Some of you may still remember my original post on this topic from about two months ago (http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=12825.0
). In short I asked about some opinions whether to get a 500L II or not. In this post I’d like to give you a heads up on what happened in the meantime.
To cut a long story short: I got it.
A local dealer made me “an offer I couldn’t refuse” which was a very good price AND the 1.4x III included.
This is not going to be a review but a little report of my experiences with the lens so far – so if you also like to dream of a big white or if you think about getting one this might be helpful to you. If you’re not interested in that, feel free to skip to the end of this post and see some pictures! Be warned that this text is exclusively about using this monster in the field and it does not contain any pixel-peeping.
So…where do I start? If you read my original post you know I had it divided into some major concerns. I would like to continue with this style and tell you how it turned out for me.
WEIGHT AND SIZE OR HOW TO HANDHOLD A BIG LENS
As I mentioned in my first post I was planning to use it exclusively handheld because of a lack of tripod / head and for portability reasons. When I unboxed the lens … well it was probably a little bigger and heavier than I remembered it from the shop
. I had some serious concerns if this was not too much for me. I tried it out the first time the next day and felt that my arm would probably come off over time. Especially the stress on my wrist joint was high since I held it on the tripod foot with the hand bent ~90° to the forearm. Additionally I had to twist my forearm for this holding method which resulted in some real pain the day after shooting and a forced pause of several days. Holding the lens on the barrel achieves nothing and has the additional disadvantage that you need to lift your left arm even higher to get the lens leveled (and you probably can’t support your arm on your body anymore). These are pretty much the methods of someone who has no clue/experience on how to hold a big lens since it’s the right way you would hold a lens of “normal” size. I have illustrated it in the pics below so that you can better understand what I mean. After a few painful and exhausting shooting sessions I refined my technique and came up with the following solution: Support the lens foot only with the palm of your hand and use your fingers to hold the barrel (right picture). Doing so solves three major problems:
1. Your wrist is only slightly angled and so the force is transferred to your arm in a more natural way.
2. Your forearm is not twisted and will be able to hold more load or the same load for a longer period of time respectively.
3. You gain full access over the lens controls. Use your thumb for pressing the AF-stop button and to manual focus farther, your middle finger for the playback ring and your ring finger to focus closer.
(Btw. you understand me correctly – I do not only use this lens handheld but also with manual focus if needed.)
[I didn't figure out how to put the picture here - it's at the end of the post!]
For beginners I recommend keeping the lens foot locked – which will limit you pretty much to taking pictures in landscape orientation. Expert mode is to unlock the foot and to only use the notches to hold the lens exactly horizontal/vertical – this will allow you to change between landscape and portrait just as you would on a tripod, but it surely needs some training (this is the way I mostly do it now and it works very well).
With this technique my problems are gone. Last weekend I visited the zoo and shot about from 10am continuously to 4pm only using the beast and the next day I felt … nothing. Everything is perfectly fine with my arm. I can shoot all day long with it now – of course I can’t hold it to eye level all the time and have to pause frequently but I can’t say that I have missed a shot due to exhaustion – at least none that I wouldn’t also have missed using a tripod/monopod. Did you see my arm in the picture? Yes, that’s all I have to work with and I handhold this baby perfectly for hours, so you can easily too – using proper technique of course! If you are a stronger guy than me you probably can also handhold the 600 II or the 400 II but I don’t have any experience with them and other factors such as weight distribution will play a role.
Weight is in my opinion absolutely no concern when carrying the lens in a backpack. I use the Lowepro Flipside 500 AW which conveys the weight to the hips and not the shoulders if you set it up correctly (which is important for you backbone health) using its hip strap. However, size is a concern but the Lens fits in the backpack nicely with camera attached and also leaves some room for other lenses/accessories. With extender and camera attached it doesn’t fit or it would probably fit if you used some force which I don’t.
Well, there’s nothing you can do about that I guess, this lens draws some serious attention. When I go shooting usually always someone starts talking to me or asks me some questions about it – people are usually quite amazed when they see this monster (and who can blame them?). When I was at the zoo I heard about 100 times people talking behind my back. Somehow this is a little like the weight issue – it is a bit shocking at the beginning but you get used to it pretty fast and additionally >99% of the comments are really positive. I decided to answer questions politely and patiently (about how much it zooms for example ;-P) or sometimes to not give a f*** and this works pretty well for me.
Lol. Nothing to do here
. Think about the best possible image quality you can imagine – this is what you will get from this lens. Sharpness and contrast are perfect and bokeh is creamy – what else do you desire? Did you see the MTF-chart? It’s the only one that I can draw out of my mind since it is only a straight line at 1.
I practically can’t tell the difference in shots with the bare lens and shots with 1.4x Extender used, besides of the even thinner DOF (and stronger bokeh). It is surely measurable (your turn pixel-peepers) but not noticeable with the naked eye I would say. With extender it’s still at least as sharp as every other L lens I own (700mm f5,6 is a KILLER LENS with massive reach btw.
I wonder how it will be with 2x III but I’m sure it won’t disappoint.
On the web I read that the AF was “instant” or “blazingly fast” or some other superlatives. To be honest I cannot notice it to be faster than the AF of some of my other lenses eg. 70-200 4 L IS or 100L (with focus limiter activated!). However, this is very fast.
There is one problem I noticed: When my 5D3 goes to sleep and I half press the shutter button it takes about 0.5 sec or even longer (which is an eternity in some action situations) for the AF to kick in. This is a problem of the camera not the lens but I recommend to make sure that your camera doesn’t go to sleep when you want to shoot action. BIF come closer a significant distance during that time span.
The IS is one of the most important features for me, since it vastly increases handholdability. Using Mode 1 you can frame static objects perfectly and your viewfinder keeps still quite nicely. However the new Mode 3 is my favorite since it doesn’t interfere with my framing in action shots and if you are panning it only stabilizes normal to your panning direction. I have no idea if those claimed 4 stops are true but it simply works great.
If you are mad enough to buy a lens like this you should really know what you are doing. This is not for the casual weekend shooter. You really need to show some effort and dedication to justify the price tag and to haul this thing around the whole day. But if you are serious, I can’t think of anything that can give you more pleasure to use and more spectacular results than a supertele lens. You wouldn’t believe how happy I am with this “monster”. I’ve only used it since about one month and I'm learning a lot every session, but I think that I was already able to make some really cool shots with it – see for yourself in the link below!
IQ is perfect, handling is very good, you don’t need a tripod if you know how to handle it – believe it or not I’m pretty much using this as my walk around lens now. You can read about IQ, IS, AF etc. in all the reviews you can find, but let me assure you once more that this lens is really handholdable
for extended periods of time, since I didn’t find a review who stated that clearly.
Ok, now let’s come to the fun part: PICTURES!
Pictures OF the lens: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/e8dsgdawaxbe2p7/5qjI8NJHBh
Pictures WITH the lens: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zspwh97zbjbv7ff/t_y_bdpwDQ
Some of those where made with the 1.4x III, some without – consult the EXIF data for more info. Usually the pictures are downsized to about 6MP which is more than enough for everything except very large prints. 5D3_8529 is a 100% crop with the bare lens.
I hope you enjoyed my “not review” and if you have questions don’t hesitate to ask!