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View Full Version : Cheap Telephoto Shootout...which to buy?




Lord Blackadder
Nov 1, 2008, 06:14 PM
I'm looking to buy an inexpensive telephoto (for a Canon Rebel XT) for a little trip on Monday. I'm currently based in a remote Nevada town that has one (Ritz) camera shop. My options: the Canon EF 75-300mm $199, EF-S 55-250mm IS $250, and a Quantary (Salesman claims it's a re-branded Tamron) 70-300mm $150.

My question: Are the two cheaper lenses worth buying at all? I've heard that the Canon 75-300 doesn't perform well past about 200mm, and I know nothing about the Quantary.

I feel like the IS lens is a little more than I wanted to spend. But the cheaper Canon lens isn't cheap enough to justify not getting the EF-S lens. Which leaves the mystery Quantary. A quick google of camera forums does not give me positive reviews of Quantary lenses...

I want to use the lens for photographing architectural details and details on industrial objects too far above the ground to get close to, and a little wildlife shooting.

What's the verdict? is the EF-S lens worth spending the extra money on, or are all three lenses equally low-end?



Phrasikleia
Nov 1, 2008, 07:57 PM
I borrowed a EF75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens for a few days and had trouble getting sharp shots with it at any focal length. I don't think the IS is very good on it.

For what that info is worth...

Digital Skunk
Nov 1, 2008, 08:11 PM
The sad truth is that you won't get great results from any of those lenses. And as a former Ritz associate (read slave) stay away from the Quantaray which is a re-branded Sigma (which lets me know Ritz associates still don't know too much.... OR... Sigma decided to sell their reject gear to Tamron).

Whatever, either way:

Grabbing a tele at a low price, something will have to suffer. In most cases it will be built quality first, then IQ.

Lord Blackadder
Nov 1, 2008, 08:30 PM
Thanks for the info. Given the obvious limitations of these lenses, which one would you recommend as an "expendable" lens I could use here and there for a while before I buy a quality lens (like an EF 70-200 f/4L USM)?

I guess I'm not in search of "great" results just yet (I'm not a good enough photographer yet!), but I need something with a longer focal length than my kit lens.

Digital Skunk
Nov 1, 2008, 09:08 PM
Thanks for the info. Given the obvious limitations of these lenses, which one would you recommend as an "expendable" lens I could use here and there for a while before I buy a quality lens (like an EF 70-200 f/4L USM)?

I guess I'm not in search of "great" results just yet (I'm not a good enough photographer yet!), but I need something with a longer focal length than my kit lens.

Sorry, forgot to add the recommendation. I say go with either of the Canon's, but I haven't used either myself. If Phrasikleia says the 75-300 isn't as sharp as it needs to be, go with the 55-250.

Try them all out at the Ritz and see which one you like, and see if Ritz can grab a Tokina or Tamron (an actual tamron, not Quantaray which is garbage hands down) for you to try out.

Personally, I'd just stick with either one of the Canons.

Lord Blackadder
Nov 1, 2008, 09:15 PM
Thanks...I'm probably going to buy one of the Canons on Monday on my way out to nature, and then, if I don't liken the result, I'll return it.

Phrasikleia
Nov 1, 2008, 09:16 PM
Thanks for the info. Given the obvious limitations of these lenses, which one would you recommend as an "expendable" lens I could use here and there for a while before I buy a quality lens (like an EF 70-200 f/4L USM)?

I guess I'm not in search of "great" results just yet (I'm not a good enough photographer yet!), but I need something with a longer focal length than my kit lens.

I was in the same boat: I had nothing longer than my kit lens and couldn't justify spending $1000 or more on a lens. My solution was to get the best IQ I could for a few hundred dollars (used): a 100mm prime lens (the f/2 version (http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/166-canon-ef-100mm-f2-usm-lab-test-report--review)). I would much prefer to have photos with great sharpness and contrast instead of the dull, soft, lifeless look that a cheap zoom produces. On a 1.6x sensor, I think this is a great focal length for architectural details. I suppose if you're going to do wildlife stuff you'll want something even longer, but what's the point if the photos all look blurry? I think it would be better to shoot with a fast, sharp lens and then crop later.

Lord Blackadder
Nov 1, 2008, 09:23 PM
Good advice; and I have had a similar experience with my "nifty fifty" EF 50mm f/1.8. It produces images so much better than the kit lens that I use it whenever possible. Having a zoom is very convenient, especially when I'm on a tour or can only bring one lens with me. But the prime is smaller and gives me way sharper images than the kit lens.

Unfortunately, the Ritz store in town carries only those three lenses I listed for Canons. They have a much bigger selection of Nikon lenses. I wish they stocked more stuff. They were too busy trying to sell me an extended warranty than talk about lenses they didn't carry.

wheelhot
Nov 1, 2008, 10:22 PM
Hmm, is it me or most Canon lens that is not in the L -series sucks (except the EF Macro USM lens)

Lord Blackadder
Nov 1, 2008, 10:35 PM
Well, if we could all afford L lenses who would use anything else?

My EF 50mm f/1.8 is an excellent lens, and cheap too. And to be fair, I've taken great (for me) photos with my kit lens. It's just not a particularly sharp or fast lens. From what I hear, the cheap Sigma and Tamron lenses aren't significantly better than the cheap Canon lenses.

anubis
Nov 1, 2008, 11:10 PM
The non-IS 75-300 is a steaming pile of crap (I had one for 2 years and just sold it for $100 after realizing it was basically useless to have no IS on a telephoto that long).

photozone.de gave the 55-200 a pretty good rating. Good image quality, good CA, good vignetting control, good distortion control. Their only complaint was unreliable focusing. Better give that site a look

Phrasikleia
Nov 1, 2008, 11:25 PM
Hmm, is it me or most Canon lens that is not in the L -series sucks (except the EF Macro USM lens)

This may be true for most of the zoom lenses, but the primes are great, according to the reviews. I can vouch for two of them based on personal experience: there are some excellent non-L prime lenses.

Also, the new kit lens is great optically, and its IS works beautifully. The only reason I want to replace mine is to get something faster (namely the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS).

LittleCanonKid
Nov 2, 2008, 12:47 AM
I can't say any of this from personal experience, but I've heard mostly negative things about the 75-300mm. The Quantaray, I've never heard of.

However, my cousin has the 55-250mm (also on a Rebel XT) and he loves it. I use the EF 80-200mm, and from what I can tell 55mm is much more convenient to have as the widest focal length.

compuwar
Nov 2, 2008, 01:12 AM
My question: Are the two cheaper lenses worth buying at all? I've heard that the Canon 75-300 doesn't perform well past about 200mm, and I know nothing about the Quantary.

There's a lot of difference between what people feel is acceptable, and there's a lot of sample variation in cheaper lens lines- why not take your camera and a memory card to Ritz and try each lens they have on your camera, then have the test shots printed at 8x10- that should let you know if any of them are worth getting. The other option is to leave a few hours early if you're flying out of somewhere bigger and check a place with a wider range of options.

wheelhot
Nov 2, 2008, 03:48 AM
Aah, okay thanks. Cause each time if I read Lens review of Canon non-L lenses, the will always be a lot of criticism.

Lord Blackadder
Nov 2, 2008, 11:32 AM
why not take your camera and a memory card to Ritz and try each lens they have on your camera, then have the test shots printed at 8x10...

The Ritz salesman let me try each lens with a Rebel XSi in the store, but wouldn't let me print anything for free. Which irritated me a bit, especially because I was thinking about coming back there and getting a big print of one of my photos. Maybe not now...

I'm curious to see how much the IS helps when trying to hand hold...I'll probably use the tele from a tripod most of the time but if I'm walking around, say, a historic building on a cloudy day and want a shot of a cornice up near the roof, will it come out?

ftaok
Nov 2, 2008, 01:41 PM
The Ritz salesman let me try each lens with a Rebel XSi in the store, but wouldn't let me print anything for free. Which irritated me a bit, especially because I was thinking about coming back there and getting a big print of one of my photos. Maybe not now...

Would he let you use the lenses on an XTi/XT using your own CF card? That way, you could bring them home and compare on your computer. Better yet, just bring your XT with you and test the lenses with your own gear. At the very least, it would cut down the number of variables so you're not thinking whether one lens would perform better on an XSi, but worse on an XT.

But back on the topic at hand ... between the two lenses 75-300 vs 55-250, I'd choose the 55-250. From everything I've read, the 55-250 has it all over the 75-300. Perhaps the 70-300 is better, but it's also several hundred dollars more.

One caveat, though. If you ever plan on going full frame, the EF-S lenses won't work.

ft

Grimace
Nov 2, 2008, 04:13 PM
Stay away from anything 75-300 from Canon -- utter crap.

I owned the 70-300mm at it was pretty good. But, if you want top quality -- look at Canon's 70-200mm series. All are leaps and bounds above the lenses with a larger spread. There are four flavors:

f/4 non-IS
f/4 IS
f/2.8 non-IS
f/2.8 IS

And, prices go up quickly as you move down this list. But, you get superior results!

Lord Blackadder
Nov 2, 2008, 05:08 PM
For my uses, I don't see a real advantage in getting a full-frame body. So I'm not afraid to get an EF-S lens. Actually, the #1 lens on my wish list is the pricey EF-S 10-22mm ultra wide zoom.

I've heard enough bad opinions on the Canon 75-300mm to want to avoid it.

Kebabselector
Nov 2, 2008, 05:45 PM
The EFS 55-250mm IS seems to get good reviews from people that own it, only problem with it is short supply. It does seem to be out of stock in a lot of places.

One other lens to consider is the Tamron 55-200mm F/4-5.6 Di ll LD MACRO - which seems to retail for a really cheap price (well it does in the UK), again most people are positive about this lens.

apearlman
Nov 2, 2008, 06:58 PM
I know this advice doesn't help you with Monday's trip, but it seems clear to me that you're a perfect candidate for mail-order and internet shopping. There are decent low-cost tele options available for Canon mount, but your local Ritz doesn't have them. From now on, if you plan ahead for your gear needs, you'll get better stuff for your money elsewhere.

Obviously, there is the "support your local retailer" argument, which I am normally somewhat sympathetic to. But not if the local retailer carries junk at full list price and has uninformed/unhelpful salespeople.

For lens reviews, you might check the extensive database at Fredmiranda.com. I have a used Sigma 70-300 APO that was a bargain at $140. If you can find one of those, I'd highly recommend it as a budget option.

Lord Blackadder
Nov 2, 2008, 10:40 PM
I too would like to support my local brick & mortar stores, but I find their prices are often much higher than, say, B&H. My Rebel XT would have cost over $100 more at my local camera store compared to B&H. I was willing to pay more at the store, but not that much more.

Normally I would probably have ordered off the 'net, but this is more of a spur of the moment affair. Plus, I'm living in hotels while working out of state, which complicates getting stuff by mail.

TheReef
Nov 3, 2008, 12:33 AM
The Ritz salesman let me try each lens with a Rebel XSi in the store, but wouldn't let me print anything for free. Which irritated me a bit, especially because I was thinking about coming back there and getting a big print of one of my photos. Maybe not now...

I'm curious to see how much the IS helps when trying to hand hold...I'll probably use the tele from a tripod most of the time but if I'm walking around, say, a historic building on a cloudy day and want a shot of a cornice up near the roof, will it come out?

I find shake reduction very useful, when I turn it off, the differences in low light are pretty clear.

I can sometimes get decent shots even at around half a second exposure (on shorter lenses), I'd say go for the IS model, buys you a few extra stops (except obviously not for moving objects).


I have a used Sigma 70-300 APO that was a bargain at $140. If you can find one of those, I'd highly recommend it as a budget option.
I have the similar APO 70-300 Super (gold ring), I almost always use it at 70, great for portraits, at 300mm things do get a bit soft, at f8 it is a bit better. On this lens I find the shake reduction very effective at slower shutter speeds as well. I can't compare to the Canons as I haven't used them, but note that the Sigma doesn't have IS. It is definitely a plus to be able to shoot in darker conditions without having to heaps on f2.8 lenses >$1k

Abstract
Nov 3, 2008, 12:56 AM
Hmm, is it me or most Canon lens that is not in the L -series sucks (except the EF Macro USM lens)

Well some L-series lenses aren't good either (and cost a lot), while some non-L lenses are very good (but still cost a lot).

I don't buy into this whole "L-series" ************. I know there are some additional coatings applied to the lens, and more stringent lens construction guidelines used for L-series lenses, but it's mostly just marketing.

The 55-250 mm IS is probably a fine lens. The Nikon 55-200 mm VR is actually a fantastic lens, and I don't think Canon and Nikon's method for creating such a lens could have been so different that one is crap, while the other is good.

Edge100
Nov 3, 2008, 09:46 AM
Hmm, is it me or most Canon lens that is not in the L -series sucks (except the EF Macro USM lens)

Other Canon non-L lenses that don't suck:

15/2.8 fisheye
17-55/2.8 IS
28/1.8
45/2.8 Tilt-Shift
50/1.8 (well, it sucks in low light)
50/1.4
85/1.8
90/2.8 tilt-shift
100/2
70-300 DO IS
28-135/3.5-4.5 IS

I'll grant that I would generally only buy 'L' zooms, but there are some very nice non-L primes that I would love to have.

Lord Blackadder
Nov 3, 2008, 09:50 AM
Other Canon non-L lenses that don't suck:

From what I've heard, the Canon EF-S 10-22mm is built using some of the tech that goes into various L lenses, but because it is an EF-S lens they decided not to sell it as an L. I want one.

Also, I have had good luck with my 50mm f/1.8 in low light.

I think I'll eventually end up getting the 70-200mm f/4 L or the EF 70-300mm IS USM.

Edge100
Nov 3, 2008, 09:58 AM
Stay away from anything 75-300 from Canon -- utter crap.

I owned the 70-300mm at it was pretty good. But, if you want top quality -- look at Canon's 70-200mm series. All are leaps and bounds above the lenses with a larger spread. There are four flavors:

f/4 non-IS
f/4 IS
f/2.8 non-IS
f/2.8 IS

And, prices go up quickly as you move down this list. But, you get superior results!

I would argue that the f/4 IS is the clear winner of the four in pure IQ. It's tack sharp wide-open, and only gets better from there. The others are about equal in IQ.

There are obvious advantages to f/2.8 AND IS (or both), but in this case, IQ is best with the f/4 IS.

Edge100
Nov 3, 2008, 10:14 AM
From what I've heard, the Canon EF-S 10-22mm is built using some of the tech that goes into various L lenses, but because it is an EF-S lens they decided not to sell it as an L. I want one.

Also, I have had good luck with my 50mm f/1.8 in low light.

I think I'll eventually end up getting the 70-200mm f/4 L or the EF 70-300mm IS USM.

Yes, the 10-22 should be added to this list.

Every 50/1.8 copy I've used hunts like mad in very low light (think f/1.8, 1/45s, ISO3200...like a single lamp on in windowless-room). The 50/1.4 is much better in this regard (though it's 3x the price).

I highly recommend the 70-200 f/4L. It's a top-notch zoom. The IS version is sharper, and more useful in lower light due to the IS, but the non-IS is excellent as well.

Lord Blackadder
Nov 3, 2008, 10:20 AM
I try to manually focus as much as possible, so I'm less bothered by the autofocus performance of the 50mm f/1.8 than the microscopic manual focus ring. Optically it's the best lens I own, including the 55-250mm I'm about to buy.

wheelhot
Nov 3, 2008, 11:48 AM
Other Canon non-L lenses that don't suck:

15/2.8 fisheye
17-55/2.8 IS
28/1.8
45/2.8 Tilt-Shift
50/1.8 (well, it sucks in low light)
50/1.4
85/1.8
90/2.8 tilt-shift
100/2
70-300 DO IS
28-135/3.5-4.5 IS
Thanks, very useful. Saved it :D

GT41
Nov 3, 2008, 01:14 PM
Hmm, is it me or most Canon lens that is not in the L -series sucks (except the EF Macro USM lens)

I don't know that you can really say that. Both the 50mm 1.8 and 1.4 are non-L lenses and are truly amazing. Also as far as telephoto I've always loved the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. Though clearly not an L lens it is probably my favorite lens to use. Though its $600 I think this would be a good lens for this discussion.

Grimace
Nov 3, 2008, 01:52 PM
I don't know that you can really say that. Both the 50mm 1.8 and 1.4 are non-L lenses and are truly amazing. Also as far as telephoto I've always loved the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. Though clearly not an L lens it is probably my favorite lens to use. Though its $600 I think this would be a good lens for this discussion.

Agreed, no one should get hung up on the L moniker. The two non-L 50mm versions (1.8 and 1.4) are in some ways BETTER than the 1.2L, as it has focusing problems. Short/mid-range primes, when used properly, are almost always amazing. Long-range primes need to have lots more glass (and cost) so Canon adds the L and calls them pro. It's just next to impossible to make a long prime (300mm+) without a significant cost.

I would spend the extra dough on better zooms than primes. Zooms are really easy to do poorly, and primes are usually faster and cheaper because of the simpler optics.

Check reviews on FredMiranda.com and other sites. We have lots to say too, so keep posting!

Lord Blackadder
Nov 3, 2008, 04:42 PM
Well, I bought the EF-S 55-250mm IS. Came to about $340 out the door with tax and a cheapish UV filter. There was a different salesperson at Ritz today, and she was annoying as hell. I walked in and told them exactly which lens I wanted and tried it on my camera. But rather than ring me out she insisted on trying to sell me on an extended warranty, plus showed me all the photo books, knicknacks and prints...finally I was able to buy the damned lens!

I headed out to the canyon...and promptly got hit with a hail/snow/sleet squall. The higher elevations were crap visibility and I didn;t get anything good up there. I got a few decent shots down the canyon a bit, perhaps my best was the closeup below, which in retrospect looks a little boring (cropped and auto level adjust, but nothing else). I should probably crop it more, but I wanted to keep the out of focus leaves in the background.

Not a great day, all told. But I do have a new lens! I can say that the IS really seems to work. I was able to hand hold a few shots that are usually too slow form me. I've got two weeks to return the lens, but at this point I think I'll keep it.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v439/danthearcheologist/Photooftheday/Feather.jpg

wheelhot
Nov 3, 2008, 08:21 PM
Well, I bought the EF-S 55-250mm IS. Came to about $340 out the door with tax and a cheapish UV filter. There was a different salesperson at Ritz today, and she was annoying as hell. I walked in and told them exactly which lens I wanted and tried it on my camera. But rather than ring me out she insisted on trying to sell me on an extended warranty, plus showed me all the photo books, knicknacks and prints...finally I was able to buy the damned lens!

Haha, well they are just doing their job :p

That's a nice photo taken, did you take it at 250mm?

Grimace
Nov 3, 2008, 09:35 PM
Well, I bought the EF-S 55-250mm IS.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v439/danthearcheologist/Photooftheday/Feather.jpg

Keep taking shots and posting them!

Yoursh
Nov 4, 2008, 08:03 AM
I was of the same mind in looking for a my first zoom for my XSi. I had decided on waiting and saving my money up for a 70-200 f/4L, but the other day I found a local store has the 75-300 III non-USM lens on clearance for $100. At that price I am half tempted to pick it up just to have a zoom until I can get the f/4L.(most likely not until early next year) Just wondering what the consensus is on this idea. I know the quality isn't the best, but at least I would have more range than 55mm. Just not sure.

Lord Blackadder
Nov 4, 2008, 08:07 PM
That's a nice photo taken, did you take it at 250mm?

55mm, f/8, 1/400 sec. I did get some good technical results out beyond 100mm but the subjects were all boring...

Just wondering what the consensus is on this idea. I know the quality isn't the best, but at least I would have more range than 55mm. Just not sure.

Well, you know my answer! Based on my research, the cheap 75-300 is not worth buying unless your only criteria is price. I did not really want to pay what the 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS cost, but it is a much better lens, something I might be interested in keeping even if I get a 70-200mm f/4 L. It's lightweight and the IS does really seem to work.

Grimace
Nov 4, 2008, 10:17 PM
I was of the same mind in looking for a my first zoom for my XSi. I had decided on waiting and saving my money up for a 70-200 f/4L, but the other day I found a local store has the 75-300 III non-USM lens on clearance for $100. At that price I am half tempted to pick it up just to have a zoom until I can get the f/4L.(most likely not until early next year) Just wondering what the consensus is on this idea. I know the quality isn't the best, but at least I would have more range than 55mm. Just not sure.

You'll be throwing away $100. If the shots are not worth looking at, I'd say wait until you have the cash for the f/4 70-200mm.