g. event or news programmes. BUT I mainly see the T2i / 550D and all the other DSLRs shooting video mainly as an additional tool that delivers very cinematic images (due to the shallow depth of field), and also the whole ergonomics and way of working is much closer to working with a motion picture camera than a “proper” broadcast camcorder. Therefore, zooming is – to me at least! – out of the question when shooting with the T2i / 550D.


  22. Thank you for sharing. I’ve found out that I need to supplement my Canon EOS Rebel T2i but I don’t know which lens would be suitable with my need. It’s really help.

  23. Dan

    Thanks for such a great website and the helpful advice. I’m still a little confused though. I’m thinking about picking up the T2i, but wanted to know what lens/lenses you recommend for a starter. It sounds like I should ditch the kit lens and go with the Canon 50mm 1.8. Do you recommend this as a starter lens? I’m just an average shooter so I don’t need anything great yet, but I also wanted to know what starter lens you suggest for video. I have friends and family that have rebels so I know I can always try theirs later, but just want to know what you suggest for the average starter with a budget. Thanks!

  24. Perfect Pair Media

    Just to clarify. I am pretty sure the Tokina 11-16 is designed for the 1.6 crop sensor. I own this one and before I purchased it, in all the reviews I read about it, they said it was built for the 1.6 crop so your 11-16 will stay 11-16 not be pushed higher.

    Correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure I am not.

    • I mentioned it’s an APS-C size lens, bit I think the focal lengths attributes are always based on full frame 35mm cameras simply to remain comparable!
      But your comment is actually a great question. I’m only 97% sure on that one, so if somebody has a better idea than we do please let us know. Will do some serious googleing on that one later 🙂

      • Matt

        Actually, Nino is right. The 11-16 from Tokina effectively gives a 17-26 FOV. Lenses designed for APS-C cameras have a smaller image circle (I believe due to a closer flange distance) that only cover the cropped sensor size, but still use FF35 focal measurements (ie: 11-16).

  25. I have a T2i, and have been shooting stills and video for quite a few decades.

    I would certainly recommend the kit lens to beginners – it’s quite good, offers IS which is essential for video, and a fairly nice zoom range. While is is a bit on the flimsy side, there is nothing like it for the price in terms of image quality.

    I also think the 50mm 1.8 (Nifty Fifty)is a good second lens for it’s fast speed and fine sharpness – but not a replacemant for the kit lens. I also like the Sigma 18-200 OS – relatively cheap, a super zoom range, and OS which is similar to Canon’s IS. I also use the great Canon 10-22mm, which is wonderful for video as the super wide angle equals little worry about focus – just get real close to your subject.

    • You’re right, the kit lens isn’t bad for the price, but for me personally it doesn’t make sense at all: the two main advantages of shooting HD with a DSLR are the shallow depth of field and the high light sensitivity – both of which are compromised with a slow lens like the kit lens. That’s why I don’t particularly recommend it. (Also, chromatic aberration and distortion is quite bad at the long end, but that’s what you get for this amount of money.)

      • markus

        i also thought about not getting the kit lens at all and buying the 50mm 1.8 ii instead for a start. but reading quite a few reviews it makes me wonder – is it even possible to decently focus manually with this lens? i heard the focus ring is like 2mm big :O

  26. Jorg Pitts


    I a new to DSLR camera user. I am planing on getting the Canon T2i and the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens, but my question is what do you think about getting the SAGEMAX Protection Plan for $127 more. Is the 3 year protection plan really needed?

  27. Dan F.


    Recently saw the Director’s commentary on the film Equilibrium and he said that although he uses diopter shots he always wishes afterward that he had not. He said he thinks they are foolish and unprofessional. But he can’t stop himself.

    Personally I love the look of an diopter shot. What say you?

    Also can any lens capture a similar result without the need to over layer two separate shots? I would guess not as no one would need to diopter a scene?

    Dan F


    Hope to hear from you on the ‘unprofessional’ use of zoom in movies

  28. Dan F.


    Does the camera lens capture a person’s face to an ever so ‘slightly altered’ degree? I’ve always believed that some people are ‘photogenic’ and others are not so much.

    We are all aware of seeing a movie actor in real life and being stunned at the difference in their appearance then when seen on film.

    I am not talking about makeup, lighting, and after effect tweaked colorization. I am referring to the camera capturing a slightly different image.

    We have all seen great photographers take a person and shoot them in black and white and get dramatic results from a totally non made up subject.

    Does the opening and closing of a lens’ shutter somehow change the structure of the face?

    Or am I imagining this?



    • Hi Dan,

      I think I know what you mean, and it’s a probably a combination of different factors.

      To me, the most important of these factors is the depth of field. We all associate shallow depth of field with a high-class way of shooting. It is very different from what we see with our own eyes, but it allows the DoP, photographer or director to focus the audience’s attention onto exactly the part of the image he/she wants them to focus on. Take your DSLR, switch to aperture priority mode, take a photo of a human face with a very deep depth of field, i.e. everything in focus (use a small aperture for that). Then take the same picture of the same person and open the aperture as wide as possible (small f-stop number) and it will result in a very shallow depth of field (also depending on the type of lens you use). The difference between these images will be huge, and the difference between the “real” person and the two photographs will be especially apparent in the one with the shallow depth of field.

      Other factors of course include saturation, contrast and stuff like that. But to get the look you mention, I am convinced you just need shallow depth of field – and you can get that only with a DSLR and a fast lens (NOT the kit lenses).

  29. Literally invested in a 550D approximately a month ago, and this article alone has answered all the questions that other places don’t seem to. Thank you so much!

    • Cool! Glad to hear.

    • The Same thing Sam Said
      Literally invested in a Rebel T2i approximately a week ago, and this article alone has answered all the questions . Thank you so much!

      • Thank you! 🙂
        Of you wanna support my blog, please consider purchasing your gear through the links (like Amazon) on the site. Thanks! I try to keep these articles coming as often as I can.

  30. Filip

    Hi and first off thanks a million for your extremely useful and well written posts on budget solutions for the 550D!

    I know my question isn’t all that original but I am stuck in indecision-land and just want a push in the right direction. Which lens-alternative do you think I should buy as a start if I were to buy only one lens initially:

    Tamron AF 17-50/2,8 DI II XR VC with the Genus ND Fader-filter


    Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM

    My biggest priority initially is versatility.

    Thanks a bunch and looking forward to the continuation of the “budget”-posts.

  31. Dan F.


    Can you speak to the pros and cons of the Canon HF S21 camcorder VS the Canon T2i or 7D?

    The HF S21 is getting rave reviews but I do not see the movie like results of that camera compared to the 7D and/or the T2i.

    Does a DSLR shoot higher quality video than a camcorder?


    • Thanks for your question Dan.

      There are some major differences between camcorders and DSLRs with regards to shooting video. DSLRs are not proper camcorders. You lack all kinds of stuff you’ve become accustomed to with ‘real’ camcorders. For instance, there is no proper audio recording (the built-in microphone is crap). There is no auto-focus and no way to properly zoom during shooting (something many amateurs like to do while recording, although it usually isn’t really that professional). Auto-aperture (exposure) is horrible and you see weird shutter issues when the auto mode changes the exposure (or even if you do it manually).
      BUT DSLRs offer something else that no affordable camcorder can offer: high light sensitivity and very ‘filmic’ shallow depth of field, both due to their comparatively enormously large sensor.

      So your question is not an easy one to answer. DSLRs are not good for run-and-gun shooting or just your occasional holiday shot. Shooting needs planning and good results need practice. On traditional camcorders, the auto functions give you good results. On DSLRs they won’t. But if you put effort into it and know what you’re doing, your results will become much more ‘cinematic’ than what would ever be possible with your average camcorder.

      • Dan F.


        You have indeed beautifully answered my question.

        Although there may be no definitive answer for every user: my own personal eye (after viewing professional use content) comes down on the side of the DSLR image as opposed to the camcorder.

        I am looking at short films shot with DSLR cameras, and I am seeing major “movie results”.

        I am blown away by the stunning results captured by inexpensive DSLR’s.

        I do not see the same content with camcorders. But my eye is not professional.


  32. Wayne


    What are your thoughts on the:
    Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Image Stabilizer USM

    It’s under $400 and seems versatile – but do you think it’s to slow for shallow DOF stuff?


    • Well again … the problem is the changing aperture. Don’t look at zooms that change their aperture when you zoom through them. This is very undesirable. Also, it is relatively slow and you won’t be able to get very shallow depth of field, especially compared to fast lenses (2.8 and up).

      The zoom range sure sounds VERY versatile but this also comes usually at a compromise. I haven’t used this particular lens but you can be sure that there must be some serious distortion going on at the wide end of this thing.

      • Wayne

        Thanks for the valuable advice.
        Keep up the good work!


      • You’re welcome Wayne!

  33. Ashton

    hey nino, just a question. what do you think would be a good all around lens similar to the Canon EF 24-70mm but a little bit cheaper?

  34. Dan F.


    Please offer your best choice Canon lens for my T2i.

    IS is a must…. and best DOF capabilities.

    Under $1000.


    Dan F

  35. Dan F.


    Final lens request: promise….as I am getting a bit overloaded on the lens thing.

    If I have decided to spend some money (I have) I will be buying the following lens:

    IS seems to be a must for me and a lens that will be my only T2i lens needs your thoughts.

    Best Regards, nino:


    • Hi Dan,

      It’s 7D / T2i only (not for full frame like 5Dmk2), but this is indeed a very good zoom lens, great choice for an “always-on” lens indeed.

      Would be great if you could order through one of my Amazon links, I get a small commission that nevertheless helps me with the blog!
      Or use this link:

      Thank you.

      • Dan F.


        I will indeed purchase this lens through your link!

        Most helpful, as always, nino.


  36. TQ

    Many thanks Nino for your very informative blog!

    I’m on the verge of purchasing a 550D and currently have a Canon 70-200mm FD lens that I use on my 450D with the help of an FD-to-EOS adapter. I wonder what your take is on shooting with FD lenses on the EOS 550D. Thank you in advance.

    • I’m not really sure as I haven’t tried FD lenses on my 550D yet. However, some people suggest that the image tends to become a little softer due to the added distance from the CMOS sensor due to the adaptor.

  37. Lewis

    Hi nino, do you think this lens would be a good all around lens? How does it match up in comparison to the Canon 24-70mm?

  38. Hello Nino,
    Thank you so much for sharing your work and advice.Really inspiring work.Thank you!
    I just bought a Canon550D today! I am going to film on container vessels-and so I will be dealing with this huge vessel-the sea and sky during the day and at night-not only on the vessel but also in the harbors both day and night.Could you please recommend particular lenses and Filters I might wanna use?And one more question– I will also be filming inside the vessels as well-in pretty small sleeping cabins-hals-and unnatural/ dark light.I would like to be able to film as much of the space-so I need a pretty wide lens.Would you also recommend lenses and filters for this type of setting?I would absolutely appreciate your advice.In the film FEBRUARY you also filmed an industry type setting like a harbor.I am looking forward to your reply!!!!!Looking forward to new work of yours-and hopefully I will be able to share my work next year.

    • Sorry for the late reply. Be sure to have enough ND filters with you, if you need to work quick use Fader NDs, otherwise fixed ones like the ones I tested in my other blog post about ND filters.

      Also be sure to have a polarizer to get a clear sky if you expose the ground/ship properly

  39. Hey,

    thanks for this guide. It really helps me to find the best solution for the 7D I am going to buy (hopefully) soon. 🙂

    I have just one question. Why will the Tokina 11-16mm become a 18-26mm? I thought it is made for the APS-C chip, or am I missing something?

    Keep on going,

    • Yes it is, but very weirdly, the measurements on the barrel are ALWAYS based on 35mm chips, just in order to be able to compare them. Therefore the change in values.

  40. Hey! Loving your blogs, lots of useful info!

    Two questions…

    Have heard a lot of debate about which is better for the T2i the Canon 17-55mm 2.8 or the 24-70L 2.8. Most people seem to be siding with the 17-55 as it is a more “preferable focal range” on an APS-C sized camera. What are your thoughts on it?

    Also… is there a particular ND filter kit that you’d recommend? Or would you recommend the Fader above a kit?

    Sorry for all the questions! lol


    • It’s a matter of taste – I sided for the 24-70mm simply because it works on full frame bodies as well and because it is a one of the sharpest zooms I’ve ever seen. But sure, it’s not very wide, but I prefer using a much wider lens like the Tokina 11-18 (which is APS-C only but very cheap and good) as an addition.

      Have a look at the Fader ND or Singh Ray ND. Please be aware that you lose a bit sharpness with all faders – use normal NDs if you want to avoid this.

  41. What is the distance on the Tamron 17-50 for the Canon T2i? I know at the far end it would be like the 85mm but what about wide open?


    • What do you mean? The crop factor? It’s always 1.6x – so it equals 27mm on the wide end.

      • Yes, you understood correctly thanks!! Didn’t know the formula was 1.6x. Thanks so much!!

  42. johnboy

    first of all thanks for this great post! i was checking to see what the lenses cost on ebay (here in germany) and found 2 totally different prices on the same (?) product:
    is the first one maybe not a zoom lens? if so, how can you tell? they look the same and everything. thanks for a reply, i am sort of expecting this to be a noob-question 🙂


  43. Hi Nino,

    Thanks so much for all your advice. I am stuck between this combo. My max budget is around $600 plus tax.

    Combo 1
    – 18-55mm (kit lens – f3.5)
    – Sigma 30mm 1.4
    – Canon 50mm 1.8 (can’t afford another 1.4)

    Combo 2
    – tamron 17-50 f2.8
    – not use the kit lens.

    The usual inde filmmaker dilemma – few lights. Plan to use an nd filter during outdoor shoots. Any thoughts from your experience. Any help would appreciated. Thanks.

    • Not an easy decision indeed – though I might go with combo 1, to be honest. If you’re not going for shallow depth of field and shoot a lot during the day, the kit lens is good enough – and for those special shots you can always use the two prime lenses. Also, the f/1.4 and 1.8 respectively give you even more abilities in low-light and with depth of field than f/2.8 (although it is often enough).
      The Tamron Zoom is of course a good all round lens, but this usually comes at a price (distortion at the wide angle).

      Would be great if you could support my blog through purchasing through my Amazon links! Thanks!

  44. Mohan


    I found this lens on Amazon — Sigma 18-50mm F2.8-4.5 DC OS HSM Lens — this seems to wide enough aperture and has zoom which covers quite a bit of focal range and it is only $199. Do you happen to know about the quality of this one??? I will be using this wil T2I and my primary aim is to shoot cinematic video with shallow deth of field.
    Thanks in advance for your time.

    Amazon link for the lens mentioned above —

  45. Hi Nino,

    concerning the APS-C x1.6 magnification factor, here’s a weird thing i noticed:

    i recently bought an old east-german Pentacon 50mm/f1.8 lens, from the 60’s, that i mount on my T2i with a M48-to-EOS adaptation ring, so i now have 2 lenses: my Canon 18-55mm kit lens + this one.

    As a 35mm/argentic era lens, i expected the Pentacon 50mm to behave as a 80mm on my T2i just like you explain in this post.
    But very surprisingly, when i take pictures with the Pentacon, i almost get the same field of view as with my Canon kit lens zoomed out to the max at 55mm!

    i’m probably missing something here, unless i live in a parallel world…


    • Yes, this is simply because you have to count in the 1.6x factor also with the kit lens! The numbers always refer to 35mm lenses because of comparability, even if they are APS-C only.

  46. Jon

    Great article.

    If I’m not too bothered that I wont be able to transfer the standard lens kit to another camera if I go full frame is it still worth getting or would you recommend just getting the body and one of the 50mm lenses you recommended?


  47. awesome, I am planning on getting a 550D or maybe a 60D in less than 2 weeks and lens choices are paramount to me.

  48. got my 550D, yayy.
    now I need to build my lens collection.
    Not sure whether to start with an EF 35mm 2.0 or an EF 50mm 1.8
    the 35mm gives me the much touted 50mm’s on my 550D, but the 50mm 1.8 is that much more faster.


    • On a 550D/T2i I would definitely start with something a bit wider like 35mm or 30mm, because it gives you almost a 50mm field-of-view due to the smaller sensor (compared to full frame DSLRs like the 5Dmk2). So essentially, if this is your only lens, you should have a “standard lens”, which is 50mm.

      I find the Sigma 30mm (see description and link to Amazon above) a much better choice than the 35mm Canon – nothing beats the Sigma in this category to be honest.

      • 🙂
        Sigma 30mm f1.4 EX DC HSM
        looks good.
        wish I could order it from your link but that does not make sense for me in South Africa.
        Gonna fish around for local prices here.

      • Good point 🙂 No idea about South African dealers!

  49. Andy Howe

    Probably not the first lens focal length you would buy for
    a crop camera but the Canon 85f1.8 is a really nice lens for the
    money if you like to use primes. I rented a 17-55mm f2.8 for a trip
    when I wanted to travel light with just a 550D and a walkabout
    lens. Apart from not actually being that light it really impressed
    me and is a better companion on a crop camera than the 17-40f4L I
    use on my 5D2. I regretted returning it but it is a lot of cash for
    a lens I can’t use on the 5D

  50. Hi Nino,

    Great article. Little correction needed, though…

    You state that the Tokina 11-16 F2.8 behaves like a 18-26 on a T2i/550D. But since it was made for an APS-C sensor, you have no further crop factor, right?

    • Yes you do! Measurements always refer to full frame bodies for comparison reasons, even if they don’t work on them.

  51. Jake Barrett

    Hey Nino Great Article Man Just A Quick Question, What do you think the best lense is for the 550d is to get the true cinematic look? i really want to know the cheap ones and expensive ones.

    cheers mate

    • There is not one specific lens that is ideal … that’s why I wrote this guide

      • Kalyan

        I found this article to be very useful specially since its been by a Pro for a beginers audience. I have just got the 550D kit with the 75-300 IS lens.. The very basic stuff… I am very much interested in photography specially nature and i live in a place where they are still finding new species of fauna and flora. I am wondering what other lens to buy. I need a macro lens, a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens. Your inputs would be very useful.

        Ps; Is a fish eye lens necessary for a beginner?

        Love and best Regards

  52. danny

    Iam a 32 yr old who has suddenly become interested in filming, especially music video. I ve a strong background of music and would to develop the video aspect of it aswell. Lately i ve been tweakling with vegus 6. Would really appreciate any tips, tutorials u would send to my email, that u think would be of use. Oh ! Am zambia, southern africa.

  53. Kalyan Krishnan

    I am going to the Himalayas coming November and the terrain will be very rough and steep. Probably it would be so steep that I will not be able to carry a tripod. Could you please tell me the lenses i should carry to get the panoromic view of the Mount Everest as well as some shots of the trail leading up to the cave (Yes I am going to a cave in the Himalays)

    Best Regards
    PS: I am a newbie but with a lot of enthusiasm and I have Rebel T2i. I wear glasses which is sometimes a nuisance.

  54. Nuno Lourisela

    Need to choose between sigma 30 1.4 and canon ef 50 1.4.

    Which one?

    • Totally different focal lengths, it’s comparing apples and oranges. If you are looking for a standard lens and have anything other than a 5Dmk2, get the Sigma 30mm, because it roughly equals what a 50mm looks like on a 5D.

      • Nuno Lourisela

        It’s for the 60D I’m going to get in the Xmas.
        I want a Standard to pair up with Tokina 11-16. As the 3rd one in the future, I’m thinking about getting the canon ef 24-105 maybe.

        Do you recommend for now to get the sigma?


  55. Patrick @ canon lens reviews

    Right after having put in funds on a top quality digital camera including lenses etc., it will be necessary to truly take good care of it. Through care of the digital camera, it will serve you well for a longer time.

  56. Hi Ninofilm,
    Cool Post There is the terminology that a person has to be informed about in the first place when confronted with Canon lenses. Some of the terminology is specific to Canon. Other camera manufacturers have their own also. Canon and Nikon are the most popular camera makes. Lenses can be labeled as either prime or zoom lenses. Prime lenses make use of a fixed focal length. Zoom lenses make use of a variable focal length. The quality of photos you want and your budget determine the kinds of lenses you will buy.
    Kindest Regards

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