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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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2 Answers

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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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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