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Which Lens For A Newbie?

Sat Jan 08, 2011 6:01 pm

Hi Ladies and Gents

Over Christmas I treated myself to a Canon 1000D camera to start my aviation photography career - I'm not over mad about uploading to here for the moment atleast so that isn't a worry, however the 18mm - 55mm doesn't seem quite up for the upclose shots especially when far away.

My question is, which lens should I use - I shoot at LHR and have brought it down to a choice between the Canon 55-250mm IS lens or the Canon 70 - 300mm non IS Lens (as I'm an Apprentice and hence not exactly rolling in money !)
As a newbie, I've not really got any idea what differance the IS would make and whether, at major airports like LHR, that extra 50mm would make much difference ?

So should i go for the length or the IS ?
Many thanks for the help !
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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Sat Jan 08, 2011 6:12 pm

The 55-250 would be more than suitable for approach shots to 27L, 27R and 09L. I would think it would be fine for take-off shots from 27L, I didn't need more than 200mm for take-off shots off 09R from Myrtle Ave.
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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:44 pm

Might be worth noting that the 55-250 IS is noticeably soft past ~200mm (at least my copy is, but I've read the same elsewhere). And it's not great between ~170-200mm, but good enough. For uploading here, I don't take shots past 200mm.
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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:41 am

With both lenses anything past 200mm and the results are pretty unusable. They are both budget pieces and therefore not of a great build quality, however the 75-300 (the 70-300 is a much better and more expensive lens) is sturdier and feels nicer in the hands. It does of course lack IS, but since you're a beginner it's best to perhaps stick to bright days anyway.

My vote goes to the 75-300.

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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Sun Jan 09, 2011 10:48 am

You are a beginner, just like me as well (I bought my first DSLR camera in July 2010)... so, in some ways I can ideantify some of perplexity I had in you.
I'd like to tell you something about it basing on my experience: hope it helps!  

but first a little foreword about the IS: it is useful only for hand-held shooting (almost all the time :P ).
Then, the IS is certainly useful, but not essential: I started my "photography career" only 6 months ago, with a Canon 450D, 18-55, 75-300 and now I got the magic 70-200 f/4 L USM. All of them are non-IS.
Now, let's go over the practical side: if you are shooting in good light conditions (which means faster shutter speeds), you are likely not to feel the need of the IS. But beware of the fact that the more the focal lenght is higher, the more you will need faster shutter speeds (bear in mind the useful rule of thumb: the time should be the reciprocal of the focal lenght): this should prevent you to take blurry/micro-blurry shots, which would be due to micro movements of your hands.

But indeed in other situations you may need to set slow shutters, for example if the light is not good, or if you want to try to get panning shots.
The IS works in order to avoid the blurry given by the unintentional micro-movements of your hands. The IS does NOT prevent the blurry of the subject. I mean, if you want to take a panning shot of a landing 737, you have to set a shutter slower than 1/100 (I'd like to suggest you to use Time priority mode for this   ). Given that the focal lenght is 200mm, for instance, the IS will work against YOUR movements, but not against the movement of the aircraft itself (the subject).
I think The latter it's related more to the photographic technique.

But the IS has its limits as well (if I can recall correctly, Canon guarantees the 55-250's IS for 4 stops).

Now, let's talk about lenses: I have never tried the 50-250 IS, but I heard good things about it... although it's not my direct experience.
Talking about the other lens: I'm not so sure if the answer I'm going to give you is about the same lens you were meaning, as the Canon 70-300s are all quite/very expensive and all provided with IS (but maybe I am missing or forgetting some of them).
The lens I'm going to talk you about is the Canon EF 75-300 f/4-5.6 III: it is a good lens for its price and, Acoording to my experience, it is good since you are a beginner, then you'll probably find out that you need more (as a matter of fact I have purchased the 70-200L).
With this lens I had lots of fun, but little by little I discovered that it had strict limitations: the quality is very good at f/numbers near the "magic 8" and at focals shorter than 200mm.
Passing 200mm, you will have a strong decrease in quality which is more evident the more you move nearer the 300mm. You will notice the loss in quality and sharpness at low f/numbers as well.
But, as I said before, it could give good satisfactions: you have only to use it according to its limits, and not forcing it to burts these limits: unless you don't do that, your shots won't be as good as you had expected (I have shot only few times at focals higher than 200, but result were not so good.
Then, if you have a look to my pictures in the DB, almost all of them (about 20 on 23) have been taken with that lens, and I still have to upload a lot of other shots taken with it.
Some examples:

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Matteo Stella

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Matteo Stella

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Matteo Stella

To sum up all: if I were you, I'd find more information and reviews about the 55-250IS and the other lenses you are interested in. But, as Karl said, you can't pretend to have the best quality with these lenses, even if I think they're the best to learn how to take photos; THEN, after some time, you would decide if that is the lens that fits to you or not.

These are just my two cents,
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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:16 am

As an owner of both lenses Canon 75-300 USM and Canon 55-250 IS I can tell you that since I bought the 55-250 the lens mentioned first is not even in my camera bag.
In my experience the 75-300 is more pretty much unusable above 220 mm being very soft and with lots of CA. I always had to pay attention not to exceed that focal length while using it. My 55-250 is usable and sharp across entire range with many images taken at 250 mm accepted here.

You can check the review of that lens here:

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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:46 pm

Many thanks for the replies, they have been most helpful - especially teopilot thanks for taking the time to write such along reply !

All of my shooting is hand held as I don't even own a tripod and am not mad on having to carry around one since I like to move around alot !
All that said i'm leaning towards the 55-250mm IS lens, as the IS seems to be of bigger benefit than an extra 50mm of zoom.

Always stand up for what is right, even if it means standing alone..
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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:19 pm

Forget the extra 50mm as it's really a false benefit. Both lenses deteriorate beyond 200mm, so the IS in the 55-250 may well swing it. That said, the build quality of the 55-250 is shoddy (and that's being polite!) - in fact about as shoddy as Canon gets!

I'll be honest - you are picking the best of the worst here.

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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:06 am

The 70-300 IS is what I have and its a nice lens, but its also $500. Its also no L, so don't expect the world from it. Quick focus, decent sharpness, wide zoom range, and light wieght. Still a world better than the cheaper Canon lenses in this range. Has newer IS so it has pan mode.

I don't even use my kit lens anymore as its so frustrating trying to deal with the slow zoom and the lack of sharpness wide open, and its supposedly a midrange lens by the list price. Oh and the garbage IS. That said, having a midrange lens has sold me 100% on aquiring L lenses going forward
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RE: Which Lens For A Newbie?

Mon Jan 24, 2011 2:24 pm

EF75-300 is cheap and very usable. I'd suggest that. Don't be afraid to raise the ISO when above 200 mm. Even if you get slight grain, that grain is very "benign" meaning it can be successfuly removed with noise removal software.

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