I haven’t written much about photo gear so far. My main working cameras are Canon 1DIIs. I love working with the 1DII but it’s not the best choice when the main focus of the day isn’t photography. Especially when you’ve got a bag of L lenses to go with it.
I’ve spent a lot of time playing with small point-and-shoot cameras for general goofing around and travel use. Unfortunately, pretty much everything I’ve tried so far has had at least one problem that made me hate using it. Either the camera was too slow (in terms of shutter lag), wouldn’t shoot raw or had generally horrible image quality. I’d been so disappointed with images from point-and-shoots that I started lugging around my 20D and a bunch of lenses. However, with a 1.6x crop, I’d often carry my 16-35/2.8L just to get wide angles and my 24-70/2.8L. Oh, and the 50/1.4. And other lenses. The end result was that I ended up juggling with lenses much more than I wanted to and carrying a lot more than I really needed to.
Recently, I’ve compromised and bought a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM lens for my 20D. The combination of the two is now my default “point-and-shoot”.
The size of the 20D and the 17-85mm isn’t truly ideal but it’s a lot smaller than my usual travel bag (1DII, 24-70/2.8L, 50/1.4, 135/2L). I’ve found it’ll fit into one of my existing small Kinesis bags, which is very handy. And, of course, the real bonus is that it takes relatively high-quality images that fit into my existing image workflow. And I can always smuggle my 50/1.4 along with me for shallow DoF and low-light work.
Downsides? Well, the 17-85mm isn’t without it’s niggles. I owned a Canon 28-135mm f4-5.6 IS lens for a while with my D60 and the 17-85mm shares some of the same issues. For starters, it’s not as sharp as any of the L zooms, especially at the wide end. It also suffers from fairly strong CA at the wide end. Shoot something like tree branches against a bright sky and the corners of the image have quite noticeable CA problems. Thankfully, this can be removed in Camera Raw but it’s definitely something to watch for. If you’re used to an L zoom, the 17-85mm has one other gotcha. Just like the 28-135mm, the zoom and manual focus rings are reversed from an L zoom. The end result is that I’m often zooming when I want to manually focus and vice-versa. None of these are show-stoppers tho’.
Used sensibly, it’s a fine walk-around lens. I’ve been surprised at the quality of the results, especially in the middle of it’s range. The IS is very handy and seems to work better than the version of IS on the 28-135mm. In fact, I’ve been very happy with IS on the 17-85mm and I’ve been able to hand-hold reasonably well down to about a 1/4 second.
The end result is that I’ve been able to take some camera gear along on trips that would have been awkward with a 1DII and lens bag and managed to make some images that would have otherwise passed me by…