Good fair-priced Nature Photography lens?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by tiffany_mcconnell, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. I have just recently gotten a Canon Rebel XSi. Love the camera. My only issue is that the kit lens sucks for distance. It is an 18-55mm.
    I am new into the fancy cameras, and have no idea what is what as far as the specifications go. I just know the higher the mm, the further the zoom.
    Does anyone out there have a suggestion for a good, fairly-priced distance lens? I'd like it to have auto-focus, and be able to take good shots of birds or animals from far away.
    Now, on eBay, there is a 500-1000 mm lens for fairly cheap...
    ...would that fit the specifications I have? For that cheap, it seems almost too good to be true.
    Thank you for helping me out, I really appreciate it! <3
  2. Canon EF 70-300/4-5.6IS USM.
  3. If you are thinking of a telephoto that will provide similar quality and functionality in comparison to the current lens... but more reach for small and/or distant subjects, one option is the Canon EFS 55-250 lens.
    The thing you are looking at on ebay is a non-name 500mm prime plus a 2X teleconverter. You would almost certainly be far, far happier with the EFS lens.
  4. There are a couple of things you'll want to keep in mind. One, the longer a telephoto gets, the more expensive so if you see a 500-1000 that's cheap, you'll probably want to pass that one up. Two, for birds and small animals, focal length is important.
    The lens in your link is not a standard lens. It will not function like your Canon lens. I won't tell you that you don't want it, but you'd better do your homework before you buy it. Technically it's not a 500-1000, it's a 500 with a 2X teleconverter so it's a 500 or a 1000. It's also a mirror reflex lens so read up on the ins and outs of those. And lastly it's f/8 which will make it difficult to use in low light and I'm not sure how it will work at all with a 2X converter.
    If I were you, I'd take a look at the 55-250 or the 70-300. They don't have the focal length, but they're both much faster (larger aperture) and they autofocus quite well. They also both have IS.
  5. I would recommend the Canon EF-S 55-250mm zoom. It's inexpensive with decent build quality and autofocus, plus an image stabilizer.
    I expect that Phoenix 500mm f/8 lens on eBay more or less works, though bear it mind (1) it's manual focus only, (2) manual focus of an f/8 lens on a Rebel is very difficult, (3) 500mm is honestly *too* long for many photos, and 1000mm is definitely too long to be very useful. Plus at 1000mm it's going to be f/16 and impossible to focus. I would avoid it unless you just want it to play.
    If you want higher-priced options, the Canon 70-300 IS lens is good, or one of the 70-200 L lenses (there are several) is better still.
  6. don't get that ebay lens - it's pure junk !
    look at the Canon 55-250IS or the Canon 70-300IS
  7. I'd second the choice of the EF-S 55-250IS if cost is an issue.
    Avoid anything cheap off eBay!
  8. Bite the bullet and get the 70-300mm IS (do not confuse this with the 75-300mm btw, which is utter junk). I had that lens for a while and loved it. If you're into macro, get the Canon 500D with it, and it becomes a high quality macro lens as well.
  9. +3 or whatever for the 55-250mm IS lens. It's very good quality optically for the money.
    Later on if you want to graduate to more expensive (sometimes, even usually, better) lenses, the 55-250mm should be easy to sell.
    Look for something in the EOS mount (EF or EF-S from Canon) from Canon, Sigma, Tamron, or Tokina. Stay away from off-brand lenses, so avoid things like Promaster, Quantaray, etc until you have a better idea of what you're getting.
  10. I'm right there with Bob's suggestion; if your budget allows, go with the 70-300 IS USM. If not, you'll be hard pressed to do better than the 55-250 IS.
  11. Tiffany,
    I have the XSI and the EF-S 55-250IS. I like this combo and for the money I don't think you'll find a better lens in that range. Now, there are times I wish it was faster and there are times that I wish it had better AF. However, I don't wish for those things frequently enough to pay the extra money to have them. Before I forget to write it, I like the IS very much!
    Here is a link to my Flickr set with photos taken with the XSI and EF-S 55-250IS combo.
    I hope you find this helpful.
    DS Meador
  12. Yes one more vote for the 55-250 f4-5.6 IS. It really is a good value lens. The 70-300 f4-5.6 IS is bigger heavier, with a bit more reach but optically very similar.
    Even if you have the money, I think it would be a marginal call to choose it over the 55-350.
  13. If even after all the above you still hear the 500mm mirror lens calling to you - do not be deceived! It will be a disappointment. As they say, choose between the 55-250 IS and the 70-300 IS. The 55-250 IS is the bargain of the two designed for the XSi and similar crop sensor cameras. The 70-300 IS is designed for full frame camreas like the Canon 5D Mk II but of course will still work fine with your camera. It is just a bit bigger than the 55-250IS. They will both work on your camera in the same way your present lens does. The 500mm mirror lens will be a real pain to work and almost certainly not be able to deliver anything like the same quality.
  14. Here is a shot taken with my Canon 70-300 f4-5.6 IS.
  15. The 500mm mirror should only be bought if you want to use it for fun and will not miss the money spent.
    I have one and shot some moon pictures with it plus some random other pictures. Focussing is very very difficult because of the razor thin depth of field. Plus the results are never really sharp.
    Pictures with a 55-250 blown up 2x will be sharper.
    Still, when I use mine I do have fun. But the results are always disappointing.
    (Search for 500mm mirror lens on the forums or the inteernet for more info.)
  16. Can I add a vote for the Sigma 70-300 APO DG lens. Its less than half the price of the canon lenses at around £140 (or $150) and performs pretty well for its price. No IS so steady hands are needed but seeing as im not on safari 99.99r% of the time, its a good cheap option to put in the bag when needed and my money can go toward more usable every day options.
  17. I am a beginner as well. My intent with photography is for a hobby and I wanted a good telephoto glass for various reasons. The people on the site recommended the same -- either the 55-250 or the 70-300. I decided to go with the more expensive 70-300 and I've been very happy with it. Unfortunately, I've been sick since I got everything so I haven't had a chance to really get out with it.
    This is one picture I took with it hand held. I cropped it and made the sky black in Photoshop, but even at this exteme crop I am happy with the detail.
    Example from a Canon 70-300mm IS USM
  18. It depends on what you can afford.
    Inexpensive options as mentioned above include 55-250 IS, 70-300 IS
    Better options include 300mm F4 L IS, 400mm F5.6 L.
    For birding the 400mm, otherwise the 300 is a nice overall nature lens. You rarely get close enough to need less focal lengh the 300mm.
    You can find some excellent deals on those lenses used. Checkout the classifleds on this site, and in the buy & sell.
  19. For what it's worth, there are some really good mirror lenses out there, but of course they are totally manual focus, have only the one aperture (usually f/8).
    There is probably nothing more useless than the cheap (around $100) mirror lenses offered these days. The later Spiratone 500mm lenses are much better than any of these that I have seen. If you ever decide you really need a 500mm mirror lens, the best choice I have found is to get an older Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8. By any measure it is far superior to any other 500mm lens I've tried, and (link ) I've tried a fair number.
    This is by way of general information, but you should consider the 55-250 or the 70-300 for what you are looking for.
  20. Olympus OM lenses are optically quite good and can be used on the EOS cameras using a low cost adaptor for only a few bucks (you can even get them with AF confirm chip). The OM 300mm f4.5 is still available new at B&H as well as for quite reasonable prices used at reliable online sellers such as KEH (less than US$200 will land you a spick and span example). It is true you will be master of your own destiny with manual only focus. There is only stop down operation, but I seldom stop down less than f5.6, at which point the viewfinder is still quite bright.
    It has a good tripod collar and to be honest manual focusing will be less frustrating than hunt and miss with auto-focus latching onto the wrong feature. IS or no IS you should be using a tripod when working with long lenses and small nature creatures like birds. IS may help remove your shake, but will not stop the bird from blurring when it twitches.
    You can expect to capture cute little birds such as this with such a lens
  21. Both of the recommended lenses (55-250 IS and 70-300 IS USM) are sold at, where the return policy is unbelievable. No affil, just a good place to get equipment if they have it.
    I tried the 55-250 and finally bought the 70-300mm. I had the two lenses side-by-side for a short time and found the 55-250 wasn't as good. Note that there is also a 70-300mm DO IS USM which is far more expensive than the one without DO (diffractive optics). The one without diffractive optics is the one we're talking about here, and the one sold at Costco.
    Now I can take pics like this with the 70-300mm. The blurring is tree branches. He is quite well hidden in a Cedar tree, but I GOT him anyway! ;-).
  22. +1 on the 70-300 IS.
    In fact, considering your request, this is the only lens I can recommend. It is the best balance of reach, zoom, and optics, it is a good non kit-grade lens, has actual portrait coverage, and it will hold some value when you are ready to sell it. The 55-250 is a mediocre kit lens only.
    Now, if you can live with a little less zoom, a fantastic step up to excellent glass at a reasonably close price point is the 70-200 f/4 L.
  23. BTW, the 70-300mm is sort of a kit lens, since sells it in their 50D kit. But yes, non-kit-grade.
  24. I love my 70-200 f/4L for birds. It's on my 30D most of the time for the 1.6 sensor. I keep the 24-105 f/4L on the 5D. Here's one I got a couple of winters ago next to my house (I hope it shows up here).
    I'd stay away from "Reflex Mirror" unless you're building a telescope or a sniper rifle.
  25. Time ran out for me to edit the last message and fix it so the photo shows up (what a pain).
    Here it is anyway:

    At least they give you a whole 10 minutes to fix a post now.
  26. Hi Tiffany
    I was just browsing and noticed this thread sorry if I'm late. I see lots of people recommending zooms in the up to 200mm range, particularly if you say you want to "be able to take good shots of birds or animals from far away "
    Unless you're photographing rather big animals 300mm will be more what you need. After trying for some years on my EOS camera (film) to get photographs of birds I'd say that anything less than this and you'll be just disappointed.
    Personally I prefer telephoto lenses to Zooms, you nearly always get better results. I see that our very own Bob A has reviewed the 300 and 75-300 IS zoom here on , and while his conclusions seem to suggest that the 75-300zoom will "post process" to nearly as good as the 300mm telephoto the fact remains that the same care in post will make the 300mm better.
    Looking at his own "real world" comparisons the 300mm f4 lens gave better results at f4 than the zoom did at 5.6
    which when you think about it means that you can use the 300mm at f4 and thus use a faster speed. IS helps to fix up your camera shake, but won't help it if your subject moves (as in this shot)
    Having started out on Olympus OM cameras I have a real soft spot for their high quality optics, and I have also used a few on my Canon EOS camera with a cheapie adaptor (with AF confirm) I bought from Ebay. I have been looking carefully at buying a EF300 f4 lens but may settle for a Olympus OM 300mm f4.5 lens because I've seen how good they are on film.
    What ever you get, if its for wildlife, I can say you always get what you pay for in new gear, but with used gear a bit of research will often get you a bargain. If you're in the states, then you should look at they have a great reputation and I've bought from them before. I would feel more comfortable buying an expensive lens from them than Ebay.
  27. It may be fun to play with a 500 mm f/8 or even f/6.3 lens, but I would not bank on it for a "must have" shot.
    Here are a few shots I took with an old Vivitar 500 mm f/8 mirror lens on my 5D that I originally bought for astrophotography with my Minolta 35 mm film cameras years ago but abandoned it in favor of 500 mm f/5.6 Pro Optic spotting scope for that focal length.
    Since I already had it, I've taken it out to have some fun with it. I don't think that it is junk, but it is definitely not easy to shoot with as accurate focus is an issue and the single aperture means any exposure changes require use of neutral density filters which add to the focus issues. These images I shot hand held, so the lens is light enough to shoot hand held, though that will add to the softness as this focal length is beyond what most can hold steady enough for a reasonably sharp image. If you shoot enough, you may get a lucky shot or two, but most will be blurry. But this kind of lens is, in my opinion, too slow, both aperture and operation, for most nature photography. It can be used for such, but would be an exercise in frustration.
    If one were to get a lens like this with a screw mount, for the EOS T-adapter to use with it I would consider one of the ones with the chip for focus confirmation. But those do entail some risk to the camera.
  28. I have the 70-300mm 4.-5.6 IS USM and use it on a 30D. I also use the 1.4 Telextender with this and I have virtually no complaints. True, with the extender on, I am shooting at f8, but with light I am fine, and most of the time it will auto focus. I have boosted the ISO up a few times for interior scenes and I am delighted with this setup. BTW, bought it long ago when Bob A first recommended it. Good Luck.
  29. I have both the 70-300/4-5.6 IS USM and the 70-200 1:4 L USM. Besides magnification the most significant difference I've found is the auto focus.
    the 70-300 lens takes a long wind-up to get to where the focus is. the lens barrel shrinks and extends as focus is achieved and it is time consuming.
    the 70-200 auto focus is almost immediate. no extension at all.
    I've been shooting birds on the fly lately and the difference in number of frames shots/per fly by is quite significant. I can follow a bird with the 70-200 and get off 6 shots (no motor drive) with reasonable expectations of being in focus - where as the 70-300 once focus is "lost" will need to go through it's entire reach before returning to the focus - giving me about half that number of frames and about half of those in focus...
    image stabilization IS great - if the lens is focused.
  30. I had a 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS before upgrading to a 100-400L, and the lens was phenomenal. It was sharp and beautiful, and quick-focusing too. In fact, I still have it if you'd like to set up an arrangement of sorts to purchase it off me (i don't know if this is against the rules, but if it is, mods please just remove this reference). But yeah, the 70-300IS is the right choice for you.

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