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Gear Talk => Lenses => Topic started by: vargyropoulos on October 31, 2012, 02:17:47 PM

Title: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on October 31, 2012, 02:17:47 PM
Hello, I need some advice on an "affordable" telephoto lens which will be used primarily for wildlife. initially I will be shooting birds and other animals within the parks in the New York city area, later on I plan to head upsate to see if I can find raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, etc). I currently have the EF70-300mm and unless I am shooting with very bright light it does not give me the sharpness that I would like.

I tried the 100-400L earlier this summer and it appears to be a decent lens
other lenses that look good on paper (price and features) are the 300F4 and the 400F5.6.
I am also considering the 70-200f2.8 ISII and a 2x converter

Does anyone have any opinion on choosing between the above mentioned lenses, or even to propose another lens/combo at a similar price range? AS far as bodies are concerned... either 5D3 or 7D... still debating on that one....
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: neuroanatomist on October 31, 2012, 02:27:20 PM
I tried the 100-400L earlier this summer and it appears to be a decent lens
other lenses that look good on paper (price and features) are the 300F4 and the 400F5.6.
I am also considering the 70-200f2.8 ISII and a 2x converter

Honestly, all are very good options.  My Flickr Birds (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr_brain/sets/72157624462563459/) set is mostly with the 7D + 100-400mm, some with the 70-200 II + 1.4x or 2x. 

The difference between those two in terms of IQ is minimal (slightly in favor of the 100-400 at 400mm).  If you plan to do a lot of shooting with the 70-200 II bare, and only occasionally use the 2x, that's a great option.  If you will routinely need the long end of the range, I'd get it in a native lens. 

The 400/5.6 long focal length and lack of IS mean you need a high shutter speed to use the lens, it is great for birds in flight with the fast AF.  The 100-400mm is a great, and versatile lens - among the options on the table, I'd go with that one.  Do keep in mind that with the 5DIII, once the new FW comes out next year you'll be able to AF at f/8 just like the 1D X.  The shot below was with the 1D X, 100-400L + 1.4xIII at 1/320 s, f/8, ISO 10000.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: kirispupis on October 31, 2012, 03:23:38 PM
I currently have a 70-200/2.8 II + 2x III extender and a 300/4 IS.  I have owned the 100-400 in the past.  I agree with neuroanatomist on the 100-400 vs. 70-200 combo.  The main reason I sold my 100-400 was the tiny gain was not worth keeping it in my bag.

The 300/4 is nice but be warned that it handles extenders quite poorly.  If you can get close to small birds or are interested in photographing reptiles this makes a great lens because it has decent magnification.  At 300mm it will outperfom the 70-200 2.8 II + 1.4x but the difference is not huge.

Here are some photos with the 70-200 + 2x.

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8314/7968227978_e427a1672f.jpg) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/calevphoto/7968227978/)
Chipmunk (http://www.flickr.com/photos/calevphoto/7968227978/#) by CalevPhoto (http://www.flickr.com/people/calevphoto/), on Flickr

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8142/7588299834_682de7bb4b.jpg) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/calevphoto/7588299834/)
The Successful Hunter (http://www.flickr.com/photos/calevphoto/7588299834/#) by CalevPhoto (http://www.flickr.com/people/calevphoto/), on Flickr

(http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7239/7299157320_f572b0a09b.jpg) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/calevphoto/7299157320/)
Getting Ready (http://www.flickr.com/photos/calevphoto/7299157320/#) by CalevPhoto (http://www.flickr.com/people/calevphoto/), on Flickr
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: balaji on October 31, 2012, 03:27:23 PM
I have a 70-200 f4 IS USM lens and I am planning to shoot some bird shots next month (during my vacation). Is there a compatible teleconverter? Canon support person told me that he thinks only f2.8 lens are compatible with 1.4x or 2x teleconverters but does not know for sure if I can use the teleconverter with f4 and manually focus?

Please advise.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Rat on October 31, 2012, 03:41:24 PM
I have a 70-200 f4 IS USM lens and I am planning to shoot some bird shots next month (during my vacation). Is there a compatible teleconverter? Canon support person told me that he thinks only f2.8 lens are compatible with 1.4x or 2x teleconverters but does not know for sure if I can use the teleconverter with f4 and manually focus?

Please advise.
I have the 5D3, a 70-200/4 IS and a 1.4x mark II and they play together very well, including reasonably fast AF. The 2x TC's will fit as well, but you will have to focus manually. That's a firmware measure: you get yourself a Kenko 2x TC and you should be able to use AF on f/8. In that case, though, you better be prepared for very slow AF with lots of hunting ;)
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: balaji on October 31, 2012, 03:45:12 PM
I have a 70-200 f4 IS USM lens and I am planning to shoot some bird shots next month (during my vacation). Is there a compatible teleconverter? Canon support person told me that he thinks only f2.8 lens are compatible with 1.4x or 2x teleconverters but does not know for sure if I can use the teleconverter with f4 and manually focus?

Please advise.
I have the 5D3, a 70-200/4 IS and a 1.4x mark II and they play together very well, including reasonably fast AF. The 2x TC's will fit as well, but you will have to focus manually. That's a firmware measure: you get yourself a Kenko 2x TC and you should be able to use AF on f/8. In that case, though, you better be prepared for very slow AF with lots of hunting ;)

Thanks for your quick response. Will there be an IQ difference between Canon and Kenko?
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: AprilForever on October 31, 2012, 04:08:52 PM
Hello, I need some advice on an "affordable" telephoto lens which will be used primarily for wildlife. initially I will be shooting birds and other animals within the parks in the New York city area, later on I plan to head upsate to see if I can find raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, etc). I currently have the EF70-300mm and unless I am shooting with very bright light it does not give me the sharpness that I would like.

I tried the 100-400L earlier this summer and it appears to be a decent lens
other lenses that look good on paper (price and features) are the 300F4 and the 400F5.6.
I am also considering the 70-200f2.8 ISII and a 2x converter

Does anyone have any opinion on choosing between the above mentioned lenses, or even to propose another lens/combo at a similar price range? AS far as bodies are concerned... either 5D3 or 7D... still debating on that one....


Or, ye can bite the bullet and get a sued 500 f4 or 300 2.8... and sell them for as much or more as you bought them...
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Rat on October 31, 2012, 04:11:43 PM
I have a 70-200 f4 IS USM lens and I am planning to shoot some bird shots next month (during my vacation). Is there a compatible teleconverter? Canon support person told me that he thinks only f2.8 lens are compatible with 1.4x or 2x teleconverters but does not know for sure if I can use the teleconverter with f4 and manually focus?

Please advise.
I have the 5D3, a 70-200/4 IS and a 1.4x mark II and they play together very well, including reasonably fast AF. The 2x TC's will fit as well, but you will have to focus manually. That's a firmware measure: you get yourself a Kenko 2x TC and you should be able to use AF on f/8. In that case, though, you better be prepared for very slow AF with lots of hunting ;)

Thanks for your quick response. Will there be an IQ difference between Canon and Kenko?
Sure there is, and normally you'd pick Canon over Kenko. Kenko, however, has a whole series of TC's, some pretty good, some pretty bad, most of 'em cheaper than their Canon counterparts. I picked up a 2nd hand 1.7x which is very 'not very good' (but it was cheap though!), I hear their top ones are between Canon's mark II and mark III, IQ-wise. However, I cannot speak from experience.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: lol on October 31, 2012, 04:46:27 PM
Decide how much reach you need, then decide how you want to get to it.

For max range on the cheap, 7D+100-400L is hard to beat. Any amount of zoom can be very handy unless you can work the shoot with a prime, or use multiple bodies to increase coverage.

One lens not mentioned so far would be the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 OS HSM. Since they announced a newer model in the pipeline, the current version seems to have taken a bit of a dip in pricing and is actually cheaper than the 70-200 II now. It is a heavy lens though, but stick a 2x TC on it and you get up to 600mm zoom! Quality wide open isn't the best but still respectable, and stopping down a step perks it up.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: pierceography on October 31, 2012, 05:01:02 PM
+1 for the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II + 2x converter.

Not the best shot in the world, but I've only had the converter for two weeks and this guy was real shy.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: SteveCSmith on October 31, 2012, 05:17:34 PM
Have you considered the 70-300 L ?  It is one upgrade (from the lens you have) that has been outstanding.  It was my first L glass and still one of my favorite.  The difference between it and the consumer 70-300 IS is HUGE.

I chose it after being unimpressed with the 100-400 (and its dust plunger mechanism) and a 70-200 2.8 II with a teleconverter.  The only time I choose my 70-200 2.8 II over the 70-300 is for low light sports photography or complete night shots.  When after wildlife (during the day), the 70-200 remains nocturnal.

Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: AlanF on October 31, 2012, 05:53:35 PM
I used to use a 7D with a 70-200 f/4 IS, with and without a Canon 1.4 TC and it is great if you can get close enough to birds.  I use for hiking around a 7D with a 100-400mm L, and it is even better.  It will also focus well with a Kenco DG Pro 1.4x TC at f/8.  The 100-400 m L is generally considered to be superior to the 300mm f/4 L because of its extra reach.  I used to have a 400mm f/5.6 L, but changed it for a good copy of the 100-400mm L IS because it is just as sharp at the centre and the advantages of IS and zoom are overwhelming.  But my favourite is the 300mm f/2.8 II with a 2xTC, which is far too expensive. Frankly, on a limited budget the 100-400mm is the clear winner.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: DianeK on October 31, 2012, 06:59:10 PM
Casting my vote for the 70-300L.  It's on my 7D all the time.  Love that lens.
Diane
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: IIIHobbs on October 31, 2012, 07:39:14 PM
The 300 f4 is very good, and works well with the 1.4x II. It is much more affordable than the 70-200 II, new or used.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: RC on October 31, 2012, 07:50:27 PM
I have a 70-200 f4 IS USM lens and I am planning to shoot some bird shots next month (during my vacation). Is there a compatible teleconverter? Canon support person told me that he thinks only f2.8 lens are compatible with 1.4x or 2x teleconverters but does not know for sure if I can use the teleconverter with f4 and manually focus?

Please advise.
Both the 1.4x II and 2x II converters are compatible with the 70-200 f4 IS.  Only the 1.4 retains auto focus, the 2x will need MF.  See page 13 in the 70-200 manual.   I do not know about the Mk III converters.  I have and use the 70-200 f4 IS and 1.4x II. 
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Basti187 on October 31, 2012, 08:13:19 PM
I do own a 100-400mm L and I m really happy with it, very versatile, as I do lots of filming with it as well.
AF could be a bit faster tbh, but for that price range you can't complain about it.

Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: johnf3f on October 31, 2012, 08:24:57 PM
The 300 f4 is very good, and works well with the 1.4x II. It is much more affordable than the 70-200 II, new or used.
I am a fan of this lens as well. It has greater resolution than the (sharp copy) 100-400 I had for over 5 years. So much so that I could crop to outrange the 100-400 before I had to resort to extenders. The 300 is not as versatile for most people but I have found it more versatile, than the 100-400,  for my (wildlife) uses. So much so that I have now moved to the 300 F2.8 L IS. Doh! now I have to sell my F4!
Do, also have a good look at the 400 F5.6 - there are a lot of people out there getting excellent images with them!
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: tron on October 31, 2012, 08:59:15 PM
The 300 f4 is very good, and works well with the 1.4x II. It is much more affordable than the 70-200 II, new or used.
I am a fan of this lens as well. It has greater resolution than the (sharp copy) 100-400 I had for over 5 years. So much so that I could crop to outrange the 100-400 before I had to resort to extenders. The 300 is not as versatile for most people but I have found it more versatile, than the 100-400,  for my (wildlife) uses. So much so that I have now moved to the 300 F2.8 L IS. Doh! now I have to sell my F4!
Do, also have a good look at the 400 F5.6 - there are a lot of people out there getting excellent images with them!
I can comment only on the 300mm f/4L NON-IS. It is so sharp! The 1.4X II keeps sharpness well. In fact with the 1.4X II it was sharper than my 100-400 at a 1/3 closer aperture! However, it does not have IS and it does not take 2X II so well...
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: IIIHobbs on October 31, 2012, 09:09:27 PM
I am a fan of this lens as well. So much so that I have now moved to the 300 F2.8 L IS. Doh! now I have to sell my F4!

Same!

The 300 f4 IS was a useful focal length for me as well; I upgraded to the 300 f2.8 IS earlier this year.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: weixing on October 31, 2012, 09:17:49 PM
Hi,
    I own an EF 400mm F5.6L lens and and highly recommend it. IMHO, this is the one of the best (if not the best) affordable birding/wildlife lens out there in the market... good image quality, fast AF and affordable.

   IMHO, AF of EF 70-200mm F2.8 II + 2x  is very, very slow... a lot of small birds move very fast and you'll miss a lot of opportunity .

    EF 300mm F4L IS is also excellent, but more expensive than EF 400mm F5.6L and you still need to add a 1.4x tele-extender which is not cheap and slow down the AF.

   The only "disadvantage" of EF 400mm F5.6L is no IS, but not really an issue to me because I always use a tripod as I've problem hand holding a >= 300mm super telephoto lens even with IS and my current DSLR (60D) doesn't really perform well at high ISO (I seldom use above 1600).

   Anyway, for your reference, the attached is an image of Collared Scops Owl I recently took with the 60D + EF 400mm F5.6L (Tv: 1/20s, Av: 6.3, IS 800) and a 100% crop over the focus area. Process with DPP using standard setting and brightness +0.33 and resize in PS. No additional sharpening had been done.

   Happy shopping and have a nice day.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: pj1974 on October 31, 2012, 09:29:21 PM
Another vote for the 70-300mm L lens - on a APS-C body (eg 7D) - it is a wonderful portable wildlife combo.

As the OP didn't state that more range was needed, but better sharpness (esp in poor light) - I can attest the 70-300mm L is great, sharp, contrasty - also in low light - AF works well, 4 stop IS a real bonus.

Paul
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: CharlieB on October 31, 2012, 09:43:22 PM
300/4.0L  USM, non IS.  original 1.4 extender

I dunno... works for me.  IS would be nice, but I'm not lacking keepers with the non-IS
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: neuroanatomist on October 31, 2012, 09:50:47 PM
Depends on what you shoot - and when.  In good light, or with fast subjects, not having IS isn't an issue. I often don't have enough light for 400mm f/5.6, 1/640 s at ISO 3200 on a 7D - being able to use 1/250 s handheld is a big deal...for me. 

As for reach, OP mentions raptors in fall/winter. You can never have enough reach. I'm now at 1200mm f/8 and still cropping sometimes.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Hillsilly on October 31, 2012, 09:55:32 PM
Being a rumors site, I'll just mention that a Tamron 150-600 was discussed recently.  If it becomes reality, I'll be keen to hear confirmation, reviews and pricing on that.  There are also persistent rumors of the Canon 400 f/5.6 being upgraded to include IS.  Personally, the only long lens that I've used is the 400 f/5.6.  Its a good lens at an ok price.  But you give up the flexibility of a zoom and the IS of the 100-400. During early morning and late afternoon, when you're likely to get great photos, IS can be handy (although, obviously is doesn't stop subject movement).

Lately, I've gone a different path.  Realising that I can't really justify what I really want (or need?) - a 500mm or 600mm - I'm using smaller lenses and trying to get in closer or having more background to portray wildlife in their natural environment.  While its no good for birds in flight, it is much better on the back and wallet. Alternatively, for a small outlay, you can hook a Panasonic 100-300 on to a Micro Four Thirds body.  This gives you an image stabilised 200-600 equivalent.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on October 31, 2012, 10:15:12 PM
Thanks to everyone for the great feedback on this thread, I will agree with neuroanatomist that to get the "professional" looking tack sharp images you can never have enough reach but I feel that my skill level is not up to that point yet. I want to hone my skills getting closer to the wildlife and I have seen quite a bit of action during my deer hunting days of the past including a hawk swooping in to pickup a chipmunk at less than 100yards from me. Maybe by that time the 600mm version 3 will be out - who knows. for now 400mm should be adequate for me.

I spent a couple of hours looking at photos that I took of the peak of half dome from glacier point between the 100-400L and 70-300 during the Canon photography in the parks - Yosemite program and there is a bit of improvement with the 100-400 but not much difference because I was probably shooting at a stone surface in broad daylight.

I will head into one of the local "big" stores and see if I can try out the different lenses and see if I can notice any differences right away.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: balaji on October 31, 2012, 10:23:21 PM
I have a 70-200 f4 IS USM lens and I am planning to shoot some bird shots next month (during my vacation). Is there a compatible teleconverter? Canon support person told me that he thinks only f2.8 lens are compatible with 1.4x or 2x teleconverters but does not know for sure if I can use the teleconverter with f4 and manually focus?

Please advise.
I have the 5D3, a 70-200/4 IS and a 1.4x mark II and they play together very well, including reasonably fast AF. The 2x TC's will fit as well, but you will have to focus manually. That's a firmware measure: you get yourself a Kenko 2x TC and you should be able to use AF on f/8. In that case, though, you better be prepared for very slow AF with lots of hunting ;)

Thanks for your quick response. Will there be an IQ difference between Canon and Kenko?
Sure there is, and normally you'd pick Canon over Kenko. Kenko, however, has a whole series of TC's, some pretty good, some pretty bad, most of 'em cheaper than their Canon counterparts. I picked up a 2nd hand 1.7x which is very 'not very good' (but it was cheap though!), I hear their top ones are between Canon's mark II and mark III, IQ-wise. However, I cannot speak from experience.

Thanks RC and Scrappydog
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: pj1974 on October 31, 2012, 10:39:49 PM
Certainly there are many situations a photographer finds oneself in, and wants "more reach!  more reach!"  :P

I have found that using patience and getting closer (or as close as possible) to the actual wildlife (including small birds in flight) is important.  But obviously this isn't always possible!

In addition to great sharpness wide open (at full tele on a zoom), great IS and fast, reliable USM focus are crucial criteria when I consider a telephoto lens.  ;)

Here are a few examples of what I've managed to achieve using the 70-300mm L on a 7D, handheld.

Paul  8)
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: AlanF on November 01, 2012, 04:46:03 AM
Look at the lenstip site analysis of lenses where they give the resolution in lines per mm. At f/5.6 and 300 mm, the 70-300mm is 30 lppm, the 300 (f/4) is 39, and the 100-400 is 37. At 420 mm and f/5.6 with a 1.4xTC on the 300, its resolution drops to a poor 29 whereas the 100-400 still resolves 35 lpmm. The 300 f/4 is great at 300 mm but is weak with the TC, as generally found by experience. Remarkably, the ancient 100-400 mm well outperforms the 70-300.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Marsu42 on November 01, 2012, 05:13:04 AM
As the OP didn't state that more range was needed, but better sharpness (esp in poor light) - I can attest the 70-300mm L is great, sharp, contrasty - also in low light - AF works well, 4 stop IS a real bonus.

I really like my 70-300L and would recommend it without hesitation, but I have to say one drawback is that (at least with my 60d) the af precision @300mm is lacking in low light simply because the lens then is @f5.6. This doesn't really matter because in these cases you cannot get good images with the current aps-c sensor anyway, but it should be mentioned that this is a good-light outdoor lens.

And the IS may be marketed as 4 stop, but I'd rather say it's max 2 stop in real life and to get guaranteed sharp shots @100% crop you still have to use high shutter speeds.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Marsu42 on November 01, 2012, 07:14:08 AM
I'm not sure what times of day that you intend to do your shooting, but I found that sometimes a faster lens is absolutely critical.

.. but since the op was asking about *tele* lenses: if you add a tc to the 70-200/2.8 for more reach it's only f4 or f5.6, too and the af speed degrades.

And at least for what and when I'm shooting with the 70-300L, I discovered either that it works just fine (in good light) or that the light at very cloudy days, dawn or sunset is so bad that 1 stop more wouldn't help anyway. These are cases for another category of fast tele primes, and well beyond my (and the op's) budget.

Btw: It is debatable if the 70-200/2.8L IS can be still counted as "affordable", I'd only say that for the non-IS version but IS is very handy for stabilizing the frame esp. in tele shots.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 01, 2012, 08:22:27 AM
I'm not sure what times of day that you intend to do your shooting, but I found that sometimes a faster lens is absolutely critical.  I bought my 70-200 f/2.8 II because my 70-200 f/4 IS was not fast enough in early dawn light to capture the raptors in my area before they left the nest to hunt.

That also depends on the body. An f/2.8 lens on a 7D shot at ISO 3200 wil have more noise in the inage than an f/4 lens on a 5DIII shot at ISO 8000.  The ~1.5-stop better ISO performance actually more than makes up for the loss of that stop in the lens.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Eimajm on November 01, 2012, 08:45:05 AM
The 7D with 400 f5.6 is a good combination. I don't find that a lack of IS is too much of an issue, if you are shooting from a hide I use a tripod, down to 1/250 I can get sharp shots with a tripod. Your limited by the quick movement of the birds anyways so often need a higher shutter speed to freeze movement. Shooting handheld with a slow or stationary subject it where you'll find the benefit of IS.

Have a look at my Birds set of Flickr to see the results of this combination. http://www.flickr.com/photos/eimajm/sets/72157624573654777/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/eimajm/sets/72157624573654777/)

If you really want IS 100-400 is a popular lens, and good for general wildlife/nature due to the zoom, but more expensive that the 400 bare.

Have fun with whatever you decide.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: triggermike on November 01, 2012, 08:46:46 AM
The title of the thread is "affordable" for wildlife - this limits the choices to likely the 100-400L, 400 5.6L or 70-200 f4L.
I have the 70-200 f4L IS and it is without a doubt one fantastic lens - but it is unacceptable for servo focusing on in-flight birds or other fast moving subjects.
Of the other 2 choices, the 400 f5.6 would be my choice for the application requested because of its light weight, maneuverability and very fast AF/servo. You will rarely, if ever, find yourself having to "back-off" because you're too close to something with a 400mm fixed lens for wildlife - on the contrary, you will still be performing post cropping even on a crop-body camera. I reach for this lens more than 50% of the time for various uses such as birds-in-flight, general wildlife and action such as surfing, kite surfing, etc.
Here's a couple wildlife images taken with the 400mm f5.6L . . .
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: miah on November 01, 2012, 09:57:43 AM
Nice bird shots, triggermike, can you tell us if in taking them you hand held or used a tripod with your 400 f5.6? Either way, what's your overall take on IS vs no IS with this lens and why do you prefer it over the 100-400L?
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: The Bad Duck on November 01, 2012, 10:14:39 AM
Not having used any of these lenses (except for a few exposures with the 400 /5.6) but having read a lot of reviews my take on the subject is:

I would also say 400 /5.6.

Shutterspeeds for birds should be high anyway, and IS would not make a huge difference. Glass is very sharp, colours are great and contrasty.

Second choise would be 100-400 because of IS, if you would like to use the lens for other things than wildlife. This is also a sharp lens, but lacks contrast compared to the 400 prime.

Third choise, and IMO the best choise if budget allows , is Sigma 120-300 /2.8 OS (there is a new version comming out that should have better AF because of a focus limiter but no reviews yet). That baby takes 2x converters while keeping AF on non pro bodies. You can do the math but I really enjoy writing 600 /5.6 OS so much that I write it anyway. 600 /5.6 OS. Oh and it seems (some of you are going to hate me for stating this) that if you need more focal lenght this lens is a better choise than 70-200 /2.8 + 1.4 or 2.0 extender, unless you compare in the far corners. This is because you are always one stop faster >200 mm and that usually gives better pictures when photographing birds in flight. Also, at approx. 300 mm you have the 1.4x on the 70-200 but no extender on the 120-300, @ 300-400 mm you have the 2x extender on the 70-200 and start to take a hit while you only have the much better 1.4x on the 120-300. Then of course, @> 400 mm the Sigma goes on for another 200 mm up to 600mm, something the 70-200 can not do.

so @ focal lengths of 70-200 the canon wins, on all other they are tied or the sigma is better, then > 400 mm the canon is out. And reach is king for birds.

This argument comes from my studies of sample shots at

http://the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=803&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=0&API=0&LensComp=687&CameraComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=0 (http://the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=803&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=0&API=0&LensComp=687&CameraComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=0)

You may not come to the same conclution and I will not defend my statement in endless debate. We all have our favourites and criterias for what will make "the perfect lens". A drawback on the Sigma is its bulk and weight - making it unsuteble for portraits and events where the 70-200 shines.

The Sigma is probably my next lens, btw.

good luck with your choise.

Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: triggermike on November 01, 2012, 10:30:37 AM
Both handheld, though the owl shot was done while laying on the ground (still plenty of light.)
As one of the previous posters noted, when photographing moving objects, a faster shutter speed is required - thus IS doesn't really play into the process (unless you happen to get a nice, even panning situation like cars or land animal?)
I have not really found times when I couldn't use this lens. For still wildlife, especially when far away (like an eagles nest or something like that) I usually use a tripod anyways with a remote release. I use this lens for watersports as well with great results . . .
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on November 01, 2012, 11:23:08 AM
I'd like to also state that all the images posted on this thread are amazing - thanks to all who shared!

for birds and small animals I end up doing a lot of cropping at 300mm so I suspect that I will be shooting at 400mm more often than not. I do shoot other type of photography (macro being my favorite) so I am covered on shorter focal lengths (my 100L macro is my goto lens lately for portraits of people and insects....).

from what I have seen here, the 400mm5.6 is starting to look like my next lens, but I will not make any purchase until I've had a chance to shoot all of the previously mentioned lenses at my local store... also need to wait for things to get back to normal after Sandy's aftermath here in new york.

of course like most of the folks on this forum, I do hope that one day I end up with a "complete set" of bodies and lenses but other priorities do come first as this is a hobby for me and not a profession.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on November 01, 2012, 01:05:51 PM
yes, I agree... I currently shoot a rebelXT (8MP from 2005) so anything is an upgrade. I did try the 5D3 with the 24-70 (original) on the same Canon program this past summer and I found the image quality to be excellent at ISO 3200 and minimal noise at 6400.

too bad the 5d3 is on a roller coaster ride with these prices....
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Mt Spokane Photography on November 01, 2012, 01:26:37 PM
Depends on what you shoot - and when.  In good light, or with fast subjects, not having IS isn't an issue. I often don't have enough light for 400mm f/5.6, 1/640 s at ISO 3200 on a 7D - being able to use 1/250 s handheld is a big deal...for me. 

As for reach, OP mentions raptors in fall/winter. You can never have enough reach. I'm now at 1200mm f/8 and still cropping sometimes.
+1
You can't have a lens that is too long for birds and wildlife unless you are shooting in a zoo.  Light is the big issue.  I use my 580 EX II plus a Better beamer.  It makes a huge difference when in shadows or low light.
http://www.naturescapes.net/store/visual-echoes/ (http://www.naturescapes.net/store/visual-echoes/)
Here is a image with the better beamer in good light, it elimated the shadow which otherwise covered the birds head.
1. Fill light with Better Beamer in relatively good light, 100-400mmL at 400mm
(http://www.mount-spokane-photography.com/Photography/100-400mm-L/i-w3JHLjs/0/L/20100426-EMW_8631-L.jpg)
 
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: wickidwombat on November 01, 2012, 06:55:05 PM
depending on your definition of "Affordable"
the sigma 120-300 f2.8 looks awesome i'm waiting for the new one though

if thats too steep the canon 300 f4L IS is really great even if its old the IS makes clunk noises but its still a very nice lens and can be found reasonably cheaply second hand I only paid $800 for mine!
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: pj1974 on November 01, 2012, 10:46:47 PM
There is definitely a big difference between AF systems of cameras.

If you get to know how to use the 7D's AF system - it's much more capable than the XXD line (faster, more in challenging listing, more AF points).  The XXXD and XXXXD lines are even more limited in terms of AF capability.

Also, there is a big difference between 70-300mm nonL and 70-300mm L in terms of sharpness, contrast, focus speed / consistency AND IS.  The L is noticeably superior in every regard.  Also, though there have been a few 70-300mm L dud lens copies (eg as tested by SLRgear) - but in general, compared to the 100-400mm L, the 70-300mm L is better in AF speed and also has the edge in sharpness / contrast.

I'd definitely love to have a 600mm L II and a 2x teleconv with a camera that can do f/8 AF in some situations.... but hey, then it's not going to be an 'affordable' price!  However having said that, for some reason I seem to get closer to some birds than a lot of people say... eg I even have cropped with small birds at times.  Ok, not every bird!!

All the best.

Paul
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Greatland on November 01, 2012, 11:16:29 PM
I think that you should look into the Canon 400 f4 lens...light and the optics are very nice and you don't have to sell everything to get it!
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Greatland on November 01, 2012, 11:17:36 PM
Oops, I meant the 5.6
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on November 02, 2012, 11:11:36 AM
There is definitely a big difference between AF systems of cameras.
,,,
Also, there is a big difference between 70-300mm nonL and 70-300mm L
...

hi Paul,

agreed on both points. for the body I am looking at the 5D3 if the "price roller coaster" settles in favorable grounds... this will be my body of choice... if the 5D3 is not in the cards then the 7D will be it.

I have not tried the L version of the 70-300 but based on your images and feedback, I will definitely check it out at my local store.

Thanks,
Vasilis
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on November 02, 2012, 11:15:03 AM
...
You can't have a lens that is too long for birds and wildlife unless you are shooting in a zoo.  Light is the big issue.  I use my 580 EX II plus a Better beamer.  It makes a huge difference when in shadows or low light.
...

This is a very interesting accessory... if it works with a 430exII then it will get added to my kit, thanks for the tip and nice bird portrait!
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 02, 2012, 11:31:07 AM
This is a very interesting accessory... if it works with a 430exII then it will get added to my kit, thanks for the tip and nice bird portrait!

Yes, they have a model for the 430EX II - the FX5.

You'll be better off with a more powerful flash in some cases (I have one for my 600EX II), but the 430 will work.  What's more important than flash power is getting the flash off camera - you'll want a flash bracket with an off-camera cord to get the light off the lens axis and reduce 'steel eye' (the avian equivalent of red eye). 

Also, take the fresnel lens off when not using it - it works both ways, and the sun shining down on your better beamer turns it into a better burner (fresnel lenses are used in solar backpacking ovens), and you can melt your camera gear or your skin, depending on the angle of the sun.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on November 02, 2012, 11:45:14 AM
Thanks for the heads up! right now I can't wait for some of the transportation mess to clear up in the NYC area so that we can begin to resume a "normal" pace
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on November 20, 2012, 10:08:45 PM
I finally got the chance to pass by the local camera store, I tried the 400mm5.6, the 100-400 and the new 600....

at slower shutter speeds the 100-400 produced better results (expected)
at a higher shutter speeds (set my camera to ISO 1600 and shot at 1/500sec handheld) I did notice sharper images with the 400 prime lens, for example the hair on some of the people at the store were better defined when shot with the prime lens.

then for kicks, I took a few handheld shots with the 600 and decided that the previous 2 lenses were just toys.... I could read the sales tags on SD cards from across the store with that lens. make out the fabric in people's hat's half way across the store, etc

but anyway - back to my reality.... I'm still digesting the images from today and will probably make another run to test the 70-300L and any other contenders.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Julie G. on November 21, 2012, 03:57:58 AM
If I may squeeze in a question: How's the Canon EF 300mm F4L IS USM with the 1.4X III or 2.0X III extenders?
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: hendrik-sg on November 21, 2012, 04:57:27 AM
If I may squeeze in a question: How's the Canon EF 300mm F4L IS USM with the 1.4X III or 2.0X III extenders?

Yes that may be a dream, but its dangerous to think about toys like this one. but maybe half way between would be a used 300 2.8 is i with a 2x converter. you have a 2.8 lens in bad light, great AF at 2.8, and e good 600 5.6 but for this you need a good tripod, a really good one. Compared to a 600 ii its really affordable, and anyway better than every consumer telezoom.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Julie G. on November 21, 2012, 05:13:57 AM
If I may squeeze in a question: How's the Canon EF 300mm F4L IS USM with the 1.4X III or 2.0X III extenders?

Yes that may be a dream, but its dangerous to think about toys like this one. but maybe half way between would be a used 300 2.8 is i with a 2x converter. you have a 2.8 lens in bad light, great AF at 2.8, and e good 600 5.6 but for this you need a good tripod, a really good one. Compared to a 600 ii its really affordable, and anyway better than every consumer telezoom.

I can barely understand what you are trying to write? The 300mm 2.8 is way out of my budget, but the F4 is affordable and a good lens. As I've read other places, the 300mm F4 combined with a 1.4x extender will work ok, but might not work with the 2.0x? I have a 5D Mark II
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: M.ST on November 21, 2012, 06:22:40 AM
If you use the 70-200 f/2.8 II L IS with an 2X TC focussing (very slow)  is really a pain for bird shots. Without the TC the 70-200 f/2.8 II L IS (320 mm on APS-C) perform very well.

If you need 400 mm (640 mm) on APS-C the only choice is the EF 100-400 IS.

Use the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM without an extender on a APS-C body (480 mm) as a budget solution, if 480 mm focal lenght is enough for you.

If you only have a ff body then you have to pay a lot of money for a perfect solution.



Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 21, 2012, 06:25:46 AM
The 300mm 2.8 is way out of my budget, but the F4 is affordable and a good lens. As I've read other places, the 300mm F4 combined with a 1.4x extender will work ok, but might not work with the 2.0x? I have a 5D Mark II

You can use either the 1.4x or 2x with the 300/4, technically.  But with the 2x, you have a 600mm f/8 lens - that means no AF on your 5DII (1-series bodies can AF with an f/8 combo, the 5DIII will be able to next April, assuming the firmware is released on schedule).  The 300/4 will take a bigger IQ hit with the 2x.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Marsu42 on November 21, 2012, 06:33:40 AM
Thanks for your quick response. Will there be an IQ difference between Canon and Kenko?

Often debated issue - I've only got the Kenko 1.4x which is said to be on par with the Canon mk2, the mk3 is supposed a little better (or different according to who you ask - center vs edge sharpness on ff).

So if you've got the cash to buy a 70-200/2.8is get the newest Canon which is sealed - otherwise the smaller and less expensive Kenko is just fine for a tc, works with f8 on any camera and on *any* lens meaning you can use it on a macro lens, too. The Kenko isn't white though :->

Btw: On my 60d f8 hunting only occurs in dim light / low contrast and single-point af (unfortunately necessary on the 60d due to few af points), but with multi-point af it locks very good.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Julie G. on November 21, 2012, 06:38:56 AM
The 300mm 2.8 is way out of my budget, but the F4 is affordable and a good lens. As I've read other places, the 300mm F4 combined with a 1.4x extender will work ok, but might not work with the 2.0x? I have a 5D Mark II

You can use either the 1.4x or 2x with the 300/4, technically.  But with the 2x, you have a 600mm f/8 lens - that means no AF on your 5DII (1-series bodies can AF with an f/8 combo, the 5DIII will be able to next April, assuming the firmware is released on schedule).  The 300/4 will take a bigger IQ hit with the 2x.

Thanks for the info! I think the 300mm alone will be enough for me, maybe a 1.4x if I feel the need for longer focal length or just putting it on my 50D. The 400 F5.6 could be an option, but it lacks IS. But this is a dilemma for the future (just bought a used 85L so I'll have to start saving up again :P)
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: hendrik-sg on November 21, 2012, 07:59:40 AM

I can barely understand what you are trying to write? The 300mm 2.8 is way out of my budget, but the F4 is affordable and a good lens. As I've read other places, the 300mm F4 combined with a 1.4x extender will work ok, but might not work with the 2.0x? I have a 5D Mark II

I am sorry if i expressedm me unprecisely. I speek from my own expierience, we were in south africa for wildlife shooting 4 weeks.

if i look at the costs we had to pay for this trip, 4000$ for the aquisition of the 300 2.8 was not the major expense. this it if course different if you shoot wildlife next to your home if tehre is some (i dont know where you live)

After such a trip you can resell such a lense if it was a one time use, but i kept it because i hope to go additional times. Yes i would have liked to have a 600mm lens, but i didnt bye one for the same reason as you. if you consider a 70-200 ii its already hald the price, then the difference becomes even smaller compared to the costs of the trip.

the disadvantage of the "big" glasses it that you cant leave them allone in third world countries, means you lug the equipment even on a city walk.
 
If you need more reach than you can afford with your FF camera, maybe a second crop camera is an option, a 50d is available cheaply and has the best AF below a 7d.

because you reported that you tried a 600 ii i assumed that you have a dream and maybe oyou may be working at a solution to make this dream true, in ignorance of your "budget". Thats why i wrote about the 300 2.8 as a more affordable compromise :-)
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Julie G. on November 21, 2012, 09:02:33 AM

I can barely understand what you are trying to write? The 300mm 2.8 is way out of my budget, but the F4 is affordable and a good lens. As I've read other places, the 300mm F4 combined with a 1.4x extender will work ok, but might not work with the 2.0x? I have a 5D Mark II

I am sorry if i expressedm me unprecisely. I speek from my own expierience, we were in south africa for wildlife shooting 4 weeks.

if i look at the costs we had to pay for this trip, 4000$ for the aquisition of the 300 2.8 was not the major expense. this it if course different if you shoot wildlife next to your home if tehre is some (i dont know where you live)

After such a trip you can resell such a lense if it was a one time use, but i kept it because i hope to go additional times. Yes i would have liked to have a 600mm lens, but i didnt bye one for the same reason as you. if you consider a 70-200 ii its already hald the price, then the difference becomes even smaller compared to the costs of the trip.

the disadvantage of the "big" glasses it that you cant leave them allone in third world countries, means you lug the equipment even on a city walk.
 
If you need more reach than you can afford with your FF camera, maybe a second crop camera is an option, a 50d is available cheaply and has the best AF below a 7d.

because you reported that you tried a 600 ii i assumed that you have a dream and maybe oyou may be working at a solution to make this dream true, in ignorance of your "budget". Thats why i wrote about the 300 2.8 as a more affordable compromise :-)

I never said that I've tried a 600 II, so I guess that's why I was confused. The 300 2.8 is already way out of my budget, and I really don't want to take up a loan just to buy a lens.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: yablonsky on November 21, 2012, 10:06:29 AM
I would go with the 300 4L IS. It is really sharp. Although on FF bodies 300 mm are sometimes not long enough. You don't need a zoom for wildlife, except maybe for elephants in the zoo. I don't like tele converters. Tele converters always make the image hazy. The sharpness is ok, but contrast is missing.
I don't know the 400 5.6L but this could also be an alternative for you.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: leolol on November 21, 2012, 10:32:47 AM
Take a look at a used sigma 500 4.5. It´s around 2000-2500€ used and it´s a good wilflife lens. Dont have one myself but used it :)

and teleconverters always make the quality worse, on crop and on full frame.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 21, 2012, 10:57:49 AM
Although on FF bodies 300 mm are sometimes not long enough. You don't need a zoom for wildlife, except maybe for elephants in the zoo. I don't like tele converters. Tele converters always make the image hazy. The sharpness is ok, but contrast is missing.
A crop body wouldn't cause the same problems you describe with a tc, or?
No, it wouldn't.  But you'd be giving up the better high ISO performance of a FF sensor. 

I don't like tele converters. Tele converters always make the image hazy. The sharpness is ok, but contrast is missing.
Always?  No - it really depends on the TC and more importantly, on the lens.  IMO, these are both sharp and have good contrast:

(http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5064/5756281302_8ec60199d1_z.jpg) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr_brain/5756281302/in/set-72157624462563459/lightbox/)
EOS 7D, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM + EF 2x II Extender @ 400mm, 1/160 s, f/5.6, ISO 3200

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8169/8059983329_7b79605833_z.jpg) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr_brain/8059983329/in/set-72157624462563459/lightbox/)
EOS 1D X, EF 600mm f/4L IS II + EF 1.4x III Extender, 1/640 s, f/5.6, ISO 100
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Julie G. on November 22, 2012, 07:14:59 AM
If I were to shoot animals in the wild then I guess my choice would be the 400mm F5.6 + tripod. But if I only wanted to photograph animals nearby or at the zoo, without a tripod, would I be better of with a 300mm F4 or the 100-400mm? I'm guessing the 100-400 offers better versatility (duh..), but how's the sharpness and contrast compared to the 300 f4? I have a 5D2, 35L, 85L and 70-200mm F4 Non IS, and saving up to a 135L
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: vargyropoulos on November 22, 2012, 07:47:14 AM
for the zoo you would need the zoom, even 100mm might be too long for some spots.

I will be primarily shooting birds in flight, I'll try to test out the 300mmf4 but from the looks of things so far the 400mm is looking like the winner for me. you don't even need the tripod for fast shutter speed shots...
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Random Orbits on November 22, 2012, 09:06:42 AM
If I were to shoot animals in the wild then I guess my choice would be the 400mm F5.6 + tripod. But if I only wanted to photograph animals nearby or at the zoo, without a tripod, would I be better of with a 300mm F4 or the 100-400mm? I'm guessing the 100-400 offers better versatility (duh..), but how's the sharpness and contrast compared to the 300 f4? I have a 5D2, 35L, 85L and 70-200mm F4 Non IS, and saving up to a 135L

For the zoo, I like the 70-300L.  It's lighter than either 70-200 f/2.8 II or 100-400, and it is more compact.  It also beats carrying two lenses to cover the same range (70-200, 300).  It's only disadvantage compared to the 300L is losing a stop at 300mm, which isn't too bad if you're outside.
Title: Re: "Affordable" telephoto lens for wildlife
Post by: Marsu42 on November 22, 2012, 11:47:54 AM
It's only disadvantage compared to the 300L is losing a stop at 300mm, which isn't too bad if you're outside.

It's not only the 1 stop more light (= lower iso), but imho f5.6 is the absolute minimum @300mm most of the time to have even a small object in focus unless it's in a right angle to the lens. Actually I'd like to shoot @f8 more often, but am limited by the mediocre iso capability of the 18mp sensor - the bokeh is still beautiful and pretty blurred.

So to me the disadvantage of the 70-300L is that focusing gets harder @f5.6, and even more so with a tc @f8 - and of course it's less sharp than a tele prime which is to be expected.