If you have enough cash to spare the Sigma 120 - 300mm f/2.8 OS EX which will take both a 1.4X & a 2X teleconverter and is the cheapest way to get to 600mm & retain autofocus. Optical quality is excellent and there is no other lens from any manufacturer to compare with them. In the UK it's about Â£2500 which is a lot more than the 70 - 200mm f/2.8 IS L MkII but much much less than the 300mm IS L.
Why should you buy it? Well it's as fast a zoom as you can buy, it lets in four times as much light as the 100 - 400mm IS L It's cheap when compared with what you would have to buy from Canon, Optical quality is just about as good as it gets, the OS system is as good as Canons.
Why not? It's a lot of money it's inevitably heavy and bulky, and finding a bag to carry it in isn't easy, or cheap, a monopod at least is a must. Some say focus is a little slow.
Then there's the Sigma 50 - 500mm a lot smaller but with greater reach in a single package, nothing like as fast as the 120 - 300mm, it's a whole heap cheaper, and there are loads of them on the second hand market, image quality is pretty good.
The Canon 100 - 400mm IS L is optically very good, it's an old design & the IS will only give you 2 stops, the 70 - 200mm F/4 IS L is optically about as good as it gets, great as a portrait lens but it's not really got enough reach on a full frame. The IS is four stops and very effective. The 70 - 300mm IS L has recieved mixed reviews, for me it's too slow to be of interest, but it is compact & light if that's important to you. You cannot use a TC on the 100 - 400mm and only a 1.4x on the 70 - 200mm if you want to retain autofocus.
The Sigma sounds pretty sweet from the specs, but it's definitely above my budget, and I've come to the conclusion I don't need such a long focal length for most of my photography.
I only mentioned it due to your consideration of the 100-400mm L which is bigger, heavier, possesses an older generation IS, is generally not as sharp and more expensive brand new than the 70-300mm L.
Canon Direct dropped the refurb price on the 100-400mm f/4-5.6 L by $200 and the 70-200mm f/4 L IS by $160 in the last couple days. That makes them much more attractive, well if they ever get in stock that is.
Yeah, I understand. I'm actually heavily leaning towards the 70-200mm f/4L IS since it's smaller, nearly half the weight, and produces very sharp images. I think I would keep the 100-400mm f/4-5.6L IS only if I was into wildlife shooting, which I'm not at the moment.
I went through this decision a month ago, i bought a 70-300nonL with my 7D last september, if you upgrade your body to the 7D or 5D2, the fuzziness at 300mm will show up a lot worse than on the 20D. (although i'm still wondering if my lens was just a really bad sample). Check out some pics i posted in the lens gallery.
Basically, when i replaced, i looked at every canon in the range and compared them:
- 70-200 f4 nonIS €5-600: good and cheap, but i really like IS.(which is why i didn't shell out the extra for it in sept). Also, i wanted the extra reach. Also not sealed.
- 70-200 f2.8 nonIS €1000-1100ish: really good IQ and wide aperture, but no IS or sealing.
- 70-200 f4 IS €1000-1100ish: apparently one of the sharpest zoom lenses you can get these days. I did read somewhere (TDP or Photozone probably) that the 70-200 f4 IS + 1.4x TC (ii or iii) were a tiny smidge behind the IQ of the 70-300L. Also, unless you have a tc already, add another €300 or €500 for a ii or iii t/c and you've spent a (bit) more than the 70-300L. I'd also rather leave one lens on than mess around with t/c swapping, by which time the subject might be gone.
- 100-400L: €1550ish: I've never tried the pushpull, some people have strong opinions either way. basically from reviews i got the opinion that there was nothing wrong with the IQ or IS, but just beaten by the 70-300L. i decided against it just based on weight/size/extra €200/older IS.
- 300mm f4L: another option was keep the 70-300nonL for the 70-200 range and swap to the prime to get usable IQ at 300mm. decided against this based on weight and swapping annoyance, versatility of a zoom, and photozone said the prime IQ was about the same as the 70-300L @300mm, but you do get an extra 1-stop.
- 70-200 f2.8IS ii: i'd have got it if i could afford €2200.
- 70-300L: which i ended up with for €1350. I don't mind the 'slowness', it's the fastest of any comparable variable zoom for each focal length (except the 100-400 stays at f5 longer). It's shorter and lighter than the others, the IQ is really great, the contrast and saturation are amazing. I've handheld 300mm at 1/15s for really sharp shots (even some at 1/10s but didn't keep them all). can't use with canon teleconverters, i've heard you can kenko 1.4 t/cs, but i don't know which type (mc4, mc7, pro300, some report different apertures to allow autofocus) and i don't know about the IQ (but i'd be guessing just a bit below the 100-400 @ 400).
Thanks for the breakdown. The 70-300L is a great lens, and I've been hearing a lot of rave reviews about it. I personally just can't justify the $550 price difference between the refurbished 70-200 f/4L IS and this lens. I gain a stop, it's lighter, and I can buy the 1.4x TC to get nearly the same reach without losing much in IQ.
I think the most important thing is, to find out what Zoom range you really need. There are many nice lenses out there, but what are they good for, if you don't really use their capabilities. Second comes how much you are willing to spend on the features you will get, and also to consider is the weight/size of the lens. Do you like to go light, or don't you mind to carry heavy stuff arround.
I got the 70-200 f4 IS. I think IS is a must for a tele. The zoom range fits my needs (had a slow 75-300mm but didn't use the long end that often), and f4 is also nice. f2.8 would have been nice, but it costs twice as much, it weights twice as much, and is much bigger. I like the size of it, and I could afford it, so it was the perfect fit to me; but that does not mean that it would fit you.
If I want to have this lens on long hikes, trips, etc, I want it to be light. That's why the f2.8 was crossed off my list to begin with, and why I'm looking at the f/4 IS (other than the gigantic price difference). It's nearly twice the weight for 1-stop, and good luck carrying it for 12+ hrs a day for a week straight.
Just as some food for thought:
Have you ever considered primes instead of huge, heavy and white zooms? Probably all depends on what exactly you are going to use it (them) for and what the most important focal range is for you.
I personally prefer a 135L and a 200 2.8L II over, e.g, the 70-200 2.8L.
I think the problem I have with primes is that I'm not used to shooting with them all the time right now. I feel like I'll "miss the shot" while I'm either moving forward or back (assuming I even can) or by switching lenses. I'd rather travel with just 2 or 3 lenses in my bag, max, to cover me for my entire range. I think I'll have that now, with the 17-40mm f/4L, 24-105mm f/4L IS, and the 70-200mm f/4L IS. Honestly, I could probably just leave the 17-40mm at home and use the 24-105mm for landscapes as well.
The two lenses I was originally considering are the 70-200mm f/4L IS and the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS. I feel that although they are listed as telephoto zoom lenses, their seem to satisfy different niches....what lens would you recommend and why?
They are quite different, and it really comes down to what you want to shoot. If you need 400mm, you need it - I use my 100-400mm primarily for birds and wildlife, almost always on my 7D. I use my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II for outdoor events and portraits (outdoors and in), usually on my 5DII. Personally, I found the 70-200mm focal range to be a bit awkward on APS-C - too long for indoor use, too short when I really needed length. It's much more useful to me on FF.
Obviously, there is a big difference in focal length, and if I'm not mistaken, we can attach the 1.4x or 2x extenders to only the 100-400mm? I've read the 70-200mm is probably sharper, and will be faster as well.
I think the above responses captured this, but to clarify - you can use both the 1.4x and 2x Canon extenders with both the 70-200mm f/4L IS and the 100-400mm. The issue is autofocus - bodies other than the 1-series require f/5.6 or faster max aperture for autofocus to work (the 1-series bodies can AF with an f/8 lens). That means of the above combinations, only the 70-200mm f/4L IS with the 1.4x extender will autofocus. The others will work, but you'll need to manually focus the shot.
How does the 70-200mm f/4 L IS + 1.4x compare at the longest focal length (280mm) to the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS lens (at 300mm) that I currently have? Both would be at f/5.6, right? I assume the IQ, focusing speed, etc would be better on the L?
The IQ will be better with the L lens + teleconverter you can see that yourself in this comparison of the two (looking at the 70-300mm non-L, that lens really seems to fall apart at 300mm). Yes, both would be at f/5.6. I would not count on the focusing speed being all that much faster - for the bare lenses, yes the L will be faster because it has ring USM vs. the slower micromotor USM found in the 70-300mm IS non-L. But when you add a teleconverter, the camera slows down the autofocus to allow increased accuracy - a 1.4x results in a 25% decrease in AF speed, and a 2x results in a 50% decrease in AF speed.
The time to use an extender is when you need it for occasional use. For example, if I'm traveling and not planning to shoot birds/wildlife, I'll leave the 100-400mm at home, but I might bring a 2x TC to go on the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, just in case. Another reasonable time to use an extender is when the cost of the native lens is prohibitive, e.g. if you need/want 800mm, the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS plus 2x II Extender is a whole lot cheaper than the 800mm f/5.6L IS!!). I've taken some shots using the 2x extender with the 100-400mm, and the combination appears to deliver better results than shots from the same position/distance with no extender at 400mm with the image cropped to match the 800mm FoV.
The overall key point is to get the focal length you need - you're better off using the right focal length on your lens than adding a teleconverter for routine use. Since you have a 70-300mm zoom, you should be able to answer that question - IQ and focusing issues aside, do you find that 300mm is generally longer than you need, or not long enough for what you shoot? If the former, get the 70-200mm f/4L IS, and if the latter, get the 100-400mm. If 70-300mm is 'just right', do conisder the new 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS, which is a big improvement in IQ over the non-L that you have, and will also focus much faster.
As usual, thanks for your detailed responses neuroanatomist.
I'm glad you made it clear for me (and perhaps others reading this thread) about the things to think about when buying a 1.4x or 2x TC.
I feel like I may miss the 200-300mm focal length range, but once I upgrade bodies I'll be able to crop more aggressively without losing as much IQ as I do now. Once I get a full-frame body, I think the 70-200mm f/4 IS will complement it more and be more versatile by taking portraits, etc. I don't shoot wildlife, but in the rare occasion I do shoot larger animals from a distance, I can always pick up a 1.4x TC to help me out. I save quite a bit in weight over the 100-400mm, which is important to me as I walk around a lot while shooting.
Thanks for the link to the-digital-picture, because that's the exact site I was looking for to make that exact comparison, but I just couldn't remember the name of the site.
If you have a large budget I would also consider the L version of the 70-300mm lens. It is a MUCH better performer at the long end than the non-L version and has fast auto focus. You get to keep the same range and you get improved performance (but, as a tradeoff, you get more weight as well- nothing unbearable though).
Maybe the only downside is that it's not any faster than the non-L version...it is still f/4-5.6...but if you use it in the right conditions (daytime/outdoors/nature/etc) it is an exceptional performer. It holds up very well to the 70-200mm f4 L IS, which I sold to get this lens.
Thanks, I would've considered it had the price not been so affordable for the 70-200mm f/4L IS right now, with the Canon refurbished sale going on... less than $1k with tax and shipping! Can't wait to get it!