Best Telephoto Lens

Hi all,
I have decided to invest in professional spotting equipment. I have decided to buy the Canon T5i, but don’t know where to start in terms of a telephoto lens. I figured I could turn to the Community to see what you guys use. Thanks!


Check out this thread, it might help.



I feel like you should learn how to do basic photos with a 70-300mm first before moving to a telephoto lens because that costs quite a bit.


I actually do have an old Canon XTi with a 75-300mm lens I believe.
EDIT: 80-200

The 75-300 is a sub-par lens. The AF is slow and noisy, along with the fact that it has no image stabilization…

I’d suggest upgrading to either a 55-250mm STM or 70-300mm USM

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I use a 75-300mm for spotting and that’s it. It all depends how close you are really. When I was at the parking lot of ATL, it was not that great for a 777 (too close). However, at TPA since I was on a parking garage it worked great and the planes could fit in the shot. To conclude, I would just get a 75-300mm and then get a bigger lens if you feel like it.

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I have a 300mm prime f4. Great lens but framing can be an issue due to fixed focal length.

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I have a 300ml lens but because of my camera’s sensor it’s more like 450ml

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Hey there,

Great that you’ve decided to take the next step in planespotting! There’s quite a few EF-mount lenses you can use, sorted by price order here:

Tl;dr- 55-250 STM for low price range, 70-200 f4 for good value, and 100-400II if money isn’t an issue. All prices are in USD, based on B&Hs prices so it can only be cheaper.

  1. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 III USM

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this lens as it’s not very good in any way. It lacks IS (Image Stabilisation), the USM motor is not very fast compared to the ring-type USM that is found in other lenses. Image quality is also sub-par and build quality is more comparable to a plastic cup than a lens.

Average price brand new is around $180.

  1. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

    This lens is my personal go-to recommendation to anyone who needs a telephoto. If you have the 18-55 kit lens, this picks up where the kit lens stops. It’s a great lens for the money, having IS and the much quieter STM focusing motor. If you are getting this, make sure you find the STM version over the older micro-motor version as the STM has better image quality and a better focusing motor. The image quality is great considering how much the lens costs, and the build quality is much better than the 75-300. Do take note however- it’s an EF-S lens so if you will be upgrading to a full frame camera in the future this lens will not fit.

Price brand new is around $300, but it’s always good to shop around for a bargain.

  1. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM
    The Mark I is on the left, while the Mark II is on the right.

This is one lens where people seem divided about. Some aren’t sure if it’s worth the price increase over the 55-250, while others say this is a night and day increase in quality. I’ve never used it- so do your research as only you can be sure that this is worth the price jump. (If anyone here has one, do chime in!) However, I have tried out the 70-300L and wasn’t very impressed by the quality, considering the “L” badging so I’d recommend this over the L lens. The II improves on the I by having the new nano-USM focus motor instead of the old micro-USM as well as some optical improvements.

This lens retails for around $500.

  1. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L (IS/non-IS) USM

    Don’t listen to what I have to say about this lens, I’ll be biased as I own one! This is the entry level “L” lens, having a constant aperture of f/4 and ring-type USM, making it one of the best lenses for the money. The one I have doesn’t come with IS as I didn’t see the need to pay extra. This lens has much better image quality over the 70-300II, as well as being weather sealed if you get the IS version. It’s very quick to focus on my 7D, as well as providing beautiful shots. Samples below!

This lens retails for around $600 new, although I got mine used.

  1. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM
    The Mark I is on the left, while the newer Mark II is on the right.
    This lens is considered the perfect lens for planespotting, and the price reflects that. 400mm on FF is more than enough to capture shots from most places, and with the 1.6x crop of an APS-C sensor that brings it to an effective 640mm range, normally the territory of big-ass prime lenses. The zoom also allows you to be able to move around and frame the shot for different planes, unlike having a 200/300/400mm prime. It has IS and great image quality especially when compared to multiple prime lenses, when the zoom is considered. If you can’t justify dropping the $2000 for one brand new, consider the Mark I version. It uses a push-and-pull zoom instead of the newer twist zoom and the image quality can be considered lacking but I have seen them for sale around $1000 used, so definitely a viable alternative if you’re like me and can’t see yourself dropping that much on a lens.

Do update us on your eventual decision :D

Thanks to for many of the lens pictures used.


I’ve got a 55-250 F4/5.6 IS and it works great. Some images can be soft, but with the right post-processing procedures, it can be corrected and give you great images.


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