Aug 11, 20163134 views

Is it better to invest in glass, or a body?

I am, for all practical purposes, a hobbyist photographer. I don't always carry my camera with me, and when I do have it, I typically have a purpose behind carrying it. I also don't have a ton of lenses (3 total, 1 of which is prime).

At this point in time, I am using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i and have been for years; but I am also always tempted to purchase the next shiny thing (and have been able to remarkably hold off this long).

My lenses are:
Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 USM prime
Canon EF-S 18-55mm and Canon EF-S 50-250mm kit lenses (F/3.5-5.6)

I would absolutely love to eventually get a Canon EF 135mm F<2 lens, but all of them I have found at this point are relatively expensive (~$1000) and I haven't convinced myself to take the plunge.
Alternatively, I have considered upgrading my body to something a bit more powerful. The cameras I have spent the most time drooling over are the Canon EOS 5DS and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

I guess this all just really comes down to asking some more knowledgeable people on the subject for their opinions on what I should do, or what they would do if they were me. Do I upgrade my body? And if so, what would you upgrade to? Or do I continue to slowly collect glass?

Do give you a bit more insight in what I enjoy photographing (since I could see that influencing decisions): I typically shoot my dogs, random objects around the house/ outside, and family members with some trips up to the mountains for nature and wildlife photography. I would absolutely love to capture lightning photos, and have tried a few times, but I do believe I will need a better camera body (sensor) for that since I found mine to have some defective sensor areas at long exposures with large F-values (18 and above).
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A few months ago I would have told you to go out and get a used Canon 6D. An older camera to be sure. But it completely stomps the APSC Canon offerings to tiny plastic and silicon bits as far as image quality, even if AF is not stellar. Or I might suggest that those EF-S lenses are the bottom of Canon's barrel (no pun intended). They only work on APSC cameras, and with some exceptions, most EF-S lenses are no representative of the great Canon glass reputation. Though the 85mm F1.8 on the other hand, is one of my favorites. But it's worth noting, that is not an EF-S.
However in the last few months I've been taking peeks over the fence into the neighbors yards. Fuji for one is very impressive in what they can wring from an APSC sensor, and how compact and well built their camera bodies and excellent APSC lenses are. Likewise Sony stuff is very well regarded for it's dynamic range and video features. Though I find the Sony A7 series not as user friendly as Canon, Nikon or Fuji. Adding to this current multitude of choices, Canon and Nikon both just dropped the curtain on their next generation mirrorless full frame cameras. This is essentially the death knell for their old DSLR cameras and the associated lens mounts. I'd say it is not a good time to invest in a new camera or body. If you get new lenses they will only work with Canon's next gen mount with an expensive adapter. Me personally I am bailing on Canon until things settle down. I'm going to pick up a Fuji Xpro2 or XT3 and a compact wide prime lens for my walk around shooting. Save my Canon full frame for concerts and events. I figure by this time next year there will be a clearer picture of where digital interchangeable lens cameras are headed.
If you are intent on spending on camera gear, get another prime lens, used. The 35mm F1.8 is really good. Also the 100mm F2.8 L is an amazing sharp lens on macro, or tele shots. On the other end the 40mm f2.8 is not the worlds greatest lens. But it's a very compact prime that will make your camera easier to have with you more often. I've captured a lot of great shots with the 40 that I'd have missed if I had the much bulkier 85mm on instead.
Both, every camera system has pros and cons. Nikon hands down best for stills, Cannon hands down best for video. Sony is the best mirrorless but most expensive lens's.
Seems like you are pretty focused on Canon. But before actually making the decision of investing more in either glass or body, I'd say, decide on a system you'd want to pursue. Looking at your current setup, I don't think you are that heavily invested into Canon to say that a decision must be made with a Canon product. Personally, I think DLSR days are numbered. I shot with a Nikon D750 semi-professionally. Although it got the job done for the most part, it does have some problems. 1. If I had trouble using the auto-focus, most likely due to low light. Then the manual focus system is almost un-usable to me. I know there is the focus indicator, but if auto-focus didn't work, the focus indicator won't really help that much either. The keep rate in these occasions are really low for me. IMO, focus peaking should be a basic feature in modern digital cameras. The Nikon D850 has them, but it's quite an expensive body. 2. The limited AF points that are only available around the center of the frame. I understand you can focus and recompose, which is almost a must for these DLSR bodies, but it's very hard to nail focus when shooting on wider apertures.
I was in the same camp to say "always invest in your glass first." However, that's no longer true. The newer high pixel count sensors, specifically, the 40MP+ sensors on the Nikon D850 and Sony A7Rii and A7Riii really exposed some of the short comings of some of the older lenses. I believe there is a review floating around the internet somewhere detailing about how some of the Nikon lenses felt obsolete. So if you decide to invest in more glass, keep this in mind. There is no silver bullet to say any lens design would always stand through the test of time.
With the advancement of digital technology, there are so many things that modern body can do. Some of the features I love and look for are things like: 1. Stablization, whether it's in-body stablization or the availability of lenses with built-in stablization. Better yet, hybrid stablization, look at Olympus, Panasonic, and Fuji for example. 2. Edge to edge AF points. This just allows for way more freedom in composition. 3. Focus peaking and live view magnification. This is for manual focus, focus peaking is especially nice because it allows for fast manual focus when you are shooting objects that might be moving. 4. Eye-AF from Sony. The Eye-AF in the third generation Sony cameras are simply amazing. It just makes any portraiture work much more enjoyable. 5. Fast AF, cameras can always do better in this regard. Even the D750 have some predictive algorithm when it tries to focus on moving objects, doesn't really work that well all the time, but better than nothing.
My suggestion would actually be to look at what kind of technology is available, what you think would be essential, then make a decision on whether you want to stay with Canon or not. The T3i is a pretty old body now that almost any upgrade to it would be a huge upgrade in every way.
Personally I would get a new body. You have a good selection of decent lenses. As a self proclaimed hobbyist your glass meets your needs.
I would choose a full frame over an aps-c hands down. I don’t have a specific body recommendation, I shoot with film cameras. Get what your budget allows.
Get a couple of the all time favorite prime lenses ( these should be around a 100 a piece pre owned on amazon) . A 50/1.8 (also called the nifty fifty- this is a classic portrait lens) and possibly a 35/1.8 or a 105/1.8 , depending on what you are into. For this small investment you can take your pics to the next level. Based on your posted pics, you are naturally talented (framing, light etc). Your next investment should be in post processing software ( an older version of Adobe light room - again less than a 100). The last step should be to get a better camera - T3 is consumer mass market kind of category. Move up to the prosumer level (affordable cameras with more kick) like a 60 D or 70 D, depending on your budget. I am a Nikon guy and upgraded my D 7000 ( prosumer, 8 yr old camera) to a D 500 ( last yrs upgrade) and will tell you that the pictures come out much better with the newer technology, with the same lens and post processing... Your current camera is a cropped frame . If you decide to go to the next level with a 6D Mark 2, you might have to buy a totally new set of lenses, as the 6D is full frame and your lenses are for cropped frame. Good luck!!
I would go against what most said here and suggest that you upgrade your body. T3i is quite old and imo lack some of the functions that you would find in the models from last few years. I think you should consider investing in a more recent full frame body. If I am in your show I would go for the 6D Mark II with a full frame zoom lens(there is a kit that comes with a 24-70 f4) which is a decent L lense.
yanjay
I had the T3i and later upgraded to the 6D. The jump in image quality was impossible to ignore. However there is also a jump in camera build quality, and usability. On the T3i I had to turn off a lot of camera functions because it would impact AF and continuous shooting performance. On the 6D the Digic processor is much faster (and/or it has more buffer) so it does not bog down quite as fast.
Agree with that glass is the one to invest in. Bodies are a necessary purchase for the technology like sensors+image processor, i.e. image quality, color science, dynamic range, low light performance, or certain features like video. You pay more to be first on the block with the newest technology; the best cost/performance is to buy a slightly older body (Eg. Canon EOS 5D Mark 2 or 3 instead of 4). The only consideration when buying glass is weather you eventually upgrade to a full-frame body because then you need to buy FF lenses instead of buying a nice APS-C lenses and having the change them when moving to FF.
Always invest in glass as it will serve for multiple bodies, especially nowadays where there is a new model quite frequently. However, noting that your body is a T3i I would caution to invest in Canon L-type lenses suitable for FF sensors. At some point you will decide to invest in a higher range Canon and you would want your lenses to carry forward. The EFS won't. Always buy L series...you will never regret it.
I agree glass, is the better purchase. From the standpoint of economics, lenses hold there value more than camera bodies. Some lenses, usually super telephotos and tilt & shift lenses increase in value as the years go by. As soon as a new camera body comes out or, is rumored, used models drop in price. The older new bodies in retailers go on sale to move them out of the stores.
GLASS. In general cameras upgrade much faster/more often than lenses. A good lens will last several generations of cameras.
I have old AF-D lenses that work just fine on my D7200.
But electronics is affecting the lenses as it has the camera. With new versions of IS/VR lenses, and more electronic driven features. Example - Today I would not get a non-IS/VR long lens, if I could help it. VR makes it so much easier to shoot a long lens hand held. So even though I have older AF-D lenses that work just fine, the fact that they do not have VR is driving me to replace them with the easier to hand hold VR lenses.
How much would you use the lens? I do not shoot long distance/small birds, enough to justify the $1,400 cost of a Nikon 200-500 lens. I would use the 70-200 significantly more than the 200-500. Or maybe I would get more value out of a D750 that I would use a lot, than a 200-500 lens that I would use very little. In this case I might be better off renting the 200-500 for the few times that I would use it.
However, if the camera is a major bottleneck, then you may have to address that first. Example1 - The Nikon D70 had a max iso of 1600. For low light shooting that is a major issue, so that would result in the camera being upgraded sooner. Example2- The Canon T3 and T5 at my local high school have a max iso of 6400. This is a significant handicap when shooting a night game or indoor sports. The T7i with a high iso of 25600, gives an additional 2 stops of sensor sensitivity, that is the difference between shooting at 1/250 sec vs. 1/60 sec. So for the school, the camera upgrade is a priority.
Some new camera/body features are almost killers for those that use/need them. Example1 - A pivoting rear screen is a lot easier to use than laying in the dirt or mud to get a low angle shot. Been there, done that, so I know the value of this. I would almost upgrade from the D7200 to the D7500, just for this feature, so I don't have to lay in the mud to get a low shot. Example2 - Wired remote shutter release. Some/many IR shutter release is just not as easy to use as a cabled release. That was the single reason for me going from the D70 to the D70S, the wired remote.
Best glass you can afford will always fit on the latest body. Bodies come and go.
Hello. By looking at your pics. I don't think you need to acquire anymore gear. You clearly have an understanding of how to use your current equipment. Unless you are going to explore other fields of photography I.e. macro or flash photography etc . Then I would say spend the funds on that. This is coming from years of buying and selling camera equipment AKA G.A.S. Gear Acquisition Syndrome only to learn that theyre merely tools. As you already know it's not the camera or lens that makes the pictures but the person behind it. But if you feel like buying a new camera body or lens. By all means don't let anyone discourage you from getting what you want. Just have fun with whatever you decide to get and as long as it makes you want to shoot mor then that's what counts. Just my 2 cents.
I am a photographer by trade and glass is most important along with skill. For my commercial applications I generally use a cheaper canon (70d) or (5d2) and best glass possible. Pixel peepers need not apply because a good image can be made with just about any cam. with the right skill level. Some of my most profitable jobs were shot with a canon 50d. BTW I have been a photog for 16 years and see many people buy the best gear and then give up on photography because they think expensive gear will make them better.
Invest in glass. Then invest in yourself (i.e... education/knowledge) and develop your skills. Those will far outweigh all the gear you can afford. Just remember it is more you than the gear you shoot with. I'm certainly not saying don't invest in good glass. I agree that you should get the best you can afford. But forget the body. As long as it still works and you keep the sensor clean you can do anything. Hell, go grab an instant film camera for $100-200. I'll bet that with the right composition and technical approach you can create equally stunning images that will be around long after you've trashed that digital camera body. Good luck and keep on shooting!
Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass, always invest in nice glass. Possibly a high end macro like the tamron 90mm or sigma 100mm.
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Funny how you said in a different reply that you have 16 years of experience and yet clearly don’t understand how to judge a lens properly.
DerbyMods
Well considering I use real glass I guess I stand corrected! My collection of lenses is quite extensive and one of my daily carry lenses is a Tamron 10-24 that I only keep for an almost fish eye look just for creative purposes and I have used the 24-70 because it was the only one available to rent at the time, I can tell you that it does not even come close to zeiss or canon glass. The purple and green fringe as well as vignette are not good on the Tamron especially when viewing on the large monitor. BTW I support a family of 6 with my photography so I believe I have a right to chime in! I have adapted M42 to canon lenses that shoot better than the Tamron 24-70 on cropped sensor. I hope this reply meets your criteria! Merry Christmas!
I am a professional photographer and got my start in 1980. I shoot portraiture, fashion, and commercial for publication. As long as the camera is capable of capturing a high resolution image, and has the features that work for you the camera will serve you well. A pro camera is designed to take a beating and keep on ticking and you will pay for that durability. Less expensive cameras can provide similar image quality, but are designed for moderate or more occasional use. Buy the best glass you can afford. You will go through many camera bodies in your life, but your lenses will serve you well throughout your life as long as the manufacturer doesn't change the mount and you take care of them. I have 20 year old lenses that continue to serve me well.
Easy question for me---I always recommend glass over bodies. I am now back to shooting medium format (Pentax 67ii) and large format film (4x5), which makes life easy since vintage glass is available and somewhat cheap.
Glass more or less lasts forever and is responsible for probably 60-80% of your image quality. Sure high res cameras are great but if you're using average glass you'll just get really big files of average images. Many photographers including myself have narrowed down their shooting style to two or three "high-end" lenses as their permanent kit and then just upgrade bodies periodically. I feel like that gives your photography the opportunity to settle around a given style. Also side note: the 5ds is a great camera but both of your EF-S zoom lenses won't work on full frame cameras like the 5ds.
Glass is not obsoleted as quickly as bodies, but you're better off investing in a better body than in glass you never use.
Date the body but marry the lens. OK, maybe that came out wrong. So try this: buy camera bodies but invest in lenses. The only time I look at buying a new camera body is if my current body doesn't have the capability to do what I ask of it or a failure that renders the body uneconomical to repair. I've been using m4/3s gear for five years and 4/3s before that. Buying the best glass you can afford is almost always a wise choice.
If we're talking digital cameras and not out of production vintages, the answer is always lenses.
You keep all of your best lenses. All of you, or you regret giving them up. You always end up replacing the body.
Sensors are the new area of advancement in digital cameras. Lenses are already advanced and gains there are diminishing returns, while sensors are relatively new technology with a long runway.
Buy the best glass, then buy the body you can afford.
Xymnslot
p.s.
You've got 18mp on a small, capable body that accepts arguably the best and widest range of professional grade lenses available. Stick with what you've got and buy rad lenses unless you're switching formats (mirrorlessssss...).
This is my 2nd time building a kit. The last time I amassed just about everything from sweet bright primes to mega zooms, pro-grade lenses, and compact/convenience/consumer oriented options. Even a selection of speciality items -- teleconverters, macro and tilt-shift options. Tried my hand at all of them, and kind of have an idea what works for me.
This time around my formula for "success" is built around the lenses for sure, with a significant preference for brightness over zooming or long reach. Generally speaking, I'll sacrifice reach, breadth of range and size/weight for brightness (sub f/2).
Specifically, I'm aiming for a five-lens set. In order of priority, * All-purpose zoom (e.g.: 24-100mm) * Bright prime - Portrait (~100-150mm) * Bright prime-- Wide (~16-24mm) * Bright prime--Standard (~35-50mm) * Long Zoom (200-600mm)
This time around, I'm not bothering with many entry level lenses. In the end, I never reach for them.
Unless your body is total garbage, good glass should always come first. Then you can upgrade the body.
Well a newer body is always fun, and in your case a T3i could use an upgrade; you seem to be taking full advantage of what it's capable of and could possibly advance to a more capable body. However, glass is so important too. Already having that 85 F1.4 is a great thing, and if you don't mind manual, I advise checking out the Samyang/Rokinon 135mm F2.0 lenses. https://www.amazon.com/Rokinon-135mm-Telephoto-Digital-Cameras/dp/B00T48CE7G/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1492712594&sr=8-3&keywords=135mm%2BF2&th=1 They're a tad sharper than the canon and about 60% less money ($550 for canon, $450 for Sony :) ), but don't have auto focus. That can be difficult shooting wide open on such a focal length, I'll be honest. But for somone like me the more expensive 135mm is not an option...period sense I shoot on the Sony E-mount platform.
TLDR: since you're using a pretty low-end body, no one should shun you for upgrading that next. Good luck!
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A faster normal zoom certainly seems to be in order. I have a Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 and find it to be a huge improvement over the kit lens.
Zooms are fine, but they can also get you into a bad habit of composing with the zoom. 'Zooming to fit'. Which might seem harmless, but a person's face will look different at 17mm than 55mm. It's usually better to zoom with your feet, and use the focal length that suits the subject matter. 17mm for landscape or architecture. 35-55mm for portrait.
In my opinion, as others have said, unless there is an actual issue with your camera body, glass is almost always the way to go. Having some good f.14 glass (preferably prime) is awesome.
I'll admit, I haven't read much of this thread, but you said your sensor seems like it might be bad... if that's the case I'd say go for body. Otherwise... yeah, go for lens. My buddy has made some incredible shots with the T3i he had with the stock bonus lenses that came with it. He used that for x amount of years before diving straight into a Nikon D810. It's got some nicer features, but primarily the full frame and large pixel count are the biggest advantage, but he's also got the $3000 lenses for it now, not the ~150 stock lenses on the Canon. Higher MP is really only useful when you REALLY want to crop, or blow up. There's some incredible shots from a 12 mp camera with an amazing lens out there. If your interested, here's my buddies site you can check out to see if you can find any differences. https://chrisfeatherstone.com/chris-featherstone-art-photography
Lenses are a amazing route to invest in. If you did get a full frame body like the 5DMKIII or what have you. The only lens that would work is the 85mm prime lens. There are some options that I can suggest you can take if you wanted to save money, going all out, or in between. It comes down to your budget and photographic style as well.
(1) Investing in full frame lenses will further your future proofing. Your 85mm is a great long lens especially with the aps-c which technically makes it a 135mm (roughly). I would suggest something wider if you like the prime lens like a 35mm f/2 which is full frame (roughly around $550 new) they're compact and have a lot of light for low light situations.
Zoom lenses are a good option as well, 24-70 f/2.8L ($2200) it's a big jump but, that will pretty much cover a lot of what you need. 24-70 f/4L ($900) is the same focal length, less light, BUT it also has a macro mode. Which is a really good all arounder lens, plus it is compact as well.
(2) Getting a new body wouldn't be bad especially since low light sensitivity is ridiculous. But you won't be able to use your lenses other than the 85mm lens. A good option though is to get a 50mm f/1.8($125) which is a great lens. There are Kit lenses that have the 24-70 f/4L lenses ($3250) you do save about $200 by getting it as a kit.
(3) If you don't plan on getting a full frame lens there are some really great third party lenses made for the aps-c and full frame bodies. Third Party doesn't sound amazing but Sigma and Tamron are amazing companies. Sigma's Art series are ridiculously sharp, they are not weather sealed like the L series lenses which is not a big deal if you don't like chasing storms. Tamron's SP lenses are also a great option as well, they have less light but counter it with lens stabilization. SIgma has lens stabilization on some of their lenses as well. Tamron also makes some crazy all in one zoom lenses. Worth Looking into. All of these above will range from $400 - $1200 for some great lenses. Some good things I will say about both companies, Sigma's Art series lenses get mistaken for Zeiss lenses. Tamron has designed some lenses for some very upscale companies which they would not share their information with me no matter how much I pout (probably Zeiss). ***One thing I will say about them are their older lenses aren't the best lol. They are going to be real cheap but yeah. They kinda suck. Stay away from Sigma EX lenses and Tamron you wanna make sure they have the SP designation on it. (my two cents you can do it anyway they're all still good)
Man this got super winded. I wanted this to be short. So sorry for the lengthy read. If you have any questions feel free to ask! I used to work at a camera store and know the struggles. I was never the type to make people buy the prettiest camera if their budget didn't allow it. ♥
Find a good pairing that lets you enjoy the process and love the results. If either part makes you unhappy, then you will take less pictures.
Glass for sure. Don't get me wrong, the best glass with the worst camera will do you no good. But glass is not developing and advancing at the rate that camera bodies are, so your lenses will find use much longer than a body.
I always buy the best lenses I can afford. Your 85mm is very good. You might think about a 24-70mm f2.8 as a great all-rounder. Mine is on my camera 80% of the time. You might also think about improving your post-processing skills. I find that my older bodies are given a new lease of life with subsequent versions of Photoshop.