Best lens and speedlight for shooting portraits and groups

edited March 2012 Posted in » Canon T2i Forum
I was talking with a fellow T2i owner over on my Facebook page and she was wondering which lens is best for shooting portraits and groups, and also which speedlight I would recommend. I thought it would be beneficial to share our conversation with all of you...

Peacock's Question: I'm thinking about buying a Canon T2i, but I was debating about getting the kit which comes with the standard lens or should I just go ahead and get the body and a lens separate. I was looking at a great all around lens so my friend recommended the 18-200mm lens. Also what do you recommend as far as lighting? If I can buy a cheaper alternative flash I would rather not spend the extra cash for the speedlite.

Moose's Answer: What types subjects and scenes do you plan on shooting most often? In regards to an external flash, it's been my experience that third party flashes don't work as well as the Canon branded speedlights. It's not to say you can't achieve beautiful results with a third party flash, however, Canon branded speedlights are ffortless to use and sync wonderfully with the T2i.

Peacock's Reply: I plan on just taking more family/group pictures as well as wide view family pictures (Enough for like 8-16 people). Also I need a lens that I can use in most situations; thus this is why i ask about the canon 18-200mm lens. Which speedlight do you recommend? Should I get a flash diffuser as well?

Moose's Reply: Ok, one more question...what's your total budget? With that in mind I can point you in the right direction for a good starter lens and speedlight.

Peacock's Reply: About $1200 or so.

Moose's Reply: Alrighty, so with a budget of $1,200 I would definitely go with the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. This is what I would call the ultimate family lens. Whether you're taking portraits, small group shots, birthday parties, etc...this lens will give you to ability to blur backgrounds (making your subjects pop) and will handle all lighting situations beautifully. For an extra $150 you could upgrade to the image stabilized version. Image stabilization will help minimize blur due to camera shake, which is basically the small movements you make while holding the camera. Image stabilization is really only beneficial if you're shooting motionless subjects or scenes, like landscapes, monuments, etc.

Now most beginners tend to favor the Canon 18-200mm or the Tamron 18-270mm, because of the ability to capture everything from wide-angle to super telephoto. I own the Tamron 18-270mm and can honestly say it's a fantastic lens for capturing a wide array of subjects and scenes. However, the one area it fails at is shooting in low light. If you plan on taking lots of shots indoors, you're better off going with the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8.

If you're dead set on an all-in-one lens with more zoom, then I highly recommend purchasing an additional lens like the "nifty fifty" for indoor shots. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 is super affordable and will allow you to capture some really nice portraits in low light.

In regards to a recommended speedlight, I'm in love with the new Canon 320EX. The 320EX syncs beautifully with the T2i. It's powerful and has a very fast recycling rate, which is great when you need to take lots of flash photos in succession. It also comes with a built-in LED light which helps with low light focusing. The flash head can also rotate in any direction, which allows you to bounce light off a ceiling whether you're shooting horizontally or vertically. The less expensive 270EX can only bounce light when shooting horizontally.

You'll probably want a flash diffuser if you plan on aiming the flash at your subjects. Most of the time I bounce the flash off a ceiling for more natural looking shots, but if you're in a large room (like a gym) or shooting outside then you'll need to aim the flash at your subjects.

So to sum everything up, I'd go with one of the following setups:
1) Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and a Canon 320EX
2) Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3, a Canon 50mm f/1.8 and a Canon 320EX
If you go with option 1, you could always add a telephoto lens at a later date if you feel like you're missing the ability to capture distant subjects.
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