September 02, 2014, 04:28:23 AM

Author Topic: How is the hand-holdability of the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L II IS USM lens (+TC)?  (Read 7133 times)

jrista

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I am looking to move up from my current EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM lens to one of Canon's supertele primes. The 100-400 is a good lens, particularly if your just starting out with wildlife and birds, but it definitely has its limitations. I primarily shoot birds, with some wildlife and general nature stuff mixed in. I pretty much always shoot at 400mm for birds and wildlife. I used to shoot at f/5.6 to blur out backgrounds, however this lens is fairly soft at that aperture. Fine feather detail, even of perching/wading/still birds, does not show up well. I've more recently begun to shoot at f/7.1, however I frequently run into lighting issues, particularly during the more early morning/late afternoon times (when I am usually out shooting), and end up needing ISO 3200 more often than I would prefer (the 7D does well up through 2500 (excluding 2000), but above that it really goes down hill.)

I am looking to get a prime lens that will be versatile enough for the kind of work I do, while being as sharp as possible wide open. From what I've read, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L II IS USM is one of, if not the, sharpest lens Canon makes. I currently own a 1.4x TC, and would probably grab a 2x TC as well if I picked up an f/2.8 supertele prime. I'm curious what the hand-holdability of this lens is, though. It sounds like it rolls in at about 5.2 pounds? Thats about 2.2 pounds heavier than the 100-400, not counting the weight of a TC. With a 2x TC, that adds nearly another pound, bringing total weight to about 6 pounds or so. Using the 100-400mm+7D all day, my wrist tends to get a bit sore...and I'm wondering if anyone has experience using this lens hand-held with a TC on a regular basis. I'd also be curious to know how the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L II IS USM lens is in the same context.
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bdunbar79

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It is much, much more hand-holdable than the version I.  I would say heavier than your 100-400L lens, but you could hand-hold if you needed to.  You cannot do so with version I.  It has great IS, so I'd say you can do it.  It is in my opinion the 2nd sharpest lens above 100mm, the first being the 200 f/2L.  That is Canon's greatest lens and I would argue the 300 lens is 2nd.
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briansquibb

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It is much, much more hand-holdable than the version I.  I would say heavier than your 100-400L lens, but you could hand-hold if you needed to.  You cannot do so with version I.  It has great IS, so I'd say you can do it.  It is in my opinion the 2nd sharpest lens above 100mm, the first being the 200 f/2L.  That is Canon's greatest lens and I would argue the 300 lens is 2nd.

+1 for the 200 f/2 - incredible lens

I handhold the 400 f/2.8 I for limited shots - so to me the 300 II sounds almost like a lightweight - the 200 I handhold all day

I suspect it depends more on the strength of the individual - I know a person that struggle with a 1DS3+24-70.

M.ST

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It´s no problem to hold the EF 300 II oder EF 400 II with 1.4X TC III for a short time, but I cannot advice you to handhold the mentioned lenses with the 2X TC III.

For longer use you need a monopod.


gary

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I have the 300 version 1 which is around 300g heavier than version 2. I use it with a 1.4x and its heavy  but not so much that you can't use it handheld. But I agree if I took it out for a day I would use a monopod
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TexPhoto

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I think this comes down to do you want to impress your friends with your hand holding ability :D, or do you want to impress your friends with your tack sharp photos? :o

Lnguyen1203

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I have the 300 f2.8 I IS and regular shoot it with a 1.4x or 2X TC hand held.  Its a bit heavy if you have to walk a couple of miles with this combo, but it is doable for me.  The attachment is a portrait of a black bear in Yellowstone at 600mm, 1/200 sec, handheld.  The iS is great.  So the answer is it depends on your level of fitness, how far you need to walk, what tele photos you have used in the past, etc. In general, you will find many people amateur like me or pros who say this lens is very handholdable.
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jrista

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Thanks for all the info, everyone. Much appreciated!

Regarding hand-holdability at 600mm (when using a 2x TC)...how exactly does that affect the IS system? I know the "2-stop" IS of the 100-400 doesn't quite live up...I get 1-1.5 stops at best when hand holding, and with a cropped sensor, the shutter range is increased (the lowest shutter I can really go to get sharp shots is about 1/300s, maybe as low as 1/250s if I am really stable.) I am curious how well the "4-stop" IS of the 300mm holds up with a 2x TC...

If it works the same as the 100-400, then factoring in the crop factor would mean your working at 972mm, and each shutter stop from there would be 1/500s, 1/250s, 1/125s, and 1/60s. I would suspect 1/125s is the absolute lowest one could go from a hand-holdability standpoint...but again for birds I 1/250s is going to allow a fair amount of motion blur unless the bird is stationary.

As for a monopod...I do a lot of birds in flight (BIF). I have never used a pod of any kind to assist my BIF shots, and I think a monopod would probably get in the way. Does anyone have any experience tracking subjects with a 2x TC with this lens? Is that not really a practicality (focal length just too long to really support it)? I've wondered whether 600mm would reduce frame space too much for tracking a bird in flight with all its erratic movements. Dropping to a 1.4x TC for 420mm would be fine if thats the case, as I am pretty skilled at tracking with a 400mm lens.

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Lnguyen1203

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I shoot with a 5D3, have not tested how many stops the IS is useable, but don't think the TC itself affects IS other than the increased focal length.  AF is noticeable slower with the combo 300 version 1 and 2x II, so The challenge for BIF is focus more than hold ability.  Dropping to the 1.4x solves the focus issue and since you are experienced with tracking BIF with the 100-400, I think you will be amazed at the quality of the 300 v2 plus 1.4x III.  When I have a chance I will post some BIF photos with either the 1.4x or 2x.
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jrista

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I shoot with a 5D3, have not tested how many stops the IS is useable, but don't think the TC itself affects IS other than the increased focal length.  AF is noticeable slower with the combo 300 version 1 and 2x II, so The challenge for BIF is focus more than hold ability.  Dropping to the 1.4x solves the focus issue and since you are experienced with tracking BIF with the 100-400, I think you will be amazed at the quality of the 300 v2 plus 1.4x III.  When I have a chance I will post some BIF photos with either the 1.4x or 2x.

I think I could handle the 300+2x. The 100-400 is not a great AF performer at 400mm anyway, as it too is an f/5.6 lens. You have to be very careful not to lose tracking (the 7D helps a lot in this respect with the Slow setting), otherwise the 100-400 will hunt a bit, and you usually lose the subject if its in flight. I am hoping the 300mm does a better job as its a prime, and its AF system should be better optimized, no? I think I may need to shoot BIF with the 1.4x TC anyway to get a wide enough FOV to support tracking, which would be quite a bit better, as its 420mm with an f/4 aperture. The wider aperture would allow higher shutter speeds, smoother background boke, etc. The only bummer is my BIF shots now at 400mm tend to need a fair a mount of cropping to create a keeper in post...hence the desire for a 600mm lens. I'm sure the 300+2x will be superb for perching birds, waders, shore birds, etc.
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Lnguyen1203

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I had the 100-400 in the past but sold it to get the 300 f2.8.  The AF of the 300 f2.8 is superb.  Adding 1.4x is no issue either.  Yes, cropping is just a fact of life for BIF at 400 mm even with a cropped sensor.  The 300f2.8 plus 1.4x is very sharp even at 100 percent.
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Lnguyen1203

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here is a BIF shot of a black skimmer with 5d3, 300 f2.8 I IS, 2X II, 1/1600, f11, ISO 1000, cropped (forgot how much), handheld.  Its useable for sure, but the AF is slow and you need to give it time to acquire focus.  once focus is acquired, tracking seems fine.
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Richard Lane

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Thanks for all the info, everyone. Much appreciated!

Regarding hand-holdability at 600mm (when using a 2x TC)...how exactly does that affect the IS system? I know the "2-stop" IS of the 100-400 doesn't quite live up...I get 1-1.5 stops at best when hand holding, and with a cropped sensor, the shutter range is increased (the lowest shutter I can really go to get sharp shots is about 1/300s, maybe as low as 1/250s if I am really stable.) I am curious how well the "4-stop" IS of the 300mm holds up with a 2x TC...

If it works the same as the 100-400, then factoring in the crop factor would mean your working at 972mm, and each shutter stop from there would be 1/500s, 1/250s, 1/125s, and 1/60s. I would suspect 1/125s is the absolute lowest one could go from a hand-holdability standpoint...but again for birds I 1/250s is going to allow a fair amount of motion blur unless the bird is stationary.

As for a monopod...I do a lot of birds in flight (BIF). I have never used a pod of any kind to assist my BIF shots, and I think a monopod would probably get in the way. Does anyone have any experience tracking subjects with a 2x TC with this lens? Is that not really a practicality (focal length just too long to really support it)? I've wondered whether 600mm would reduce frame space too much for tracking a bird in flight with all its erratic movements. Dropping to a 1.4x TC for 420mm would be fine if thats the case, as I am pretty skilled at tracking with a 400mm lens.

Great Shot Loi Nguyen!

jrista,

I have the 300mm f/2.8L IS "Version I," 1.4 XII and 2XII, and I've used this setup with the 7D, MKIV and now the 1DX.  The 300mm with 2X is definitely handhold-able with the 7D.  Keep in mind that you may want a battery grip which helps with hand holding but also adds more weight, plus the extra battery. Just yesterday I used the 1DX (which is heavy on its own) with 300mm f/2.8 and 2X and it felt a little heavy, but manageable.  Not only is my 1DMKIV lighter, but it also allows me to use the 1.4X which is an additional weight savings over the 2x.

 A couple of thoughts:  I have found that the 300mm +2X on the 7D @972mm to be too long for BIF.  Sure I've got some nice BIF with that combo but it's hard to keep the bird in the viewfinder.  The birds that I have got using that combo have been for the larger slower birds, like Egrets and Herons.  It's a double edged sword because those birds are slower and easier to track, but because they are larger it's also easier to cut off a wing or leg in the frame due to the long focal length.

For stationary birds @972mm I would definitely use a monopod.  There's no reason not to use one.  It will help with stability and sharpness at this range.  I use a monopod with a Really Right Stuff Monopod head (also good for air shows) that tilts and of course you can also rotate the monopod.  So this combo gives you a lot of flexibility.  I keep the monopod head a little loose on purpose so that I may easily tilt it upwards for BIF (and I will also make the monopod a little taller), and then for stationary birds I tighten the knob.  The monopod is also nice for rest in between shots, since the camera and lens feels virtually weightless on it.

Sometimes I'll just raise the whole rig up in the air with the monopod hanging down, in order to catch a quick BIF shot.  I also have a quick release lens plate on the 300mm, so when I want to shoot BIF, I just take it off the monopod and I lay the monopod down on the ground next to me. For the 7D and BIF shots, I would carry the 1.4X extender which is also faster focusing than the 2X, and change to the 1.4X @672mm, which is a good reasonable limit for BIF, especially for faster smaller birds.

Rich
« Last Edit: August 05, 2012, 09:47:35 PM by Richard Lane »

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jrista

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Thank you much for the input, Richard and Loi! Very much appreciated.

It sounds like the 300/2.8 II with a 1.4x TC will be ideal for BIF. I'll have to look into Really Right Stuff and see if I can find a nice, lightwight monopod. I have a good ballhead I can use for now, although that RRS Monopod head looks really nice!

My qualms about using a monopod stem from the fact that I rarely just shoot BIF or just shoot non-flying birds in any given shoot...its back and forth all the time, especially when I'm watching egrets and herons or some such...someone entirely uninterested in birds inevitably comes tromping along, ruining my nice feeding shots, but often presenting me with some good in-flight shots. (I need to find some more out of the way bird sanctuaries....Barrow Alaska sounds like a good one!!) Having to lug around a long pole on the bottom of my lens everywhere I go seems like it would ultimately just get in the way of quickly switching from stills to BIF and back. Although, for that matter, having a single camera that I'd need to switch TC's on might have an even greater impact...so perhaps its time for a second camera with a ready-to-go lens setup. ;P
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Richard Lane

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Thank you much for the input, Richard and Loi! Very much appreciated.

It sounds like the 300/2.8 II with a 1.4x TC will be ideal for BIF. I'll have to look into Really Right Stuff and see if I can find a nice, lightwight monopod. I have a good ballhead I can use for now, although that RRS Monopod head looks really nice!

My qualms about using a monopod stem from the fact that I rarely just shoot BIF or just shoot non-flying birds in any given shoot...its back and forth all the time, especially when I'm watching egrets and herons or some such...someone entirely uninterested in birds inevitably comes tromping along, ruining my nice feeding shots, but often presenting me with some good in-flight shots. (I need to find some more out of the way bird sanctuaries....Barrow Alaska sounds like a good one!!) Having to lug around a long pole on the bottom of my lens everywhere I go seems like it would ultimately just get in the way of quickly switching from stills to BIF and back. Although, for that matter, having a single camera that I'd need to switch TC's on might have an even greater impact...so perhaps its time for a second camera with a ready-to-go lens setup. ;P

Glad I could help! A ballhead on Monopod is not very easy to use. You can try it at home on your tripod.  Try just extending one leg only on your tripod and then put your heaviest lens on the ballhead and hold your camera with your right hand and the tripod leg with your left hand.  What happens is that when the ballhead is loosened for tilting, it has too many axis' and it's difficult to hold it steady and control the lens.  If you tighten the ballhead it may be used, but then you just gave up the nice tilt feature. The monopod head only has vertical tilt, so it's easy to maintian that with your right hand on the camera and your left hand on the monopod.

You are correct in that the transition from monopod to hand-holding can cause you to miss a couple of shots, but your long distance shots will better on the monopod and the monopod really allows you to get some rest in between shots.  If you get the quick release head and lens plate then you can drastically reduce your shooting transition speed.  Also, like I mentioned earlier, you can still take a BIF with the monopod hanging down for a quick burst, especially if you keep the monopod-head loose, then it literally hangs straight down.

The RRS monopod looks great and I'm sure it is, I happen to have the Gitzo 5 series traveler Monopod, I like it because it's very strong and folds down very short (allows shooting in a lower position and you may carry it on your belt ( I use thinktank).  I feel that you could save some money by getting a less expensive Monopod, as I would rather see you put that money into the RRS monopod head and lens plate.

Rich
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 02:55:28 PM by Richard Lane »

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