Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I am getting a deal on a Canon T3 cam with 18-55mm kit lens and I have choice of one extra lens: 75-300mm f4-5.6 and 55-250mm f4-5.6. I generally like to shoot street, abstract and nature photos and I'm not sure which lens is going to be more suitable to my needs. Are their pros and cons to either lenses given my preferred subjects?

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That question is closed, and is a lot more general. This question compares two lenses that are often offered in upgrade deals with entry level Canon bodies and kit lenses. Many new readers considering the purchase of their first Canon DSLR might find it helpful. –  Michael Clark Feb 26 '13 at 2:10
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I've owned the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM. It is like using a smartphone camera in image quality, and a bad one at that. It is honestly not worth using even if you have it. I would rather take a $100 50mm f/1.8 lens and digitally crop an image to get the same field of view of a telephoto lens then use the 75-300mm f/4-5.6 lens. –  dpollitt Feb 26 '13 at 2:18
    
@dpollitt: It sounds like your 75-300 was about like the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II included with my Rebel XTi (Not to be confused with the current and much better EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II). Horrible. I had a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 within a few months, even though it meant putting off the purchase of a 430EX II for several months. –  Michael Clark Feb 26 '13 at 2:32
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2 Answers 2

I've owned the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6. In my opinion it would be better for your stated uses. There are several reasons why this is so:

  • The difference between EF and EF-S lenses. AN EF lens must project an image circle large enough to cover a "full frame" sensor or film negative (roughly 36X24MM). An EF-S lens must only project an image circle large enough to cover the Canon APS-C sized sensors that are approximately 22.5X15mm. Since the APS-C image circle is only about 40% the area of an EF image circle, this allows the lens design to be smaller and lighter. Another benefit is that some of the lens elements themselves can be smaller, and thus use smaller amounts of the expensive materials used in modern lens design. In the case of these two lenses, the 55-250 can use smaller amounts of higher quality materials and still be manufactured for a very reasonable cost. The 55-250, while not outstanding, performs much better optically than the 75-300. It is much more comparable to the more expensive EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM in terms of optics.
  • The difference between "full frame" and APS-C sensors. Although the focal length of a lens is the same regardless of the sensor size, the Field of View (FoV) obtained will be different. A 75-300mm lens on an APS-C body like your T3 will give the equivalent FoV of a 120-480mm lens mounted on FF body. If you need the extra reach this works to your advantage. If you need wider FoV, this works against you. The 55-250 lens on your T3 has the FoV of an 88-400mm lens mounted on a FF body. Unless you are trying to do street photos from a block and a half away, the 55-250 will give you more of the FoV you are looking for. With abstract photography, having a long lens with Macro capability is nice, but neither of these two lenses really offer much more than the other in that department. For nature photos it depends on the subject matter and shooting distances. Close-ups of flowers need an entirely different lens than moving animals at a distance. Unless you're gong to be shooting from larger distances, the 55-250 is a better general purpose nature photography lens for your T3.
  • Image Stabilization (IS). The EF 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS has it, the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 doesn't. IS lets you shoot at a slower shutter speed before camera shake becomes an issue. IS will not help you if your subject is blurry because the subject is moving too fast. This may be the most significant difference between the two lenses for you. The IS on the 55-250 is good for about 3 stops of shutter speed (Tv). This means at 250mm instead of needing to use a Tv of 1/400 sec or faster, you can use 1/50 sec and expect to avoid blurring due to camera shake if you are practicing good camera stability techniques when shooting.
  • Your possible future upgrade path. In many cases it is wise to invest in lenses that you would still be able to use if you decide to go with a Full Frame body in the future. In the case of the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6, I doubt you would want to continue using that lens with a high resolution FF body, even though you could. It just isn't a very good lens optically. If you eventually plan to buy a Full Frame camera, you should probably consider the EF 70-200mm f/4L (either IS or non-IS) or maybe the EF 70-300mm f/4-.56 IS USM instead.
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If anyone uses the 75-300mm f/4-5.6 on a full frame camera they deserve the results they get. –  dpollitt Feb 26 '13 at 2:16
    
I'd get the 55-250 just because of the IS. @dpollitt Your intense dislike for this lens is quite funny. I wana get one now just to see how bad it really is!! :P How did you end up with one?? –  NULLZ Feb 26 '13 at 2:22
    
@D3C4FF - Yes you are correct. I am angry because it came as a kit when I got my first digital camera and was learning years ago. I started with it as my first telephoto and was appalled at the terrible quality I was getting. But being new to digital photography did not blame the equipment at first :) Now I know better. –  dpollitt Feb 26 '13 at 2:26
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Haha, that's funny. The default stance for most photo n00bs i've come across is to instantly blame their gear for their failings and then spend 10k on new lenses only to find out they can't frame a shot to save their lives :O –  NULLZ Feb 26 '13 at 2:39
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I may have been lucky and got a really good one, but my EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 was excellent in good light. Good contrast, color, very sharp in the center, accurate AF, and decent bokeh for a slow lens. The only reason I felt the need to upgrade at the time was the need for a wider, constant aperture telephoto zoom. I had to bite the bullet for several months but was able to eventually buy an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. The best money I've ever spent. On anything. –  Michael Clark Feb 26 '13 at 2:47
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I would get the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Lens. Some reasons why:

  • Image stabilization
  • Smaller size(2cm less)
  • Less weight(86g less)
  • Significantly higher value
  • Newer design
  • Better image quality
  • Higher maximum magnification
  • Shorter minimum focus distance
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I don't recommend buying lenses simply because they cost more, but in your case, you get either lens included in a kit at the same cost. The 55-250mm is about twice the cost of the 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III. –  dpollitt Feb 26 '13 at 2:21
    
Both have an MFD of over one yard. The 55-250 is just under 4', the 75-300 is almost 5'. Neither is anything remotely approaching a macro lens with a MM of .25 and .31 respectively. –  Michael Clark Feb 26 '13 at 2:40
    
@MichaelClark - The fact that I stated stands. I didn't state that either was a macro lens or could act as one. I don't see what your comment adds to this conversation. –  dpollitt Feb 26 '13 at 3:01
    
Just making the point that there isn't a lot of difference between them re:MM or MFD. Neither is anywhere close to a Macro, which is where you normally see those two parameters compared. –  Michael Clark Feb 26 '13 at 7:43
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I've been quite happy with my 55-250. Do I want more reach or faster focus? Sure! But if I'm taking pictures of birds in the back yard or butterflies in the park, it's never the lens's fault if it's a bad picture. The IS is a huge bonus, and the pictures are certainly sharp enough for me -- I can see detail in the feathers on a woodpecker 20 feet away. –  khedron Feb 26 '13 at 15:56
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