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Thread: EF 70-300 IS USM or EF 70-200 f/4L USM or ...?

  1. #1
    Senior Member EricPvpi's Avatar
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    EF 70-300 IS USM or EF 70-200 f/4L USM or ...?

    I am looking for advice comparing a few telephoto lenses. I am a beginner in the DSLR area.

    I went with a T3i body so I could spend a little more on lenses. I currently have the 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens as my general lens and I would like something for outdoors, wildlife, kid activities etc. I am looking in the 70-300 range. This would be mainly shooting without a tripod, so IS is probably a plus. Ideally something in the $500 to $600 range. I am willing to spend a little more for quality over a basic lens and I don’t want to find myself looking to upgrade after taking a few shots. I have been reading a lot of similar comparisons, but I couldn't tell if lack of tripod would change the recommendations, and several of the other comparisons are looking at the higher end zoom lenses.

    I have been looking at:
    • EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS
    • EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
    • EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

    The 55-250 is the cheaper route to go, but my guess is the build and picture quality will leave me wanting to upgrade. The 70-200 f/4L is a little above where I wanted to be in price and I worry about not having IS. But if it shoots better, it is close enough in price. The 70-300 sits in the middle. Really I wish there was something in this range with the quality and features of the 15-85 I have with the better ring USM focus.
    I have also thought about looking at used 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. But I don’t know enough to evaluate a used lens and make sure there aren’t issues with it.

    Any thoughts here, or should I just go with the 70-300? If I went 70-200mm f/4L USM, is it that much better and would I be ok without the IS?

    Thanks,
    Eric
    Last edited by EricPvpi; 03-10-2012 at 06:01 PM.

  2. #2
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    Tough decision. The 70-200 is significantly sharper and has a faster f-number in the overlapping range, but the 70-300 has I.S. and an extra 100mm reach (which will give better pictures than cropping the 70-200). One of the first things to consider is what time values (shutter speeds) you'll need. Wildlife sometimes holds very still, but often you're at least 1/250 or 1/500 to start with. In the latter case, I.S. probably wont help much. For kids I don't usually ever go below 1/125, even if they're trying to hold still. But if they're running around and playing, I'm back up to 1/250 or 1/500 again. So for those two, I.S. may not be much help. But for other outdoor photos, such as landscapes or portraits of adults (who I can usually shoot at 1/60), the I.S. will come in very handy.

    Then there's the extra 100mm reach. I would be thinking about how often I would use that, and how important those shots are. If wildlife was the most important consideration, you definitely want that 100mm. But if kids are the primary purpose, and you can cover most of the needed range with 70-200, then stick with the L.

    Hope that helps.

  3. #3
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    You can always try the used section at KEH, B&H Photo, or Adorama. You might pay a little more as they know what they are looking at. BH recently had the 70-200 f4 go for $500 which isn't bad (about $70 off a refurb price). Refurbs are another route I'd look at too. Just keep an eye on the prices. Sometimes a new lens with a rebate will run about the same. As far as your choice of lens, I'll have to let someone else answer that, but if you're shooting energetic kids or birds in flight, IS isn't as big of a deal. Just helps a little when composing.
    Words get in the way of what I meant to say.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Jayson's Avatar
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    I was in the same boat as you when I first started. I would agree with Daniel's assessment of the situation, but would add a couple other things to the mix. I had the 70-300 and was thinking that the 300 was going to be the best choice of the bunch, but soon found that once you get out past 200mm with that lens, the sharpness begins to really take a hit. I found that for wildlife it was a little short, but then again...I only see a deer every now and then. Birds it was way too short. I sold that lens and purchased the 70-200 f/4 IS when I had enough money saved up. That was one of the best decisions I made. I think that the 1.6 crop factor in your t3i will give you more than enough reach if your chasing after your kids. It does work for wildlife but you will do some cropping. I used my 70-200 with a kenko 1.4x tc for the longest time and had great results. My selection would be with the L and if you had the chance, get the L with the IS. You could look for some used on KEH.com or check the inventory at the Canon refurbished. You can sometimes catch a special where you get 15% off there. I know Adorama and B&H have a used and refurbished department also. That would be my suggestion.

  5. #5
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    Of those the 70-200mm f/4L USM is what I'd pick. It's the sharpest of the three, widest aperture, and non-variable aperture.

    The 70-300mm's variable aperture, and poor image quality put it right into the lens you'll regret category. The 55-250mm again has the variable aperture, and a weak long end. Bryan's review has plenty of comparison shots that show off it's weaknesses.

    Mouse over comparison of 70-200mm vs. 70-300mm and 70-200mm vs. 55-250mm, all set at 200mm on a Canon 40D.

  6. #6
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    Eric,

    I would definitely suggest reading the 55-250 review and start at the paragraph that begins with "comparing". It basically states everything you want to know.

    I've never owned the 55-250 or the 70-300, but I have owned the 70-200 F4L and 70-200 F4L IS(currently). The image quality from these lenses is just top knotch and I would suggest either one of these two just for that. However budget is not to be forgotten.
    The 70-200 F4L might not have IS, but it has fast USM focus and a constant F4 aperture that is very usable in terms of image quality. You don't have to stop down to get much better image quality, which you might have to with the other two lenses.
    The F4 aperture is also very nice in lower light situations. I don't know about your wildlife scenery, but I occasionally find myself with low-light nature. Wildlife is usually most present when from sunset till sunrise. And simply said, you could use the faster aperture in those times.
    However IS could compensate for that, but only for stable shots. So the animal you are taking photos just has to sit still.

    My advice is to test these lenses. I have bought the 70-200 F4L IS second hand and it looked like new and when I used it it worked like new.
    Also the 55-250 second hand(even in stores) is very cheap. So cheap that you might consider buying one just to see if you like it. And if you don't you could just sell it for the about the same price.

    Either way, I'd say go and test some lenses. There's no doubt that the L-lenses have better image quality, but it comes with a price.

    Good luck,
    Jan

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    Senior Member EricPvpi's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback so far. As far as usage, it would be more kid chasing on the playground and soccer fields (ranging 4 months to 8 years). General outside hiking, tourist stuff. So wildlife would be catching what I see for memories.

    I have been reading all of the reviews here on the lenses in question which really started my thinking and putting this post up. I really didn't expect to be looking at L-lenses at this point. But seeing the sharpness difference between the lenses caught my eye and wanted to get some more input before picking a direction.

    I am new, so I don't want to buy a lot of lenses I may not end up using. My current lens and the 70-200/300 will cover a great range and if it goes well, I can specialize from there. Its always the age old issue of balancing price with need. But if I can spend a few extra dollars and get those great pictures, it would be worth it.

    Again, thanks for the advice.

    Eric

  8. #8
    Junior Member kingscurate's Avatar
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    With a lens you can use/keep for years. Camera bodies you could change regularly. Therefore investing in L glass will pay in the long run.
    I aint a pro

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dave Throgmartin's Avatar
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    IMO the 55-250 IS and 70-300 IS are both fine lenses for casual use. If you're after the best image quality possible the 70-200 f/4 L is a better choice, but it comes at the expense of no image stabilization. If you go with the L lens you could find yourself in a position of having to bump ISO beyond where you want to go, or be forced to use a flash, to avoid image blur in less than ideal light.

    I don't have the 70-300, but do have the 55-250. I've tagged all my pictures in Flickr with which lens is used, etc... My 55-250 pictures are at the link.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/68255851@N05/tags/55250/

    Dave

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    Did you mean "If you don't go with the 70-200L..."?
    Words get in the way of what I meant to say.

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