In reality, you’re asking quite a lot from any lens to deliver superior features and optics for under $500, but there are options out there. Yes, it’s entirely possible to dive into a seemingly all-encompassing zoom lens for under $500. As with all camera lenses, they are not all made equal.
The best Canon medium telephoto lenses for under $500 have to start with great optics. A medium telephoto lens should provide a good reach, ideally over the 60mm focal length and with a reasonably wide aperture.
Third-party lens makers are usually a good option, as they provide lots of quality for the money. But, that doesn’t discount same-make lenses, which, in the right circumstances can provide loads of features for the money.
1. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM (Overall Winner)
The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is a great value lens for both full-frame and crop sensor camera bodies, providing an equivalent 112-480mm focal length on the latter.
The lens boasts one UD element, a Nano autofocus motor, image stabilization, a nine-blade rounded diaphragm, and a very useful lens display for pertinent lens setting information. The lens has a reasonable overall weight of 710g, which is quite impressive for a zoom lens with such a long reach.
The Nano USM autofocus motor is very fast and quiet which suits both images and movies, plus the four-stop stabilization system works wonderfully, especially at longer focal lengths. With all that in mind, this lens provides excellent image quality and features for the price, closely snapping at the heels of it’s more expensive contemporaries.
Although the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM is made specifically for APS-C camera bodies providing an 88-400mm equivalent focal length, it still packs a punch with great optics and features. One Ultra-Low Dispersion element and a Super Spectra coating have been added to the lens for increased optical quality, along with an optical image stabilizer of up to 3.5 stops of compensation.
The STM autofocus motor is extremely quick and quiet considering the price point. The image stabilizer works tremendously well, especially at long focal lengths. The aperture may not be wide enough for low-light capabilities, but considering the reasonable price point, this lens provides a lot for the money.
It’s no surprise that Tamron’s offering in this department provides a great bunch of optics for the money. In this case, it’s the Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD, which features Low Dispersion (LD) and Extra-Low Dispersion (XLD) lens elements, Ultrasonic Silent Drive autofocus motor, and a four-stop Vibration Compensation system.
This Tamron lens works equally well on both full-frame and crop sensor camera bodies, providing a very useful range of image stabilization, along with great image quality, and solid lens construction.
It’s surprising how much quality is packed into the frame of this Tamron. Proving that a lens at this price point can still deliver where it counts.
4. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM (Budget Winner)
In the zoom world, you’re asking a lot from a lens at a price point like this, but that’s exactly what the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM can deliver. Useful on both full-frame and APS-C models and providing a 120-480mm equivalent focal length, the lens features a Super Spectra coating and a respectable micro Ultrasonic Motor (USM) to cover autofocusing duties.
Although this lens can’t match the optical qualities of higher-priced lenses, it’s affordable enough to suit the beginner or those taking their first steps into the world of zoom lenses. The lens has enough reach for lots of creative applications. While it will need stopping down to f/8 for the sharpest images, it still delivers respectable images considering the very low price point.
Choosing Canon Medium Telephoto Lenses for Under $500
As originally stated, the usual course of action is to buy into a much higher-priced zoom for telephoto use, simply to ensure the best quality optics and features for long service. But, if you haven’t the budget for the more expensive models, than the ones listed above will still provide good optical quality for your hard-earned cash.
Another option when you’re on a budget is buying a secondhand lens. Second-hand lenses, however, are an area unto themselves, as you simply don’t know how they been used in the past, even if they have come from a reputable source.
If you can stretch to the price of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM, this would be the lens of choice in the whole list. But, if the Canon f/4 is still a stretch price-wise, the other lenses listed above still provide good quality optics for the money.