Did I make a mistake buying the RF 100-500

CODonnell

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I finally received my RF 100-500 after a long wait and I'm having mixed feelings about the lens and considering returnign. I'm wondering if I'm overthinking and hope some others who own the lens might share their insights?

Aperture: Before buying, I assumed the 7.1 aperture at 5000mm was something that could be overcome with stabilization - but forgot to take into consideration movement of my subject. I also noticed my landscape images were a little soft at 500mm when focusing at a distance (30-40 meters) unless I shot above 1/800 or stopped down. I realize I can't defy physics - but I hoped to overcome the aperture enough to get shots of wildlife in a modestly overcast day. I recently shot a bird without cranking my ISO to 20000. Just how practical is this lens at 400-500mm? Is the lens capable of more than I am giving it credit for and I should give it some time to master?

Noise: Related to aperture above. I'm learning to embrace some noise but given some of the high ISOs I've needed at 500mm - I'm wondering if there is a technique that I could exploit. I noticed that some images shot at ISO 10000 were less noisy than shots taken at ISO 4000 because they had been exposed to the right. Is ETTR a good way to combat the aperture restrictions of the lens and are others doing the same?

Range: I own an EF 70-200 L but this RF lens is my first 'real' telephoto and I naively expected more range or distance from my subject (depending on size). I expected I could fill the frame from farther away when shooting a smaller bird. I didn't expect I would still have to be only a few meters away unless I plan to crop into the image. I'm shooting with an R6 and prefer to crop only slightly as required due to fewer megapixels. It would seem my shooting range extends proportionately to the size of my subject? I'm seeing great example images of ducks etc from others - were they much closer to the subject than I realized or of the lens or are they cropping to get the results?

Cost: I bought the lens because I thought it would be a better option than replacing the EF 70-200L with the RF version. Having a fixed aperture is ideal - but I thought 4.5 at the 100-200 focal range was a reasonable compromise to get additional focal range (200-500). I wanted to have the option of shooting birds and other wildlife and the 70-200 didn't have enough range to make it satisfying. Given the low light/aperture restrictions and the modest increase in range from smaller subjects I'm second guessing my purchase. The RF 100-500 is a pricey lens and I could have invested in a 24-70 2.8 or even a 10-24 f4 AND a 24-105 F4 for the same price.

I know the RF 100-500 is a good lens and I expect it comes with a learning curve. I only have 2 weeks from my purchase date to change my mind and I wouldn't even consider it If the price had only been slightly lower. Did I make a good investment? I'm hoping that someone might be able to talk me off the ledge.
 

unfocused

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Not going to try to talk you off a ledge. That's for only you to decide.

500mm is not 1000 or 2000 mm. If you are going from 200mm, you may have thought 500mm would pull in distant subjects and make tiny objects huge. But it doesn't work that way. There are lots of focal length comparisons online, such as at The Digital Picture. Looking at those comparisons should give you a more realistic understanding of the effect of focal length.

The 100-500 is not cheap, but it is not $13,000 either (which is what a lens that is 100mm longer and less than two stops faster costs).

And, yes, the longer the focal length, the faster the shutter speed needs to be to stop action and prevent blur.

So, you are always going to have to balance shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Fast shutter speed and an aperture of f7.1 means shooting at higher ISOs in most cases. Add a teleconverter to get more reach and you cut the aperture down even more.

Not to be unkind, but I think you are having your expectations crushed by the realities of physics. If we could get an f4, 800mm lens that is as light as the 100-500 f7.1 and costs under $3,000 we'd all buy one.

EDIT: Thinking a bit more about this. If you regret the decision, send the lens back. Consider these options instead: 100-400 RF which is 1/4 the cost, a fraction of a stop slower and only 100 mm shorter. Or buy an EF 2x converter for your EF 100-200 2.8 and you will have a 400mm lens with an f5.6 aperture. You can get a 2x EF extender for under $450. Then, take your time and next time buy a lens that fits your use cases.
 
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AlanF

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What you need is good software for dealing with noise. Shoot in RAW and process with DxO Photolab PL5. It works miracles with the lens. You do need to shoot at 1/800s or faster hand holding these longer lenses at longer distances. And for birds in flight 1/2500s or faster. I’ve shot over the years the 300mm f/2.8 II, the 400mm f/4 DO II and the 100-400mm II. The 100-500mm is my favourite over these. We birders who post regularly in the two bird threads here love the lens. And, we get good results at a 1000mm f/14 with the RF 2x. We are also now loving the f/8 RF 100-400mm. Go to the Bird Portraits and Birds in Flight and scroll back over the past year. Also, it’s great for close ups of Dragonflies and Butterflies etc - look at those threads as well. Persevere, improve your processing and holding techniques and you will do fine.
 
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dcm

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EDIT: Thinking a bit more about this. If you regret the decision, send the lens back. Consider these options instead: 100-400 RF which is 1/4 the cost, a fraction of a stop slower and only 100 mm shorter. Or buy an EF 2x converter for your EF 100-200 2.8 and you will have a 400mm lens with an f5.6 aperture. You can get a 2x EF extender for under $450. Then, take your time and next time buy a lens that fits your use cases.

It takes a while to develop the technique to shoot at longer focal lengths. I had the same experience when I first purchased a Tamron 150-600. It took a while to figure things out. But it was a low cost way to learn and I later moved to the EF 100-400 L II with extenders at a much greater cost, but with better results. When I purchased the RF800, there was another learning curve and again when I added the RF 1.4x.

If you are sure that you want to shoot at longer focal lengths eventually, the the RF 100-500 will reward you over time. If you aren't sure, then try one of the other paths that @unfocused suggested. I'd be partial to the RF 100-400 myself - it is has I was looking for when I got the Tamron. Depending on your needs, you can get the 100-500 later or take the lower cost path I did with the 800 and keep the RF 100-400 which I also have.

And I second @AlanF suggestion to get some good software to detail with noise and practice with it. I'm a long term DxO user using PL5 now.
 
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CODonnell

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What you need is good software for dealing with noise. Shoot in RAW and process with DxO Photolab PL5. It works miracles with the lens. You do need to shoot at 1/800s or faster hand holding these longer lenses at longer distances. And for birds in flight 1/2500s or faster. I’ve shot over the years the 300mm f/2.8 II, the 400mm f/4 DO II and the 100-400mm II. The 100-500mm is my favourite over these. We birders who post regularly in the two bird threads here love the lens. And, we get good results at a 1000mm f/14 with the RF 2x. We are also now loving the f/8 RF 100-400mm. Go to the Bird Portraits and Birds in Flight and scroll back over the past year. Also, it’s great for close ups of Dragonflies and Butterflies etc - look at those threads as well. Persevere, improve your processing and holding techniques and you will do fine.
Thanks for the input - Im also thinking I should persevere. I'm actually OK with some noise and I find LR does a pretty decent job cleaning up the RAW images - but what do you you think about ETTR? It seems noise can be reduced in camera by adding an additional stop of light. It seems a properly exposed image at ISO 4000 can be recovered with much less noise at ISO 8000 provided I don't clip the highlights.
 

CODonnell

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Nov 23, 2021
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Thanks for the input - Im also thinking I should persevere. I'm actually OK with some noise and I find LR does a pretty decent job cleaning up the RAW images - but what do you you think about ETTR? It seems noise can be reduced in camera by adding an additional stop of light. It seems a properly exposed image at ISO 4000 can be recovered with much less noise at ISO 8000 provided I don't clip the highlights.
I really appreciate the thoughtful responses
It takes a while to develop the technique to shoot at longer focal lengths. I had the same experience when I first purchased a Tamron 150-600. It took a while to figure things out. But it was a low cost way to learn and I later moved to the EF 100-400 L II with extenders at a much greater cost, but with better results. When I purchased the RF800, there was another learning curve and again when I added the RF 1.4x.

If you are sure that you want to shoot at longer focal lengths eventually, the the RF 100-500 will reward you over time. If you aren't sure, then try one of the other paths that @unfocused suggested. I'd be partial to the RF 100-400 myself - it is has I was looking for when I got the Tamron. Depending on your needs, you can get the 100-500 later or take the lower cost path I did with the 800 and keep the RF 100-400 which I also have.

And I second @AlanF suggestion to get some good software to detail with noise and practice with it. I'm a long term DxO user using PL5 now.
I really appreciate the thoughtful responses you provided. It'm also thinking I should persevere and accept there is a learning curve shooting with the longer focal length. I think I also need to embrace cropping as required and consider upscaling my images if I want to print. Do you think the 100-500 is a reasonable replacement for the EF 70-200 2.8 L? I realize I'll lose the 70-100 focal range but a one loss stop of light seems like a reasonable trade-off. The plan was to sell this older EF lens to partially fund the purchase of the RF 100-500. I'll obviously wait before selling and test but I wonder how you might react to the idea? Popular opinion seems to be that the RF 100-500 is the sharpest and best native option for my R body short of shelling out substantially more cash. II'm sure there's a lot of folks out there that would love to have it and I'm lucky. First world problems...
 

Joules

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Thanks for the input - Im also thinking I should persevere. I'm actually OK with some noise and I find LR does a pretty decent job cleaning up the RAW images - but what do you you think about ETTR? It seems noise can be reduced in camera by adding an additional stop of light. It seems a properly exposed image at ISO 4000 can be recovered with much less noise at ISO 8000 provided I don't clip the highlights.
I would suggest completely ignoring ISO when determining the settings that will give you the least noise. The noise that we are dealing with in bird photography doesn't come from the camera. Instead it is a property of the light itself, called shot noise. It only depends on the amount of light you gather, which is in turn only depending on your aperture, shutter speed and sensor size/amount of crop.

In other words, pick the longest shutter speed your subject allows in order to minimize noise, and get as close to the subject as possible in order to avoid cropping as much as possible. As the former is usually a limited option due to the shaking of the hands and the sometimes rapid movement of the subject, and the latter is difficult due to the skittish nature of most birds, taking pictures of birds is difficult.

Going from 200 to 500 mm allows you to take pictures of the same quality of subjects 2,25 times further away. That is a big step up, but there will always be situations and subject where you will find yourself wanting more. That's why some people like high resoultion bodies. Higher focal lentghs quickly come with huge tradeoffs in size and cost, compared to just cropping.

That is of course not what the R6 is designed to do, so if you find the reach inadequate, the 800 mm f/11 lens should be a good match for the R6. Alternatively, TCs have already been mentioned and are a good solution to compensate for the R6 resolution.

I shoot with a Sigma 150-600 mm 6.3 C on an 80D, which is the equivalent of 960 mm f/10 on FF. Even that kind of reach often feels limiting and I wish the lens was sharper, so that I could crop more. But when I go back to my tiny little EF-S 55-250 mm 5.6 IS STM, which is virtually the equivalent of the RF 100-400 8.0, I do really appreciate the additional reach. The RF 100-500 7.1 provides better effective reach then my setup due to the superior optics from what I gather from Alans many wonderfull reports and comparisons. That's with the R5 of course.

So if you can accept the reality that it is a tool to make photographing birds easier, but not easy in absolute terms, you should be able to come to appreciate it in time.
 

neuroanatomist

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Do you think the 100-500 is a reasonable replacement for the EF 70-200 2.8 L? I realize I'll lose the 70-100 focal range but a one loss stop of light seems like a reasonable trade-off.
If that’s how you view it, then it might make sense. It really depends on your use case. I use a 70-200/2.8 for portraits and indoor sports. For the former, it’s not the amount of light but rather the OOF blur of f/2.8. Yes, you can get that blur with a longer focal length but not at a convenient distance. For the necessary shutter speed with indoor action, for me that one stop often mean the difference between ISO 12800 and 25600, and at that end of the range that stop becomes very significant.

I swapped my EF 70-200/2.8 II for the RF version, and I also have the 100-500. For me, the use cases are very different.
 
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Viggo

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F7.1 is f7.1 no matter how you twist and turn it and I wouldn’t buy a lens that slow because it’s like you say, the iso gets ridiculous.

I think those who get great results from those types of lenses live where there are much more available light much longer and much more often than where I live. I’m often at iso 1000 at f1.2, so f7.1 is not an option for me.

regarding shooting ducks I live where you can get within 0.5m before they even start to move, same with seagulls. So I can shoot those and fill the frame without cropping with my 85mm.

So to me at least, the results are extremely depending on where you’re located..
 

Joules

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F7.1 is f7.1 no matter how you twist and turn it and I wouldn’t buy a lens that slow because it’s like you say, the iso gets ridiculous.
There's no point in considering aperture (or, rather f-number) in isolation though. You don't need to live in a place with super bright light in order to use the lenses in question. Usually, we don't go out shooting with the goal of taking a picture at a given f-number. More likely, we go out wanting to take images of subjects, where the subject fills a certain amount of the frame. So the objective is the field of view (FoV), not the f-number.

You can take a picture at 200 mm 2.8 and crop it to match the field of view of a 500 mm lens, resulting in the same amount of light and therefore noise as if the picture had been taken with a 500 mm f7.0 lens without further modification - Just at greatly reduced resolution due to the cropping.

If that resolution is not needed, there is no point in replacing the 70-200 mm 2.8 lens at all. Just crop to get the desired framing. For a 20 MP sensor like the one in the R6, such a steep crop would result in a 3,2 MP image, which is still more pixels than you'll find on a full HD display.

But the OP seems to have the opposite problem, where even at 500 mm they don't seem pleased with the achievable framing / room for cropping. So, using either a TC or buying a lens more specialized for reach like the 800 mm f/11 instead of the RF 100-500 mm 7.1 are the best options.

All of these lenses share essentially the same pyhsical aperture:

70-200 mm 2.8 = 200/2.8 ~ 71 mm
100-400 mm 5.6 = 400/5.6 ~ 71 mm
100-500 mm 7.1 = 500/7.1 ~ 70 mm
800 mm 11 = 800/11 ~ 73 mm

Which means if you want to achieve a given framing and compare these lenses at the same FoV (by using the wider ones with TCs or simply cropping), you'll end up with virutally the same amount of noise in your images. The only difference will be the remaining detail, where the use of less cropping and less TCs will leave more of it.

Adjusting the technique and processing used in combination with the current setup is of course also a good starting point. As well as simply adjusting expectations.
 
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AlanF

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What @Joules writes is absolutely correct, and I'll emphasize it as it seems counter-intuitive. We are trained into thinking that what controls the amount of noise in an image is the f-number of the lens. It's not - the S/N at low light levels is proportional to the diameter, d, of the lens (entrance pupil) not the f-number by itself. The noise is proportional to the square root of the number of photons in the image. The number of photons going into the lens is proportional to d^2, and, most crucially, the number of photons in the image of a duck is independent of the focal length of a lens but also proportional to d^2. For example, suppose you halve the focal length of a lens and keep its diameter constant, you halve the f-number and increase the brightness of the image by two-stops. But, you decrease the area of the image of a duck by a factor of 2x2, and so the total number of photons hitting the duck remain the same. A 200mm f/2.8 lens has the same size diameter at the front as an 800mm f/11. Raise the iso with the 800mm lens by 4 stops to give the same brightness and you will see the same noise in the images from both when viewed at the same size, but more detail with the 800mm. (Amusingly, if you had a sensor with infinitesimally small pixels, the 200mm f/2.8 would resolve detail as well as the 800mm f/11.)
 
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Rivermist

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I finally received my RF 100-500 after a long wait and I'm having mixed feelings about the lens and considering returnign. I'm wondering if I'm overthinking and hope some others who own the lens might share their insights?

Aperture: Before buying, I assumed the 7.1 aperture at 5000mm was something that could be overcome with stabilization - but forgot to take into consideration movement of my subject. I also noticed my landscape images were a little soft at 500mm when focusing at a distance (30-40 meters) unless I shot above 1/800 or stopped down. I realize I can't defy physics - but I hoped to overcome the aperture enough to get shots of wildlife in a modestly overcast day. I recently shot a bird without cranking my ISO to 20000. Just how practical is this lens at 400-500mm? Is the lens capable of more than I am giving it credit for and I should give it some time to master?

Noise: Related to aperture above. I'm learning to embrace some noise but given some of the high ISOs I've needed at 500mm - I'm wondering if there is a technique that I could exploit. I noticed that some images shot at ISO 10000 were less noisy than shots taken at ISO 4000 because they had been exposed to the right. Is ETTR a good way to combat the aperture restrictions of the lens and are others doing the same?

Range: I own an EF 70-200 L but this RF lens is my first 'real' telephoto and I naively expected more range or distance from my subject (depending on size). I expected I could fill the frame from farther away when shooting a smaller bird. I didn't expect I would still have to be only a few meters away unless I plan to crop into the image. I'm shooting with an R6 and prefer to crop only slightly as required due to fewer megapixels. It would seem my shooting range extends proportionately to the size of my subject? I'm seeing great example images of ducks etc from others - were they much closer to the subject than I realized or of the lens or are they cropping to get the results?

Cost: I bought the lens because I thought it would be a better option than replacing the EF 70-200L with the RF version. Having a fixed aperture is ideal - but I thought 4.5 at the 100-200 focal range was a reasonable compromise to get additional focal range (200-500). I wanted to have the option of shooting birds and other wildlife and the 70-200 didn't have enough range to make it satisfying. Given the low light/aperture restrictions and the modest increase in range from smaller subjects I'm second guessing my purchase. The RF 100-500 is a pricey lens and I could have invested in a 24-70 2.8 or even a 10-24 f4 AND a 24-105 F4 for the same price.

I know the RF 100-500 is a good lens and I expect it comes with a learning curve. I only have 2 weeks from my purchase date to change my mind and I wouldn't even consider it If the price had only been slightly lower. Did I make a good investment? I'm hoping that someone might be able to talk me off the ledge.
Lens choices are very personal and also very much a factor of the type of photography you are practicing, if I read correctly a mix of portrait and outdoors / wildlife? Aperture is very important, as you observe it is not just about absolute light but also avoiding subject movement blur. But there is also a very valid debate about "the camera you have with you", i.e. large and heavy glass is less likely to be in your walk-around shoulder bag ready to grasp a photo opportunity. I had owned the EF 100-400 mk1 for 10 years and when moving to mirrorless the upgrade to 100-500L was a no-brainer: no need for the 1.4x converter to extend 400mm, relatively compact, high quality, robust (I travel...). But attempts to use it for portrait and studio work were not so rewarding, it is big and heavy for that type of work. I got the RF 70-200 L f:4 (with flash I seldom use apertures below 5.6 anyway) and it doubles as a very versatile small telephoto in my walk-around bag, super light and compact. For serious and affordable telephoto why not try the 600 or 800 fixed aperture options and the 70-200 L for closer work.
You mention a 10-24, it is on the semi-official upcoming RF lens lists but I have yet to see that particular lens come out, but considering that the EF 11-24 is $2,999 I doubt the RF 10-24 will be less, and most probably more.
 

Viggo

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I don’t get any of that though, and no, the aperture doesn’t control the noise, the shutter speed and iso does, and they are a consequence of a given exposure at a certain aperture. This all seems very theoretical and not much sense in real use. Reminds me of the focal length and compression discussion where you have the same fov on a cropped 16mm shot to the equivalent 400mm etc, no one ever does this IRL, therefore it doesn’t REALLY apply.. but, sure I’m not doubting the math and explanation, I just don’t think it means anything for all intent and purposes.

A 70-200 and 100-500 aren’t really interchangeable for one specific use. And if I was to buy a 500/600mm lens the difference between f4 and f11 is what is.
 
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Joules

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And if I was to buy a 500/600mm lens the difference between f4 and f11 is what is.
Namely 12,000 € and 2.2 kg. But nobody suggests the optical difference is fictional or irrelevant. Rather the opposite: That only when the aperture and focal length are evaluated together, you can make meaningfull conclusions about what to expect from a lens. For anybody in a situation to both purchase and operate a long lens with a wide aperture, that is absolutely an advantage over a slower lens of the same focal lenght.

But your notion of f/7.1 being to slow for any but the brightest scenarios seemed to imply that you are bound to go big or go home when wanting to participate in bird photography. And that's just not the case. It's just that any sort of comparison that only looks at the f-number and tries to formulate expecations from that alone is not going to be meaningfull for practical purposes.
I don’t get any of that though, and no, the aperture doesn’t control the noise, the shutter speed and iso does
Sure, ISO isn't entirely irrelevant to discussions about noise. The higher the ISO, the less noise is added to the image by your camera, and the more the noise present in the light signal itself is amplified. So for any given f-number and shutter speed, you can minimize the total noise in the image by pushing ISO as high as you can without blowing out detail that you want to preserve. But for one, the impact ISO has on images is so tiny for the modern sensors found in the 1DX III, R6, R5 and R3, that this effect can truly be neglected for applications like bird photography which are dominated by shot noise.

And also, people think about ISO in just the opposite way often, blaming it for the noise when in fact it isn't the ISO value that introduces the noise - it just makes it visible.In other words, you are better off taking a picture with a high ISO than one with low ISO and raising the brightness digitally in post.

As I just wrote though, I agree with the sentiment that this mostly theoretical. And therefore, ignoring ISO when considering noise makes it much easier to focus on the quality that matters: total amount of collected light coming from the subject. 'Photons on duck' - determined only by the physical aperture and shutter speed.
This all seems very theoretical and not much sense in real use. Reminds me of the focal length and compression discussion where you have the same fov on a cropped 16mm shot to the equivalent 400mm etc, no one ever does this IRL, therefore it doesn’t REALLY apply
The laws of optics and nature apply universally, regardless of wether or not people consider them in their actions. If you have a picture in mind and want to make the best use of your tools, it can absolutely make sense and be very usefull to understand what factors actually influence the result. That perspective (and therefore compression) is not directly the consequence of focal length, but soley of distance, makes thinking about it quite pleasant in my opinion. It just takes one factor out of your setup. But of course you can argue that if you want to work out how you can take a picture where a subject in the foreground and the background have a certain size relationship to each other, you will eventually have to consider your available focal length and crop headroom to determine if you can even take such a picture at all. And so they may as well be considered in the first place. Which is fair in my opinion.

But this is only tangentially related to the topic at hand.

The real point I was making was that the OP has a number of Canon first party options at or below their budget and I wanted to illustrate how these behave relative to each other. If the OP had known that the noise they see when cropping a shot from their 70-200 mm 2.8 by a factor of 0.4 both vertically and horizontally is pretty much the same they get from an uncropped shot of the 100-500 mm 7.1, they could have both judged how much closer to a subject this field of view actually gets them, and if that noise is acceptable - prior to having made a purchase. If that isn't usefull knowledge, I don't know what is.

Similarly, this knowledge can be applied to work out that there will not be any advantage or disadvantage in terms of noise by going for the older EF 100-400 mm 5.6 L IS USM II instead, or the 800 mm f/11 prime. But those lenses come with their own specific disadvantages, mostly size for the EF veriant and lack of flexibility for the prime. And of course for scenarios were the reach isn't actually the bottleneck, you don't need cropping for the wider lenses and therfore they actually have an advantage in terms of light gathering capability.

In order to judge if they have made the right purchase, the OP must compare their choice to the alternatives and evaluate the difference with their given preferences. As it seems that primarily more reach is desired, it seems only the 800 mm f/11 prime would be a better fit - but the desire for more reach is ever present in birding anyway and so perhaps that feeling is just a side effect from the initial confrontation with the physical limits of the gear.
 
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Viggo

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“But your notion of f/7.1 being to slow for any but the brightest scenarios seemed to imply that you are bound to go big or go home when wanting to participate in bird photography”

I see that what I wrote can be seen that way, but my intent was that if you want that sort of focal length there is the compromise of a smaller f-stop. And for me, no matter the focal length, an f7.1 is 7.1. I couldn’t live with that on any lens or focal length. And if you want that FL and can’t or won’t shell out for a 500 f4, you have to consider if you have enough light for what you want/need it for. And when I see shots taken with it at f7.1 , 1/4000s iso 200 I know they have that access to those scenes. Different story if you shoot in a forrest with tall trees.
 

AlanF

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I don’t get any of that though, and no, the aperture doesn’t control the noise, the shutter speed and iso does, and they are a consequence of a given exposure at a certain aperture. This all seems very theoretical and not much sense in real use. Reminds me of the focal length and compression discussion where you have the same fov on a cropped 16mm shot to the equivalent 400mm etc, no one ever does this IRL, therefore it doesn’t REALLY apply.. but, sure I’m not doubting the math and explanation, I just don’t think it means anything for all intended purposes.

A 70-200 and 100-500 aren’t really interchangeable for one specific use. And if I was to buy a 500/600mm lens the difference between f4 and f11 is what is.
Joules has it right. The noise is in the signal, not the iso. The noise in low light situations is caused by statistical fluctuations in the number of photons hitting the sensor. The number of photons hitting the sensor is the product of the photon flux, the area of the aperture and the time the shutter is open. What the iso does is to set the highest level of the light intensity that will be recorded - anything above that is clipped highlights. So, the iso just sets the range of values of light intensity that is measured - it doesn't add noise, it just spreads the signal out and enables, as Joules says, for you to see the noise.
No one has to understand the physics behind the camera to take great photos or be a pro sports photographer or an artist. And anyone can learn the limits of their gear by experience - which pros and enthusiasts do. However, an understanding does stop you getting it wrong that a 100-500 f/7.1 is worse than a 100-400mm f/5.6 for low light as you know they are both the same. And, that is real life.
 
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Viggo

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Joules has it right. The noise is in the signal, not the iso. The noise in low light situations is caused by statistical fluctuations in the number of photons hitting the sensor. The number of photons hitting the sensor is the product of the photon flux, the area of the aperture and the time the shutter is open. What the iso does is to set the highest level of the light intensity that will be recorded - anything above that is clipped highlights. So, the iso just sets the range of values of light intensity that is measured - it doesn't add noise, it just spreads the signal out and enables, as Joules says, for you to see the noise.
No one has to understand the physics behind the camera to take great photos or be a pro sports photographer or an artist. And anyone can learn the limits of their gear by experience - which pros and enthusiasts do. However, an understanding does stop you getting it wrong that a 100-500 f/7.1 is worse than a 100-400mm f/5.6 for low light as you know they are both the same. And, that is real life.
Sure, but they’re not the same, because on reaches 500 and the other doesn’t. So to
compensate you’ll have to crop etc losing resolution. That is real life. So when you want/need 500mm, then you have to compare 500mm lenses. And then consider if it’s bright enough with f7.1, which very often it’s not. You can then consider options to work around that fact, like using a 100-400 and crop sacrificing resolution , getting a 500 f4 and sacrifice your savings account etc.
 

Joules

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“But your notion of f/7.1 being to slow for any but the brightest scenarios seemed to imply that you are bound to go big or go home when wanting to participate in bird photography”

I see that what I wrote can be seen that way, but my intent was that if you want that sort of focal length there is the compromise of a smaller f-stop. And for me, no matter the focal length, an f7.1 is 7.1. I couldn’t live with that on any lens or focal length. And if you want that FL and can’t or won’t shell out for a 500 f4, you have to consider if you have enough light for what you want/need it for. And when I see shots taken with it at f7.1 , 1/4000s iso 200 I know they have that access to those scenes. Different story if you shoot in a forrest with tall trees.
f/7.1 1/4000 ISO 200 does indeed sound like conditions that require unusually bright sunlight.

But f/7.1 really isn't the end of the world, even when light is not ideal. Here are two of my shots with my limited APS-C 80D + Sigma 150-600 mm 6.3 C setup to back up the theory with something perhaps more relatable. Not that they are amazing, but I am happy with the quality. And as I said, I believe Alan has demonstrated that even the EF 100-400 mm 5.6 beats my setup in terms of reach when used on a high resoultion FF body like the 5DSr or the R5. What saves me here of course is that these birds are quite large.

Overcast day
600 mm f/7.1 1/1600 s ISO 500 | cropped to 65 % horizontally - equivalent to 1440 mm f/17 on FF
20200607-17.jpg

Sunny day, but next to a little pond sourounded and shaded by trees
600 mm f/7.1 1/500 s ISO 1000 | cropped to 60 % horizontally - equivalent to 1600 mm f/19 on FF
IMG_4048-Bearbeitet.jpg
 
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YuengLinger

Long live the Oligarchy!
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I'm actually OK with some noise and I find LR does a pretty decent job cleaning up the RAW images - but what do you you think about ETTR? It seems noise can be reduced in camera by adding an additional stop of light. It seems a properly exposed image at ISO 4000 can be recovered with much less noise at ISO 8000 provided I don't clip the highlights.
Until you try DxO Photolab, and you can for free, you will not get the most from your R bodies at high ISO's. I felt exactly the same way, and I thought I could tweak Lightroom and PS CC to give as good or better--but I was wrong. I was taking too much time and simply giving up too much image quality.

AlanF is right about it! And if you are still adjusting to the idea of f/7.1 and tighter along with high ISO, just download the free trial. You will be pleased.

Also, if you can find some great wildlife images online that share camera settings, you might be surprised by how many were taken with a fast lens at f/8-f/11. That's what finally convinced me. Great photographers with Great Whites often need the DoF, so they are using them (in appropriate light, of course) very often above the minimum aperture of the 100-500 L.
 
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neuroanatomist

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Great photographers with Great Whites often need the DoF, so they are using them (in appropriate light, of course) very often above the minimum aperture of the 100-500 L.
I usually use my 600/4 II with the 1.4x, sometimes with the 2x, meaning f/5.6 or f/8, respectively.

Of course, it also means 840mm or 1200mm, which are often the focal lengths I need. I also have the RF 1.4x and 2x for use with my 100-500.
 
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