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Wildlife Zoom Lens for Canon Rebel

Question:

I am an amateur photographer from Alberta, Canada. I am currently shooting with a Canon Digital Rebel XTi.

I am looking for a zoom lens for shooting wildlife in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

I need something stronger than the EFS 18-55mm that came with the camera. Something not too bulky though, as I am doing a lot of long hikes and climbing.

Is there a lens you would suggest?

 

Reply:

Depending on your budget, I would recommend either the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS telephoto zoom, or the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom. Canon EF-S 55-250mm telephoto zoom lens
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS zoom
Canon ef70-300mm IS USM zoom lens
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM zoom

 

 

Both lenses have image stabilization (IS), which helps reduce camera shake and allows hand-holding at slower shutter speeds, although I'd still recommend using some sort of camera support whenever possible with a long lens.

They're also both relatively small and light (13.8 oz./390g and 22.2 oz./630g respectively), so would be suitable to carry on longer or more strenuous hikes where weight is a major issue.

The 55-250mm is fairly inexpensive ($249 to $299) and, with your 18-55mm, would mean you have all focal lengths covered from 18mm to 250mm.

The Canon Rebel XTi's "crop factor" of 1.6x comes into play, so the 55-250mm gives you the same angle of view (or "equivalent" focal length) as would a 88-400mm on a 35mm film camera (or full-frame digital SLR like the Canon 5D Mk II). That, in my experience, is adequate for most wildlife photography, although you can never have enough focal length for birds.

The 70-300mm gives an equivalent focal length of 112-480mm on a 35mm or full-frame camera, so offers a bit more "reach". It costs quite a lot more, about $531 to $550. I use one for most my wildlife photography and am happy with it - see my Wildlife Blog for examples.

Obviously I'd like some "L" lenses like the 70-200mm f/2.8, or the 300mm f/4 but they're in a different price bracket that I can't afford at present.

I've only mentioned Canon lenses, but you could also go for a Canon-mount Sigma, Tamron or Tokina in similar focal lengths. As far as I know they don't have image stabilization in most cases, which for me is a major disadvantage. Unless you have very steady hands or will be using a tripod most the time, IS definitely will mean fewer blurred shots.

If you want to read extensive user reviews of lenses, I'd suggest having a look at Fred Miranda's site.

Also, for a quick summary of the above recommended lenses and what users are saying about them, see:

If you're looking for something more long-term and it's within budget, there are two Canon 70-200mm f/4.0 lenses that get very good reviews and are highly recommended. They are both white, "L" series lenses, the cheaper one without IS (about $640) and the much more expensive one with IS (about $1230).

They're smaller and lighter than the f/2.8 version, so should also be suitable for your needs in terms of size and weight, while offering water-and dust-proof construction and "L-series" image quality - see for example Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Telephoto Zoom.

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