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Archive 2012 · Packable wildlife lens

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Packable wildlife lens

My wife and I moved to Whitefish, Montana in the fall, which puts us about 30 minutes from the West entrance to Glacier National Park. I'm pretty happy with my setup for landscapes (5D, 7D, 24-70, 17-40, small army of filters). I'd like to pick up a long lens that I can pack on multi-day trips for the occasional encounter with eagle, osprey, marmot, deer, elk, moose, goats, sheep, and (from a safe distance) bears. I have a 70-200/2.8 and a 2x TC it's just too big and heavy for the reach I get with it. I've read all the reviews and am leaning towards one of:

300/f4 + 1.4x TC

Whichever of these I end up with would land on my 7D, so there is some additional reach with the crop factor. I'm leaning toward the 300 + 1.4x TC. Has anyone pitted these against one another for use in the backcountry?



Mar 18, 2012 at 02:12 PM

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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Packable wildlife lens

I own both the 300/f4 + 1.4x TC and the 400/5.6. The 300 with the 1.4x TC is not quite as sharp as the 400 5.6.... but if you are planning on shooting a lot handheld ,that is the way to go IMHO. The IS makes a world of difference. I love my 400 but always use a tripod with it.

Mar 18, 2012 at 03:15 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Packable wildlife lens

Something to note: The 70-200 with a 2x is basically the same focal length as everything you have listed as options, so you won't gain any reach.

I have been contemplating these choices myself and have spent many hours looking at reviews and test charts. Based on what I have seen, for image quality, 1. 400 prime, 2. 300 + 1.4, 3. 100-400. 2 and 3 are very close, and could swap if you get a good 100-400.

You say you will not use your 70-200, but you really aren't gaining (losing) much weight with any of these. You will gain some IQ, but also lose versatility (except for the 100-400).

So, it depends on what is most important to you: IQ or versatility. All will improve IQ over what you currently have. If versatility is most important, then the 100-400 is the best choice. If you are willing to pack the 70-200 as well, then you can have your IQ and versatility, albeit at a weight penalty.

Tough choice, I have yet to make my final decision!


Mar 18, 2012 at 03:53 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Packable wildlife lens

I would go with the 400 5.6. It is a good match with the 7D and excellent for birds both perched and in flight. I really have had awful results with the 100-400 but understand there may be lots of variability in the IQ of that lens.

Mar 18, 2012 at 03:58 PM

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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Packable wildlife lens

Hmmm yah it could be the variability in the 100-400's... I LOVE my 100-400mm... it's a great walk around lens, I hardly ever use it with a tripod and get sharp crisp results. Not as sharp as the primes, but the flexibility is great.

If you want to shoot a bird put it out to close to 400, and if suddenly a deer walks out of the bush beside you, pull it back in to 100 and reframe. It was great on safari in Africa because suddenly you'd have elephants right beside the vehicle and then a minute later have a raptor on a branch a little ways away.

Haven't tried it with any of the TC.

Mar 18, 2012 at 05:09 PM
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Packable wildlife lens

Why carry more than one lens, and why have the hassle of putting on and taking off TC's. Just get the 100-400. You will miss fewer shots when you can quickly zoom anywhere from 100mm to 400mm, or from 400mm to 100mm. You also keep your sensor and lenses cleaner.

Mar 18, 2012 at 05:15 PM
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Packable wildlife lens

But if you are taking two cameras with you I say get the 400mm/f5.6. Keep the 70-200mm on one camera and get a 400/5.6 for the 7D. Here's why, if your subject is beyond the range of your 200mm, you'll want to go all the way to max, i.e., 400mm, not a 300mm lens (although it is an excellent lens too).

On the other hand, if you need to travel light, then Tony's recommendation with the 100-400 lens makes sense. What are you going to do with landscape shots? I suspect you'll bring two cameras.

Postscript: Oops, sorry I just realized your 70-200/f2.8 will be weighing you down. So Tony's recommendation gets the nod.

Mar 21, 2012 at 04:13 AM

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