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I have a Canon 250D (APS-C) since september 2022; I'm really enjoying it but I feel like that's the moment for my first lens upgrade.

The camera came in kit with the well-known 18-55 mm STM f/4-5.6. It's a good kit lens (considering its price tag of around 130€) but its limits are becoming too restricting (not exceptionally sharp, a bit dark at full-zoom range, 55 mm is a bit too short).

I spent the last weeks searching the internet, looking for inspiration for which should be my first lens upgrade. I'm considering buying a used to save a little and get a quality (yet used) lens.

Circumstances in which I shoot most: outdoor walks, easy nature photos (I don't need really long focals, at the moment), portraits, street photography.

The first option which got my attention is Canon 24-70 mm f/4 IS L. This lens would allow me to get: faster aperture in full-zoom, a little bit more on zooming ability (+15 mm) and a great upgrade in image quality (at least that's what I hope, since many reviews compare this lens to its bigger and pricier brother, 24-70 mm f/2.8 non-IS).

Another really interesting option is Canon 24-105 mm f/4 IS L II. It's a bit pricier than previous lens but this would be a great all-purpose lens for my shots, and it would add a great + 50 mm on my actual maximum focal lenght - that's really intriguing! I'm worried about sharpness - I read some not-so-good review of this lens, and there are even people even stating that this should not be marked as an "L" lens! Please if someone has an opinion to share, let me know! Is this lens really to avoid?

The last lens I found during my desperate search is Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS. This would have essentially the same focal lengths of my 18-55 kit lens, but a much larger, fixed aperture of f/2.8 (and it has IS, too). I wasn't able to find an in-depth review of this lens and I'd like to know more about its image quality (how do it behave at full aperture?). It seems this would be the cheaper option, even if someone states that this lens should have been marked "L" by Canon (is its quality that good?)

For the first two options, I'm worried that 24 mm on APS-C would be a little too much for wide shots, but carring the 18-55 with me too is not a big issue. My original intention was a proper upgrade for my camera. If I take this statement literally, the last lens seems to be the "logical choice": its much widest aperture should give me a great improvement in light-related aspects (less need to higher ISO, much better background isolation, faster shutter speed and so on)... but, I would completely sacrifice my interest in longer focal lenghts.

I'm quite confused and I think the more I search through the internet, the more I get unsecure about the right lens for my needs. Any advice / consideration is really appreciated.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have any desire to go full-frame at some point in the future? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Apr 30, 2023 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilipKendall thank you for your interest! Maybe I'll go full frame one day, but I don't think it will be in less than a year. My plan is to learn photography with different lenses first, even if I'll have to face APS-C related issues and limits. Also, at the moment I enjoy my 250 (it's still new) and I'd rather invest in lenses than camera bodies :) \$\endgroup\$
    – IFrank
    Apr 30, 2023 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Before going for a new lens, have you considered maybe it's lack of technique or knowledge that needs to be addressed? Bad technique will follow you to any new gear you get, and maybe it's not a lens you need to improve. And maybe it's not a lens you need, but shooting RAW and post-processing, a flash, or a tripod. Or simply learning how to hold your camera... We all do this. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    May 1, 2023 at 11:50

6 Answers 6

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Asked myself the same question a while ago and went for a Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 "Contemporary"

  • Focal range more suited to an APS-C sensor than the 24-70 or 24-105.
  • Faster and slightly longer reach than the kit lens
  • Very decent quality
  • More affordable than an L series

IMHO a very good compromise.

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My 2 cents.

Replacing a 18-55mm lens with a 24-70, imho has little sense. Note the word I used. You are replacing it, not complementing it.

So, a lens that could complement:

  1. A longer focal length, let's say 70-200mm. You will open the doors to explore how a longer focal length makes you see things in a different way.

  2. A smaller focal length, for example, some 10-20mm. Again, you will start seeing the world from a different perspective.

  3. A faster lens, let's say the 50mm 1.8. This opens a full new world of how your portrait photos will look.

  4. A specialized lens. Let's say, again, for a portrait. One 85mm f1.8 for example.


I have seen some reviews of different lenses. Two of the most interesting zoom lenses I have seen are the Sigma f1.8 18-35mm and the f1.8 50-100mm.

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my 2 cents, hoping it's helpful.

I have had a T6 for years. I kinda like the SL3 (as the 250D is known around here) because it's small and fairly competent.

My go-to lens for the scenarios you described is the EF-S 24mm STM. It's fast, it's sharp, it's oh-so-cheap. It's very small and light, pair it with an SL3 and it (probably) fits in your pocket.

I also have a 55-250 for longer, a 10-18 for shorter, and a 60mm for macro. All those have something in common: very good bang for the buck. The T6, like the SL3, isn't a terrible camera, I have no complaints aside from low-light performance. I wouldn't pair L with it tho.

With a bigger budget, I'd do an R8 and a fast prime, aiming on the low-light. Or a pana S5, bit weird choice for photo, but on sale, so cheaper than the R8.

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As a beginner, I'd be looking for 'more range' rather than 'faster'.

I made the mistake when I first started of having two lenses covering 18-55mm then a 'hole' with a Tamron 70-300mm as its first partner. During the time I had just those two, it seemed that everything I wanted to photograph really wanted a length in the 'hole'. This later turned out to not really be the case, but psychologically it felt it was.
The cheap 70-300 was also irritatingly slow & poor to focus in low light, so it wasn't the prize I'd assumed it would be.

I then bought a 50mm f/1.4 prime, which was & still is fabulous, but I still had the 'hole'. Quite pricey at £450, second hand.

I got some extension tubes to do macro work. This, it turned out, was only of great interest for about a year - but I'd only spent £35 finding that out.

I added a 55m 'specialist' fake anamorphic f/2.2 for a mere £50 second hand from a specialist Russian lens modifier - useful but only for very specific things, and f/1.8 35mm for about £100… which has turned out to be my least-used lens of all.

Then I got a 'silly' superzoom for which I paid the princely sum of £650 [brand new from a grey importer, rather than the £1,000 for an 'official' one] - an 18-300mm only f/3.5-6.5 - which has become by far the lens I use the most. It means I need to carry only one lens when I go out. It covers many things, none of which it would do as well as a fully 'professional' f/2.8 zoom or any prime I could think of… but I'm not a 'professional' I'm an enthusiastic amateur without infinitely deep pockets or indeed the desire to carry a bag full of lenses every time I take my camera out with me.

I find it the perfect compromise.


My camera is a Nikon APS-C, my superzoom is also Nikon.
I don't know much about Canon equivalents, but I found a comparison site with a stack of them, complete with brief reviews. - https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/buying-guides/best-superzoom-lenses-for-canon [As with all this type of site, they get a kickback if you buy through their links.]

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Some folks love all-in-one lenses. Others hate them. Based on the OP's desire to have wider apertures available at longer focal lengths, I'd have to guess that the OP would fall into the latter, rather than the former, camp. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    May 2, 2023 at 5:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC - the trouble with thinking for other people is that you don't actually know if they know what they really want. Providing options, in that case, can be a useful learning exercise. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    May 2, 2023 at 8:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Understanding what someone has written is not the same thing as thinking for other people. Thinking for other people is more like suggesting slower lenses when they've plainly stated they want faster lenses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    May 2, 2023 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC - "plainly stated"… you just make this up as you go along don't you? Re-read the OP's last two paragraphs. The advantage for the beginner of 'more length' is they can then spend the next couple of years deciding exactly what they want to photograph. Choose a short zoom or prime & the next thing you know… there'll be another short zoom or prime on the GAS list. Please stop trashing other people's opinions just because they don't coincide with your own. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    May 3, 2023 at 7:57
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You mentioned the Canon 17-55 2.8. If you consider that, then you could also consider the 17-50 2.8 lenses that Sigma and Tamron make which you can probably get for much cheaper.

That obviously will not give you a greater range of focal lengths, only a greater maximum aperture. Unfortunately it is a fact of life that those are things that you sometimes have to weigh against each other.

If a narrower field of view is more important to you than a larger maximum aperture, then you could consider one of these (in addition to, not as replacements for, what you have now):

  • Canon 55-250 4.0-5.6, I have read better things about the STM version than the versions without STM. This gives you a very narrow field of view (suitable for taking photos at zoos too), but not very much maximum aperture.
  • Tamron 35-150 f2.8-4.0 (there seems to be a 2.0-2.8 version too, but that is even more expensive). This is more expensive than the above and obviously gives you a wider field of view but a larger maximum aperture.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ 55-250 STM is a gem of a lens. I got my copy based on advice from this very SE. It isn't fast, not by a looong shot, but quick to focus and stabilized. \$\endgroup\$ May 3, 2023 at 21:43
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There's a more conventional answer below that was pretty much complete when I decided this needed to be said first.

Before you go running down the rabbit hole of GAS, you'll do yourself a great favor to ask yourself some hard questions.

Questions such as:

  • Am I really getting the most out of what I already have? (Please read the linked answer to another question here so I'm not tempted to repeat all of it in this answer.)
  • Just how much marginal improvement do I need to see in lens performance before it makes the full price of a new lens worth it to me? (Also related: Will I see enough improvement moving from EF-S to "L" lenses to warrant the cost?)
  • Is my dissatisfaction with my current gear based on pixel peeping?
  • Am I spending more time researching new gear I want than I am studying how past masters did what they did, much of it with less capable gear than even my entry level gear? (Seeing light, creative composition, and solid technique almost always trumps differences in gear. Photographers, not cameras, make photos.)
  • Are there other photographers who get great results with the same gear I am using? (You can do a search for a specific camera or lens on Flickr that will show you images tagged with that lens. It's not perfect, but it will show you plenty of images that were taken with that lens along with some that were not.)
  • Have other photographers work actually improved that noticeably when they upgraded the gear they were using?¹

All gear has limits, even the most expensive latest and greatest bodies and lenses. If you want to know what their biggest limitations are, just wait around until their replacement is announced. The manufacturer will tell you exactly how the newer model is better at x, y, and z over the previous model that sounded perfect when they introduced it a few years earlier!

Every photographer who's ever been worthy of the title "Photographer" has, at times, had feelings of 'fighting with their equipment'. That's because there's no such thing as a perfect camera, there's no such thing as a perfect lens, and there never will be! The marketing hype machines of the camera/lens makers try to make you think, "If only I had camera X and lens Y there wouldn't be any technical limitations that I would need to overcome!"

The truth is there are a lot of things many photographers would like to do that no camera/lens has the capability of doing. The thing that separates the great 'Photographers' from the complainers who always blame the limitations of their gear for their work that doesn't meet their lofty expectations based on the marketing hype of the camera makers is that the 'Photographers' learn to push the limits of the gear at their disposal while also finding ways to work just within those same limits.

The key to being an outstanding photographer is not having the best equipment in your hands. It is knowing the equipment you have well enough to know what it will and will not allow you to do and then working within those parameters to get images that the technical capabilities of the gear at your disposal will allow you to take.

¹ It will take some time, but take a look at this Flickr user's photostream. Sort by "date taken" and start at the very of the last page, where images taken with lesser gear over a decade ago were uploaded. A lot of the earliest work was done with the very limited EOS 350D - the original Digital Rebel from 2003 - and an EF-S 18-55mm lens that was nowhere near as good as the current STM version. They also used the EF-S 10-22mm that had comparable optical quality to the original 18-55mm and original EF-S 55-250mm lenses. Much of it looks like it could have been straight out of camera JPEGs. This user seems to have changed gear more often than some folks change clothes, all the way up to some very nice gear in the present. But when viewing at typical web sizes, even on my 27" desktop monitor, there's not a whole lot of noticeable difference in technical quality between the digital cameras from the 350D + 18-55mm to the R5, etc. What differences there are looks like better compositional and post-processing skills. The old film scans are an entirely different matter. Poor technique combined with slow, cheap film can be noticed almost instantly.

In addition to the linked questions and answers in the material above, here are some other existing questions and answers here at Photography SE regarding how differences in gear affect our photographic results that you might find beneficial:

Does the camera matter?
When should I upgrade my camera body? (The accepted answer equally applies to lenses, flashes, etc.)
What should I consider when shopping for a second lens (after the kit)?

P.S. I borrowed most of the second half of the above from my answer to How to know you've outgrown your equipment? You might find that question and all of its answers beneficial.


There's not much, if any difference between the optical performance of the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS and the newer II version. When all are used on the same APS-C camera there's also not much, if any, difference between those two and the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS at focal lengths and apertures they all have in common. You can compare both an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS and an EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS used on a 7D Mark II here.

Of course the focal length range is significantly different between a 17-55mm lens and a 24-105mm lens. That basically comes down to personal preference, so only you can best answer which is better for you.

For around what you'll pay for an EF 24-70mm f/4 L, you can get a really good Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC G2 lens. The Canon 24-70/4 is a little bit sharper and is near Macro capable at 0.70X magnification at closest focus. But the Tamron is a full stop faster and is pretty sharp too. The Tamron's minimum focus distance is nearly twice as far (381mm vs 200mm), so not so great for bugs, stamps, and coins when compared to the EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS. But as an all around general purpose zoom, I've seen some really great work done with the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC G2 and its immediate predecessor, the 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC. (Full disclosure, my friend Garrick was using a Nikon version of the Tamron on his Nikon FF bodies before he went mirrorless about 4 years ago.) But then again, don't sell the kit lens too short if you're not already getting all you can out of it. Other than the first few taken with a 50mm f/1.8, this Flickr user's photos are almost all taken with an EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM or the even older non-IS EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-4.6 III.

I've used an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS for over a decade and probably taken close to a quarter million photos with it. It's a lens that is built like a tank and will take most any punishment you can throw at it short of salt water or Burning Man (both of which will kill any camera or lens not properly protected for those environments) and just keep on working as well as it ever has.

Pretty much all of those photos, though, other than a handful of test shots to dial in AFMA in case I ever needed to use it in an emergency on one of my APS-C bodies, have been with it hanging on a FF camera. I can't imagine the same lens being near as useful to me on an APS-C body. It's simply not wide enough for me in a single lens setup, and it's no long enough to be the "long" lens in a two lens setup unless your other lens is something like a 10-22mm zoom and you never want or need to go past 105mm on APS-C (165mm FF equivalent).

(Full disclosure: since 2011 the only APS-C bodies I've used are an EOS 50D, 7D, and 7D Mark II with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II or Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 | S for shooting sports while using a FF camera for my "wide" body.)

When my primary cameras were APS-C bodies, my walkaround lens of choice was a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II. I also had an EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II for when the 17-50mm wasn't long enough. Canon's APS-C 55-250mm lenses are optically as good as the same generation 70-300mm lenses, and MUCH better than the 75-300mm dogs or the really cheap 70-300mm lenses from Sigma and Tamron before they both upped their game beginning around 2010 or so.

An EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS (either EF version) is not going to knock your socks off with optical performance. All of my primes are sharper (EF 35mm f/2 IS, EF 50mm f/1.4, EF 85mm f/1.8, EF135mm f/2 L), but it's sharp enough for most use cases. You have to pixel peep to really see any weakness as far as acutance goes. It does have a good bit of peripheral illumination drop-off at the wider focal lengths, but then so does every other 24-70/2.8, 17-50/2.8, 17-40/4, 16-35/2.8, etc. wide angle zoom lens on the market.

Bryan Carnathan at The-Digital-Picture has a pretty in depth review of the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, as well as just about every other Canon EOS lens released since around 2000 (and many that were released earlier but still in Canon's current catalog when he started his website).

But don't go buying such lenses just because someone else, like me, tells you to. Buy whichever one you need when you realize which one will let you do something you want to do with your camera that your current lens does not allow.

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