Lenses brand question for a novice

For a novice like myself that is building out his lens portfolio I would like some advice or comments. I mainly enjoy landscapes but there are times I’m out hiking that I also enjoy getting shots of wildlife. I get all confused when watching YouTube videos and even wonder if I should be trusting them to be honest. My end question is from being practical about my current skill level am I going to notice the difference in lenses when comparing a Tamron 100-400mm versus a Canon simiLar version? Or say the 70-200mm 2.8 models. Just looking to be wise on where I put my money knowing that Canon may have a better product but until my skill is developed where should I start? Thanks

It will be difficult for anybody to answer this question for you, because everybody’s perception is different. That being said, I must say that a person reading equipment forums will come away with an exaggerated view of image sharpness. It is the online obsession, and the truth is it isn’t always that important. There are many elements that go into a good photo. Image quality is only one. I had the great pleasure to view some of Galen Rowell’s prints when his gallery was still open in Bishop. Most of his fabulous photos were shot with a film 35 mm camera and blown up quite large. They were amazing photos, quite powerful, and almost uniformly not sharp by today’s standards. So my advice is buy what you can afford, don’t worry that Canon’s lens might be sharper than Tamrons. The Tamron lens can give you amazing photos. You may or may not be able to notice the difference in sharpness, but if you can, it probably doesn’t matter for your purpose. Better at this stage of your photography to have a good selection of lenses and go out and take lots of photos. Worry about top of the line sharpness later.

1 Like

That’s a very good question Douglas, and I think all of us have faced it over the course of our photo careers. Retrospect and large pronouncements are the special joy of geezers, so I’ll toss in my response before you get more that are surely coming.

The most important thing that will happen is an evolution in the way you view your own photos and what you’re willing to accept. Early on you’re not so critical and can be justifiably proud of simply being there and getting the shot. But as you gain experience, you’re going to become more and more critical of your own work and more demanding of equipment performance. As proud as I might have been of a shot early on, I often cringe to review them today and mutter things like “If only I’d done THIS and if I’d only had THIS lens back in those days.” But that’s missing the bigger point: In fact you were there and you got the shot. Not having a $10k lens is no reason to stay home and pass up shots.

My mantra and that of my mentors has been to buy the best you can afford after careful reviews by credible independent reviewers. But recognize that over 10 or 20 years you’re choices in lenses will evolve along with your budget and you photo skills. The obverse is that purchasing the best early on can mean you’re still using the same lens 20 years later with no replacements. I can beat the 20 years with the Nikon 105mm MF macro lens I bought in 1978, and it’s still my primary macro these 41 years later! Image quality suffers with zooms in particular at the low end of the price scale and in my rough and tumble experience, are much more fragile at the low end. Even so, they’re also usually lighter and easier to carry in the field. If it’s in a useful range to you and convenient to use, you’ll make sacrifices in image quality here and there in favor of utility and less weight.

The perfect example is my beloved Nikon 24-120 f/4. It takes several much more expensive and much heavier lenses to cover that zoom range, and I have them. But they mostly stay home or very close to the truck. Meanwhile the 24-120 gets all the field time and all the hard knocks because it suits my needs so well. Most certainly it’s a good thing it’s also cheaper, because they’re also more fragile. I’m sad to report that I’m on my third after destroying two others. But I keep replacing them rather than lugging the “better” alternatives I already own. Similarly my Nikon 500 f/4 gets very little use these days in favor of the vastly cheaper and not quite so sharp Nikon 200-500 zoom. It gets the nod for the advantages of lighter weight and variable framing compared to that wonderful fixed lens, even if the images aren’t quite so good. It also means I don’t have to carry my 300 f/2.8 and my 80-200 f/2.8’s to cover the same range, What a savings in money and field weight!

Dunno how much my rambling contributes, but take it as a sure sign that I need to further explore the bottom of my coffee cup in order to focus my thinking this AM! :grinning:

Great points made above, the gear is not all that important! Plus, almost all of today’s current gear is astoundingly good that you almost can’t make a bad choice. In recent years Tamron, Tokina and Sigma have actually surpassed the quality of the big brands for many lenses. Personally, I’d save the money and get the Tamron. Use the extra money to fund a trip somewhere instead!


Thank you all for the advice and it all makes sense from the point of view that I’m less than twelve months into this new hobby. A hobby that spawned from wanting to get outside more and so backpacking is where this all really started. I have some buyers remorse for going with the Canon M50 as it isn’t weather sealed but it’s been good to me so far. No bothered by the crop sensor for now and I do love my canon 17-55mm 2.8 supported with my 55-250 and then my 50mm 1.8. Just looking for a little more distance when hiking.

Once again thanks for all the feedback and advice

I research DXOMark before purchasing a lens.


You’ll find that Tamron will often have higher scores than Canon or Nikon yet be considerably cheaper. Having both a Canon and a Tamron I believe that the price difference is due to build quality. One has more metal and the other plastic. But I’m mostly interested in optics so the value in savings is considerable. Regarding DXOMark, I pay particular attention to the sharpness score.

Here’s the thing about quality equipment. After you shoot with the good stuff you want to go back and reshoot your old compositions with it. Ultimately, it’s up to your end goal. If you intend to eventually print your images for wall display, then good equipment matters. But there are limits to how much discomfort one is willing to deal with to get thee absolute best image. I’m not willing to carry prime lenses to get the best images such as say, Jack Dykinga. Fiddling with equipment diminishes creativity. I feel pretty strong about that. The zooms are very practical and flexible. I would go with a 14-24, 24-70, and a 70-200.


Now you’ve hit on something, and zero reason for buyer’s remorse. Camera bodies come and go at a much higher rate than lenses, and you’re likely to go through several in the 20-year life of a lens. In fact you’ll continue to use the previous purchase as a backup for the new gem, and that crop sensor is likely to make it your favorite for use with long lenses and wildlife, even if you have a Cadillac full-frame in the house.

Another advantage comes in highly changeable circumstances as I often encountered in pro shooting. It’s VASTLY better to have lenses mounted on two bodies for rapid changes than to carry a single body and swap lenses. Can’t tell you how many great shots occur right in the middle of a lens change, because you’re not usually inspired to a lens change until the one on your camera is all wrong and you have to stop in spite of great action.

Truth be told I carried 3 bodies most times when pro shooting (one under each arm and one on my chest) for instantaneous “lens” swaps as action evolved. Kinda funny really to be on a shoot with additional pros from other contractors, listening to them cussing and fussing through lens changes while I kept right on shooting. Same for photoing wildlife when they’re moving near and far in seconds. Always if I have my big lens on a tripod for wildlife, I have a second body and shorter lens around my neck for instant switches.

1 Like

Maybe consider saving $$ purchasing preowned equipment. There are many reputable online resellers including Nikon USA.
Lighter weight equipment can increase your participation and enjoyment. Notice what lenses are used here in the galleries to make the shots you like. It’s always more about the photographer than the equipment.

1 Like