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What is a good general purpose lens for Canon?
Which lens should someone who enjoys the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 get next?

I have recently purchased a Canon 600D (body only) and a Canon 50mm 1.8 II. I am trying to decide which 'general purpose' lens to buy. I want a travel lens (I definitely only want to travel with 1 lens though would consider also taking the one Ive already got given it is small), plus I want to be able to take some landscapes when hiking, family photos and shots of my young son.

I am currently looking at the Canon 15-85mm or the 18-135mm. Budget wise would prefer to spend less rather than more, but I want to be able to stick with this new lens for a while as I don't know when I will be buying any more so want to buy right the first time.

As a beginner would I notice much difference in IQ between these lenses? Would the IQ on the 18-135mm be a disappointment after using the prime I already have? Would the extra zoom in the 18-135mm be better for portraits and candid travel shots? Any advice much appreciated!

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ If there were a "best", Canon (and third parties) wouldn't make so many. Please take a look at this blog post about shopping questions, and also this one. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 18, 2012 at 11:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ best = most suitable for the users particular purpose. \$\endgroup\$
    – Newbie
    Jun 18, 2012 at 11:39
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Right, but since there are so many different users, the question is essentially unanswerable except by you. Qualifiers like noticeable IQ don't really help since that's also very subjective. I'm really not trying to be a jerk to the newbie, but please do take a look at the linked posts. There are questions you could ask to help make your decision that would get a better response (rather than a collection of random recommendations). \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 18, 2012 at 12:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Considering renting for your trip - borrowlenses.com and lensrentals.com offer many choices. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Jun 18, 2012 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mattdm, I did actually read the particular question you refer to before posting. Have tried to direct responses through my 3 concluding questions which I think are a bit more specific, particularly the 3rd one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Newbie
    Jun 19, 2012 at 5:58

2 Answers 2


For my money you already have a great general purpose lens - that little 50!! Lovely lens, and the IQ will probably beat both the other lenses you mention.

But if you are going to go for one of those, I'd go with the 15-85mm. I've heard great things about this lens especially to do with image quality. I think it will give you sharper images than the 18-135. Remember, however that it is a "slow" lens, starting at f/3.5 and increasing to f/5.6 by the long end of the zoom.

I know you were looking to spend less rather than more (aren't we all), but may I also offer the following into the mix - the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. I owned this lens for about 18 months or so, and it really is a fantastic bit of kit. Sharp as a razor blade, fast constant f/2.8 aperture through the whole zoom range AND Image Stabilizer. You can literally take decent shots indoors and in the dark with this thing (as you can with the fifty), but with the convenience of a zoom. It's not small or light like the 50, and it's really quite expensive (though not crazy like some lenses) - about £700 ish. But it's really nice, and L quality, but in an EF-S body. Can't recommend it highly enough...

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Mike, I was wondering about that lens also and was pondering the Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 as a cheaper option. But I think I would miss the zoom, am used to 10 x zoom on my little p&s (I havnt had an SLR since my old film one 10 yrs ago!). Perhaps thats one to look at for my next lens after this one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Newbie
    Jun 18, 2012 at 8:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do not get the Tamron....3rd party lenses just are not as sharp as the own-brand ones. Agreed the zoom range is more limited on that lens, but I never once found it to be a problem. You will enjoy the fast constant aperture so much you won't care about having to 'zoom with your feet' a little more ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike
    Jun 18, 2012 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Newbie You are used to 10x zoom? You aren't going to find that in a DSLR lens unless you want the same quality as your P&S. You upgraded your body, but you will need a quality lens to pair with it if you want any benefit. You need to sacrifice either price, aperture, or IQ(range etc). \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Jun 18, 2012 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes I will sacrifice some zoom, but I need something more than 55mm. I think the 2 lenses I am looking at both have sufficient zoom for my requirements. I didnt actually use the full zoom on my p&s hardly at all. I guess I am trying to weigh up 85mm vs 135mm bearing in mind the 15-85mm is a better lens (and slightly wider), but the 18-135mm is cheaper. I just don't know how much I am going to notice the difference in IQ between the 2. \$\endgroup\$
    – Newbie
    Jun 19, 2012 at 5:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Newbie I'd go with the 15-85... \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike
    Jun 19, 2012 at 7:25

If you only want one lens I would recommend Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS ($700), Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM IF ($480) or Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD ($650).

You'll not have the best IQ, but you will have a huge zoom range, which is important if you only want to carry one lens. The Canon is the best lens, but it's a bit shorter than the other two.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I own the Sigma 18-250 and for the price you just can't beat it. It's such an amazing all-purpose lens...I've gotten low-light, sports, weddings, landscapes, wildlife and even the moon with it! It's got a solid, weighty build and for amateur stuff, your IQ is totally adequate! I noticed some vignetting on at the long end on some beach shots the other day but really it added to the mood of the photos. Love this lens! \$\endgroup\$
    – huzzah
    Jun 18, 2012 at 14:47

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