Lens Setups

I’ve been thinking about how I use my camera and the types of shots I’ve been getting lately and I’ve come up with some typical usage scenarios based on location.

Setup for Zoo:
Canon FD 135mm ƒ/2.8 w/hood        – animal portraits
Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.4 w/polarizing filter    – landscapes
Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.4            – indoors, low-light
Canon EF-S 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS II    – wide-angle, macro

Setup for Botanical Gardens:
Vivitar 75-205mm ƒ/3.8 Macro Focusing Zoom w/polarizing filter    – macro shots and distant work
Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.4 w/polarizing filter             – landscapes
Canon EF-S 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS II                – wide-angle

Setup for Garden:
Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.4 w/polarizing filter and closeup lenses    – macro shots
Canon EF-S 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS II                – wide-angle

Setup for Mitchell Park Domes:
Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.4    – general
Canon FD 135mm ƒ/2.8    – macro

Setup for Lodge functions:
Canon EF-S 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS II    – general
Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.4            – portraits

Strengths and Weaknesses

Canon EF-S 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS II

It’s an entry-level kit zoom lens covering the wider end of the focal lenth spectrum.  The Image Quality (IQ) is pretty good overall, especially for an entry-level lens.  The ƒ/5.6 maximum aperture is a bit of a pain, especially for low-light and macro shots.  But the lens has a great minimum focal distance that makes it okay to use for macro work.


  • Auto Focus is fast and accurate, especially with AI servo control
  • IQ is pretty good
  • Color balancing is good
  • Wide angle shots look stunning
  • Image Stabilization works nicely


  • Relatively narrow maximum aperture
  • Manual focusing is imprecise and AF-confirm is misleading
  • The construction quality feels very cheap
  • No distance scale

Canon FD 50mm ƒ/1.4

A nice, super-fast 50mm prime.  Great for capturing as-it-happens moments from a human POV.  Also fast enough for indoor and available light shots.  With my camera’s 1.6x FOVCF, this lens gives an 80mm FOV, perfect for portraits.  It’s my favorite lens overall.


  • Amazing clarity
  • Solid focus
  • Nice, wide aperture
  • Ideal FOV for most work


  • DOF is so narrow at ƒ/1.7 and wider that the image looks too soft for most purposes
  • Minimum focal distance precludes macro work (unless a closeup filter is attached)

Canon FD 135mm ƒ/2.8

This is the telephoto equivalent of the 50mm lens above and has very similar optics.  Overall, I think this lens gives the best color resolution.  It’s my preferred lens for taking to the zoo since it closes the gap between us and the animals nicely and works as a sort of portrait lens for things I can’t get close to.  🙂


  • Amazing color resolution
  • Excellent clarity
  • Pretty fast for such a tall angle
  • Builtin hood


  • FOV crops to 210mm on my camera body which is too long for many things
  • Even with builtin hood, still has problems with lens flare in daylight
  • Long minimum focal distance precludes macro work
  • Won’t accept filters

Vivitar 75-205mm ƒ/3.8 Macro Focusing Zoom

This lens was broken when I got it and still is to an extent.  The aperture blades had become stuck after not being moved for 20+ years.  I did get them unstuck but there’s still a delay between activating the aperture lever and actually seeing the aperture close.  This is a very nice telephoto zoom lens but I’m finding it less than reliable – the IQ varies and certain conditions cause odd quirks to surface.  It just bugs me.  It’s probably my least-used lens but it has its moments.


  • Amazingly long telephoto zoom lens can get up to 656mm FOV with teleconverter.
  • Decent IQ
  • Good feel to the focus
  • Very useful focal lengths
  • Can focus at near macro distances with closeup filters
  • Nice color resolution


  • Very shaky at longer focal lengths
  • Odd optics cause weird bleaching effects under certain lighting conditions
  • Colors go wonky if polarizing filter is used in certain lighting conditions
  • Push-pull zooming
  • Breach-mount
  • Very heavy
  • Contrast is questionable
  • Susceptible to purple fringing at macro distances
  • Loss of color definition at extremely distant objects (nitpick – not the lens’s fault really but high-end lenses correct for that bit of atmospheric diffraction)
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