$100 for a 20 year old lens... is it worth it???


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Jan 12, 2009
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Someone locally is selling a 70-210mm non-uSM f/4 lens for $100 (discontinued in 1988). I currently have an almost new (yet slow) 55-200 USM f4.5-5.6 (bought for $50 off ebay) that I could sell for $100, so I'd be virtually trading for an older, yet faster lens.

The seller said it's in perfect condition, no marks, dust, or wear, and AF works perfectly.

I know the 70-210 is probably around 20 years old, but it is a faster lens, with probably better glass (???), but the AF is going to be loud and a little slower.

I'm broke and can't spend more than a $100 on a lens right now (and the "trade" would make it free). Any opinions?
All depends, ask if you can test.
I had that lens and sold it several years ago to a fellow photography student in my class. I sold it for $120. It is a ok lens. In the early and mid 80s, zooms were still "newish" technology and being improved on. As such, I like old primes but prefer the zooms of today. As you mentioned, it also has the macro motor rather than the USM motor. Also, it is an older push-pull design... some people just never get used to that feature. Those are reasons alone would make me recommend sticking with what you have.
Assuming the lens works perfectly...

Here is my main reason for the switch:

I was at a sporting event and needed the 200mm telephoto. The 5.6 just wasn't cutting it. Waaaay to slow in the dimly lit arena.

f4 is a huge jump from 5.6 and will allow for a lot faster shots, capturing the action without tons of blurr. I'm just worried that the lens will take inferior pictures (old zoom technology aberration, etc), or the focus will be too slow/loud.

Do you agree that the added stops are worth the extra age? Or is it more important to have the newer, quieter, faster focus lens and lighter weight???
not added stops... added stop.

My personal opinion is to continue with what you have and save up. Sports photography inside an arena is very demanding of equipment.
It's hard to save on unemployment, haha. :p

And any lens I'd get that's equivalent would probably be near or over the $500 mark, no?

That's my main issue. On a budget. No saving anytime soon. It's pretty much either the 55-200 or the 70-210. Those are my options.

I do appreciate everyone's advice though. I knew "save up" was going to be a lot of people's answers, but it's just not feasible anytime soon.

So which do you prefer: 55-200 USM f4.5-5.6 or (older) 70-210 f4
I owned 3 of that lens and sold 2.

In general, that lens is not that bad. Personally, push pull type .. I really have no problem with that. Actually, I like that better .. (it's just me). But there is a problem of the lens may extend by itself due to gravity.

As usait said, the motor is slow. But I really think that lens is not that bad at all. The build is decent, not plastic feel. When compare it with my other lens, 70-300 IS USM, of course it is not as sharp and the motor on the USM lens is way faster. But the other lens cost more.

It is a little soft with aperture set to F/4. I will prefer using it with at least f/5.6.

Here is picture I took with that lens in the zoo.


And this is the exif

Canon EOS Rebel XTi F/5.6, 1/320, ISO 400, 210mm

$100 is a good price for that lens in good condition.

I really do not know if it is good for sports photography at all since the motor is slower and I have not experience on sports photography.
While faster than your f/5.6 lens, I don't think that f/4 lens is going to be fast enough for indoor sports. Keep in mind you'd only be gaining one stop of light.

Plus, even with an f/2.8 lens (two stops from f/5.6), you're still looking at ISO 3200 to 6400 to stop action, generally speaking.

Like usayit said, zooms today are much better than they were 20 years ago. I'd stick with what you have.
Sorry to hear about the unemployment (been there done that ... a few times now.. sucks) My vote is still to stick with what you have... hopefully you'll join the employed sooner than later and begin saving up for a nicer lens. Too much given up for an "imperfect" extra stop.

I am assuming you have already tried shooting at higher ISO settings.. right?
Thank you to everyone for the advice. I guess I'll listen to the veterans here and keep my 55-200 USM lens. I was shooting at the highest ISO settings the camera had (1600 I believe) and still getting mediocre exposures (at f5.6). I think I am counting on that extra stop (f4) to create miracles, but instead I'll just have slower focus and an ancient lens.

Maybe I'll try a get rich quick scheme so that I can afford a 2.8 telephoto zoom. I'm good at poker, anyone want to play? :D

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