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Author Topic: 400mm + options  (Read 8233 times)

Cropper

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400mm + options
« on: April 21, 2011, 01:24:12 PM »

Since currently my longest lens is the 70-200 (+1.4x extender) I am considering getting something around 400mm or beyond within this next year.

I have been thinking about the options already available and also what might come up within the next months.

I am still hoping that Canon can update the 100-400 and maybe come up with a 500 or 600 f5.6, as I am trying to avoid the older lenses (400 5.6 and the 100-400).
However the most recent rumors seem to point in other directions, so we probably won't see these babies any time soon.

I am starting to psych myself into saving up and maybe waiting until next year and then choose between the 300 2.8 II + 2x extender and the newly anounced EF 200-400, also depending on the price/weight of this last one. But I am finding it tough to spend that much on a single lens.

What other options do you guys think are worth considering ?
Anyone has experience with the Sigma 120-300 2.8 ?

Based on the specs available and if the prices end up being similar would you prefer the 300 2.8 II (with the 2x and 1.4x extenders) or the 200-400 ?




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400mm + options
« on: April 21, 2011, 01:24:12 PM »

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2011, 02:12:45 PM »
Once you go above the lower cost 400mm lenses, not only do prices jump by 4 or 5X, but so does the weight.  So be sure to figure on a heavy duty tripod and head, cost of that 200-400mm f/4 L will likely be over $8,000 as well.

I bought a 100-400mm L last year, and, for the price, I'm very happy with it.  I also had a 600mmL, but the size and weight was such that I avoided using it, while the 100-400 is very easy to carry and use handheld, so a few weeks after getting the 100-400, I sold the 600.

If 300mm is the right focal length for you, then thats the lens to buy.  I really do not recommend trying to keep a TC on it all the time for normal usage.  Its fine for occasional usage.

Here are a couple of shots at 400mm with the 100-400mm L






with the 600mm f/4 L (non IS)



mogud

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2011, 02:35:10 PM »
I debated the exact same purchase - the 100-400mm, 400mm f/5.6 and the 300mm f/4 IS with TC.  I have the 70-200mm f/2.8 II and researched adding the 2x III TC to the decision mix.  I wanted to start shooting birds and could not justify the supper-whites with prices from $5500 to over $12,000.  Weight was also a big factor.  The 500mm is 8.5 lbs and needs a serious tripod to hold this lens. 

My main deciding factor was sharpness.  I determined that I would be using the selected lens on a tripod or monopod.  After lots of reading and comparing, I finally decided on the 400mm f/5.6.  Lack of IS on the 400mm f/5.6 was not a factor as I will use the lens on a tripod/monopod most of the time.  All the choices, except for the larger super-whites are at f/5.6 and the lens will be used outdoors.  I am very happy with my purchase.  The lens is incredibly sharp and the AF is very fast.  The lens can be handheld with a SS of 1/500 or faster and is the perfect lens for BIF.  I passed on the 100-400mm because of the push/pull zoom and the sharpness is better with the 400 f/5.6 at 400mm.  Because I have the 70-200 2.8 II and the new 70-300mm L, the 100-400 would be really redundant.  I also passed on the 300 f/4 IS because of IQ and having to use the 1.4x TC all the time.  Sharpness/IQ was the reason why I also passed on a 2x III TC for my 70-200 2.8 II.

 The 200-400mm sounds like an amazing and interesting lens, but it's vapor-ware.  When it is released, it will probably have a price tag of around $8,000.  The similar Nikon lens is in the $7,000 range.  Right now, I can't justify spending that much money on a lens. 

I'd have to say that the 400 f/5.6 has become my new favorite lens and the fact that it is an older design did not affect my decision.  Sharpness was the deciding factor and the 400 f/5.6 is the sharpest and best IQ of all the lenses I considered.  Good luck with your decision.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2011, 03:24:17 PM by mogud »

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2011, 03:28:38 PM »
The 400mm f/5.6 is very good, I had one, but unless it was bright outdoors, I could not get the 1/1000 sec or faster shutter speed it needed, and the tripod I had at the time wasn't stable enough to be of much help.

 I really think that Canon does not need to replace it with something similar but with IS and costing $2500.  Its kinda nice to have a high performance 400mm lens that isn't ultra expensive.

Other factors that discouraged me was the lack of a close focus distance needed to fill the frame with small birds, and the difficulty of fitting it in my camera bag.  The 100-400 L telescopes to a short length which made it much easier to take with me.

Sharpness is pretty much comparable between the two, the 400mm 5.6 is very slightly better, AF is faster on the 400mm f/5.6, so for BIF its a better choice.

One thing that I did find on my Canon 40D was that I could autofocus the 400mm f/5.6 with either a 1.4X or a 2X TC (non reporting).  I use the 100-400mm L on a 1D MK III so it can't be compared.

I only have a few images, from my 400mm 5.6L lens, none that I like, which is my fault, not the lens.  I sold it before I took very many images.

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2011, 05:19:30 PM »
Unfortunately one of the reasons that $5000 lenses sell for $5000 is because the $1000 alternatives don't take as good a picture.  Teleconverters are nice, but primes of the right focal length are better.

I am blessed with a larger budget, and no wife, so I own the 400mm f2.8 IS and a 1.4X and 2X II teleconverters.  That is my long lens team. I bought it all used, still paid an arm and a leg about 2 years ago, but could now sell it for $1500 more than I paid.

But I also have a little baby 300mm IS f4.  So tiny and cute vs. the 400.  And way way better for travel, hiking etc.  Does great with the teleconverters as well, though it will not autofocus with the 2X.  I paid about $1000 used, and highly recommend it.

Concerning tripods.  They are a must for long lenses, but if you think a tripods means you don't need IS, you are mistaken.  In the 300mm+ area (especially on crop bodies) a tripod becomes a little more like shooting from a monopod.  it's really improving your steadiness, but it's not letting you take 1/2 sec exposures.  The wind, the shutter, your body, all introduce movement.  Heck, out at 800mm on my D7, I can see the ground shake as people walk close to me.  Trust me, the IS is super useful even with a tripod.   

The sigma 150-500mm OS gets some good reviews.

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2011, 06:45:54 PM »

After renting a 100-400 from LensRentals.com last week, I'm a big fan of renting to try things.

Can't say enough good about that lens. The push/pull didn't bother me, but most of that ergonomic stuff doesn't; I just adapt. The IQ is outstanding. The IS is great, and I especially liked the ability to tune it for panning.

I used it for an air show, and it's pretty amazing to have good pictures of smiling people looking out the windows of airplanes.
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neuroanatomist

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2011, 07:42:55 AM »
I am still hoping that Canon can update the 100-400 and maybe come up with a 500 or 600 f5.6, as I am trying to avoid the older lenses (400 5.6 and the 100-400).

Based on the specs available and if the prices end up being similar would you prefer the 300 2.8 II (with the 2x and 1.4x extenders) or the 200-400 ?

In the under-$2K range, I think the 100-400mm is still a great option.  IQ is very good at the long end (better than the 300/4+1.4x), and IS is very beneficial at those focal lengths if you're shooting at less than 1/1000 s (which at f/5.6, you probably will be!).

RE 300/2.8 II + extenders vs. 200-400mm, I would want to wait to see the performance of the lenses (nothing but the MkIII extenders is actually available, and the 200-400mm is probably a long way from release).  I think the main difference will come down to whether or not you need/want to handhold the lens - the new 300/2.8 II is ~5 lbs and can be handheld pretty well.  I'd expect the 200-400mm to be >8 lbs meaning tripod/gimbal for routine use. 
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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2011, 07:42:55 AM »

S P

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2011, 09:27:14 AM »
Same boat here.  I have a 70-200/4L non-IS and think I could get pretty good use out of something longer.  I tell you what, as a recent Canon convert (June 2010) it sure is nice to have so many GOOD options.  Nikon's 80-400 really isn't that great optically and also focuses slowly, their latest 300/4 still doesn't have IS, and they have no lower cost 400mm prime option, just an enormously expensive 2.8.  With Canon, the 300/4L IS, the 400/5.6L, and the 100-400L are all strong contenders and it's tough to decide.  8)

On the 400/5.6L, I agree that the lack of IS on this lens really makes it a good light lens only, unless you're OK with walking around with at least a good monopod all the time.  Optically I'm sure it's the very best lens out of the three at 400mm, but by far the hardest to get good results from.  Don't think it'd be the best option for me, so that narrows it down to the other two.

On the 300mm f/4L IS, having a relatively large aperture available at 300mm is enormously appealing, both for speed/action shots, and the potential to yank backgrounds a bit more out of focus.  Was planning to eventually get a 1.4x extender also, so that would make it a stabilized 420mm f/5.6.

The versatility of the 100-400L is enormously appealing to me though, being able to get near and far and wide and super long shots very quickly.  For landscape shots, I might have some super interesting light but only for a few seconds.  Can quickly dial up whatever FL I need and get a few shots off, rather than having to switch lenses or yank an extender on or off.  Can see it being quite useful for airshows, random aircraft or helicopters flying by the house, the aforementioned landscape stuff, and although I know it's not idea for it but outdoor kid sports also.  I have enough ISO headroom on the 5DmkII that the slower speed of the lens in most outdoor conditions shouldn't be an issue for that.

So we'll see I guess.  Right now I'm leaning towards the 100-400L, but I don't have the money yet and could change my mind before then.  I've also wanted a 135/2L which is in the same general price range as these lenses, but I already have the 70-200/4 that covers the same range and a Nikkor 135/2.8 AIS that I can use with an adapter.  Am not into hyper-thin DOF stuff either, so I'm thinking one of these super long lenses would be a better choice, and give me something that I don't currently have and could arguably use a bit better with my current system.

Edit: I see that the 100-400 rents very cheaply from LensRentals.com, so I'll probably just rent it for a week to see how I like it.  Have rented from them before and have always been very pleased with the service. :)


« Last Edit: April 25, 2011, 09:36:09 AM by S P »

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2011, 10:36:17 AM »
You can get smooth backgrounds from the 100-400mm L.  Get close, near mfd and the backgrounds smooth out well.  Using a 1.4X adapter, they are even better, but its manual focus or a 1 series camera.





neuroanatomist

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2011, 11:06:42 AM »
You can get smooth backgrounds from the 100-400mm L.  Get close, near mfd and the backgrounds smooth out well.  Using a 1.4X adapter, they are even better, but its manual focus or a 1 series camera.

Using a 1.4x extender with the 100-400mm has a pretty substantial negative impact on IQ - I've tried it, and honestly I get much better results shooting without the extender and just cropping the image by 1.4x.

I think it's important to distinguish between the quantity of OOF blur and the quality of OOF blur (the latter is 'bokeh' even though some people use the term to refer to both quality and quantity).  The quantity is driven solely by the factors which affect DoF - aperture, focal length, subject distance, and sensor size.  A 400mm f/5.6 lens with a close subject can deliver a lot of OOF blur (at the MFD, the 100-400mm @ 400mm f/5.6 yields a DoF of about 1/8").

Quality is another matter, and that is driven by the lens design.  For example, the 50mm f/1.2L is known for it's 'creamy' bokeh - great for portraits, but sharpness is sacrificed in the optical design (intentionally undercorrected spherical aberration) specifically to produce that lovely bokeh. 

Scalesusa, in your example the background is already pretty smooth (i.e. featureless, not a thicket of branches for example).  In the case of the 100-400mm, I'd call the bokeh "acceptable" - it's not really "good", with rings instead of discs from specular highlights, and overall a "jittery" feel.  I'm using a lot of quotes because bokeh is a pretty subjective thing, but here are a couple of examples to show what I mean.  In the first image, the bushes at the top of the frame show that "jittery" look, and in the second image you can see how specular highlights (dewdrops in dawn light) show up.


EOS 7D, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM @ 400mm, 1/640 s, f/5.6, ISO 640


EOS 7D, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM @ 400mm, 1/500 s, f/5.6, ISO 400
« Last Edit: April 25, 2011, 11:10:40 AM by neuroanatomist »
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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2011, 11:51:45 AM »

Scalesusa, in your example the background is already pretty smooth (i.e. featureless, not a thicket of branches for example).  In the case of the 100-400mm, I'd call the bokeh "acceptable" - it's not really "good", with rings instead of discs from specular highlights, and overall a "jittery" feel.  I'm using a lot of quotes because bokeh is a pretty subjective thing, but here are a couple of examples to show what I mean.  In the first image, the bushes at the top of the frame show that "jittery" look, and in the second image you can see how specular highlights (dewdrops in dawn light) show up.


That image was a heavily cropped image with the 100-400mm L at 400mm with a 1.4X TC.  The lens aperture was f/8, so it wasn't setup for optimum bokah. The background was my dirveway and shrubs / trees accross the driveway, which were far enough away to be very much out of focus.

The point is that, you can take images with a smooth background if you are able to pick your site, and setup the shot to maximum a out of focus background.  The image prints remarkably well in a large size, considering the level of crop and the TC.


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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2011, 12:43:58 PM »
I have the Sigma 120 - 300mm f/2.8 and use it with 1.4 & 2X tele converters.  The images with the 2X are good enough to satisfy stringent commercial requirements, and for me that's good enough (though there are quite a few gear heads about!).  This combination is the cheapest way to get to 600mm & still retain autofocus, and on its own the lens is a really good performer.  There is an OS version due to be delivered to the shops any time now, so either pick up a bargain non OS or wait and pay a bit more.

There is another option, but it is a lot of money (I won't say expensive because for what it is, it isn't) and that's the Sigma 300 - 800mm f/5.6.  Again it's very well regarded by nature photographers, and it's a zoom!  The only drawback is the £5500 it costs to buy one!  If you can get past that it's something of a bargain, Canon's 800mm costs £10K the 600mm is £6.5K the 500mm £5.5K and you get all of those in one lens!

Or there's the 500mm f/4.5 at £3500 and the promise of a new f/4 version with OS in the near future.

Most of these lenses are available second user with large depreciation if you don't mind.

Most photographers find that their photography is concentrated between 24 - 200mm so long lenses represent a huge outlay for something which isn't often used.

neuroanatomist

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2011, 02:23:53 PM »
There is another option, but it is a lot of money (I won't say expensive because for what it is, it isn't) and that's the Sigma 300 - 800mm f/5.6.  Again it's very well regarded by nature photographers, and it's a zoom!  The only drawback is the £5500 it costs to buy one!  If you can get past that it's something of a bargain, Canon's 800mm costs £10K the 600mm is £6.5K the 500mm £5.5K and you get all of those in one lens!

Except that the Canon 500mm and 600mm primes are f/4, and a stop of light is worth a lot in some situations (and costs a lot too, when for example you compare the 300/4 vs. 300/2.8 or 400/5.6 vs. 400/2.8.

Still, a forthcoming Sigma 500/4 OS would be interesting to consider...
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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2011, 02:23:53 PM »

Cropper

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2011, 08:33:32 PM »
Thanks for all the replies and as always your valuable insight that really helped me make up my mind.

Firstly I am still convinced, or should I say hopeful, that Canon will finish the "white line" refresh this year.
For me this seems sensible since last year almost all the lenses announced were "whites" and this year, with the 200-400 it seems as though they are continuing this task.
Also the 100-400, the 300 f4 and the 400 5.6 are some of the oldest L lenses in the line up and are long overdue for replacement (the 400 is from 1993 !!!).
I also makes sense to me that there should be advantages in developing similar lenses at the same time, so I think there is a good chance.

If Canon can maintain the 6-7 lenses announced per year there is still place for the rumored 35 II, 24-70 II, and even the 24-105 II (though I seriously doubt this one will actually be redone so soon).

I have decided to wait for the next round of lens announcements and see if this "logic" / "gut feeling" / "wishful thinking" will come through or not.
If so I will definitely wait for the new 100-400.

If this isn't the case, I'll be getting the current 100-400. As many of you atested and exemplified it packs a very good IQ in a relatively small package, easy to handhold and travel with, at a very reasonable price.

I´ll still be saving up for the 300 2.8 II, and will probably be getting it next year. It´s a totally different "beast", and should complement the zoom really well, not only because of the  faster apertures but also by allowing me to get to 600mmm at f5.6, retaining autofocus, and all in a handholdable solution.

The EF 200-400, as wonderfull as it seems, and regardless of the cost, is probably not for me, since as some of you pointed out, should be very heavy and would require constant use of tripod and a gimbal type head. Knowing myself it would probably end up being left home a lot more that it deserves.

Thanks again for all your input.

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2011, 05:11:46 AM »
The current Sigma 120-300/2.8 lens is very nice, but the copy I tried was a little soft at 300mm f2.8. I wouldn't even attempt a 1.4x TC on it with out stopping down. The AF speed wasn't anything to write home about either. My old Sigma 100-300/f4 was faster.
The new Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 OS HSM is looking like a very different animal indeed. Early shots are pointing to prime like sharpness and contrast, but it's not until we get a few more examples and tests that we'll know for sure.
The 100-400L offers a lot of versatility and is the best choice if it's your one long lens (eg no 70-200). It's great for wild life and bird photography, but not so great for birds in flight shots. It's AF just isn't fast enough to track birds in flight on a consistent basis. That's where the 400mm f5.6L scores well.

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Re: 400mm + options
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2011, 05:11:46 AM »