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I am using Canon 500D with the kit lens (18-55). I think I have done enough with 18-55 and want to try out next lens. I have already decided to purchase 50mm prime. I also wanted to get a Zoom lens. When I looked around Amazon, I see many varieties of zoom lenses.

I have 4 questions.

First lens in the above list is $524 and rest everything under $200. I am wondering why such a huge difference? Is it because first one has USM in it?

I am obviously confused and request for expert help to choose which one to buy. Is there a problem in buying lens without USM? Will the low pricy one reduces image quality?

My friend uses Nikon and is there any zoom lenses available which can be mounted both on Canon and Nikon?

I have also seen people recommending Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 as a choice for Zoom lenses. Is this the better choice? If yes, how it is better from longer ranges like 70-300? Since this lens offers F/2.8, can this be also used for portraits?

I shoot whatever I like, but mostly landscapes. Any help would be appreciated!

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3 Answers 3

There are many questions there but I realize you may be too confused to disentangle them. So the broad lines are:

  • More expensive within similar lenses almost always equals higher image quality. In other words, you get what you pay for. Differences show up as softness, blurry edges, vignetting, aberrations, etc.
  • USM supposedly focuses faster and quieter which cost money but not relevant for static subjects. One of the lenses you mention has built-in stabilization. Once again, it costs money but not always relevant, it compensates for the photographer's movements in low-light. If you shoot from a tripod, you even usually have to turn it off.
  • Zooms is a very broad category. The ones you mention first are telephoto lenses. That means they are mostly used to shooting from far away, between street photography and wildlife. You would normally only use them for distant landscapes.
  • For landscape work people generally go wider, meaning a shorter focal-length like: 10-22mm which is extremely wide, 16-35mm or 17-55mm.

You may want to read my Lens Buying Guide to learn more about lenses and how to choose among them. It answers most of your other questions.

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The 75-300 III is an older lens with a design that goes back to the '80s. It typically comes in a variety of flavors (with and without USM, with and without IS), but the cheapie one you can find new these days typically sports neither USM nor IS. And the optics are relatively old. That's not to say it's a bad lens, but it's more limited than nearly any other offering out there, and you have to pay special attention to using it in the f/8 or smaller range, and that your shutter speed is faster than 1/focal_length to get the best out of it. And if you're limited to f/8-f/16 and you're at 1/500s or faster, then you either jack up the iso, or you live somewhere very sunny.

Today, the EF-S 55-250 IS is probably a nicer budget alternative to a 75-300 III. It's a digital-era lens (introduced 2003), with an APS-C crop design which means it can be smaller and sharper than a 75-300 III and stabilized, for not much more.

The EF 70-300 IS USM is from 2005, and was basically the design that succeeded the 75-300 III IS USM. Its optical quality is actually on a par with the 55-250, but it has more reach, it's a full frame lens (i.e., can be used with a 5D/6D), and has USM. The expense leap is probably due to the additional reach and having to build a lens with an image circle large enough to cover a full-frame sensor. Crop lenses can always be a little less expensive because they only have to cover an APS-C sensor, and require fewer and smaller elements.

Also, be aware there are two other 70-300 Canon lenses, with pricetags that will probably look insane to you: the 70-300 L, and the 70-300 DO. The L was created to combat all the complaints about image quality on the 70-300 IS USM, which is still a middle-grade lens, not a pro-grade one. The 70-300L is more of a little brother to the 100-400L, it's white and sports a four-figure price tag. The 70-300 DO was an attempt by Canon to create a smaller telephoto lens with "Diffractive Optics", and only two lenses were ever designed this way: the 70-300 DO (which most folks will say isn't worth the money), and the EF 400 f/4 DO IS USM, which wildlife photographers prefer when they have to haul their gear across the frozen tundra for miles.

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Excellent answer. Thanks for taking time to reply –  Appu Apr 30 at 5:15

As for the 300mm teles, note that the expensive one has IS (Image Stabilizer), while the other does not. The build quality and image quality of the 70-300mm supposedly superior. USM (Ultrasonic Motor) supposedly makes focusing faster and quieter. Depending on your photography style, it may benefit you.

You cannot directly mount a Nikon lens on a Canon mount. There mey be adapters for specific mount type conversions, but doing so you will lose the automatic features of the lens - like autofocus and IS, and, if your lens does not have a manual aperture ring, you probably will not be able to stop down the aperture.

The Tamron lens is not comparable to the other lenses as it targets a completely different focal length range. For what it is, F/2.8 is just perfect for portraits.

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