Lens recommendation for birding

Mar 31, 2014
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Center of my universe
I have dabbled in birding with my 70-200 + 1.4X TC and now I want more reach. It appears no 400mm or 500mm, f/5 or f/5.6 primes will be available any time soon, so I am considering these:

EF 500mm f/4L IS
EF 500mm f/4L IS II
EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II
EF 400mm f/2.8L IS

I am not considering the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II or III.

Thanks,
John
 

AlanF

5DSR
Aug 16, 2012
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I have dabbled in birding with my 70-200 + 1.4X TC and now I want more reach. It appears no 400mm or 500mm, f/5 or f/5.6 primes will be available any time soon, so I am considering these:

EF 500mm f/4L IS
EF 500mm f/4L IS II
EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II
EF 400mm f/2.8L IS

I am not considering the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II or III.

Thanks,
John
John, tell us what your mode of photography is: portraits; BIF; tripod use; sitting in hides (blinds); hiking; opportunistic; and what camera? How strong are you?
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
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you can never have enough focal length for birds, 600 or even 800 is not enough depending on where and what.

I found it such a hassle to setup my 600mm big white with heavy tripod and wimberly gimbal head that I sold it all, and stuck with my 100-400L and a light weight gimbal head.

I'd pick the 400mm DO II out of your list totally because of the weight and portability.
 
Mar 31, 2014
966
66
68
Center of my universe
John, tell us what your mode of photography is: portraits; BIF; tripod use; sitting in hides (blinds); hiking; opportunistic; and what camera? How strong are you?
All these: portraits; BIF; tripod use; sitting in hides (blinds); hiking; opportunistic but mostly tripod or nested on a bag. 5DIV and 80D. I weigh 195 lbs and do a few pullups a couple times a week (+ other exercise). When hiking, my pack weight is 20-30 lbs.
 
Aug 22, 2010
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I was on an Irish sea birds trip with Guy Edwardes last week. One of the other photographers had a 400mm f2.8 LIS mkII and I had lens envy when I saw how much she could hand hold that lens. I've been rocking a mk1 for years and I can snap off a few shots...be she didn't even bother with taking a tripod with her.
So now I'm waiting for a mkIII to come along at a sensible price....hopefully the price will drop once the RF version is launched.
The mkI is VERY heavy and bulky to use and you will need a VERY sturdy tripod to hold it.
But I put up with it because I can achieve images like this (all taken last week) :
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AlanF

5DSR
Aug 16, 2012
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2,080
That's my preference at this time. I rented the Sigma 60-600 and it felt gawky at first, but I did like the reach. The 400mm DO II + 1.4X TC will get me that reach.

Thanks for your input.
Now you have answered my questions as to your requirements, I agree with that choice - I own one and love it (along with my 100-400mm II, which has similar IQ as a bare lens but falls behind the prime slightly with a 1.4xTC). One of the beauties of the DO II is not only its lightness for carrying but also for speed of manoeuverability for fast birds in flight. I got keeper after keeper of puffins with sand eels in flight shooting past me recently and the guys with their bigger lenses on gimbals were finding it difficult swivelling around. I have posted some but here are two more as I really do like these birds.

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Mar 31, 2014
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Center of my universe
Superb images and excellent advice, Alan and GMCPhotographics! Speed of manoeuverability is a factor I frankly underestimated.

The EF 400mm f/2.8L IS is (I had to search for it) 5.4 kg. Too much for me!

The Lensrentals states this:
The Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS II: A lot of Canon shooters want to know how close they can get if they give up a stop of aperture and get the markedly less expensive and amazingly lighter 400mm DO II. The answer is at f/4, the 400mm DO IS II is basically as good, at least in the center 1/2 of the image where most telephoto subjects rest, as the 400mm f/2.8 IS II is at f/2.8.

I am close to deciding. Thanks very much.
 
Aug 22, 2010
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Superb images and excellent advice, Alan and GMCPhotographics! Speed of manoeuverability is a factor I frankly underestimated.

The EF 400mm f/2.8L IS is (I had to search for it) 5.4 kg. Too much for me!

The Lensrentals states this:
The Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS II: A lot of Canon shooters want to know how close they can get if they give up a stop of aperture and get the markedly less expensive and amazingly lighter 400mm DO II. The answer is at f/4, the 400mm DO IS II is basically as good, at least in the center 1/2 of the image where most telephoto subjects rest, as the 400mm f/2.8 IS II is at f/2.8.

I am close to deciding. Thanks very much.
I noticed a lot of guys on my recent photographic workshop with Guy Edwardes were using a 100-400 LIS II hand hold. Sometimes with a 1.6x crop camera (7DII) sometimes with 5DIII/4 or 1DX cameras. The results were impressive and very versatile. Wide open at f5.6, it certainly tracks fast and accurately enough...and more than sharp enough too. In fact I felt like the odd one out but not having one. So I guess lens choice is also dictated by your working distance. Often I'm using a 2x on my 400 LIS...some times I can go 400mm f2.8 native. In fact in some instances...I can get away with a 70-200.

The 400 DO II is a great lens, but I wouldn't want to use that lens if you intend backlit bokeh shots. I tend to avoid equipment that restrict my creative choices or options:
5DIII 400mm f2.8 LIS and 1.4x TC
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AlanF

5DSR
Aug 16, 2012
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2,080
I noticed a lot of guys on my recent photographic workshop with Guy Edwardes were using a 100-400 LIS II hand hold. Sometimes with a 1.6x crop camera (7DII) sometimes with 5DIII/4 or 1DX cameras. The results were impressive and very versatile. Wide open at f5.6, it certainly tracks fast and accurately enough...and more than sharp enough too. In fact I felt like the odd one out but not having one. So I guess lens choice is also dictated by your working distance. Often I'm using a 2x on my 400 LIS...some times I can go 400mm f2.8 native. In fact in some instances...I can get away with a 70-200.

The 400 DO II is a great lens, but I wouldn't want to use that lens if you intend backlit bokeh shots. I tend to avoid equipment that restrict my creative choices or options:
5DIII 400mm f2.8 LIS and 1.4x TC
Congratulations on those stunning and artistic images. Agreed that if those are your goals, then a 400mm f/2.8 is a must. The 400mm DO II is at its weakest against backlit images and neither it nor the 100-400mm II will produce that bokeh. On the other hand, if like me you go for the sun behind you and glittering on the plumage, then 400mm f/2.8 is still an excellent choice but the smaller lighter lenses more practical and versatile in use, especially for BIF and you hand hold and hike.
 
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Aug 22, 2010
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www.GMCPhotographics.co.uk
Congratulations on those stunning and artistic images. Agreed that if those are your goals, then a 400mm f/2.8 is a must. The 400mm DO II is at its weakest against backlit images and neither it nor the 100-400mm II will produce that bokeh. On the other hand, if like me you go for the sun behind you and glittering on the plumage, then 400mm f/2.8 is still an excellent choice but the smaller lighter lenses more practical and versatile in use, especially for BIF and you hand hold and hike.
Thanks Alan, funnily enough....a week on and my right shoulder is still hurting some what. The 400 f2.8 is a burden....no question about that. Within 5 mins of arriving on the Saltee Islands....I was regretting not having a DO or a mkIII. But the pain and discomfort last for only a little while and get easily forgotten about. The photos I took, however are for a life time.
 

AlanF

5DSR
Aug 16, 2012
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Thanks Alan, funnily enough....a week on and my right shoulder is still hurting some what. The 400 f2.8 is a burden....no question about that. Within 5 mins of arriving on the Saltee Islands....I was regretting not having a DO or a mkIII. But the pain and discomfort last for only a little while and get easily forgotten about. The photos I took, however are for a life time.
Here's one from the DO II dedicated to you!

2B4A9067-DxO_puffin_landing.jpg
 
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AlanF

5DSR
Aug 16, 2012
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2,080
Thanks again, guys, for your different but equally valid perspectives! It is my first birding lens, so I went with the DO. The deciding factor is the 400 2.8 weight; I will shooting hand-held 50% of the time.
You won't regret it - it's a fabulous lens. It works particularly well with the 1.4xTC at 560mm - lenstip.com found minimal loss of IQ, which I can vouch for, and it still focusses blisteringly fast.