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Author Topic: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?  (Read 6322 times)

Haydn1971

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400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« on: July 14, 2013, 04:52:47 PM »
Been pondering my long tele options over the last few months...  A 100-400mm is looking very likely, but I'm left pondering, why would anyone but the 400mm f5.6 prime ?

Serious question, what does it offer other than being very slightly cheaper and lighter ?
Regards, Haydn

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400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« on: July 14, 2013, 04:52:47 PM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2013, 04:55:51 PM »
The IQ is a bit better than the 100-400L at 400/5.6, and more importantly, the AF is faster and less prone to hunting.  So it's a great choice for birds in flight, where shutter speeds are fast enough to negate the benefits of IS.
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Haydn1971

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2013, 05:35:39 PM »
I can imagine the AF difference being noticeable in use, but without pixel creeping, is the IQ difference noticeable.  Also, just how bad is the focus hunting...  Given I'm frustrated with my 70-300 IS and very happy with my 135mm L
Regards, Haydn

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neuroanatomist

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2013, 06:13:58 PM »
The 100-400 does great with a clean background, but with a bird in a thicket, for example, the lens will hunt or more commonly jump back and forth between two branches or a branch and the subject, repeatedly...sometimes, I just manually focus in that situation.  The 600 II just locks onto the bird in similar situations (although with the 2xIII, it behaves sort of like the 100-400, if not as bad.
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Canon1

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2013, 06:16:58 PM »
I can imagine the AF difference being noticeable in use, but without pixel creeping, is the IQ difference noticeable.  Also, just how bad is the focus hunting...  Given I'm frustrated with my 70-300 IS and very happy with my 135mm L

There can be a lot of copy variation with the 100-400.  If you get a good one, you will love it and if you get a poor one you will curse it.   I have a good one and am extremely happy with it.  I ran focal testing to compare IQ with my 100-400 and the 400 f5.6. and the difference in results are negligible. 

As Neuro mentioned AF performance and IS are the big differences between these two lenses.  If you are always shooting at fast shutter speeds (1/640 sec or faster) then you will be just fine with the 400mm prime.  If you ever want to shoot in low light at slower shutter speeds you will be MUCH happier with the 100-400.  I shoot handheld all the time with my 100-400 at 1/200 of a second and get tack sharp images.  With my 400 f5.6 I had to shoot at 1/640-1/800 or faster to get sharp images. 

Translate this to low light and it is the difference between being able to shoot at ISO 1,000 or ISO 4,000.  I primarily shoot in low light at the book ends of the day so I always am using the 100-400.  The IS is key for me.   I have excellent luck with this lens for BIF as well.  The 5DIII has very customizable AF settings and this along with good technique has gotten me over the slower AF issues.  I can't comment on the 70-300, but my other lenses are 300f2.8IS and 500 f4IS, both of which are very fast AF. 

My advice if you buy the 100-400 is buy it new from a reputable dealer so you can return it if you get a bad copy.  This has been George Lepp's all time favorite lens.

neuroanatomist

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2013, 06:24:38 PM »
The IQ difference in real world shots would likely be noticeable, but barely, in terms of sharpness and contrast.  The 100-400L has a very nervous bokeh with a complex background.  But overall, I've been very happy with my 100-400, and have no real interest in the 400/5.6.
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Pag

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2013, 06:36:55 PM »
I bought the 400/5.6 a few years back after much hesitation. It came down to these few points:
  • Looking at samples, the 100-400 had barely better IQ at 400 than my 70-300 IS at 300 upsized to match the resolution
  • Sample pictures of the 400/5.6 were extremly sharp, meaning I could crop without fear of lacking details
  • Lots of complaints about the 100-400 push-pull zoom pumping dust into the camera (I'm skeptical, but I read about that issue enough to be worried)
  • The 400/5.6 is quite a bit lighter, which matters when walking around with the lens around your neck
  • Autofocus is faster (because the lens is ligter, so the motor doesn't work as hard to move it around)
  • I already had a 70-300, so I felt I didn't need the flexibility of the 100-400. I must admit I was kinda wrong here: not being able to zoom limits how often this lens is useful day to day (if I don't really need that much reach, I'll take the 70-300) and it can be hard sometimes to find your subject when you can't zoom in from a broader view.
  • The 400/5.6 has a built-in lens hood that is quite neat and it comes with a very good lens pouch (you laugh, but a lens that large doesn't fit in most bags, so that pouch makes it possible to carry it around)
  • It's cheaper

Overall, I'm satisfied, but I don't own a 100-400 to compare it to. It's a lens that does only one thing, but does it well. I wish it had IS though.

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2013, 06:36:55 PM »

kirispupis

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2013, 06:45:24 PM »
I currently own both the 300/4, 70-200/2.8 II + 2x III, and the 400/5.6.  In the past I have owned the 100-400 and a Sigma 80-400.  The 100-400 is not a bad lens, but the 400/5.6 offers the following advantages.

- Noticeably better image quality
- Much faster AF
- Lighter and easier to carry
- Doesn't do so badly with a 1.4x extender

Its biggest negatives are

- Poor macro capabilities - not very suitable for lizards and small bird that come close
- No IS

It may be the best lens out there for birds in flight - even better than the big primes - simply because it combines outstanding sharpness with easy portability.  For that reason I am undecided about keeping it once I have enough money for a 200-400/1.4x someday.  If Canon someday does introduce a dramatically improved 100-400 with better IQ and AF, then I could see selling my 400/5.6 but in the meantime I have no desire to ever buy another 100-400 while my 400/5.6 is a regular fixture in my backpack.
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neuroanatomist

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2013, 07:13:54 PM »
  • Looking at samples, the 100-400 had barely better IQ at 400 than my 70-300 IS at 300 upsized to match the resolution
  If you mean the 70-300 L, that's reasonable. But if you mean the non-L, that lens seems to be rather soft at 300mm, and uprezzing isn't going to add detail.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=113&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=7&API=0&LensComp=358&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=4&APIComp=0
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MadHungarian

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2013, 08:53:54 PM »
When you (and others) mention focus hunting and other autofocusing differences between lens, as a newbie i've wondered about that -- isn't it the camera that runs the autofocusing algorithm?  And the lens just responds to the commands the camera gives it?  So why should one 400mm lens autofocus better/worse than another 400mm lens here?  Or is it really more of a cooperative endeavor between camera and lens?

neuroanatomist

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2013, 09:41:50 PM »
When you (and others) mention focus hunting and other autofocusing differences between lens, as a newbie i've wondered about that -- isn't it the camera that runs the autofocusing algorithm?  And the lens just responds to the commands the camera gives it?  So why should one 400mm lens autofocus better/worse than another 400mm lens here?  Or is it really more of a cooperative endeavor between camera and lens?

It's cooperative - there's an AF microprocessor in the lens that works in tandem with the canera's AF system.
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Lurker

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2013, 11:04:50 PM »
400 IQ is much better.  Lens is simpler, issues with 100-400 are well known and include dust getting sucked in from push pull operation and the focus ring and zoom tensioner locking up.  Most of the time I used the 100-400 it was at 400mm.  400 is lighter and cheaper.

I went from 100-400 to 400/5.6 and never looked back.

I may give up the 400/5.6 for a new 100-400 with better IQ or a 200-400, if the lottery pays off.  The new 100-400 won't be cheap either, not as bad as the 200-400 but not cheap.

miah

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2013, 11:10:26 PM »
I was in a similar predicament a few months ago. With a 5D3 and a 70-300L, I felt that getting to 400 with a 100-400 was simply too redundant--especially because I love the results I get with my 70-300. I also liked the idea of the 400 f/5.6's lower weight, faster AF and sharper IQ. So, I sprung for the 400 and haven't regretted my purchase one bit. Even with a 1.4X, images are sharp. The AF is very fast. And though it's a bit long in the backpack, it's smaller diameter and lighter weight make for an easy carry. In short, if I had to do it all over again, I would buy these same two lenses.

Footnote: Though I do not own a 100-400, I have borrowed one from a friend of mine on a number of occasions. It's a very nice lens, especially if you only want to carry one. But in concert with my beloved 70-300L, the 400 f/5.6 just made more sense.
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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2013, 11:10:26 PM »

Nirmala

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2013, 12:48:47 AM »
The 400 5.6 L was the first L lens I ever bought. I have been very happy with it, its a very fast and sharp lens, which performs very well for my needs. I bought this over the 100-400 for similar reasons others have mentioned here already. I personally have not missed the convienence of IS or zoom, as these features were not relevant for my needs.

Pag

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2013, 03:38:59 PM »
Quote
If you mean the 70-300 L, that's reasonable. But if you mean the non-L, that lens seems to be rather soft at 300mm, and uprezzing isn't going to add detail.

It was the non-L 70-300. It was a few years back, but I remember seeing a comparison between the two lenses showing there was little difference in the real world in the sharpness of both. Might have been that a poor copy of the 100-400 was used, might have been a great copy of the 70-300, might have just been a bad test -- I don't know.

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Re: 400mm f5.6 - Why ?
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2013, 03:38:59 PM »