I intend to expand my lens arsenal for my Canon 650D. Already have the kit lens 18-55mm and the UWA Tokina 11-16mm 2.8.

My next objective is to get a telephoto zoom lens in the range $600-650.

Initially I had planned to buy one of the following two: 1. Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM 2. Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD

However, after having read their reviews, I’m having doubts since these lenses are not optically great and more of a general purpose lens with all sorts of spherical defects creeping up at the fag end of the focal length.

Which telephoto lens would you propose? Canon? Sigma? Tokina? Tamron?

The UWA Tokina that I bought may not be best lens compared to the giants, but it delivers outstanding results and hence gives the maximum value for money since I bought it for $660.

I want a similar telephoto lens which gives the maximum value for money just like the Tokina one.

Should I go for one of the afore-mentioned ones or would you propose something else? 70-300? 80-400? Which brand?

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you can stretch the budget ever so slightly to about $680, the Canon 70-200 f/4 L is your best bet \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 17:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The 70-200 f4 L is definitely the best lens you could get for that money quality-wise, so it just depends whether you want a different zoom range, or some IS \$\endgroup\$
    – Dreamager
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 12:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've got Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD. awesome lens for 350 \$\endgroup\$
    – Max C
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 2:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you @Michael and Pat for your advice. I appreciate it. I’ve been reading quite a lot on this forum as well as elsewhere so that I don’t ask any redundant question, and the way I see it, the Canon 70-200 L f/4 (non-IS) is the ultimate bargain. Unfortunately, the range is not sufficient considering that one of my major uses for the telephoto will be capturing aircraft taking off from the runway which is just behind my apartment complex and 300mm focal length is the least I need for that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Saqib Khan
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 7:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ So I’m down to three revised choices now: 1. Buy Canon 70-200 F4 L non-IS along with a 2x (or 1.4X) tele-converter. What is the impact of this multiplier? Does it transmit the image with no loss of sharpness and detail? Are tele-converters any good at that? And which brand? \$\endgroup\$
    – Saqib Khan
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 7:03

2 Answers 2


Any of the telephoto only zoom lenses in the 70-200mm or 70-300mm range will perform better than so-called "superzooms" that attempt to cover focal lengths all the way from wide angle to the edges of the super-telephoto range.

The highest quality telephoto lens in the price range you mentioned is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L. It is available for around $650-700 new. When the Canon Direct refurbished store has them in stock they sale there for $570 or less, depending on any promotions that may apply.

The only other "bang-for-the-buck" lens would be the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS. See my answer at this question for a fuller explanation. It delivers similar optical performance on an APS-C body as the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS at about one half the price.

If you want a little more reach, there are many 70-300mm lenses on the market. You generally give up the constant aperture of the 70-200mm lenses and some sharpness, especially above 200mm. If you plan on using the lens at the longest focal length, as many shooters do, weigh the optical performance at 300mm more heavily than at the shorter lengths.

  • The Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD gets generally good reviews but is softest at 200-300mm.
  • The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS is slightly sharper in the center between 200-300mm, but softer on the edges than the Tamron.
  • The Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 DG OS SLD generally scores below the Canon on sharpness from the center to the edges.

There is a pretty large gap between any of these three lenses in terms of both price and quality with the next tier of 70-300mm telephoto zoom lenses that start at around $1,100.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty happy with my 55-250. Sure, I want more range, and I'm thinking about the 70-200 f/4 vs. others, but I'm happy with the detail in: 500px.com/photo/28607951 \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael H.
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 15:15

There are engineering design tradeoffs for any zoom lens. One of the big factors is the relative range. Any 18-250 zoom has a range factor of 13. This requires a lot of tradeoffs. Zooms with smaller ranges generally have better optical characteristics, often by a lot. The Canon 70-200 F4 L lens has a range factor under 3. Its much easier to engineer image quality with the smaller range.

For comparable money, a 70-200 will have better images than a 70-300. In addition, the smaller range factor will usually result in a faster lens (smaller maximum F-stop). There are times when the difference between F4 and F5.6 is huge.


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