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Thread: Need help choosing a new zoom lens

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    Need help choosing a new zoom lens

    Hi Guys

    Currently im still working with my canon kit lens which is 18 - 135mm and i also have a 50mm f1.8 prime lens, but i'll be going on a holiday in mid june and i always want to try some nature shots etc- so im looking for a zoom lens. Obviously i'd like to get something fast to blow away my kit lens etc, but i've never experienced the zoom lenses and am unsure as to what to get. My friend told me the 70-200mm f2.8 (spendy!) is a great walkaround lens, but i think i want something bigger a 300-400 lens would be great.

    Can anyone recommend a good zoom lens for my canon 550D? Dont really want to spend any more than $1500.

    Thanks!!

    -Imogen

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    The problem with fast, long lenses is that they are big and heavy and are not so "walk around" friendly.
    I have the Canon 100-400, and it is a great lens (which you can get new from a grey importer for just over $1500), but I wouldn't want to walk around with it for a whole day, and it's about the size and weight (give or take a few grams) with the 70-200 2.8.
    For a walk around lens, which is a manageable size and weight and that you would be happy to hang off your neck for the day, you'll have to aim for something a bit slower like the Tamron 70-300 or the Sigma equivalent - but make sure you get a lens with stabilisation or most of your longer shots (if you are hand holding) will be blurred.
    The longer a lens is, the more important stabilisation is.
    Price will be well under $1,000 too, so your wallet will like it.
    The other alternative may be the new 70-300 Canon L lens.
    A bit more than your budget, but from what I've heard, it's a very good lens and far better than the alternatives, but again, because it has good glass in it, it is a bit on the heavy side.

    Good hunting, and let's know what you decide on as I am also thinking about something similar.
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    Hi Bennymiata- thanks for your comments! I dont' think im TOO concerned with the weight.. i just want something with a bit of reach to it- for travelling shooting landscapes and weddings and things like that. The times in a photographer's life where they just cant get close enough. That's my problem at the moment I actually love my kit lens, it's been nothing but good to me, but now it's time for something that just has a little more to it. I have been looking at the canon 70-300 L lens- it's hard because it's always tempting to go for the lenses that go to f/2.8 rather than the regular 4-5.6 which is what most of them seem to be. Any recommendations on that? I assume that going lower would mean a better chance of sharper images as your shutter speed could be higher (and i've heard with longer lenses, camera shake can add to a disappointing day's shooting), so i'm still a little unnerved. Your comments have given me a bit more security in choosing the 70-300 though.. thanks

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    Not wanting to offend any big-budget photographers' sensibilities, but the EF-S 55-250mm is so much better than it should be. The old model needed improvement and set a bad reputation that the new one (with IS) is stuck with, but doesn't deserve. It is sharp, low distortion and good all round optically thanks to a redesign and the addition of a Canon UD lens element in the IS version.

    Fantastic for travel, it is compact (designed for crop sensor), weighs under 400 grams, and the IS works well. What's not to like? Of course it needs to be treated nicely, its construction is totally unsuited to hard usage. And then there is that highly objectionable price, seen in the eye of all 'serious' photographers........

    $200!!!

    One side question, I'm not sure why such a long lens is needed for travel. Are you a birder? If not, you might be well served by a more general purpose lens but higher quality. It would be so much lighter than 300-400mm mammoths. An example is the Canon EF-S 15-85mm, equivalent to 24-135mm full frame, and plenty of aperture for outdoor daylight travel stuff. Then pull out the 55-250mm for a few animal shots, and your spend is proportional to your usage.

    I know I know, this is not what you wanted to hear. But the last 2 times I have travelled with 35mm film and primes, I can't remember if I even touched my 300mm - lens, that is. Maybe one or two shots. The 28, 50 and 135mm lenses shared all the work load. By the end of the second tour lugging a 300mm for no purpose, looking back, I think I gradually learned a lesson, at least as far as my needs go. If I had an EF-S 15-85 (24-135 equivalent), it covers the three prime lenses I used most and would never have come off the camera!

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    250mm might be ok- like i said, i havent used anything bigger than my 135mm kit lens, so maybe 250mm would be a good zoom to have and start off with anyway. It's true that i probably dont need a mammoth lens of 400, i just figured that if i'm spending over $1000, i want to get something that i wont regret, so why not go as big as possible etc.

    I would like to try my hand at birding, as with a lack of a zoom lens, ive never been able to try.. and weddings is also a necessity, as well as wildlife photography while travelling.

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    Ok, i think i should be more specific- i think i'm having the most difficulty choosing this lens because i want to know what is a MUST on the specs. i.e. there is a 70-300mm canon f/4-5.6 IS USM for $890 and then there's a 70-300mm canon f/4-5.6 DO IS USM for $1450 or is it not worth spending this kind of money unless choosing an L range lens etc. I think what i want to know is, should i get bottom of the range beginner lens for $890, or should i wait and save $1700 for an L 300mm lens so i know i wont look back or want to upgrade. What are the specs i need to look at i order to be satisfied? I hope im making sense :/

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    The 70-300 has been described as a 'closet L' by technical testers, so it is obviously pretty good optically. Having said that, tests show at 300mm it is not as sharp as 200mm.

    The DO 70-300 is mostly regarded as a technical exercise in size and weight reductions via new technology, rather than an optical marvel. Of course since your aim is to travel with it, the DO's size and weight might make it the best lens of all for you. Size and weight are specs, right? And more important than some people realise while shopping by keyboard! Some have said the DO is slightly suspect to flare shooting into the light due to the DO technology, so is that something you do a lot?

    The 70-300 L is pretty darned big and heavy (1050 grams), and no faster to boot. It is also untested and you will be buying on reputation. Or is there an online test available yet?

    My list of important optical specs, starting at the top, is:
    1. Sharpness first (critical, especially centre sharpness)
    2. Vignetting (hard to fix)
    3. Flare (hard to fix, and I like into-the-light shots)
    4. Distortion (only if top 3 equal)
    5. Chromatic aberration (ignore)
    6. Bokeh (ignore)

    PS maybe you are having difficulty choosing because you are not *exactly* sure what you will be doing with it, other than a holiday in June? These decisions are always hard for the non-pro enthusiast on a limited budget, because they want every lens to be 'all-round good'. A pro would say "I'll be shooting candids in the street with a lens I will keep in my pocket to be unobtrusive, so its the DO." Or "Birds on the wing, outdoors in the tropics in the wet season, need super fast focusing and weatherproofing, so its the L".

    Our life isn't so easy. As for non-optical specs, importance is entirely dependent on what we do with it, as demonstrated above. You might love tramping in the bush and hate a heavy pack, or you might not care about weight.

    To be honest, I went through this looking at the same lenses when I bought my kit a few months ago. I looked at the same three lenses, dither dither. In the end I got the 55-250 and said to myself "come on little guy, prove to me that you aren't good enough. If you aren't, I have wasted very little money. If you are, I have saved a lot." So far, so good.

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    Arg- your post was EXACTLY what i was looking for. Thank you so much for taking the time to list it all out for me

    You're right, i dont know exactly what im going to use it for- hit the nail on the head there! I think i might swing your way and go for the 70 - 300mm $890, as it doesnt break the bank but will be good enough to do what i want it to do.

    Thanks so much for your help

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    alright- decided on the 70-300mm.. is it worth getting an extender? It's about $300 extra- which i see makes the total of $890

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