Ask Noel: Why Do Some Version Of A Lens Cost So Much More?

Bill K asks:

“I was looking at buying a zoom lens, and I saw one that was 70-300mm for $300, another one was $600…and then there was a 70-200mm that was over $2000. Why is this?”

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It can definitely be confusing sometimes when looking at different options for lenses.

Here are some of the reasons for the differences in price

1)WIDER AND CONSTANT APERTURES
This is the #1 factor in the cost difference. With most zoom lenses, they will lose a bit of light when you zoom in. That is why you will see lenses labelled with F3.5-5.6. This means at the widest length, the widest aperture is F3.5, but zoomed in, it’s F5.6. While it might not seem like much, that’s a big difference when shooting moving subjects indoors under crappy light…like a hockey game for example! So that $2000+ 70-200mm lens not only has a wider aperture of F2.8…it is at that aperture CONSTANTLY as you zoom. This is important, because you will zoom in and out a lot when shooting sports, and can’t be constantly adjusting the shutter speed to compensate. Also, if the lens gets darker, that could mean you won’t get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action.

WHY YOU NEED THIS: If you shoot a lot of indoor events, sports, and low-light photography.

2)IMAGE STABILIZER TECHNOLOGY
When you use larger lenses, any small movements you make are magnified. This means you are more likely to get blur from camera shake when hand holding the camera.
Image stabilizers (VR for Nikon, IS for Canon, OS for Sigma) compensate for those small movements and help get sharper images.  This easily adds hundreds of dollars to the cost of a lens.
NOTE: Image stabilizer technology can only help prevent camera shake blur. It does absolutely nothing for MOVING subjects. Anyone who tells you otherwise has no idea what they are talking about.

QUICK TIP: When using a tripod, turn the IS/VR OFF!!! It can actually ADD motion blur to your images!

WHY YOU NEED THIS: If you shoot handheld under low-light a lot, it will help prevent camera shake blur.

3)BETTER AUTOFOCUS/FOCUSING SYSTEM
Nikon’s SILENT WAVE MOTOR (SWM) or Canon’s Ultra Sonic Motor (USM) allow for much faster autofocus tracking, which should result in sharper images. These of course cost money!
With most cheaper lenses, the manual focus ring is the end of the lens. This can cause issues when using polarizing filters as the lens will rotate when it focuses, which will change the effect of the polarizer. The better system involves an internal focus, where the ring is near the middle of the lens instead and won’t interfere with filters.

WHY YOU NEED THIS: Helps get better images with sports, action, and kids.

4)BETTER QUALITY GLASS
Some models of lenses have better glass and/or coatings on them that will result in better optics and sharper images.

WHY YOU NEED THIS: If you print images big, you’ll want the best optics possible.

As you can see, there are lots of factors that affect the price of lenses. Hopefully this helps you make your decision! As always, feel free to email me if you have any more questions!

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