Need Advice on Camera Lens Purchase

I’m buying a camera as a present for “someone”, and I have a question.

This person is a person who likes taking outdoor/wildlife photography, but also close-up when needed.

The camera is a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, and it comes with an 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens.

I want to buy an additional telephoto lens to supplement it.

Based on reviews, I see two options from Canon that look good:

  1. A 75-300mm f4-5.6 lens
  2. A 100-300mm f4.5-5.6 lens

Assuming that Option 2 is cheaper and slightly better quality overall, I have the following concerns.

  1. Is the “gap” from 18-55mm to 100-300mm too “large” for a non-professional? Would there be a benefit having that additional coverage down to 75mm?

  2. Would I be better served looking instead at something like a 55-200mm?

  3. Is there any way to reasonably put these lenses in a “zoom” range, such as 3x-8x? I Googled for some time and did not see an easy way to convert. Maybe it’s simple, but I don’t know a lot about this.

Alternately, anyone know other really good choices for a lens in the $300 or under price range for use with this camera, that gives a large amount of zoom?

If these are not digital specific lenses (I’d have to check the catalog) they’ll have a 1.6x multiplier effect due to the CCD on the Rebel being smaller than the 35mm negative. The 100-300 will become a 160-480mm. Great for wildlife (300mm is too small IMO for wildlife) but with a bigger gap.

I wouldn’t worry about the gap between 55 and 100 or 160. Having said that, I have the 75-300.

There is a multiplier effect even if they are digital-specific lenses. SLR lenses (including digital-specific ones) are labeled by their true focal length.

I did see the 1.6 multiplier mentioned.

But in conjunction with that, I’m trying to get a gut feel. My point and shoot digital has an optical zoom of 2x. A person at work has one with optical zoom of 8x. What is the equivalent zoom of 300mm focal length, for example? :confused:

I guess I could expand this question in IMHO to see if anyone thinks for under $1000 there is a better equivalent digital camera…

Wow, what a generous gift! I’m still hoping to be able to afford a DSLR for my trip to England this fall. I’ve been looking at the Digital Rebel XT or the Nikon D70s. Also, Nikon has also just released the D50 which is intended to compete directly with the Rebel XT and is at the same price point so you might also want to check some reviews on that one, as well. Keep in mind, however, that if your giftee already has a film SLR, it would be wise to stick to that make as their existing lenses may be compatible with the DSLR.

As for focal length multipliers and zoom factors, think of it this way: the 18-55mm with the 1.6 multiplier would render this lens equivalent to 28.8-88mm on a 35mm SLR. This will give you a decent wide-angle view (probably equal to the wide angle view on your P&S digital) with a 3X zoom factor (55 divided by 18). The 75-300mm has a 4X zoom factor (300 divided by 75) but the focal length at its shortest is only 75mm (120mm film equiv.) compared to 18mm (28.8mm film equiv).

Assuming you have a range of lenses that covers the whole gamut of focal lengths, e.g., an 18-55mm, a 55-200mm, and a 100-300mm, then dividing 300 by 18 gives you a 16.6X zoom factor from your widest angle to your longest telephoto. Keeping in mind that a 300mm focal length is effectively equivalent to 480mm, I’d say you have all the zoom you need for nature shots. BTW, with such a long lens, you might also want to look into a tripod or monopod. It’s extremely difficult to hold the camera steady enough to get sharp captures at such long focal lengths.

I hope this was of some help. Good luck shopping and let me know if you come across any great deals.

A 50mm is no magnification. If you start with 50mm then 100mm is 2x and 300 is 6x. But most all-in-one cameras start at roughly 35mm, so a 10x zoom is 350mm. It’ll all depend on the widest angle of the lens, the 2x, 3x, and 8x are all relative to the widest angle of the zoom. Some start at 38mm, some as low as 28mm.

It’s much easier to look at focal length to determine usefulness of lenses. For wildlife shots, you need a minimum of 300mm, IMO.

You are correct that focal length is the same for lenses whether they are made for digital cameras or film. However, digital specific lenses are much smaller and lighter for the same focal length due to the fact that they are designed for the smaller CCDs.

I * think * what you’re asking here is not the zoom range, but what the effective magnification of a 300mm zoom is? If so, a normal 50mm lens on a 35mm camera is about equivalent to a normal human field of vision. So a 100-300 mm lens, with the 1.6 digital factor cover a range from 3X to 10X.

My comment on the 100-300mm zoom is that it’s good for sports and wildlife but it’s not a great “carry around” lens. Its low end is a bit too long for portraiture and much too long for landscapes. And the 18-55mm lens, while a useful range, doesn’t have quite the length you want. That’s the frustrating thing about SLRs – you need a lot of glass to make them truly useful.

There are a number of “prosumer” cameras that have very impressive zoom ranges. The Sony H1, for example, has a 12X zoom range, as does the Panasonic FZ5. The lenses on these cameras are pretty fast (f2.8-f3.3 as opposed to the slower lenses of the SLRs). The tradeoff is smaller sensors, somewhat noisier images, and lack of interchangeable lenses.

If you go to the site and select “forums”, you’ll find one for Canon SLR lenses. That should lead you to some reviews for the various lenses. Unfortunately, the contributors tend to be very demanding of their lenses, so the review of any lens under $300.00 is likely to be “Well, it’s OK if you can’t afford a real lens.”

A typical “10x zoom” digital camera has a lens equivalent to 35-350mm (i.e. same field of view as a standard film camera with 35-350mm lens), or something close to it. My Canon PowerShot S1 has a 38-380mm equivalent lens.

The Digital Rebel’s CCD is 1/1.6 the size of a 35mm film camera, so to get an equivalent of 35-350mm zoom, you need a 22-220mm zoom lens. Your combination of 18-55 and 100-300 covers this range and then some.

You are going to be pleased with either choice. The lenses will be used for very different purposes. By the time you zoom out to the long end of the semi wide to short tele (18 - 55 digital), you are either content with that short tele or you want more. The gap between the 55 and the 100 is going to be noticeable, but probably won’t be a real concern, as the mind set when switching to tele will likely be “More zoom! More zoom!”. I would check for some specific user tests of the two lenses. A web search should bring up several.

Another nice gift (with using long tele in mind) is a small tripod or a monopod. 300mm on a Rebel Digital is quite a lot of tele, and support is often in order.

User test you might find helpful

I looked over everything provided in here and linked, and based on that plus the timing of certain events, I’ve made a Decision. So I no longer need additional advice - thank you everyone for your thoughts on this!

I hope someone will like their new camera… :slight_smile:

If they don’t, I’ve got some Canon lenses here that would love to be mated to something other than a boring 35mm camera. :smiley: