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View Full Version : Canon f/4 500mm or f/4 600mm?



mrDooba
06-06-2010, 22:46
High I'm looking to invest in a new lens for birding. It's either the 500mm or the 600mm and I'm just after some personal experience with either or both.
I know IQ is exceptional on both lenses but I'm more interested in things like, at the closest focusing distance what size objects(birds) are going to fill the frame and is minimum focusing distance and issue. Are you too close too often for it to be a concern?

Your thoughts would be most appreciated

Chris.

p.s. Personal experience is what I'm chasing. I can read all about them on the net but I'm after your thoughs.

Thanks

Tannin
06-06-2010, 23:16
If you have to ask, the answer you want is a 500/4.

You will find the physical bulk and massive weight of a big birding lens quite a challenge. It takes a lot of getting used to - and that's with a 500/4, which is barely more than half the weight of a 600/4, an 800/5.6, or a 400/2.8.

See this thread (http://www.ausphotography.net.au/forum/showthread.php?t=23906) for more detail.

I would certainly like a 600/4, 400/2.8, and/or an 800/5.6 - but only if that was an extra lens in addition to my 500/4. The three big ones - all around twice the weight and longer too - are specialist tools, where (with some effort) you can use a 500/4 as an all-round birding lens: on a tripod, hand-held, on a monopod, or from inside a car. THe other three are too large and heavy and unweildy for many uses. Yes, there are times when I wish my 500 was an 800. But there are many more times when I'm glad it isn't. There are also times when I wish my 500/4 was a slightly shorter 400/2.8 (especially in rainforest). But because I can only afford one Big White (and can only carry one big lens at a time, even if you gave me the keys to Canon's warehouse and said I could help myself), the best one to have is the most versatile all-rounder amongst the four - and that is unquestionably the 500.

Q: is minimum focusing distance an issue?

A:. Yes. Constantly so if you are working with small birds. If you are after (for example) thornbills or pardalotes, you will need to muck about with close-up rings. THe 500/4 has a MFD of 4.5 metres, but for best results you probably want to be using at least a 12mm ring anywhere under about 5 or even 6 metres, and a 25mm ring if you are going for real close-up stuff.

The other Big White are even worse: 600/4 MFD = 5.5m, 800/5.6 MFD = 6m. Six metres is a long way away from a small bird.

Read that thread I linked to above for some other answers. I think I put quite a few things in there. Good luck!

mrDooba
07-06-2010, 18:35
Thanks Tony.

I should mention I already have the 300mm f/2.8. Does this change your suggestions in any way?
So I already have 300mm, 420mm, 600mm and under certain circumstances I'll be able to carry the 300mm with 5dmkII in a bag and the ?00mm and 1DmkIV on tripod over shoulder or both side by side in a hide or the car.

Weight is not an issue as I'm accustomed to walking around all day with heavy objects slung over my shoulders.

Thanks for your response and thanks for directing me to your piece on big whites, very good food for thought.

Decisions decisions?????? :D

milspec
07-06-2010, 19:03
AllanN has the 600/4 which I have the pleasure to use. While it is bit on the weighty side, the quality of pictures well and truly make up for the sore muscles.

Either way, I would be more than happy to be in the position to have to decide :P

Tannin
08-06-2010, 01:36
I should mention I already have the 300mm f/2.8. Does this change your suggestions in any way?

On balance, yes. You certainly should still have the 500/4 as a possibility, but a 300/2.8 matched to a 1.4 converter is rather similar. OK, it's a fair bit shorter at 420mm, and the IQ with converter is not going to match a bare-lens prime, and the focus speed may be slower (not so sure about that) but nevertheless, it's a broadly similar rig. In general, it is better to make your lenses as different as possible, so that you can cover more options - and that is an argument for a 600 or an 800.

On the other hand, if you decide to sell the 300/2.8 to part finance the new one, then none of that applies.

If you are want to use a 600 or 800 in a car, it's going to need to be a very roomy one - in most cars, you just barely fit a 500 on the front seat.

Don't dismiss the weight and bulk issue too quickly: the difference is non-trivial, and if you plan to walk any distance it becomes a major factor.

If you are keeping the 300 ..... hmmmm

Forget the 400/4 DO. Too similar to the 300 (though quite a bit lighter).

Forget the 400/2.8. You already have a fast lens, you don't need to duplicate it. In any case, most people would regard it as the 4th choice big birding lens, behind 500, 600, and 800. While the 500/4 is the best individual lens because it is so versatile, it is fairly similar to the 30 you have. So I think I'm leaning towards a 600, or possibly and 800, in your particular circumstances.

Think it through carefully - these are too darn dear to change your mind on!!

David
08-06-2010, 06:02
This is what I love about AP. People with very good knowledge and experience happy to pass it on to less experienced togs gratis: the spirit of giving for nothing in AP is what keeps me and most others I suspect coming back.

Good on you Tony for giving very detailed, considered advise :th3:

I have seen Allann dragging around his 600mm and making it work for him, guess it is what you get used to but I am happy to potter along behind with my 400mm because birding photography is NOT what I get excited about.

Good luck with your choices: have you hired or borrowed any of these before you make your decision ? its a big investment, probably your most expensive one, ..just a thought.

mrDooba
08-06-2010, 17:50
On the other hand, if you decide to sell the 300/2.8 to part finance the new one, then none of that applies.

No, I will certainly be keeping my big 300. It is a beast and the f/2.8 is so handy in the rainforest(sometimes) and it focuses so fast when I'm shooting my dog when running around.
I'm in the process of buying a new bird mobile and size of the vehicle should not be an issue!!

I think the 800mm is out of the question, it's another $3500.00 and that can go towards something else I have in mind. Plus from what others have told me the 600mm with the 1.4x yields superlative results and from the images I'm seen I tend to agree.

I've not used extension tubes before but these sound as though they will assist with the little birds.

I think I'm leaning towards the 600mm but I won't splurge out until I've exhausted all resources.

Thanks for your assistance, Tony. I appreciate it greatly!

mrDooba
08-06-2010, 17:53
This is what I love about AP. People with very good knowledge and experience happy to pass it on to less experienced togs gratis: the spirit of giving for nothing in AP is what keeps me and most others I suspect coming back.

Good on you Tony for giving very detailed, considered advise :th3:

I have seen Allann dragging around his 600mm and making it work for him, guess it is what you get used to but I am happy to potter along behind with my 400mm because birding photography is NOT what I get excited about.

Good luck with your choices: have you hired or borrowed any of these before you make your decision ? its a big investment, probably your most expensive one, ..just a thought.

Hi david.

No I haven't used any of the big guns but renting one might be a wise decision.

Cheers

Wayne
08-06-2010, 18:01
Think it through carefully - these are too darn dear to change your mind on!!

How very true. I have been agonising over getting the Nikon 400/2.8VR or the 200-400/4VR, or the 500/4VR and while there is a fair bit in price difference, I wouldn't want to buy either and decide I would use the other better/more. When a lens costs 10 fat ones+, it makes you think really hard about what you can do with others and TC combinations, taking into account all the detriment that comes with adding TC's to the mix.

The handling for me isn't any issue, I have h/held a 400/2.8 at an airshow throughout the day and while it gets heavy at the end, I can cope happily.

Tannin
08-06-2010, 18:06
^ mate ... next time I've got a truck that needs unloading and the fork lift's broke, I know who to call :)

Sar NOP
08-06-2010, 19:59
I should mention I already have the 300mm f/2.8. Does this change your suggestions in any way?
So I already have 300mm, 420mm, 600mm and under certain circumstances I'll be able to carry the 300mm with 5dmkII in a bag and the ?00mm and 1DmkIV on tripod over shoulder or both side by side in a hide or the car.

Weight is not an issue as I'm accustomed to walking around all day with heavy objects slung over my shoulders.


If you need only one lens for birding, the 500/4 will be the best lens for most situations.

If you want to keep your 300/2.8 (for bird in flight or for rainforest work), the 600/4 will be a better choice in term of reach and focus speed.

Sar NOP
08-06-2010, 20:06
When a lens costs 10 fat ones+, it makes you think really hard about what you can do with others and TC combinations, taking into account all the detriment that comes with adding TC's to the mix.

Yep, sometimes you can go birding with an obsolete 70-200 VRI and stacked two 2x converters ! :D:D

#1 : 1800x1200 (http://images3.photomania.com/311922/1/radF5318.jpg)
D2Hs, 70-200 VRI+TC-20EIII+Kenko 2x, 1/30", @680mm, 1600 ISO.
http://images3.photomania.com/311993/1/rad93AE4.jpg




#2 : 1800x1200 (http://images3.photomania.com/311935/1/rad2C32C.jpg)
D2Hs, 70-200 VRI+TC-20EIII+Kenko 2x, 1/30", @720mm, 1600 ISO.
http://images3.photomania.com/312000/1/radF99B2.jpg





#3 : 1800x1200 (http://images3.photomania.com/311948/1/rad6003B.jpg)
D2Hs, 70-200 VRI+TC-20EIII+Kenko 2x, 1/30", @700mm, 1600 ISO.
http://images3.photomania.com/312004/1/rad93215.jpg

Wayne
08-06-2010, 20:17
Hmm, now ^^ that is special. 2-2xTC's on a 70-200VR. Does it AF and if so I imagine ever so slowly?

I'm leaning toward the 400/2.8 as it will double as a fine sports lens and with 2.8 to start, shallow DOF is still achievable with 2xTC's..