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Digital vs. Digital/Film Canon Lenses

Tyler Wind , Mar 28, 2006; 06:53 a.m.

So I was looking at B&H for Canon lenses for a Rebel XT. When I clicked on lenses it gives the option of "digital SLR" or "digital/film SLR." First of all, what is the difference between these two categories? I assume digital only is most likely better for digital cameras which brings me to my second question--I only saw shorter lenses (all under 100mm) in the digital only category. Do they make, for example, the 70-300mm for digital only (and as I asked initially, does it matter if it's digital only or not). Thanks for the help!


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Mike Dixon , Mar 28, 2006; 06:57 a.m.

The lenses in their "digital SLR" only have enough coverage for cameras with APS-sized sensors; they don't fully cover a frame of film or 24x36mm sensor. The "digital/film SLR" have enough coverage for the full frame and can be used with digital and film SLRs. "Digital only" isn't necessarily better.

Savas Kyprianides , Mar 28, 2006; 07:05 a.m.

I think it is confusing terminology, especially for first time buyers.

Tim Kong , Mar 28, 2006; 07:20 a.m.


Basically, the term "digital" lenses are specially design for use with digital slr with an APS size sensor like the EF-S line of lenses offered by Canon. This type of lense will not fit a full frame sensor DSLR like the EOS 5D and all 1D series cameras as well as ALL film cameras. However, all "film" lenses will fit ALL SLR as well as DSLR albeit a smaller coverage for APS size sensor DSLR.

John Crowe , Mar 28, 2006; 07:53 a.m.

X-Factor cameras have certainly been a necessary evil that has created great confusion in the marketplace. We can actually thank Canon for simplifying the lens designation. Pretty easy telling the difference between Canon EF and Canon EF-S. They are generally the first letters to appear in a lens name. I think the only other letter designations Canon uses are L, USM and IS. Still way to many letters but now go and see how many letter designations Nikon, Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina use! Ridiculous. Nikon should have at least adopted the system of calling their lenses Nikon F and Nikon DX but they don't, the "DX" appears somewhere down the end of the line of all their letters which include but may not be restricted too: D, ED, G, VR, DX, AF, AF-S. I can't wait for Canon to start changing all their coatings for digital application, since that will most certainly call for another couple of letters. Unfortunately this is not new to photographic lenses it just seems to be getting out of hand these days in a marketing frenzy.

We can thank B&H for making the differentiation for us but before you order a lens confirm what format it is for. Who knows how many website errors there are out there. Also check with the manufacturers to confirm which letter designations mean what, especially if you go searching on eBay for some used gems. Good luck.

Paul - , Mar 28, 2006; 08:11 a.m.

Tyler, in addition to the info given above, some "digital" lenses may have different lens element coatings to help deal with reflections coming back at the lens from the digital sensor. This is a problem film didn't have, but my digital shots have never displayed a problem from using my "not specifically made for digital" lenses.

As far as your XT (or the original Digital Rebel, 20D, or 30D) is concerned, you can use any and every Canon EF or EF-S lens.

Canon EF lenses fit and work with every Canon EOS SLR, whether film or digital.

Canon EF-S lenses only physically fit the 1.6x bodies listed above. Even if EF-S lenses could be mounted on other bodies, the projected image circle is too small too cover a 35mm frame of film or a full frame sensor.

Erin Albertson , Mar 28, 2006; 09:07 a.m.

I have nothing to add but to say 'thanks' to all who have posted remarks... this has helped me and Tyler (I'm sure).

Thank you!

Ken Munn , Mar 28, 2006; 11:10 a.m.

Bullet points

ユ Buy a 'digital' lens if you'll only ever want to use it on a digital SLR with an APS-size sensor. It will not work on any other Canon EOS camera

ユ Buy a 'digital/film' lens if you might also want to use it on a film SLR or a full frame sensor digital SLR

ユᅠDigital lenses are most common at the wide angle end, because making a traditional digital/film ultra wide lens for the 1.6 multiplication factor of a APS sensor is just too difficult (actually close to impossible) at moderate prices.

Puppy Face , Mar 28, 2006; 01:28 p.m.

Cool, I have a "digital" tripod too.

Keith Van Hulle , Mar 28, 2006; 01:52 p.m.

Does it extend 1.6 times higher than a film tripod?

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