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Thread: Which Super Telephoto Lens?

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    Which Super Telephoto Lens?

    If you could only buy one of these Canon super tele lenses :

    200-400mm f/4 L IS Ext 1.4x
    400mm f/2.8 L IS II
    500mm f/4 L IS II
    600mm f/4 L IS II

    which would you choose for photographing wildlife?

    I have worked for some years using the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS; the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS
    and the Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS as well as a 1.4x Extender. The zoom lenses have proved mighty
    handy when animals moved close up to the hides / safari vehicles. The extender has had its uses but with some
    lenses/bodies there are autofocus issues and potentially hazardous moments when fitting/removing it in dusty or
    damp environments.

    I realise my question is a bit hypothetical as three of the above lenses haven't been released yet but I want to
    start canvassing opinions now.

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    You need to be more specific about which wildlife - no, I don't mean particular species, but some sort of guidance about your aims and methods and habits is needed.

    But I'll answer in general terms, reserving the right to change my view after I have learned more about where you live and what you do. What you want is the lightest, longest, fastest lens you can comfortably hand-hold, and that is a 500/4. (Answer subject to change when we have more information.)
    Tony

    People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.

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    Ditto Tony’s request for more information.
    Also what Format?
    How many cameras?
    And are you keeping those lenses you have?

    But with the same caveat of being able to change the answer –and assuming two cameras, I would also opt for the 500/4 – and on the other camera - the 100 to 400.

    WW

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    Are you asking us to choose a lens for you or for ourselves?

    For you I'd go the 200-400mm as(like Tony mentions) you don't specify which animals you're hunting.

    For me(from your list) I choose the 600mm/4 II.
    Chris

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    Thank you all for your responses. Yes, my initial post was certainly scant on details.

    My wife and I have photographed a wide range of animals and birds on all 7 continents, the high Arctic and various islands including Galapagos and Borneo ( with Madagascar on the planning board). Sometimes we can use the Gitzo 5541 tripod & Wimberley II Head; sometimes various fittings or a beanbag in safari vehicles in Africa & India; a Gitzo 5541 monopod & RRS head when trekking in forests in Borneo & Bhutan etc; however, quite often it is handheld shooting from zodiacs, hot air balloons or other craft.

    In terms of animals, Chris, the list is long. Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda; anything in the circle of life in Kenya & Tanzania; tigers ,snow leopards, sloth bears... in India/Nepal; orang-utans, proboscis monkeys ... in Sabah; polar bears, walrus ...in Svalbard; penguins...in Antarctica; mating everything in Galapagos ( waved albatross, red & blue footed + nasca boobies, tropic birds, land & marine iguanas ... ). It is amazing how many of these we shot with short "weapons".

    Yes,William, we typically attach our longer lenses to a crop factor body ( 7D or 40D ) and use a variety of shorter L lenses on the 5D or 5D II. We do intend to use the new lens on the 7D and the 100-400 on the 40D ( or whatever we upgrade it with ).

    So, Tony, I certainly accept your suggestions regarding weight and handholdability. It is hard to walk sprightly with the loaded backpack at airports to give the impression that the bag weighs less than 7kg. However, the 600/II is announced at 3920g (down 1440g from the 5360g of the 600/I) and the 500/I weighs 3870g - only 50g heavier for better optics, better IS and the 100mm extra reach. Would the current 500 lens be considered handholdable? But I must accept that the 500/II also has the improved optics & IS and weighs a mere 3190g.

    The 400/II was in the list for the extra versatility it would contribute. Yes, it is not light at 3850g but 2.8 is handy in the early mornings and evenings when wildlife is often more active. With a 1.4x extender it yields 560 at f4.

    The 200-400 was in the list for its improved optics & IS ( over the 100-400 ) and the fact that engaging the 1.4x would be fast and risk free. However, I'm currently leaning towards getting one of the primes and continuing to use the 100-400 as our zoom.
    Any more thoughts will be gratefully received.
    David

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    I can hand hold a 400/2.8L, if necessary, but I prefer to use a monopod.
    When hand holding and Follow Shooting: I do tend to shoot knelling one knee so I can and support the left elbow on the other knee which then takes most of the downward weight.


    So yes.
    Having NOT used a 500/4 extensively and never hand holding one: I would suggest I could use a 500/4 hand held – but a pod or a bean bag would be nicer.

    ***

    Given the fact that you will keep the 100 to 400, then I would definitely opt for the 500/4 in your case.

    It has been my long time opinion that the best pair of Canon tele Primes is the300/2.8 and the 500/4 and if I were forced to use my own money to buy any tele Primes those would be them.


    That pair and the two Canon Tele-Extenders (especially the x1.4) make a very flexible Telephoto Lens Kit if the 70 to 200/2.8 is added.

    I have always thought of adding lenses to a kit considering the KIT as a whole and the flexibility of the KIT as a whole: and not just adding 'another lens'.


    I am not a great fan of the 100 to 400, and much of that is personal bias regarding the Varying Maximum Aperture: but it is a good lens and has a great following, so I am not arguing your choice to own one, but rather merely laying out my own biases.

    I am a fan of a dual format DSLR kit.

    I have a dual format kit and at the long end I use a 70 to 200/2.8 and 300/2.8 and 400/2.8: that kit is not my 'ideal' set of lenses for telephoto coverage - if ever my access to those two fast telephoto lenses is denied, I would certainly consider buying the 500/4 the next day.

    For the purposes you outline, I consider that the: 70 to 200/2.8; 300/2.8and 500/4 and x.1.4 Extender in a dual format DSLR kit is the most flexible,lightweight and best system redundant set of telephoto lenses, comprising the fewest number of lenses. This is my 'ideal telephoto kit'.

    The fact that you already own the 100 to 400 covers the FL of the 300/2.8, but at a loss of speed and yet a gain of zoom flexibility. I would trade that zoom flexibility (200 to 400 range) for the aperture speed of the 300/2.8, any day: but that's just how I think and I haven't yet been confronted with an argument to convince me otherwise: but it is differences which make us who we are.

    I believe you will enjoy very much the new 500/4 should you purchase it: certainly the lens has an enviable pedigree; and as I mentioned, if my access to the 400/2.8 dries up, I'll be buying a 500/4MkII also.

    Good luck with the choice.

    WW
    Last edited by William W; 08-06-2012 at 8:13am. Reason: added a lot

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    Maybe the 500/4 II with a pair of new extenders might be the way to go?

    Do you really need/want 600mm? Though I've never been on safari or to the Antarctic, from what I've seen the animals are either big enough that you only need up to 400mm or so, or the animals(Penguins) just walk right up to you and check you out.

    Personally I like lots of millimetres. The more the merrier. I have a 600/4 I and I have just placed a 800/5.6 on order(Tony I wish I listened to you mate ). My focus is birds.

    I think if I was in your shoes I'd think hard about the 500/4 II.

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    Thanks William and Chris.

    I was leaning towards the 500/II and your advice has served to convince me that it will be the one.

    People on some of the safaris with us were using the 500/I handheld when necessary and achieving good results
    so the new model should be even better with all its improvements.

    Bryan Carnathan has always recommended the 500/I; however, he also made glowing comments about the 400/2.8 II which
    was the reason I started to consider other lenses. It will be interesting to see what he has to say when the new 500 and 600
    finally reach the stores.

    David

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    Now that the 500 II & 600 II lenses have been reviewed by Bryan Carnathan, I'm still seeing a case for the 600 II since it is about the same weight as the 500 I but has the improved optics and IS.

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    I am enjoying the pics I've captured using my new 500mm f/4 L IS II. The IQ is great even handheld!
    The results with a 1.4 extender are sharp on my 7D. ( I'm wondering if anyone has tried it on a crop factor body with a 2.0 x extender.)
    As a result, I'm considering a 600mm f/4 L IS II as well to broaden our scope with wildlife photography: 70-200 f2.8 L IS; 100-400 L IS; Sigma 150-500 OS mounted on crop factor bodies.
    Has anyome acquired a 600 f/4 L IS II and used it on a 7D? (Extenders? )

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    I'd like to see some sample shots.
    Cheers
    Darey

    Nikon user, Thick skinned and wanting to improve, genuine C & C welcomed.

    Photographs don't lie ! - Anonymous Liar

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    I'd love a 500/4 (been eyeing that off for years), but the money is better spent on our next trip to Africa, as I can cover 300/2.8, 420/4 and 600/5.6.

    Plus, getting such a lens there is more of a problem than the 300/2.8.

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    Darey, I'll post some pics when I get an opportunity to go out and shoot something interesting. At the moment I'm too busy organising renovations to enjoy trying out my new lens.
    Xenedis, I agree that taking the 500 on OS flights is going to be trickier. I have a Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 AW II which comfortably holds the lens with extender mounted on a 7D ( gripped & L-bracketed).
    However, whilst it will be great for shoots I can reach by car, that backpack is not airline carryon approved. I need to check the suitability of a Pelican 1514 roller hard case which, I believe, is US domestic
    airline approved. In the past I've had no problems ( even on small plane domestic flights in Africa ) using a Lowepro Vertex 200 backpack. I'll need to sort out how to pack the 500 without sacrificing our customary
    zooms and bodies when we travel to Madagascar in 2013.

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