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Thread: First of many dumb questions: difference bet. 75-300mm and 55-250mm lens?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Hampshire, UK
    Real Name

    First of many dumb questions: difference bet. 75-300mm and 55-250mm lens?

    Ok this is with regards to lenses, first off it would be wise of me to point out that i am a complete novice.

    Right then, i am after a telephoto lense but with so many to pick from, could some one break down what the difference is between the following...

    75mm - 300mm lense and 55mm - 250mm lense

    and the answer of 30mm is not the one i am looking for

    Just a guide so i know what is what etc.

    Many thanks,


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    South Devon, UK

    Re: First of many dumb questions for newbe

    Firstly, as far as I can see Paul, there is only one 'dumb' bit to your question; you don't mention the brand of your camera!

    However, going by the lens sizes I think you are probably using a Canon, is that correct?

    If so, there are many differences between those lenses. The 75-300 is a rather old design which was never a 'popular' lens but often still occurs in 'bargain bucket' sales.

    The 55-250 is a much newer lens with many better features (like Image Stabilisation) which usually gets good reviews for that price range. But being a 'cheapie' lens (even at that price it is amongst the cheaper lenses) the construction is somewhat lightweight and plastic.

    If you can afford a bit extra I would recommend the Canon 70-300 IS which is a decent mid price zoom. A 70-200 might also be worth considering if you don't need the 200-300 range; although if you want the IS version it gets a bit expensive - and seriously priced if you get the faster 2.8 version.

    Put very basically Image Stabilisation (IS) is, for most people, a great asset which allows you to successfully hand hold a long lens at a lower shutter speed without camera shake.

    Here is a link for some detailed independent reviews of those lenses, and a lot more
    Last edited by Geoff F; 21st November 2010 at 11:39 AM. Reason: link added

  3. #3
    Steaphany's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Somewhere in Texas
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    Re: First of many dumb questions for newbe

    Hi Paul,

    Welcome to CiC, and I recommend that you spend some time reading through the tutorials here on the site. They will bring you up to speed quickly.

    In regard to dumb questions, don't worry. It's my view that the only dumb questions are the questions which never get asked.

    Some points of terminology. A Telephoto lens has an optical focal length that is longer than the physical length of the lens body. A Zoom Lens is one with a variable focal length and a Prime Lens has a fixed focal length. A lens is described as being Normal when the focal length is 50mm ( When working with or close to the 35mm frame size ) Wide angle is when it's less than 50mm and Telephoto comes in when greater than 50mm.

    Of the two telephoto Zoom lens focal ranges you list, the 55-250mm starts out close to 50mm, so it would be closer to a general purpose lens for most subjects than the 75-300mm.

  4. #4
    rpcrowe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Southern California, USA
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    Re: First of many dumb questions for newbe

    Hi Paul...

    The above comments are right-on and totally correct regarding the differences between the 75-300mm, 70-300mm, 55-250mm and 70-200mm "L" lenses...

    I would just like to add a few comments about "my" use of telephoto lenses; and the use of long focal lengths in general. I always carry a normal angle zoom and a telephoto zoom on a pair of cameras as my standard general and travel photography kit. As an old American Express Credit Card video commercial used to state I "never leave home without it!".

    Many photographers are wide-angle enthusiasts and do not use telephoto lenses. I have read many posts (on various websites) by photographers who state that a telephoto lens is not necessary for various photo endeavors. Many times, these photographers state that they don't think a telephoto lens is appropriate for landscape and/or travel photography. I have recently read a post by a self-appointed expert who said that you "can't use a telephoto lens in China". His rationale was that China was too crowded, thus a telephoto lens was not appropriate. I wonder if he had visited in China and I would like to see his images if he did.

    I like a tele lens for many different reasons and here are a few shots from "MY" China trip to illustrate the uses:

    1. First and foremost, a telephoto lens allows me to shoot images of subjects without getting into their personal space. Shooting from a distance maintains the naturalness of the subject who doesn't change affect due to the presence of the camera...
    First of many dumb questions: difference bet. 75-300mm and 55-250mm lens?

    2. A long focal length lens allows me to isolate portions of a scene...
    First of many dumb questions: difference bet. 75-300mm and 55-250mm lens?

    3. A long focal length will allow me to direct attention to specific subjects using selective depth of field...
    First of many dumb questions: difference bet. 75-300mm and 55-250mm lens?

    4. The ability of a long focal length lens to compress distance perspective which often makes a mundane scene into an interesting image...
    First of many dumb questions: difference bet. 75-300mm and 55-250mm lens?

    In addition to price, which we all must consider when purchasing a telephoto lens, there are at least three parameters that are quite important. These are in addition to general image quality and auto-focus speed and accuracy...

    Some sort of camera shake compensation such as Canon's Image Stabilization (other manufacturers have their own type). This is, IMO, critical in a telephoto lens which you want to use for general hand held photography. It frees you from being a slave to bright light. Photographers of today are fortunate in that many manufacturers are offering their styles of shake sompensation. All of them work to some degree and I woud definitely opt for that capability in a lens (some camera systems offer it in the camera body but, that's another subject).

    A reasonably wide f/stop will also allow you to shoot under lower light conditions and additionally will provide a more shallow depth of field. Many telephoto lenses have a variable aperture (generally between f/4 or f/4.5 and f/5.6 or even f/6.3). As you zoom to increase the focal length, the aperture gets smaller. This may propose a problem because in the longer focal lengths, you need a faster shutter speed. I personally enjoy the constant f/4 aperture of my 70-200mm f/4L IS lens but, I could live with f/5.6. However f/6.3 is getting pretty slow and I would not select a lens with an aperture (at any focal length) this slow.

    Weight is always a consideration when choosing any photographic equipment. If any piece of equipment weighs more than you are comfortable carrying, you will be prone to leave it at home. The Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L series of lenses are wonderful! They are also quite heavy. I chose the 70-200mm f/4L IS because it is lighter in weight than the f/2.8 versions and I can carry it everywhere without the use of a pack horse. The non-L quality telephoto lenses produced by Canon (such as the 55-250mm) are lighter in weight but, could be considered less rugged.

    My China images of which about 1/3 were shot using a 70-200mm f/4L IS lens (at varying focal lengths) can be seen at:
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 21st November 2010 at 04:37 PM.

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