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I have a Canon 50/f1.8. I am looking for a zoom lens. After much research, I have zeroed in two lenses as my second lens: either Tamron 18-270 mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD or Canon EF75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM.

I want decently sharp images, though they don't need to be very sharp.

Can anybody who has used the above offer advice? Do you have any other suggestions? My budget is around $700-800

Kind of photography I am interested in are:

  • Portraits (children)
  • Travel
  • Flowers/Insects
  • Wedding
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Do you also have an 18-55 zoom? –  Evan Krall Apr 13 '11 at 4:13
1  
yes. I have the kit lens. But I was not very satisfied with the performance. How about sigma 24-70 f/2.8 or canon 70-200 f4 –  PRK Apr 13 '11 at 5:04
10  
If you weren't satisfied with the kit lens's performance, you probably won't be too thrilled with a superzoom. The only thing a superzoom improves over your kit lens is the zoom range; everything else will be only as good or worse than your kit lens. –  Evan Krall Apr 13 '11 at 6:28
1  
I'm happy with my Nikkor 18-55mm, but I live in Montana and often times I find my self in the middle of a forrest, or even a stream, and my wide angle may be great for that shot but if I like the scene with a longer lens I have move out, find a nice flat dry area and change lens, that I don't like. Also we have fences, (do not enter) more often than not the wide shot is great, but a horse, or some other part of the scene needs to be closer, can't move, and time may be important. (I'm debating, the Tamron 18-270 PZD) Robert –  user4961 Apr 30 '11 at 22:09
    
I have the Canon 70 - 300mm, and whilst it's a wonderful lens, it's no good for portraits or macro (which I take you mean by Flowers/Insects), purely because of the focal length, especially on the 1.6x crop sensor of your 500D (or my 550D). –  nchpmn May 1 '11 at 1:00

6 Answers 6

A superzoom like that will be the jack of many trades, master of none. If you are used to the sharpness of the prime, you may be seriously disappointed with the softness of a superzoom. My experience is limited to the 18-200 style lenses, but beyond basic sharpness, consider:

  1. You are used to 50 mm f/1.8. You now want to have a starting aperture of f/3.5 (and even then, only at the widest setting). At that aperture, the zoom will be weak, and only by stopping down to something like f/6.3 or f/8 will you get quality close to what you're used to. That will make your entire shooting style different, since there will be much more light required to take the shot.

  2. Composition with the 50mm is much more locked. With the zoom, angle of view becomes another portion of the equation you have to take into consideration when shooting. That may slow you down.

  3. This essay was very informative on my style: Telephoto is for cowards.. That's a style decision. so if you disagree, by all means. But as a result of that, I have no lens longer than 85mm, and have not really found myself limited. That 85mm is an f/1.8 prime, and I love it.

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In addition to softness, pay attention to what sort of distortion you see out of zoom lenses. I don't know that there are any zooms available that won't show some sort of distortion at their extreme focal lengths, but when you're looking at a good zoom lens, it'll typically show only one type of distortion at a time, which is reasonably correctable in most post-processing programs. Superzooms or lower-quality zooms sometimes show complex distortions, though, and these can be trickier to deal with.

Less distortion to begin with, of course, is really much better, and this is made more difficult as zoom ranges increase. As another huge generalization, it's easier to make a high-quality prime than a high-quality zoom, and the larger the zoom range, the harder it is to maintain quality. You've got to be careful to compare apples to apples, of course, because there are some fine high-quality zoom lenses out there, but these lenses tend to be quite expensive because they're complicated and the optics need to be incredibly precise.

You might also consider what sort of lens speed you need. If you're shooting with natural light, you're probably going to find that a lens slower than f/2.8 is going to struggle quite a lot with indoor lighting (which could be a factor for weddings). This is another one of those factors that tends to be pretty rare in large-range zooms.

Looking at this from another point of view, if it were possible to make a lens of that range with excellent quality, I'd expect Canon to offer an "L" lens with that sort of range and speed. After all, who wouldn't want to have all that range if it didn't mean giving up something else in return? The closest Canon comes to that sort of range is their 28-300 f/3.5-5.6. This is an "L" lens that'll run you about $2500, but even at this level, if you go look up reviews for this lens, you'll see that it's a compromise compared to primes or smaller-range zooms. Note also that this isn't an especially fast lens, at f/3.5-5.6.

All of this suggests that Tamron's 18-270 lens is far from a lousy lens; on the contrary, it's remarkable that they can pull off that zoom range with any sort of quality at all, but an all-in-one lens entails a lot of compromises. If you can possibly cover that range with two or more lenses, you'll very likely be better off.

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As stated above, if you are not happy with 18-55 you will not be happy with a 18-2xx.

There is a high quality zoom available from canon available within you budget. Canon 70-200 F/4L it is exceptionaly sharp.

Here is a review:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-70-200mm-f-4.0-L-USM-Lens-Review.aspx

However i still se great value in 18-200, 18-135 and others superzooms, but you have to accept the lower quality, for the benefit of wide and tele in the same lens.

Your have your 50mm prime when high optical quality is a must, so imo you could live with a super zoom as the 2nd lens. Again if you dont mind swapping lens and you have your kit lens, you can go for to 70-200 and get excelent quality in that range aswell.

It all comes down to convenience.

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I don't think you'll like either of those lenses at all when it comes to sharpness.

The Tamron 18-270 is well tested at that link, and while it performs well for a travel zoom, it is not a sharp lens at all. The Canon 55-250 kit lens is sharper over the same range, for example, much cheaper, and even has a wider aperture over that range. I'd only recommend the Tamron as the real "all-in-one" lens given its huge zoom range, but it'll be significantly less sharp than even the Canon kit lenses. But... if you're really after one lens to do everything, then it's got about the biggest focal length range you'll find in one lens.

Canon has a few sharper lenses with less focal length range, like the:

which are all within budget and may or may not suit your focal length needs?

The Canon 75-300 is not a good choice in terms of sharpness, though it is cheap... There's a lot of offerings in the 70-200 and 70-300 range, so may be worth checking out some of the others.

  • The 55-250 as mentioned above is sharper, though lacks USM and is shorter on both ends. Still very cheap (leaving money left over to put towards the next lens or a tripod or...)
  • Any of Canon's 70-200L lenses are incredibly sharp, but yes, much pricier, though the 70-200 f/4 USM might be justifiable if you can stretch your budget just a little...
  • Canon's 70-300 IS USM is somewhere in between in terms of price, but still within your budget I believe. It's a big step up from the 75-300 you're looking at in terms of sharpness, and has a longer reach and added USM over the 55-250, so definitely worth checking out.

Also not sure which version of the 18-55 kit lens you got, but the first couple were pretty poor quality. The one with IS is a big step up in sharpness over the first two without IS. The 55-250 IS is similar in quality to the 18-55 with IS.

Finally, if you want a sharp lens, the 100mm f/2.8 macro lenses (probably not the L version with IS given your budget) are incredibly sharp, great for portraits, wedding, flower/insect photography, and depending on your style may suit travel photography too (I personally prefer zooms at the long and wide end for travel though).

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If you value a sharp image free of chromatic aberration and distortion and the ability to capture more light, I'd avoid it like the plague.

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I had the Tamron and sold it. A really convenient lens, but not sharp at all. As I can't carry heavy lenses, I go with primes: 24mm f/2.8, 50 f/1.8, 60mm macro and 85 f/1.8. But I did buy the Canon 55-350 as a standby. For travel I take a compact Sony x100 - great camera, and you can put in your pocket.

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