Canon EF-S 55-25mm IS STM vs EF 200mm 2.8L II

Dear Canonrumors Forum,


I've been spending a great deal of time trying to decide between these two lenses, which on the first look couldn't be more different in their features, but somehow both match the requirements for the usage I intend:

I'm searching for a small(ish) and relative light telephoto of at least 200mm, mainly for still photography, that is black and inconspicuous to the layman's eye while traveling in "adventurous" offbeat areas in eastern Europe, Africa and South America, and photographing musicians and performers during concerts/festivals.




The main gear I currently own:
is a Canon 100D/SL1 camera, which I intend to keep for a few years to come, as well as getting a full frame model of the next generation roster, to be hopefully announced soon this year.

My lenses are the unique Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Art,
40mm f2.8 Pancake lens, the 100 f2.8L Macro lens and the 70-200mm f2.8 IS II, with a 2x Extender III.

Often I find myself reaching for the 100L Macro, because it's smaller and lighter than the big white drainpipe for longer hikes.
I'm aware there is no 'perfect' lens and I try to be as objective and extensive in listing the following pros and cons:




The EF-S 55-250mm IS STM zoom lens:

+fantastic Image Stabilization
+lightweight
+one of the sharpest and snappiest EF-S lenses, with only a little bit of a quality compromise
+convenient normal and telephoto zoom range, reducing lens swaps, and 250mm beats 200 by a little
+price wise it's hard to beat, also allows smaller and cheaper filters, but there is neither lens hood nor storage pouch included
+the STM motor for a smooth(er) video shooting, not that important to me

=color is black and doesn't look imitating or drawing attention like Canon's white lens elite
= Size wise approx the same as the 200mm prime, retracted a little shorter, when fully extended longer...
=both lenses are handholdable and do not include a tripod collar

-it's Variable and smaller aperture
-the built quality in general is not par L glass standards
-the retracting design is a dust sucker - proven under harsh conditions such as the Coachella Music and Arts festival
-250mm is the longest possible since its incompatible with Canon extenders
-despite being one of the sharpest EFS-lenses, the prime has the edge in quality, plus I guess I'm a bit spoiled with the 70-200 IS II
-it's APSC only and therefore less future proof and incompatible with full frame models





The EF 200mm 2.8L II prime lens:

+sharp, fast aperture and great picture quality that matches the quality of my 70-200 zoom, no quality compromise here!
+strong built quality
+it's not changing its size, hence getting dust and moisture inside the mechanics is less of an issue
+it's full frame compatible
+allows the use if teleconverters, even if a cumbersome hassle to do so sometimes

=it's color is black and doesn't look intimidating or drawing as much attention as Canon's white lens elite, despite the red ring, which insiders are going to recognize, alongside the slightly bell-shaped front element
=size wise approximately the same as the zoom
=both lenses are handholdable and don't include a tripod collar

-lack of IS, especially for such a long focal length on a crop body
-less versatile and having to change lenses more often increases the amount of dust your sensor and lens mount contacts are exposed to to
-heavier than the EF-S zoom
-let's be honest, this lens is a living fossil and compared to modern lenses completley outdated
-it feels like I'm spending more cash on a quality lens that I essentially have in the 70-200 IS II, but this decision here is a compromise rather than a absolute solution
-it's pretty expensive compared to the EF-S model, filter size is larger, ergo more expensive too




After writing this I'm wondering
Am I missing anything?

To me it seems a pretty tough decision.
I have faith in the many smart and experienced minds of this great online community to gather feedback and look forward to an interesting discussion and debate. Would a poll be an applicable additional option?


PS: yes, I have tried out both lenses at a local camera store a few times and it did not help me much either...
 

neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
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MJ said:
...photographing musicians and performers during concerts/festivals.

To me, that says low light and moving subjects...and that means the 2-stop faster aperture of the 200/2.8 is going to be a big advantage.
 

nc0b

5DsR
Dec 3, 2013
255
11
74
Colorado
What a large price difference of $300 vs. almost $800, and in neither case are you getting much over what you already have. At a concert who is going to be paying much attention to your white 70-200mm? Concert lighting is usually terrible, including crazy colored lights, often swirling around. I only have one EF-S lens, the similar speed 15-85mm that is f5.6 at 85mm. It is almost useless indoors when shooting a band at a dinner venue. Depending where you are sitting or standing at a concert, I would think you need both the zoom and the speed of f/2.8. I have shot bands with an 85mm f/1.8, but wide open the DOF is so small that it is hard to keep one performer and his instrument in focus.
 

mpphoto

EOS M6 Mark II
CR Pro
Dec 15, 2013
90
9
I understand not wanting to carry the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II around. Sometimes I will use the 200mm f/2.8 II instead because it is lighter and less conspicuous.

I agree with neuro. I shot an awards banquet a couple of years ago with an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, before I knew better. I had to throw away quite a few blurry images. The following year I used a 24-105mm f/4L and that extra stop made a difference for me. While the 55-250mm STM is a nice lens, I think it will be too slow in poor lighting. If you're going to be using the 55-250mm STM outdoors or in well-lit situations, it will be a fine choice.

I have been happy with my 200mm f/2.8 II. It handles well, colors are great, and I like the bokeh. My experience with it is on a full-frame body.
 

preppyak

EOS R
Oct 18, 2011
1,026
80
MJ said:
I'm searching for a small(ish) and relative light telephoto of at least 200mm, mainly for still photography, that is black and inconspicuous to the layman's eye while traveling in "adventurous" offbeat areas in eastern Europe, Africa and South America, and photographing musicians and performers during concerts/festivals.
Seems an easy choice based on what you shoot, really. The 200mm f/2.8 is the winner. It'll allow you to combo with a TC to shoot wildlife and be good for general tele stuff as well. And you can use your 40mm and 100mm to fill the gaps that are left by not having the 55-250.

I've owned both lenses, and I must say I do miss the 200mm. I sold it because I needed the general purpose zoom, but, I'd own both if I had a reason to. Which, is a consideration, btw. Not sure what the used market in your area is like, but here in the US, the non-STM version is like $100ish, and the STM is $150-175. Would be worth owning in combo with the SL1 (and eventually maybe a 17-55 f/2.8) as a lightweight walkaround combo.

But in the short term, definitely get the 200mm. You can zoom with your feet if needed.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
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Mar 25, 2011
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I'd think that a SL1 is going to struggle with a f/2.8 in low light. A 135mm f/2L or a 85mm f/1.8 is going to reduce your noise by allowing a lower ISO, or reduce blur by allowing a faster shutter speed, or both.

You are going to like the weight of either compared to a 70-200mmL, the main issue is the imbalance between the tiny body and the big lens. I'd suggest borrowing or buying as 85mm f/1.8 first.
 

K-amps

EOS 5D Mark IV
Aug 8, 2011
1,790
2
Indianapolis
Hi MJ: What about other options? The Bokeh of the 55-250 is not legendary... if eventually you want to go full frame, you are better off investing in EF lenses. Having 2 L lenses that are F2.8 200mm seems like a bit of waste. Just throw a black cover on the 70-200, if it bothers you much.

If I were you, I'd seriously consider the 135 f/2 it can take TC's, and by itself it is great for low light concerts/ sports. It has very fast AF and it's Bokeh is as good as any great lens out there. It is light and inconspicuous. I will admit it is close in length to the 100m macro, but it is a stop faster, 35mm longer and will give you more dreamy blur, and costs not a whole lot.
 
Thank you everybody for your input and thoughts!

Since the 85 and especially the 135mm were mentioned as well, I did consider them too, reading only good things about these two classic lenses, but I'm afraid the focal lengths are a bit short, despite the fantastic f2/1.8!


I used to own the EF-S 55-250mm IS II a little while ago and was able to take a few great shots of performers, if well lit, as seen here: http://www.michaeljohannsen.com/MichaelJohannsen/Photography/Pages/Events.html

The photos of Lady Gaga, Beck, Arcade Fire, Robbie Williams, Foster The People and The Knife have been shot with the zoom. Basically everywhere I was able to sneak my lens into if I didn't have an invite to shoot 'legally' with my 70-200 (like Gilberto Gil and bunch of other, smaller events).
These photos have all been shot in the 200-250mm range exclusively, since I was unable to move around in the crowd during the concert and also didn't want to upset other viewers or get caught by overzealous concert staff for photographing with an SLR.

For general purpose this lens was convenient but the lack of picture quality and light sensitivity and especially the slow focusing speed made me sell it and left me with that essential question why I'm posting my agony over the updated zoom vs the classic prime pipe here :)